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ABT 2018 Whipped Cream


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I'm just back from the matinee, my first viewing of Whipped Cream. I wanted to see Simkin before he leaves, as well as Abrera and Lane. I thought I might attend the evening performance as well, wanting to see Cassandra Trenary. However, one performance is enough, no more Whipped Cream for me. Many reasons. First, and to me this is a fatal flaw, the music simply is not suited to dance. For this reason alone, if I were AD, I would never have approved this project. To me the music and choreography never came together in my heart. Don't know how else to describe it. I felt largely unengaged, and except for a few moments near the end involving Daniil Simkin, it never spoke to me... and I'm chalking those moments up to Simkin's exceptional talent. The choreography seemed both overly busy and repetitive. The costumes sometimes distracted from the dancing, especially with all the candies in the first act. That section was a real missed opportunity for some decorative patterns in choreography, but it was just a mishmash. Finally, practically no plot, no character development, no sense of either the narrative or the music building and developing, and no deeper meaning. Dull. 

The afternoon was redeemed by delightful dancing. Simkin will be sorely missed. I can't tell from Lane's post (above) whether he will be a regular with ABT or not, but I just want to say what a complete pleasure it's been to watch his development since he first burst into ABT. Come back often, Daniil! Sarah Lane was a delightful Princess Praline, with her crispness a relief, a blast of fresh air, after all the the cacophony onstage. She and Simkin look great together, their partnership has really developed over the years. Again: come back soon, Daniil!! Stella Abrera was a sinuous Princess Tea Flower, sexy and funny. I have attended ABT so little over the past few years that I didn't have an updated impression of Thomas Forster, but I thought he was a wonderful Prince Coffee, and totally agree with all the posters up-stream that he is ready for bigger roles. So much more expressive than Cory Stearns!! (A low bar, I know ...) Finally, Catherine Hurlin was wonderful as Mlle. Chartreuse, a confident, funny, mature performer. 

Edited by cobweb
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Cobweb, I was there too and agree 100%....the lack of substance (although I guess Whipped Cream would be a fluff piece simply knowing the name) and the surprisingly boring Strauss music (no climaxes) made for a boring afternoon. The wonderful dancers can’t save it. Mark Ryden’s sets and costumes (surreal and sort of creepy) are the main reason I decided to see it. 

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54 minutes ago, Birdsall said:

Cobweb, I was there too and agree 100%....the lack of substance (although I guess Whipped Cream would be a fluff piece simply knowing the name) and the surprisingly boring Strauss music (no climaxes) made for a boring afternoon. The wonderful dancers can’t save it. Mark Ryden’s sets and costumes (surreal and sort of creepy) are the main reason I decided to see it. 

I saw this last year and really didn't like it. I wnet back this afternoon and while I appreciated certain things more (for instance the pas de deux between Boy and Princess Praline) and the ending as well as the whipped creams rolling down the ramp (a great parody of the Kingdom of the Shades) the things that bothered me the first time still bother me: 

1) The Coffee and Tea duet. Goes on for way too long, and made me fall asleep. A duet between two caffeinated drinks put me to sleep ...

2) The music. It just isn't a very danceable score. It's a lot of waltz but so even keeled. If R. Strauss ever wrote muzak this would be it. Hard to believe this same composer wrote Salome or Elektra.

3) The total lack of a storyline. Even less so than Nutcracker.

The dancing was great though. Stella Abrera in particular was delightful as Tea. Simkin - hope he comes back often from Berlin. And his partnership with Lane was wonderful. You could tell how much fun they were having together onstage. 

This ballet is marketed very heavily towards kids but truthfully unlike the Nutcracker I don't think it has enough substance to keep kids interested. The two girls next to me were fast asleep for most of the ballet.

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It's not like there was no dancing. But whatever substance this piece has, is lost because of 1) lack of engagement with the music/ the music is extremely difficult to engage choreographically; 2) so much going on - costumes, sets, many dancers, and no clear choreographic patterns; 3) lack of a narrative developing in distinct scenes. 

I also enjoyed the dollops of whipped cream coming down the slide! That was fun. I wonder why they all didn't come out that way, though - the final four darted in from the wings. 

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From the clips I’ve seen, I think the music is entirely unsuitable for ballet - lots of screeching violins and no discernible melodies. This is the reason I have not gone to see it yet. Not sure if I ever will. I just can’t abide bad music.

