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CharlieH

Hungarian National Ballet tour to NY, Oct/Nov 2018

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Reporting back on an underwhelming performance last night. Unfortunately I have to agree with Dreamer—I don’t know that they really “pulled off” SL for me.

I have no classical dance training, and have only become interested in ballet in the last few years. Sometimes the technical discussions on this board go over my head, but even to my eyes some of the dancing looked a little sloppy last night. The "swan" scenes were generally better, but some of the dancing in Act I and III was, IMO, pretty mediocre. Also, the orchestra played a fair bit of the score at a slower tempo than I have come to expect; I couldn't help but wonder, based on what I saw, if it was because the dancers could not have performed the choreography at the usual speed. The principals were the exception, but I did not find their dancing particularly exciting, even if it was a better performance from a technical standpoint.

I was also put off by some of the elements of the van Dantzig production; some of the choices struck me as very bizarre. For example, the prologue opens with Siegfried’s mother—maybe grieving? I couldn’t quite tell, it seemed like maybe it was supposed to depict her remembering the events of the ballet after Siegfried has “drowned”? (Which he does offstage, and not clearly; had it not been for the synopsis I would have no idea that was how he died, or even that he had died, until his friend carried his body out from behind a set piece.) But it struck me as odd to center her in the prologue when she has such a small role in the rest of the ballet. Nor did I find the choreography particularly exciting. During some of the my favorite moments in the score, there was no dancing on stage at all: just people crossing from one end of the stage to another, making empty gestures.

Which is more or less my general criticism of the performance, generally: I love the Tchaikovsky score, but I don’t think the performance ever really came near to marching the intensity or the beauty of the music.

I have tickets to see Don Q on Friday, and trying to be cautiously optimistic about it. It looks like Tsvirko is still set to dance Basil. I know he is not everyone's cup of tea, but I think the role will suit him well. I have never seen him dance live, and I am really looking forward to it. Maybe he will be able to bring to Don Q some of the personality and excitement that was lacking in SL.

One thing I am very pleased to report back about—no nationalistic speeches! It seems that was unique to the gala.

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I saw the first and only performance of Swan Lake. It was one of the oddest--and at nearly four hours, most definitely the longest-- Swan Lake that I have ever seen. The performance started a little after 7 pm and didn't end until 10:45 pm (with two intermissions). Then there were the curtain calls. By the time I left the theater, it was around 11 pm. I’d characterize the dancing as a little rough around the edges. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Even though I've seen Swan Lake many, many times before, some of this was new to me--particularly some of the music and dancing in Act III. I know the New York Times gave this production a bad review, but I thought of it as a somewhat different take on an old classic—still very traditional and certainly not far out there like the Australian Ballet’s version (which isn’t really Swan Lake, in my opinion). There was a lot of energy in the theater, especially in the second half of the show. I enjoyed it so much that I'm going back to see the triple bill: Trois Gnossiennes / 5 Tangos / Black Cake. These three ballets are rarely seen in the U.S. and I don't want to miss them.

It's a shame that the performances sold so poorly. I would have gone to see Swan Lake a second time if it hadn’t been cancelled.

Edited by BalletFan

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Did anyone see Don Quixote last night? I'm interested to hear thoughts about the performance.

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I went, but I don't feel qualified to comment on the performances.  I will say that I loved the sets and costumes very much; I also thought the orchestra played magnificently.  Tsvirko was indeed Basil and I liked him a lot.   I have no idea who danced the Gypsy King, Amor or Queen of the Dryads since they were not listed in the cast list, which I thought was a big oversight.  I also found it hard to tell Mercedes from the Street Dancer.  I don't know any of the dancers so I don't know if there was any doubling up of roles. 

I also went to the Gala on Nov 4, and yes, it did have a lot of political speechmaking, but since Nov 4 is a national day of mourning in Hungary I found it perfectly understandable.  The problem with that evening was not the speeches, but the fact that gala evenings of snippets just don't work in general.  A touch of this, a little of that, etc, all taken out of context; it makes for an evening of unsatisfying hors d'oeuvres but not a full meal.

Both nights were heavily sold: I sat in the 2nd Ring both times and I saw very few empty seats.  The horseshoe sides of the rings were quite full also; what I could see of the Orchestra looked full.

For the record: I received an e-mail directly from the Koch Theater about the cancellations, as one of my tickets was affected.  The stated reason, if I recall correctly, had to do with the sets, the staging and an increased need for rehearsal time. 

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I went too but like Needlepoints, I do not feel qualified to technically rate the performance. From earlier posts about Swan Lake, I was unsure what to expect. 

However, I loved every bit of it, the costumes, the dancing, the chemistry between the leads, Melnik and Tsvirko. Cupid too, was danced absolutely beautifully. Almost floating across stage. I concur, the house was almost full, although 4th ring was closed off. From what I could tell the audience was very smitten and vocally supportive of the dancers and their performance. 

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As unimpressed as I had been with Swan Lake, I was very pleasantly surprised by Don Quixote, so much so that I would have been tempted to see it again on Saturday had they not cancelled the second date.

The energy level on stage seemed much higher... but, this could be because over the course of 3 hours, Don Q appeared to have more actual dancing (instead of mime/gesture) than all 4 hours of SL. I really thought the dancing was terrific, from Basil, Mercedes, Espada, Cupid, the gypsy soloists... and I thought Tatiana Melnik’s Kitri was more enjoyable than her O/O.

Kind of a shame, since from where I sat it looked like this show sold more poorly than SL. (The theater was still pretty full, but I thought I saw more empty seats than usual down in the orchestra.) I did wonder if people who had tickets maybe saw the NYT review and decided not to come.

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The difference between their SL and their DQ was like night & day.

van Danzig's SL was a turgid, muddled affair. The tempo was so slow it dragged the whole production down. I'm not talking about just the white pdd, in every scene the music was played at what seemed like 1/2 speed. He interpolated some really bizarre choreography that did nothing to clarify or add to the plot, it just confused things.

Other have mentioned the unintelligible prologue, here are a few other examples. In act 1 the prince and his mother sit and watch the pas de trois - but the prince gets up and partners one of the girls - turning it into a kind of pas de quatre. In the first lakeside act von Rothbart is there almost constantly - lurking or directing the swans, really destroying the visual beauty of the white act. It would take longer than the 4 hr production time to describe all of the bizarre changes to the 3rd act. To start, the prospective brides no longer enter with their retinues - they are pulled, pushed or cajoled by the master of ceremonies. Not terrible in and of itself except that this renders the national dances pointless. And they are danced pointlessly, interspersed with a pas de quatre to the same music that Martins uses for his pdq in his SL. Except in this version, one of the women looks like she is trying to seduce the prince. Then, after the whole black swan pdd Odile waltzes with the prince before revealing her treachery.I'm sure the 4th act was just as bizarre but I could't bear any more so I left at intermission.

By contrast, their DQ was pretty traditional. There were a couple of minor changes but it basically followed the Bolshoi/Mariinsky stagings. The music was played at tempo and it was wonderfully danced by Melnik, Tsvirko and all the rest. In fact Melnik was so much better as Kitri than as Odette that she looked like a completely different dancer.I would gladly see their Don Q again but you couldn't pay me enough to sit through that SL again!

Edited by nysusan
edited to correct typo

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