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ABT 2017 Swan Lake


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Abbat...you have made a great point about the possibility of the problem not being the ballerinas themselves but McKenzie' judgement at casting. But I can't still pass the point of...how did Seo and Copeland even got promoted if they did something like this in their debuts...? In fact...does anybody remember Copeland's and Seo's debut in either Giselle, SL or DQ...? Did both Giselles completed the sautes...? Did both Kitries/Odiles completed the fouettes...? And if not...then how the hell they still got promoted..?!?

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5 minutes ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

Abbat...you have made a great point about the possibility of the problem not being the ballerinas themselves but McKenzie' judgement at casting. But I can't still pass the point of...how did Seo and Copeland even got promoted if they did something like this in their debuts...? In fact...does anybody remember Copeland's and Seo's debut in either Giselle, SL or DQ...? Did both Giselles completed the sautes...? Did both Kitries/Odiles completed the fouettes...? And if not...then how the hell they still got promoted..?!?

I think McKenzie's reliance on guest artists is the reason for the current issues with the principal core.  ABT wasted many years in developing their dancers by giving all of the spots to guest artists.  This allowed subpar dancers to be promoted and filled into the less desirable time slots.  I do believe this is changing with the current crop of soloists.

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I went last night as well, and agree with much of what has been said both about Hee Seo's inconsistency and Marcelo Gome's magnificence.  In Act II I was completely enchanted with Seo's dancing.  Her pirouettes to penche (all supported expertly by Marcelo, mind you) are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen.  Her back and arms achieve that boneless quality wonderfully, and the swan arm movements seem second nature, connected through her whole spine.  Her developes unfurl so naturally, singing with the music.  Her leg shape and back bend in attitude are unparalleled.  For me, Seo and Part present the most transcendent Odettes at ABT right now.  The white swan pas de deux was so lovely, I could feel the whole audience sort of sigh in response to its beauty.

 

Yet in act 3 things fell apart for Seo.  She had a small but awkward hop in the pirouettes to attitude sequence near the beginning, nothing terrible but a habringer of things to come for her Odile.  Later I think she even fell off pointe a bit in the diagonal sequence.  I noticed during Corsaire that Seo's pique turns lack attack-- she steps under herself instead of extending beyond herself.  (Paloma Herrera did the same, especially toward the end of her career)  I wish they could pair Seo up with Nina Annaisvilli for some coaching to see if there is any way to develop this small drive or elevation when stepping out onto pointe in her pique and chaine turns.  The fouettes were rough.  She started with a double, but as in Corsaire she came off pointe early in the set and did a sort of hopping fouette thing to cover (which doesn't look easy, but doesn't look good either).  I really can't understand why a dancer of her level would fall of pointe 3 or four turns in.  It has to be nerves.  I think she executed 23 or 24 fouettes ending terribly in a messy wide fourth, then turning and running to the backstage corner, as Marcelo came out early to cover.  I think maybe she was attempting a double, but her body was completely crooked in the end.  I actually preferred Misty Copeland's approach in her Met debut (I didn't see her this round) of switching to pirouettes from fifth--retaining her balance and strength--and finishing with the music.  This at least seems in tune with the power and illusion of Odile, versus falling over and running to the corner.  The way I see it, in terms of the fouettes: Misty had a plan; Seo just fell apart.  (Not to say that I prefer Misty Copeland's performance in Swan Lake.  I much prefer Hee Seo, despite her weaknesses.)

 

I don't know what to say about Marcelo that hasn't been said.  I went last night with a group of non-ballet goers, and he was the highlight for them too.  His turns seemed really on last night.  He was doing that thing that I always admired Carreno for where he actually pauses in pase releve after a multiple revolution pirouette, allowing him to land softly and perfectly with the music.  The only place I notice Marcelo's age is a little droop or lack of elevation to his back leg when he has to land a jump--like a tour jete-in arabesque.  Last night, however, he was firing on all cylinders, and Seo really blossomed under his expert partnering.  (I'm not sure I've ever heard an audience spontaneously applaud for a supported pirouette before, but as Victura mentioned he must have spun her around a dozen times at blistering speed, ending perfectly with music)  Marcelo's energy in the black swan pas was so intense and his performance so strong in his variation, that it didn't really fit that this Odile was the one bewitching him.

 

I enjoyed Stearns' ballroom Von R.  He is a bit more sly and mysterious than Gomes' depiction, but I thought it worked.  And those sissones sure look good on him.

 

The corps was great, and seemed much more in unified than in Giselle.  Maybe because they do it every year.