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5 hours ago, cobweb said:

I'm just back from the matinee, my first viewing of Whipped Cream. I wanted to see Simkin before he leaves, as well as Abrera and Lane. I thought I might attend the evening performance as well, wanting to see Cassandra Trenary. However, one performance is enough, no more Whipped Cream for me. Many reasons. First, and to me this is a fatal flaw, the music simply is not suited to dance. For this reason alone, if I were AD, I would never have approved this project. To me the music and choreography never came together in my heart. Don't know how else to describe it. I felt largely unengaged, and except for a few moments near the end involving Daniil Simkin, it never spoke to me... and I'm chalking those moments up to Simkin's exceptional talent. The choreography seemed both overly busy and repetitive. The costumes sometimes distracted from the dancing, especially with all the candies in the first act. That section was a real missed opportunity for some decorative patterns in choreography, but it was just a mishmash. Finally, practically no plot, no character development, no sense of either the narrative or the music building and developing, and no deeper meaning. Dull. 

The afternoon was redeemed by delightful dancing. Simkin will be sorely missed. I can't tell from Lane's post (above) whether he will be a regular with ABT or not, but I just want to say what a complete pleasure it's been to watch his development since he first burst into ABT. Come back often, Daniil! Sarah Lane was a delightful Princess Praline, with her crispness a relief, a blast of fresh air, after all the the cacophony onstage. She and Simkin look great together, their partnership has really developed over the years. Again: come back soon, Daniil!! Stella Abrera was a sinuous Princess Tea Flower, sexy and funny. I have attended ABT so little over the past few years that I didn't have an updated impression of Thomas Forster, but I thought he was a wonderful Prince Coffee, and totally agree with all the posters up-stream that he is ready for bigger roles. So much more expressive than Cory Stearns!! (A low bar, I know ...) Finally, Catherine Hurlin was wonderful as Mlle. Chartreuse, a confident, funny, mature performer. 

Thanks for the review cobweb. I saw it last year and passed on it this year. In fact for the first time in many years I took a pass on the whole ABT season. I couldn't get to the casts and ballets I wanted to see so threw up my hands and skipped it.

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Personally, I felt quite the same about the music when I listened to it before seeing the ballet last year, but as with The Tempest (the music for which I found quite hauntingly lovely but didn’t at first consider very danceable) I thought Ratmansky did a pretty remarkable job of discovering the dance potential within the rhythms and orchestration. I was definitely in the minority on the latter and sounds like I am in the minority on the former now too. I’ve found Whipped Cream quite delightful, though certainly not without its imperfections.

I do agree that some of the costumes, beautiful as they are, get in the way of allowing one to fully see some of the choreography.

In any case, I wouldn’t recommend passing final judgment until one’s had a chance to see the full piece. That, after all, is the context in which the music really either works or doesn’t.

Edited by nanushka
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4 hours ago, nanushka said:

Personally, I felt quite the same about the music when I listened to it before seeing the ballet last year, but as with The Tempest (the music for which I found quite hauntingly lovely but didn’t at first consider very danceable) I thought Ratmansky did a pretty remarkable job of discovering the dance potential within the rhythms and orchestration. I was definitely in the minority on the latter and sounds like I am in the minority on the former now too. I’ve found Whipped Cream quite delightful, though certainly not without its imperfections.

 

I loved Whipped Cream when I saw it (with multiple casts) last season and I also felt that Ratmansky found a persuasive way into the music. That last feeling grew each time I saw the ballet. 

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I adored Whipped Cream when I first saw it last year and even went back to see it at the Kennedy Center months later for an extra serving (starring the magnificent cast of Simkin, Lane, Hallberg, Abrera). It’s Ratmansky’s very own and original homage to Petipa and the grand Imperial tradition in ballet (and he stated so in a pre-Harlequinade interview!).

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2 hours ago, CharlieH said:

I adored Whipped Cream when I first saw it last year and even went back to see it at the Kennedy Center months later for an extra serving (starring the magnificent cast of Simkin, Lane, Hallberg, Abrera). It’s Ratmansky’s very own and original homage to Petipa and the grand Imperial tradition in ballet (and he stated so in a pre-Harlequinade interview!).

Imperial Russia definitely could not afford the desserts Boy indulges himself with:

phutp.jpgrus-hungry.jpg

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5 hours ago, Drew said:

I loved Whipped Cream when I saw it (with multiple casts) last season and I also felt that Ratmansky found a persuasive way into the music. That last feeling grew each time I saw the ballet. 

agree 100%

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3 hours ago, CharlieH said:

I adored Whipped Cream when I first saw it last year and even went back to see it at the Kennedy Center months later for an extra serving (starring the magnificent cast of Simkin, Lane, Hallberg, Abrera). It’s Ratmansky’s very own and original homage to Petipa and the grand Imperial tradition in ballet (and he stated so in a pre-Harlequinade interview!).

1 hour ago, canbelto said:

Imperial Russia definitely could not afford the desserts Boy indulges himself with:

phutp.jpgrus-hungry.jpg

 

The Grand Imperial tradition in ballet is what is referenced here by CharlieH, not the plight of peasants in Imperial Russia...

