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ABT 2017 Swan Lake


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There are indeed many instances in changes of choreographic standard steps in ballet, just as there is a lowering of standard key tones or shift from an ascending to a descending octave in a final note of certain opera arias, due to the soprano's inability to perform them.  And then there will always be the comments about "so and so who couldn't sing said aria in its original tone", or about a ballerina who avoided fouettes for which "it was not her cup of tea"-(N. Khrassovska on A. Danilova, BRdMC dcumentary).  Now...there is one of the many wonderful books by Markova in which she directly addresses the problem.  She was a technician, and even in a soft, educated way, she firmly believed in the idea of only getting a certain role if the ballerina was completely capable of dancing all its required steps. We might not know the exact reasons for which Boylston omitted the fouettes-(given that she has performed it before), but...in the ideal world of hardcore balletomannes, the right solution would had been to get someone right there-(eg. Sarah Lane)-to perform the sequence.  The MET is a world class temple of grand art.  Many of us come from out of the city to see things that we wouldnt' otherwise.  Odile's fouettes is one of them-(MCB only has Balanchine's white abridgment).  It could had been the case that she decided to substitute the steps right on stage...although I am willing to bet it was not the case, for which she came out right from upstage left at the very moment of the timpani sounds, which in the music is usually preceded by some bars of music that goes with Odile's walking entrance from upstage right while Siegfried finishes his pirouettes. For what I could sense, she was already waiting in the wings to do her substitution. Having another dancer who COULD do the fouettes as established by Legnani would had been the proper way to show respect for fans who pay hard money to be on the MET.

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1 hour ago, FauxPas said:

As we know, not all great Odette/Odiles have performed the 32 fouettés - Maya Plisetskaya is a leading example.  There was a time when only a few technically gifted ballerinas could do that stunt - now every girl in the corps de ballet seems to be able to do it.  There is a lot more to a great "Swan Lake" than amazing fouettés in the "Black Swan" - though it helps.  I think the lack of lyricism in the upper body is a greater technical and artistic flaw and one which cannot be excused by a recent injury.

 

 

 

Agreed, FauxPas, Boylston's lack of lyricism and sometimes jerky upper body is much more of an issue for me than whether she performs 32 fouettes.  I'm disappointed she has not progressed in working on this.  

And fouettes don't come easy to Boylston without injury.  I recall her travelling all over the stage and not being able to finish all 32 a couple years ago in Don Q.  (Different ballet, same trick.)  IMO, the menage, done with speed, power, and perfect musicality, can be a better choice for some dancers.  I recall someone here stating that Sara Mearns chose this option (a more recent example), and she was nowhere near the twilight of her career.  I also recall learning, perhaps here, that the original Ivanov staging did not have the fouettes, but they were added later for a specific virtuoso ballerina.  (Kind of sounds like what we were talking now--modifying choreography to suit a particular dancer--doesn't it?)  Anyone know if Ratmansky's reconstruction includes the 32 fouettes?

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In several of Doug Fullington's lecture/demos on Petipa reconstructions, he said that while men had great flexibility, ballerinas tended to do the original choreography, even if it was there because Petipa was under a time crunch, borrowing from himself*/what he'd done for that dancer in the past, because people would say the ballerinas only changed it because they couldn't do it, as opposed to being appreciated for doing something else.  Reading every fouette thread on Ballet Alert! certainly shows the truth in that, over a century later.  In his recent interview with Michael Breeden and Rebecca King, Edward Villella said that Balanchine re-choreographed parts of "Prodigal Son" for him, because Balanchine said the original and first revival dancers were "a terre" dancers, and Villella was an "en l'air" dancer. 

 

*Watching "La Source" the last two weekends, in the soloist's section added in the later version Balanchine created on Suki Schorer, it was like watching parts of Dewdrop and "Waltz of the Flowers."

 

Edited to add:  I've seen many world-class ballerinas in world-class companies do 32-fouettes in any number of ballets.  While almost all stayed on point, it is a rare ballerina who does them in a technically world-class way from beginning to end, however exciting they may be.

