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2018 Nutcracker - Costa Mesa

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Also bought tickets specifically to see Shevchenko. Two new casts for me now (if the casting fairy stays kind)!

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Late report, but I went to the Saturday matinee with Sarah Lane and Joseph Gorak. Overall a decent outing from everyone, though seeming a bit low energy at times (even the cannon which couldn't be bothered to descend from the clock to blast the mice). Luciana Paris and Garegin Pogossian were Columbine and Harlequinade, perhaps a debut? I don't know who Pogossian is, but perhaps Paris has danced it previously and I've missed it. Courtney Lavine was the Nanny/Sugarplum and she is quite delightful in the role, though it's sad to see her not dancing (Luis Ribagorda as Butler/Majordomo).

I thought Lane and Gorak were nicely matched in the Snow scene, but there was some definite uncertainty in the Act 2 pdd. She got twisted up at the end and they didn't hit their finishing pose; well they hit a pose but not one I have seen before. The torch lift was not attempted; instead, they did something akin to the lifts at the end of the Manon bedroom pdd (https://youtu.be/pyAdb6xTel8?t=260 see here for what I mean).  They did this lift and then he walked with her downstage as with the regular torch lift. He was better in his solo variation. I thought Lane was nice, but not at her finest, probably because of the partnering worries.

After several years of this production, I have to get this off my chest (maybe I have before): the costumes for Snow and Waltz make everyone look huge in the midsection. It's really sad and the costume designer and fitters should be shamed. There are a lot of busty ladies in the corps at ABT, I do note, but it's really not fair to them to look entirely square while dancing, especially in Waltz, though the diagonal shoulder strap situation in Snow is also unflattering to the majority of dancers.

If anyone is curious about any other casting info, please ask.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, ksk04 said:

Late report, but I went to the Saturday matinee with Sarah Lane and Joseph Gorak. Overall a decent outing from everyone, though seeming a bit low energy at times (even the cannon which couldn't be bothered to descend from the clock to blast the mice). Luciana Paris and Garegin Pogossian were Columbine and Harlequinade, perhaps a debut? I don't know who Pogossian is, but perhaps Paris has danced it previously and I've missed it. Courtney Lavine was the Nanny/Sugarplum and she is quite delightful in the role, though it's sad to see her not dancing (Luis Ribagorda as Butler/Majordomo).

I thought Lane and Gorak were nicely matched in the Snow scene, but there was some definite uncertainty in the Act 2 pdd. She got twisted up at the end and they didn't hit their finishing pose; well they hit a pose but not one I have seen before. The torch lift was not attempted; instead, they did something akin to the lifts at the end of the Manon bedroom pdd (https://youtu.be/pyAdb6xTel8?t=260 see here for what I mean).  They did this lift and then he walked with her downstage as with the regular torch lift. He was better in his solo variation. I thought Lane was nice, but not at her finest, probably because of the partnering worries.

I saw on Lane's Instagram that Gorak was replacing Hoven (but it was never updated on the company's site). I'm sure that's because Hoven was needed to replace Cornejo with Copeland (and how could he do five performances?). Gorak has done this role before, but not in a few years and he may not have had much rehearsal time. Even so, based on other's reports it seems that he always had trouble with the partnering and the torch lift, which may be why he was taken out of this role (except now, being needed as a sub). 

Who did Chinese and how were they?

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Some other casting:

Recruit / Canteen Keeper: Frenette / Hurlin

Spanish: Loyola/Forster, Williams/Sumitani, Degrofft/McCune

Arabian: Calvin Royal (never seen him do this before), and Boren/Davison/Lall/Post

Chinese: Trenary and Scott. ABT Fan, I have seen them do this several times and find them charming enough but nothing more. The first time I saw Teuscher do the role, I thought she was incredibly virtuosic and made the most of it, but not really anyone since then.

Russians: Lyle/Vendt/Zhurbin

Sisters: Basmagy, Brandt, Giangeruso, Hamrick, McBride. Skylar Brandt was really wonderful, leagues above the rest of the women in epaulement and control in the tricky turning sequences.

Mother Ginger: Tyler Maloney (little understated)

 

 

Also yes, I expected as much from Gorak based on those same older reports, ABT Fan. He has a lovely fifth position (and feet!) though that he hits all the time in his solo work!