Certainly there was a great (and opulent) tradition of ballet before the revolution.

 

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2 hours ago, canbelto said:

Imperial Russia definitely could not afford the desserts Boy indulges himself with

Some in Imperial Russia definitely could, they just chose not to share.

In any case, the "grand Imperial tradition in ballet" that CharlieH references (which is certainly not the same as all of "Imperial Russia") is the same tradition Balanchine memorialized in a number of generally admired and oft-performed works that similarly celebrate its, well, grandeur, in a manner that should cause modern-day Marxist critics to groan. Then, of course, there's basically any production of Sleeping Beauty or any of a number of other Russian classics. I'm not sure Ratmansky is uniquely vulnerable to such critiques.

Edited by nanushka
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Canbelto, thanks for the big laugh! 

I personally need some sort of story. For me that is the biggest problem I had with Whipped Cream. All fluff and no substance. I guess that’s fitting for a ballet called Whipped Cream, but I think Imperial ballets had more substance. The music was another problem (like a lullaby that lulls us to sleep). The little girl behind me fell asleep. It just isn’t an exciting score. La Traviata is also filled with waltzes but somehow excites over and over. 

I did enjoy Mark Ryden’s ironic/alternative/creepy artwork (sets and costumes) as “art” but didn’t feel like I was watching Imperial splendor....more like something progressive millennials with purple hair and tattoos would enjoy.

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23 minutes ago, nanushka said:

Some in Imperial Russia definitely could, they just chose not to share.

In any case, the "grand Imperial tradition in ballet" that CharlieH references (which is certainly not the same as all of "Imperial Russia") is the same tradition Balanchine memorialized in a number of generally admired and oft-performed works that similarly celebrate its, well, grandeur, in a manner that should cause modern-day Marxist critics to groan. Then, of course, there's basically any production of Sleeping Beauty or any of a number of other Russian classics. I'm not sure Ratmansky is uniquely vulnerable to such critiques.

It was a joke. But seriously, I'm not sure the spare-no-expense approach to any "Grand Imperial" ballet is the only approach. Do we really want ballerinas like Mathilde K. sewing diamonds into her tutus?  It's perfectly okay I think to respect the choreography of the Petipa classics but go for a more modern aesthetic. For instance I thought Ratmansky's Harlequinade AND Balanchine's Harlequinade were homages to a Imperial Ballet work but the costumes and scenery did not overpower the choreography and dancing.

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1 hour ago, canbelto said:

It was a joke. 

Yes, as was the first line of my response. Nonetheless, jokes can simultaneously convey serious ideas — as I would assume any joke involving images of starving peasants might — and those I took your joke to imply were what I went on from there to respond to. Apologies if I was mistakenly inferring a critique that was not intended.

Edited by nanushka
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15 hours ago, canbelto said:

I saw this last year and really didn't like it. I wnet back this afternoon and while I appreciated certain things more (for instance the pas de deux between Boy and Princess Praline) and the ending as well as the whipped creams rolling down the ramp (a great parody of the Kingdom of the Shades) the things that bothered me the first time still bother me: 

1) The Coffee and Tea duet. Goes on for way too long, and made me fall asleep. A duet between two caffeinated drinks put me to sleep ...

2) The music. It just isn't a very danceable score. It's a lot of waltz but so even keeled. If R. Strauss ever wrote muzak this would be it. Hard to believe this same composer wrote Salome or Elektra.

3) The total lack of a storyline. Even less so than Nutcracker.

The dancing was great though. Stella Abrera in particular was delightful as Tea. Simkin - hope he comes back often from Berlin. And his partnership with Lane was wonderful. You could tell how much fun they were having together onstage.

 

I very much agree with your first two points. I saw this last year and though there were parts that I absolutely loved (the sets, most of the costumes, the crazy/funny characters, exquisite dancing) I decided to pass this year. Despite Abrera's and Gomes' wonderful dancing, their duet was a very long snooze fest that I thought would never end and the music just doesn't work for ballet. The lack of a story line didn't bother me as much, maybe because I knew it would be "fluff" and there was so much going on visually to keep me "occupied". 

According to Lane's Instagram below, The Boy was supposed to wear a wig originally. Thank goodness that was scraped because he looks like he belongs in a Sia music video (costume aside)! 

 

 

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I enjoyed Whipped Cream last year, and again this year.   I saw the Simkin and Shayer casts this year.  No, the dancing is not exceptional, but there are some nice moments, especially with The Boy and Princess Praline.  And the dancing whipped cream at the end of the first act is lovely.   The sets are clever, the costumes ingenious, and the ballet itself is fun and adorable.  This very light comical ballet was a nice way to close out the MET season.  