 

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I attended last night's performance.  There were several cast changes and they were announced so fast, I could not keep them straight.  Overall, it was a good Swan Lake - not a great one.

 

I have to start with Marcelo Gomes.  The technique may not be there as it once was, but wow - does he own that role.  The stage presence, the command of the audience and his connection with his fellow dancers on stage - it is really amazing to see.  

 

Lendorf was good - not spectacular- but good.  I noticed a few wobbles and he was not fully extended on some of his moves, but he was a very good partner to Isabella.  He also put a lot of emotion into his role as Siegfried, especially in the last act of the ballet.  When he leapt into the lake, I actually thought he was going the wrong way at first.  I think he just needed some more room to run into that spectacular leap.

 

This is the third time (I think) that I have seen Isabella in Swan Lake.  When she entered for what I thought was the 32 fouettés, I said to myself, "She's way too close to the end of the stage".  Then, I saw she did something different.  I try not to let the fouettés make or brake the performance of a ballerina for me.  It is 1% of the total ballet.  Sure - it's a spectacular moment, but Swan Lake is more than just the 32 fouettés.  What bothered me more than leaving out that part was Isabella's very jerky and sharp movements, especially in the Act II pas de deux.  Anytime there was a move that required flexibility, she kind of jerked into the movement, whereas that should have been a time where soft and lyrical would have been better.  I don't recall her doing this before.  However, she did have some truly beautiful moments last night.

 

I very much enjoyed the Act I Pas de Trois with Gorack, Brandt, and Lane.  I forget - is this the last year of this production or do we have one more year before Ratmansky's version starts.  I am not really looking forward to that, because I have not cared for his choreography for The Firebird, The Golden Cockerel, or his version of The Sleeping Beauty.

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55 minutes ago, DeCoster said:

 

Agreed, FauxPas, Boylston's lack of lyricism and sometimes jerky upper body is much more of an issue for me than whether she performs 32 fouettes.  I'm disappointed she has not progressed in working on this.  

And fouettes don't come easy to Boylston without injury.  I recall her travelling all over the stage and not being able to finish all 32 a couple years ago in Don Q.  (Different ballet, same trick.)  IMO, the menage, done with speed, power, and perfect musicality, can be a better choice for some dancers.  I recall someone here stating that Sara Mearns chose this option (a more recent example), and she was nowhere near the twilight of her career.  I also recall learning, perhaps here, that the original Ivanov staging did not have the fouettes, but they were added later for a specific virtuoso ballerina.  (Kind of sounds like what we were talking now--modifying choreography to suit a particular dancer--doesn't it?)  Anyone know if Ratmansky's reconstruction includes the 32 fouettes?

 

Yes, both of the Zurich Odiles (Kapitanova & Khamsina) who I saw at the Feb 2016 premiere performed the 32 fouettés, securely & beautifully. The originator, Legnani, did them in 1895 and they're in the notes.

 

Isabella Boylston performed them magnificently at her ABT O/O debut in 2012. She must have altered them this year due to her injury. Even Hee Seo performed the 32 fouettés at her own debut, a year later. Misty Copeland did about 19 or 20 fouettés at her Met debut in 2015...but got the loudest, wildest applause I've ever heard for fouettés at a Met debut. :cool:

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Aurora (and others), here is a little excerpt from Natalia Makarova explaining why the fouettes in SL matter:

 

. “Take ‘Swan Lake,’ the Black Swan pas de deux. Now, my goodness, they’re turning not just 32 fouettes — ” the cyclone of spins cranked out by the scheming temptress Odile — “but double or triple pirouettes. And what is fouetter in French? It means ‘to whip.’ That is characteristic of Odile, cruelty and attack. It is artistic point.

“And if you change it for just pirouettes, you change the meaning, to no meaning.”

 

Excerpted from an Article titled "Ballerina Natalia Makarova: ‘Being spontaneous, it’s what saved me", which appeared in the Washington Post in 2012.  I was not able to copy the link.
 