 

As others have noticed, Melanie Hamrick is looking better than ever, back from her maternity leave.  Her pas de trois with DeGroft and Hoven was quite nice, and I always enjoy the camaraderie between Hoven and Gomes when they are cast together.  If Calvin Royal and Gabe Stone Shayer aren't promoted to soloist soon I'll be surprised, but I do really love seeing them shine in corps roles.  They seem to infuse the male corps with extra energy and gusto, no matter the role.

 

Maybe I'm a pathetic home teamer, but despite Seo's struggles, I left the theater pretty happy last night.  I have avoided her in full-lengths recently, after her disappointing substitution for Seminova in Bayadere, but her Odette is really something special to witness (especially with Gomes as her prince).  Curious to hear how she fairs with Stearns on Friday.

 

Thanks for all of the reports on Teuscher's debut.  I wish I could have been there.  Can't wait to hear about Lane.  I'm a fan (loved her Aurora and Giselle!), but admittedly have trouble picturing her in this role, as she does not impress me as a great adagio dancer, and that is so crucial for Odette.

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34 minutes ago, Kaysta said:

I think McKenzie's reliance on guest artists is the reason for the current issues with the principal core.  ABT wasted many years in developing their dancers by giving all of the spots to guest artists.  This allowed subpar dancers to be promoted and filled into the less desirable time slots.  I do believe this is changing with the current crop of soloists.

The guest artist thing is part of it.  However, I also think that financial issues also play a role sometimes in who gets promoted.  Copeland is bringing in new audiences, and perhaps new subscribers and new donors too.  Is it a mere coincidence that Hee Seo was promoted in 2012, the same year that ABT toured to South Korea?  America likes to abide by the myth of meritocracy, but many factors other than merit often play a role in who wins and who loses.

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All I say...I hope McKenzie has enough reasoning not to take Copeland or Seo in any international tour if Giselle, SL or DQ are in the menu. People out there are not that politically correct, you know. Up until when I left, there was still booing in Havana.

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13 minutes ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

All I say...I hope McKenzie has enough reasoning not to take Copeland or Seo in any international tour if Giselle, SL or DQ are in the menu. People out there are not that politically correct, you know.

ABT doesn't seem to do much touring internationally any more, and I have wondered if it's dependent on a host country picking up the tab. They were in South Korea a few years ago, as noted. And they were in Dubai this spring, with Giselle debuts by Lane, Copeland, and Murphy. So at least they got a serious run-through before the Met season.

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Russell and Stowell came to Seattle in 1977, and they spent their time building a school.  17 years later, there were some home-grown top dancers, like Barker and Lallone, who came up the ranks, dancers in the corps who were mainly from the school, but prominent in the Principal and Soloist ranks were dancers who were hired from the outside.   While they hired the occasional male dancer direct to Principal (Milov, Le), they hired many dancers as Soloists, often promoting them the next season to Principal, once they had proven themselves, but every one was a full-time member of the company, whose season ran September-June minimally, although they made guest appearances.   


Miranda Weese is the only dancer that Peter Boal brought in directly to Principal; even among the NYCB dancers he's brought in who were/are long-term members, only Korbes was brought in at Soloist level, and each one has worked up through the corps.  Similarly for all of the other dancers he's hired into the company from the outside, although a few, like Joshua Grant, Taylor, Pertl, and Ryan, were in the company before and/or were PDs before dancing elsewhere.  Among the Principals and Soloists today, every one came through the ranks, and half of them through the School.  

 

But, per the Balanchine principle, "But first, a school", it took a long time and a lot of patience, commitment, and resources to get there, and it took two decades of transition before "home-grown" -- or, at least "home-finished," since many, although not all, PD's are in the school for two years -- was the norm, not the exception.

 

How long as ABT had the most recent incarnation of the school?  The Studio program has born fruit among the current roster.  

 

1 hour ago, abatt said:

America likes to abide by the myth of meritocracy, but many factors other than merit often play a role in who wins and who loses.

And, like many things, "America"'s understanding is based on a misconception: the definition of "meritocracy" per Wikipedia:

 

Quote

Meritocracy (merit, from Latin mereō, and -cracy, from Ancient Greek κράτος kratos "strength, power") is a political philosophy holding that power should be vested in individuals almost exclusively based on ability and talent.

So it has zero to do with the dancers, and all to do with the Powers That Be, in this case, at ABT.   

 

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1 hour ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

All I say...I hope McKenzie has enough reasoning not to take Copeland or Seo in any international tour if Giselle, SL or DQ are in the menu. People out there are not that politically correct, you know. Up until when I left, there was still booing in Havana.

I think reviews of Seo in Giselle have been favorable, both here and elsewhere.  She also danced Giselle with Marinsky ballet.  Swan Lake, however, is a different animal (pun intended ;)

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2 minutes ago, vipa said:

Just got my ticket for tonight's SL. It seems almost sold out. 