Edited by ksk04

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53 minutes ago, ABT Fan said:

 Gorak has done this role before, but not in a few years and he may not have had much rehearsal time. Even so, based on other's reports it seems that he always had trouble with the partnering and the torch lift, which may be why he was taken out of this role (except now, being needed as a sub). 

I saw a friends' rehearsal on December 11, 2015 at Segerstrom of Act II. It was supposed to have Gorak and Boylston, with everybody in full costume. Abruptly, Gorak disappeared and Stearns in practice clothes suddenly appeared to partner Boylston. No explanation. Rumors about the difficult choreography and possible injury, but Gorak appeared in lesser roles that weekend, so who knows. Has anybody ever seen Gorak do the original choreography? That substitution with Lane might be all he can handle.

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On 12/18/2018 at 4:21 PM, California said:

Has anybody ever seen Gorak do the original choreography? That substitution with Lane might be all he can handle.

 

It sounds like they did the original choreography in the final season it was presented at BAM, more successfully at one performance than the other:

https://balletalert.invisionzone.com/topic/39051-2014-nutcracker-bam-season/?page=6

 

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1 hour ago, fondoffouettes said:

It sounds like they did the original choreography in the final season it was presented at BAM, more successfully at one performance than the other:

https://balletalert.invisionzone.com/topic/39051-2014-nutcracker-bam-season/?page=6

 

Boy, do I remember that performance.  I can actually remember catching sight of Lane in the wings after she'd exited the stage following the partnering mishap (the black curtains used to cover the wings at BAM don't really do a good job of blocking performer's entrances and exits), and as she waited for her cue to return.  She looked so downcast and unhappy, I really wondered how she would muster the energy to finish the pas.  But she danced out on stage again as if nothing had happened.  Totally a pro.

I'm flying out to Costa Mesa in the morning to see the Shevchenko-Forster evening performance, and will also be there on Friday evening for Lane & Gorak.  I'm extremely disappointed that Blaine Hoven will not be partnering Lane.  He is one of my very favorite dancers, with great skills, energy, and enough charisma to make even Copeland look good.  I'm hoping that Lane & Gorak will have had some extra rehearsal time so that their pdd will work the second time around.  I'll try to post about the performances when I return to New York around Christmas eve.

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It was a wonderful performance. I'm so happy to have been there. Christine Shevchenko and Tom Forster were beautiful. And yes, the torch lift went up without a hitch in the flash of an eye and held! Can't wait to see them again on Sunday. It's a joy to see dancers develop over the years. 

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Thanks so much for the update, @Josette! (Great news about the torch lift!)

Would love to hear more reports from any others who were lucky enough to be there. I’ve been loving all the rehearsal footage of Forster and Shevy on various dancers’ IG posts and stories. Such a beautiful partnership! (C’mon Kevin, give us a Swan Lake with these two!)

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22 minutes ago, Josette said:

It was a wonderful performance. I'm so happy to have been there. Christine Shevchenko and Tom Forster were beautiful. And yes, the torch lift went up without a hitch in the flash of an eye and held! Can't wait to see them again on Sunday. It's a joy to see dancers develop over the years. 

How wonderful to hear. I really wish Forster was doing SL w/ her at the upcoming Met season.....

I see nanushka and I were typing out the same thoughts re: SL..... 😉

Edited by ABT Fan

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She was so beautiful, I actually cried. I especially loved the two of them together. Because our daughter was in the show the past three years, we’ve seen every other cast multiple times, but my husband said this was definitely his favorite. Christine Shevchenko is just the perfect combination of technical skill and warmth and emotion. She moves her upper body so beautifully. The audience really seemed to love them, too. 

Kenneth Easter, who teaches at the school, came out of “retirement” to play the grandfather and Mother Ginger, which thrilled the students. 

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Yes, agree with Josette and Ab'sMom--really beautiful performance. It's hard to believe it was a debut because they were so confident and comfortable in the choreography. I've never seen the torch lift accomplished so assuredly; they did the run and jump (not the run, stop, turn, place foot, and hoist) and it took barely a half second for Forster to stabilize her on his shoulder and for her to extend into the standing position (it seemed even more polished and elegant than the instagram clip I saw of Boylston/Whiteside rehearsing). They also have great chemistry and Forster makes it a point of making eye contact throughout and varying his facial expressions (what a big ask from some partners...). I think Kevin should definitely up Forster's assignments for the Met; they are going to need a stable hand as the roster review topic points out and it's clear he has two.