 

 

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1 hour ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

...We might not know the exact reasons for which Boylston omitted the fouettes-(given that she has performed it before), but...in the ideal world of hardcore balletomannes, the right solution would had been to get someone right there-(eg. Sarah Lane)-to perform the sequence.  The MET is a world class temple of grand art.  Many of us come from out of the city to see things that we wouldnt' otherwise.  Odile's fouettes is one of them-(MCB only has Balanchine's white abridgment).  It could had been the case that she decided to substitute the steps right on stage...although I am willing to bet it was not the case, for which she came out right from upstage left at the very moment of the timpani sounds, which in the music is usually preceded by some bars of music that goes with Odile's walking entrance from upstage right while Siegfried finishes his pirouettes. For what I could sense, she was already waiting in the wings to do her substitution. Having another dancer who COULD do the fouettes as established by Legnani would had been the proper way to show respect for fans who pay hard money to be on the MET.

 

I can imagine your disappointment about not seeing the fouettes because you have written forcefully on their importance many times, but I can hardly imagine a solution more disrespectful to the intent and spirit of the ballet than the one you suggest here. If I were attending a performance of Swan Lake rearranged in that way  I wouldn't just be disappointed or critical -- I would feel disrespected and completely thrown out of the ballet's story and mood. The older, traditional solution that makes a little more sense is different ballerinas altogether for Odette/Odile. I don't know how the bulk of ABT's audience would react to that, as it has not been done for a while. And, for my taste, the fouettes alone are not a reason to go back to that way of staging the ballet. But at least it would not be treating the fouettes as a gala stunt, but keep them in the framework of the ballet.

 

(I know very well an injured Makarova had someone dance a Kitri variation for her etc. one evening, and there are one or two other examples surely NONE of which made for ideal performances, and 'hardcore balletomanes' as you wrote above, also know the difference between Don Quixote and Swan Lake.)

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42 minutes ago, Natalia said:

 

Yes, both of the Zurich Odiles (Kapitanova & Khamsina) who I saw at the Feb 2016 premiere performed the 32 fouettés, securely & beautifully. The originator, Legnani, did them in 1895 and they're in the notes.

1

 

Thank you for the information, Natalia.

 

I wish ABT would perform the reconstruction, although I know I am in the minority in this opinion and it is also very unlikely.

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14 minutes ago, Drew said:

 

I can imagine your disappointment about not seeing the fouettes because you have wriiten forcefully on their importance many times, but I can hardly imagine a solution more disrespectful to the intent and spirit of the ballet than the one you suggest here. If I were attending a performance of Swan Lake rearranged in that way  I wouldn't just be disappointed or critical -- I would feel disrespected and probably a bit disgusted. The older, traditional solution that makes a littlr more sense is different ballerinas altogether for Odette/Odile. I don't know how the bulk of ABT's audience would react to that, as it has not been done for a while. And, for  my taste, the fouettes alone are not a reason to go back to that way of staging the ballet. 

 

(I know very well an injured Makarova had someone dance a Kitri variation for her etc. one evening, and there are one or two other examples surely NONE of which made for ideal performances, and 'hardcore balletomanes' as you wrote above, also know the difference between Don Quixote and Swan Lake.)

 

My "solution" implies the idea coming from the ballerina herself...not forced upon her. 

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Just now, cubanmiamiboy said:

 

My "solution" implies the idea coming from the ballerina herself...not forced upon her. 

It would pose the same artistic problems for the audience watching the ballet. Precisely because the fouettes are important ...

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3 hours ago, Helene said:

Plisetskaya "dumbed down" the choreography, so Boylston is in good company.

Plisetskya routinely did the 32 fouettes when she danced Kitri, so we know it was their omission from her SL was by choice. I can't begin to understand why.The fouettes start about 7:24.

 

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1 minute ago, Drew said:

It would pose the same artistic problems for the audience watching the ballet. Precisely because the fouettes are important ...

 

In any case. Years later...when people will reminisce about this particular performance, the "no fouettes" picture is the only thing we will all probably remember.