A little girl sitting nearby in a tutu and ballet shoes really seemed to love it.  Before the ballet started her dad even walked her over to look at the orchestra.  During the  performance another little girl screamed out something that sounded like “ I WANT A CANDY CANE!” at which point the audience laughed. 

The ballet was well received by the audience, which included many children.  As I also said about Harlequinade, this may be an introduction to ballet for some of these kids.

I’ve had a very busy ABT season (minus the Firebird/Afterite week which I spent that at the Koch).  So now for a small  break with a smattering of ballet (like Sarasota Ballet next month) before NYCB’s fall season in September!

Edited by NinaFan
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Here are some pictures from the original 1924 ballet. The Ratmansky production with the Ryden costumes are very much following the fanciful surreal costumes of that production rather than the opulent grandeur of Imperial Ballet:

 e5ee3c34300a039fcaf98103412100de.jpg

fba6b9ec4d322d508479de46227c367f.jpg

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTVDIKCJgsdOjrKaNxtThf

Edited by canbelto
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21 minutes ago, canbelto said:

The Ratmansky production with the Ryden costumes are very much following the fanciful surreal costumes of that production rather than the opulent grandeur of Imperial Ballet

I didn't hear the interview that CharlieH referred to in his comment above, but I'm not sure why we should assume that Ratmansky was talking specifically about the physical production in any reference he might have made to "the grand Imperial tradition in ballet." There are many other ways of evoking and memorializing that tradition — as Balanchine did in his own tributes to it, such as Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2DiamondsTheme and Variations, and others.

What's more, Ratmansky could certainly have been memorializing (or "following") multiple traditions at once. Art (and especially an art as multi-faceted as a staged narrative dance work) is often multiply referential. It needn't be a matter of X rather than Y.

Edited by nanushka
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Last year, I went to an interview with Ratmansky and Cassandra Trenary, and he talked about "Whipped Cream" as a ballet feerie.  At the question time, I asked him if working on Sleeping Beauty had influenced his thinking and he said "Most definitely".  Here is the quote from my writeup.  "There are a number of processions in the ballet presenting these, [fantistic creatures] which he said are based on the ballet féerie idea. (Petipa's "The Sleeping Beauty" is also a ballet féerie and in answer to a question at the end of the interview, Ratmansky said emphatically that his work on "The Sleeping Beauty" was a great influence on "Whipped Cream".)

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Thank you, Cargill. This confirms my own early feelings on this ballet and why I love it so much. Every great Petipa Era ballet contained some sort of parade or procession to show-off luxurious costumes...SB, Bayadere...even the polonaise that opens the last act of Harlequinade. Bring it on - the more great costumes in a luxurious setting, the merrier! Minimalist Cheapo designers need not apply. Whipped Cream qualifies.

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2 hours ago, CharlieH said:

Thank you, Cargill. This confirms my own early feelings on this ballet and why I love it so much. Every great Petipa Era ballet contained some sort of parade or procession to show-off luxurious costumes...SB, Bayadere...even the polonaise that opens the last act of Harlequinade. Bring it on - the more great costumes in a luxurious setting, the merrier! Minimalist Cheapo designers need not apply. Whipped Cream qualifies.

Color me shocked. I always thought what made Petipa ballets great was the choreography, not the costumes or scenery.

ETA: I find the parade of costumes in those aforementioned Petipa ballets to be the weakest parts of the ballets. The best part of La Bayadere, for instance, is The Kingdom of the Shades when the costumes are just simple white tutus. 

Edited by canbelto
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1 hour ago, canbelto said:

Color me shocked. I always thought what made Petipa ballets great was the choreography, not the costumes or scenery.

ETA: I find the parade of costumes in those aforementioned Petipa ballets to be the weakest parts of the ballets. The best part of La Bayadere, for instance, is The Kingdom of the Shades when the costumes are just simple white tutus. 

I completely agree about the Petipa works. I think what has made them lastingly great are the best parts of their choreography. But an equal part of what made them great — or, at least, grand and impactful — in their contemporary context was the spectacle. I don't think those parts of them have the same impact for many in our modern-day audiences. (CharlieH's comment shows, however, that for some they still do.)

What I think Ratmansky and Ryden have achieved, with the Act II procession in Whipped Cream, is something that does have that same impact for many in the audience. (Not all, of course. Some will disagree.) At the three performances I saw (two last year and one this year), the excitement and awe at that moment, when the procession enters, was palpable and electric in the audience, with audible gasps and murmurs of giddiness. The fact that some of the very best choreography in the whole piece (the PDD and solos of Princess Praline and the Boy) immediately follows reflects for me how, in Petipa's original context, these two different types of visual pleasure would not have been experienced as quite so separable as they seem to us now (when many of us sit rather bored through the processions waiting for the dancing, because the latter has withstood the test of time while the former have not).

Edited by nanushka
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