 

My goodness, you're right! Though tomorrow night's with Seo/Stearns/Gomes is very well sold as well.

 

I cannot remember who wrote the comment above re: Lane's preparation time for tonight. Despite my excitement regarding this chance she's been given, I have had some of the same fears. I really hope she had at least a few weeks to rehearse (that ABT was proactive as much as possible) and that it wasn't a Friday afternoon aka Le Corsaire situation "get the understudy in here now to prepare for next week!". Even a few weeks is not enough for SL, but I hope Lane hasn't had to cram O/O in 6 days. Yes, she has the benefit of having performed this before with Corella, but that was years ago.

 

I'm very optimistic though especially given her Giselle debut. I've had a hard time imagining her as an evil seductress, but she blew me away with her mad scene so she clearly has incredible acting ability. I hope her newfound confidence and maturity will carry her through, up and over, the lack of preparation time she's faced.

 

Separately, Part is still scheduled to dance on Saturday so I guess we'll see if that stands.

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15 minutes ago, Helene said:

Russell and Stowell came to Seattle in 1977, and they spent their time building a school.  17 years later, there were some home-grown top dancers, like Barker and Lallone, who came up the ranks, dancers in the corps who were mainly from the school, but prominent in the Principal and Soloist ranks were dancers who were hired from the outside.   While they hired the occasional male dancer direct to Principal (Milov, Le), they hired many dancers as Soloists, often promoting them the next season to Principal, once they had proven themselves, but every one was a full-time member of the company, whose season ran September-June minimally, although they made guest appearances.   


Miranda Weese is the only dancer that Peter Boal brought in directly to Principal; even among the NYCB dancers he's brought in who were/are long-term members, only Korbes was brought in at Soloist level, and each one has worked up through the corps.  Similarly for all of the other dancers he's hired into the company from the outside, although a few, like Joshua Grant, Taylor, Pertl, and Ryan, were in the company before and/or were PDs before dancing elsewhere.  Among the Principals and Soloists today, every one came through the ranks, and half of them through the School.  

 

But, per the Balanchine principle, "But first, a school", it took a long time and a lot of patience, commitment, and resources to get there, and it took two decades of transition before "home-grown" -- or, at least "home-finished," since many, although not all, PD's are in the school for two years -- was the norm, not the exception.

 

How long as ABT had the most recent incarnation of the school?  The Studio program has born fruit among the current roster.  

 

And, like many things, "America"'s understanding is based on a misconception: the definition of "meritocracy" per Wikipedia:

 

So it has zero to do with the dancers, and all to do with the Powers That Be, in this case, at ABT.   

 

 

No. Abatt is correct. In meritocracy the power resides in the most able & talented individuals. Hence, the able and talented dancers. Not the oft-corrupt (e.g., paid-off, crooked) Powers That Be.

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Back to casting, casting, casting!  Directing, directing, directing!  Without naming individuals....some ballerinas are stunning Giselles and Juliets, etc., and some are stunning Swans, White and Black, etc. 

 

I think it's a huge mistake to push any dancer into a role that doesn't suit their strengths, styles.  One or two major performances should not be "the test."  

 

On the other hand, where are the many choices of qualified dancers understudying major roles? Many are dancing these major roles in smaller companies.  And where are the ballets that might better show off dancers that are currently available?  ABT needs much better direction.....  

 

Edited by sz
Spacing
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A question: 

Both of the ballerinas who have trouble with the fouettes have had this problen for several seasons. What about the power of practice?  of practice practice practice-i remember learning them and practicing and getting better. Im not trying to brag about my great skill --i was 12 and could  do about  9 at the end of my dancing career at the age of 15!

but it was practice--.. Am I being too harsh?

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55 minutes ago, Helene said:

 

And, like many things, "America"'s understanding is based on a misconception: the definition of "meritocracy" per Wikipedia:

 

So it has zero to do with the dancers, and all to do with the Powers That Be, in this case, at ABT.   

 

 

I'm not sure I follow, Helene. Surely when Americans -- or anyone -- use the term "meritocracy" they're talking about power in its many forms, not just the bureaucratic power of the Powers That Be. For a dancer, rank in a company is a form of power. Isn't that what abatt was likely talking about?

Edited by nanushka
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4 minutes ago, macnellie said:

A question: 

Both of the ballerinas who have trouble with the fouettes have had this problen for several seasons. What about the power of practice?  of practice practice practice-i remember learning them and practicing and getting better. Im not trying to brag about my great skill --i was 12 and could  do about  9 at the end of my dancing career at the age of 15!

but it was practice--.. Am I being too harsh?

I remember reading an interview with Gillian that she started doing fouettes when she was very young. Just one perfect one, then she worked up to two in a row, then three. Over time she worked up to 32. I wonder if there are balancing and placement issues that need to be inculcated at an early age. Stamina is surely part of it, too.