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I think at this point I'm a bit on the fence regarding Odile's fouettes. Do I want to see them done? Absolutely, but only done well. Will it kill the performance for me if the dancer doesn't do them, but does something else? No - I'd be disappointed, but I could get over it IF what the dancer does in it's place conveys a as-close-as-possible level of attack and speed and is done really, really well (I don't think any other step could really duplicate the same level of attack as fouettes). AND, if the rest of the performance is done technically and artistically well.

 

I can forgive a dancer for not doing the fouettes if she's recovering from an injury but is able to perform the rest of the ballet without issue. I wasn't at the performance last night so I can't comment on what Boylston did or did not do, but I saw her debut as O/O years ago and she was able to perform them then. I thought her debut was promising (not spectacular), but I haven't seen her in this role since and it seems from everyone's comments that she hasn't improved much. 

 

What I cannot forgive in a performance of O/O is a dancer who fails (time and again, and while not injured) to perform numerous technical requirements in both roles and with limited artistic conviction. It seems that at least two of the current interpreters at ABT fit this description. So, I don't go to their performances.

 

If Teuscher were performing at a time when I didn't have to be at work I'd be there in a heart beat. Or, if she's scheduled to replace another dancer, and same for Lane, I'll be getting tickets faster than you can say "fouettes". I've seen enough of both dancers to feel that their technical and artistic superiority will most likely ensure a ravishing O/O.

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1 hour ago, abatt said:

 

. “Take ‘Swan Lake,’ the Black Swan pas de deux. Now, my goodness, they’re turning not just 32 fouettes — ” the cyclone of spins cranked out by the scheming temptress Odile — “but double or triple pirouettes. And what is fouetter in French? It means ‘to whip.’ That is characteristic of Odile, cruelty and attack. It is artistic point.

“And if you change it for just pirouettes, you change the meaning, to no meaning.”

 

 Or, using another image, a manege can look like she's encircling and entrapping him, establishing her turf, and all kinds of psychological effects.

 

If you want the effect of whips, Carrie Imler's chainees do the trick and seal the deal even more than the 32 fouettes that precede them.

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23 minutes ago, DeCoster said:

 

Thank you for the information, Natalia.

 

I wish ABT would perform the reconstruction, although I know I am in the minority in this opinion and it is also very unlikely.

 

One of the stronger regional US companies might perform the Ratmansky reconstruction version in 2019 or 2020? My hope.

 

Somebody above mentioned that ABT may be abandoning its current production of SL after this season but I haven't heard that...has anyone? The poster may be mixing ABT & the Royal Ballet, which will debut a brand-new production by Liam Scarlett next year. ABT's production isn't going away anytime soon. SL is one of the newest set of designs that ABT owns for a classic (compared to their ancient sets/costumes for Don Q, Bayadere & Corsaire).

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29 minutes ago, Drew said:

 

I can imagine your disappointment about not seeing the fouettes because you have written forcefully on their importance many times, but I can hardly imagine a solution more disrespectful to the intent and spirit of the ballet than the one you suggest here. If I were attending a performance of Swan Lake rearranged in that way  I wouldn't just be disappointed or critical -- I would feel disrespected and completely thrown out of the ballet's story and mood. The older, traditional solution that makes a little more sense is different ballerinas altogether for Odette/Odile. I don't know how the bulk of ABT's audience would react to that, as it has not been done for a while. And, for my taste, the fouettes alone are not a reason to go back to that way of staging the ballet. But at least it would not be treating the fouettes as a gala stunt, but keep them in the framework of the ballet.

 

(I know very well an injured Makarova had someone dance a Kitri variation for her etc. one evening, and there are one or two other examples surely NONE of which made for ideal performances, and 'hardcore balletomanes' as you wrote above, also know the difference between Don Quixote and Swan Lake.)

 

I think cubanmiamiboy was saying that the entire role should be cast on the basis of someone who can check all the technical boxes required, including the fouettes. So if an AD knows that a certain ballerina can't do fouettes, she shouldn't be O/O at all. He wasn't suggesting some other random ballerina run in during the coda, do the fouettes, and run back out again.

