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Russian Masters program, KennCenter,10/4-8, 2017


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I attended the Saturday evening presentation of the season-opening Russian Masters mixed bill. The company, led by AD Julie Kent, presented Fokine's American ABT version of Les Sylphides (staged by Susan Jones), Petipa-et. al.'s  Le Corsaire pdd (staged by Kent/Barbee), Ratmansky's Bolero (staged by Tatyana Ratmansky, originally for the Royal Danish Ballet) and Balanchine's Prodigal Son (staged by Richard Tanner, I think; working from memory here without a playbill - pls correct if I'm wrong).

 

While it was a lovely program, I was surprised by how different is the ABT/Washington Ballet Les Sylphides, in both steps and execution, from what I'm accustomed to seeing in Russia and Europe. The ABT/WB version is sunny and full of gusto but also less crisp. Having been weaned on the ultra-smooth, crisp and poetic Mariinsky version (titled Chopiniana), I found the WB corps ladies to be overly smiley, robust in attack and a bit sloppy in uniformity, port de bras, etc. I had not realized until last night just how much of the patterning and choreography Mme Vaganova had altered when she staged this ballet. That said, I quite enjoyed all of the soloists last night - Ayano Kimura in the Mazurka solo & pdd, Nicole Graniero in the first solo and, especially, Venus Villa in the haunting Prelude, not to overlook the amazing stretch and heartfelt delivery by the lone male in the work, Brooklyn Mack, who improves ten-fold every time that I see his artistry.

 

Part II included the Corsaire PDD and Ratmansky's Bolero. Corsaire was nicely delivered, especially by the male, Gian-Carlo Perez, who has gorgeous lines, a ferile presence and electrifying pyrotechnics, including smooth Cuban turns of the endless variety and a couple of revoltade leaps thrown in for good measure.  His Medora, Eun Won Lee, doesn't quite achieve Perez' charisma and passion but she has was fine enough, particularly with her 32 foutees - some doubles - but oblivious to the music. Lee is very much a WB version of Hee Seo - beautiful of line but somewhat lacking in oomph.

 

Bolero was terrific in every way! Danced not atop a big table, as in the Nijinska original or the famous Bejart version, but simply on the floor, by six dancers - three women and three men - with numbers on their chests, as if in a dance marathon. It was a fascinatingly energetic new look at the famous Ravel score and I loved it. Love or not Ratmansky's works, one cannot accuse him of being unmusical!

 

Part III, Prodigal Son, ended the evening on a high note. Jonathan Jordan both acted and danced with finesse. Kateryna Derechyna was deliciously wicked and gorgeous as the Siren. Bravi to the corps of goons. 

 

It was nice to have a live orchestra, led by Charles Barker, but they seem to be a smallish group, as the pit in the Eisenhower Theatre is tiny. The sound was fine for Bolero but sounded feeble in Sylphides and other works that are usually heard with orchestras that have large string sections. At times, I wondered if a high-school banda has taken over the pit.

Edited by CharlieH
factual correction #1
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You were correct about Richard Tanner. 

 

I agree for the most part, though I thought that while Ratmansky did about as much as it's possible to do with Bolero, there is a limit as to how much a choreographer (or listener) can wring out of such a simple, repetitive piece of music. Les Sylphides requires a relatively large number of women, which stretches the depth of a smallish company like the WB. On top of that, 2 women from the professional company were not cast (presumably because of injury), including Maki Onuki, who is possibly their best female dancer. Eunwon Lee suffered both a dislocated shoulder and a sprained ankle in the month before the run began, so she may have not been physically 100 percent (I did not get to the performances where she danced the Le Corsaire pas de deux).

 

It was great to hear live music (especially Prokofiev's music for The Prodigal Son) even if the orchestra could have used a few more musicians.

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I meant to add that I was taken aback by the low audience turn-out to this event, especially on a Saturday night. While the Orchestra seemed to have sold quite well, the Balcony, where our family sat, was only about one-fourth full - if that - when lights went down. A few stragglers wandered in during the first intermission but, still, it was a sad turn out on a Saturday night, considering that this is the city's main ballet troupe, especially since Farrell will soon be disbanding.  And this was the smallish Eisenhower Theater, rather than the large Opera House. :wacko:

 

Perhaps the low turn-out can be attributed to competing shows during the month, such as the Mariinsky Bayadere just two weeks from now?

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The balconies of the last two WB programs I attended in March and April respectively were similarly not well sold.  I recently moved from DC so I don't know whether or not this is still the case, but in past years while every other company successfully sold excess tickets to young professionals through the Kennedy Center's MyTix program, the WB never offered discounted rates at the Kennedy Center through MyTix.  They did have young professional rates for the shows at the Shakespeare theater and ... a fancy theater on 13th & E ... I forget the name, but they only advertised those rates in one single email.  As a student at the time, affordability was essential -- if I can see world class troupes for a discounted rate -- even cheaper than that of a regional troupe -- that's where I'd spend my money.  Anyways, my impression is that WB needs to completely revamp its advertising and especially that targeting young professionals.

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2 hours ago, Emma said:

...but in past years while every other company successfully sold excess tickets to young professionals through the Kennedy Center's MyTix program, the WB never offered discounted rates at the Kennedy Center through MyTix.  They did have young professional rates for the shows at the Shakespeare theater and ... a fancy theater on 13th & E ... I forget the name, but they only advertised those rates in one single email.

 

I might be wrong, but I've been under the impression that the MyTix program is only available for shows produced by the Kennedy Center (I've never seen Opera Lafayette use MyTix). Ticket prices for the WB have in the past been a bit of a puzzlement to me, as I have often paid less to see the NYCB than the WB. For this production, they did have a limited number of $25 seats.

Edited by YouOverThere
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