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20 minutes ago, nanushka said:

For a dancer, rank in a company is a form of power. Isn't that what abatt was likely talking about?

How is that power?  The dancer doesn't cast him or herself.   Unless he or she is associated with a powerful enough general or politician who can pressure the AD to cast him or her, whether implicitly or explicitly.

 

Dancers can create pressure, but they're not the Deciders.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, California said:

I remember reading an interview with Gillian that she started doing fouettes when she was very young. Just one perfect one, then she worked up to two in a row, then three. Over time she worked up to 32. I wonder if there are balancing and placement issues that need to be inculcated at an early age. Stamina is surely part of it, too.

 

Speaking of Murphy...I saw this on her Instagram the other day.

 

Of course, ballerinas should practice-practice-practice something they routinely have trouble with, and I think many of them do, as much as possible. But, one of the great things about the Met season is also one of the worst things for the dancers - preparing numerous ballets at the same time, coupled with limited rehearsal time. Fouettes are something you can practice alone without a partner, but as California noted, it's not just the fouettes but doing fouettes after a solo, after a pas, after doing Odette. You can crank out 50 fouettes alone in a studio all by yourself, but put those into a ballet and it's a different thing entirely. That said, yes, of course, there's a technique/stamina issue with several O/O's at the moment which is unacceptable. I know a lot of dancers cross train routinely now, but is working out on an elliptical going to improve your fouettes? And, as some others have noted, ABT should consider not casting every (or nearly) principal in every major role. Not every principal is going to be stupendous in everything. However, I also recognize that money is a factor and to accommodate such casting they'd probably have to hire more principals which I doubt would be an option. I just don't know that by the time you're in your 30's you're going to be able to crack the fouette nut if you haven't already. Perhaps some can. But, at least with the dancers we're talking about, it isn't happening.

 

 

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Speaking of Murphy...Last night, I rewatched her as O/O in that wondrous 2005 DVD of ABT's SWAN LAKE, opposite Corrella's Siegfried. During the bows, a little swan stands just behind & to the left (audience view) of Murphy. It is Sarah Lane. Toi, toi, toi, Sarah!

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7 minutes ago, Helene said:

How is that power?  The dancer doesn't cast him or herself.   Unless he or she is associated with a powerful enough general or politician who can pressure the AD to cast him or her, whether implicitly or explicitly.

 

Dancers can create pressure, but they're not the Deciders.

 

 

 

Power does not have to be total and absolute in order to be power. The ability and position to exert pressure is itself a form of power. Foucault: "Power is everywhere." Space is power. Time is power. Money is power. Attention, or the ability to command it, is power. A principal dancer may not be able to simply demand a role, but that doesn't mean he or she lacks power. We all have many forms and degrees of power, whether we belong to the Powers That Be or not. Meritocracy is simply the (dubious) idea that those powers are doled out according to merit.

 

As I said, though, I just wasn't sure I was following your initial post or the point you were making about meritocracy in relation to the prior conversation. I didn't realize you were talking only about the narrow, explicit power over casting.

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17 minutes ago, ABT Fan said:

 

But, one of the great things about the Met season is also one of the worst things for the dancers - preparing numerous ballets at the same time, coupled with limited rehearsal time. Fouettes are something you can practice alone without a partner, but as California noted, it's not just the fouettes but doing fouettes after a solo, after a pas, after doing Odette. You can crank out 50 fouettes alone in a studio all by yourself, but put those into a ballet and it's a different thing entirely. That said, yes, of course, there's a technique/stamina issue with several O/O's at the moment which is unacceptable.

 

 

Great point about context.

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18 minutes ago, nanushka said:

As I said, though, I just wasn't sure I was following your initial post or the point you were making about meritocracy in relation to the prior conversation. I didn't realize you were talking only about the narrow, explicit power over casting.

It's not just power over casting:  it's the power to make decisions about what goes on stage.  Most people mistakenly believe that meritocracy has to do with the talent and ability of the dancers, who aren't the ones deciding what's best for the rest of us, based on their talent and ability.

 

Edited to add:  Meritocracy is still a paternalistic idea, that people rule based on talent and ability, as opposed to heredity, for example.

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4 minutes ago, Helene said:

It's not just power over casting:  it's the power to make decisions about what goes on stage.  Most people mistakenly believe that meritocracy has to do with the talent and ability of the dancers, who aren't the ones deciding what's best for the rest of us, based on their talent and ability.

 

This reminds me of the comment that the Russian impresario makes in "On Your "Toes," after he denigrates "jazz ballet" -- "I will not give the American audience what they want.  I'll give them what they ought to like."

 

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