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18 minutes ago, lmspear said:

Plisetskya routinely did the 32 fouettes when she danced Kitri, so we know it was their omission from her SL was by choice.

Boylston has done 32 fouettes.  She can do them.  She didn't in this performance.

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3 minutes ago, Fleurfairy said:

 

I think cubanmiamiboy was saying that the entire role should be cast on the basis of someone who can check all the technical boxes required, including the fouettes. So if an AD knows that a certain ballerina can't do fouettes, she shouldn't be O/O at all. He wasn't suggesting some other random ballerina run in during the coda, do the fouettes, and run back out again.

 

It's true that I read the post above differently ("the right solution would had been to get someone right there-(eg. Sarah Lane)-to perform the sequence...."-- the sequence, not the ballet and...right there. And in a later post, he pointed out that he thought this solution should come from the ballerina herself... I don't think I misunderstood, but perhaps I did and Cubanmiamiboy was too gracious to correct me in his responses. 

 

My overall feeling is pretty much identical to that expressed by ABT Fan:

 

9 minutes ago, ABT Fan said:

I think at this point I'm a bit on the fence regarding Odile's fouettes. Do I want to see them done? Absolutely, but only done well. Will it kill the performance for me if the dancer doesn't do them, but does something else? No - I'd be disappointed, but I could get over it IF what the dancer does in it's place conveys a as-close-as-possible level of attack and speed and is done really, really well (I don't think any other step could really duplicate the same level of attack as fouettes). AND, if the rest of the performance is done technically and artistically well.

 

I can forgive a dancer for not doing the fouettes if she's recovering from an injury but is able to perform the rest of the ballet without issue. [...]

 

What I cannot forgive in a performance of O/O is a dancer who fails (time and again, and while not injured) to perform numerous technical requirements in both roles and with limited artistic conviction.

 

 

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22 minutes ago, Helene said:

 Or, using another image, a manege can look like she's encircling and entrapping him, establishing her turf, and all kinds of psychological effects.

 

 

In this production Siegfried is offstage when Odile does her solo variation, and last night, Lendorf was offstage while Boylston did her variation, so she was not encircling anyone. But nice idea!

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Can we not just concede that Boylston can do the fouettes, but was injured and chose not to do them? Can we also not agree that, at ABT, the principal dancers get to do maybe one or two (if lucky) of a ballet's principal role per year?  They may not have a chance to perform that ballet for another year, sometimes more.  It is difficult to give up their chance to dance it.  I can't imagine the anguish.  Do I try or do I not?  Obviously, the company had enough confidence in her to perform the role without the fouettes.  Frankly, I have seen them done with doubles, triples and quadruples and I can't stand it because they tend to be unmusical.  

 

Additionally, how do we know she didn't say, "I can't do the fouettes, so maybe I should not do the show?"  We do not know what goes on behind the scenes.  As we know, there are several injuries in the principal ranks, and putting more pressure on the already pressured soloists may have been a consideration.

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 I certainly agree that Boylston is capable of doing the fouettes, but did not do them last night because she is injured. I also completely understand that nobody ever wants to give up a performance to someone else, whether it be for personal reasons (I get one shot at this a year, and I'm going out there to perform) or to help others (If I don't do my show, poor Hee will have to do all performances this week).  However, don't we have to balance these factors with the idea that an audience member may see one Swan Lake a year, or a decade, or ever, and should see all of the standard choreography performed?  This is ABT, America's National Ballet Company, not a little regional company.

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9 minutes ago, abatt said:
30 minutes ago, Helene said:

 

In this production Siegfried is offstage when Odile does her solo variation, and last night, Lendorf was offstage while Boylston did her variation, so she was not encircling anyone. But nice idea!

He often is.  Which means there's no one physically there to be whipped if she does fouettes, hence, it's all image-based.

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4 minutes ago, chicagoballetomane said:

Wow! Sarah is in on Thursday!

 

Fabulous! I am so enjoying reading all the posts about Lane, Brandt, Teuscher, and Shevchenko's  taking on their new roles!

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