In general, I thought the energy was a lot higher in this performance. Snow looked a LOT sharper but I do see there has been a lot of changes in the corps casting since Saturday so maybe these ladies were a bit more on the mark. At this performance, I noticed Xuelan Lu in both Snow and Waltz--she has beautiful epaulement/port de bras, a light jump, and a very natural expressive face/smile.

I really enjoyed the Arabian cast with Zhurbin, Bonfiglio, Katsnelson, Loyola and McBride. It was nice to see ZJ Fang in the Nutcracker's sisters; in previous years she has been an almost ubiquitous Nanny/Sugar Plum (I wish they would have her do the make up for Act 2 for the new ladies because she captured the eccentricity of the costume so well), but I wonder if they do not consider that to be a "soloist" role? Cameron McCune and Breanne Granlund were the Recruit and Canteen Keeper; I thought he had some nice arms/feet and might be one to look out for in the future. 

Overall, very glad I went! Onto Harlequinade in a month.

Edited by ksk04

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I would so love to see Thomas Forster promoted to principal before he has only two years left in his career. He is a beautiful dancer and at any other company he would have been given opportunities to prove himself long before now. 

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I don't assume there aren't reasons behind the company's decisions, but from the outside the slowness of Forster's ascent is very puzzling. He's tall, he's personable, he can act, and he moves beautifully. (And he's not a kid.) If he had--like some other promising men in the company--been given a few big chances and fallen short in key departments--then I would better understand.  I admit I've wondered if the problem is that the company has no faith in his ability to carry the flashier male variations. But he is certainly one of the dancers in the company I most looked forward to seeing when I go to see ABT.

(Though Royal is a bit younger, he also is not a kid and I wouldn't mind seeing him given some big leading man opportunities sooner rather than later too. I mean more than Rothbart.)

Edited by Drew

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I saw only one online review of ABT’s Nutcracker at the Segerstrom Center before I left for my vacation travels, and that was the OC Register’s review of opening night.  The critic was unhappy with the performance, saying the professional dancers looked jet lagged while the student dancers looked like pros.  He didn’t even bother identifying the leads that night (Hee Seo and Cory Stearns).  He would have been far more entertained if he’d returned to see the two marvelous performances I attended, the debuts of Christine Shevchenko and Thomas Forster on Thursday, and the Lane-Gorak performance on Friday.

As remarked by others, and as seen on the Instagram clip, the Shevchenko-Forster performance was pure ballet heaven.  These two dancers have it all: speed, agility, and technique, and they gave their characters an emotional link which bound them together and allowed them to move with confidence through the pas de deux.  Christine’s dancing has improved so much since her promotion last year that I can only describe her as dazzling.  She moves with electrifying speed, but unlike a certain other speedy company principal, does not lose control of her upper body, and completes every movement of her port de bras with flowing lyricism.  And she danced in character, too.  Her Princess Clara was a bubbly young woman, brimming with joy at the moment of first love.  This is the first time I’ve seen Tom Forster dance a traditional leading role as a “prince,” and his noble demeanor and great partnering make it clear he should have been dancing these roles for years.  They performed the entire pas de deux with zero problems – zero – including the torch lift, which they executed with great skill.  They were superb in every way, and I can’t say enough good things about them.  If by some miracle they are teamed again this coming spring in New York, I would say you should not hesitate to buy tickets to their performances.  They are enthralling!

The entire cast of Thursday’s show was top-notch and danced with great liveliness and enthusiasm.  They appeared to have been coached to perfection and had plenty of rehearsal and rest time.  The students from the school were uniformly excellent, and included Isabella Martino as Clara, the wonderful Chase Rogers as the Nutcracker Boy (these two repeated their performances on Friday), and the very funny Andrew Dove as the Little Mouse.  Duncan Lyle as Drosselmeyer raced across the stage with great speed, adding extra little flourishes here and there to his character.  Arron Scott performed Harlequin opposite Rachel Richardson’s Columbine, and though both were good, I feel he was better last year opposite Cassandra Trenary, when both danced more in character, as wind-up dolls.  Cameron McCune and Breanne Granlund were fine as Recruit and Canteen Keeper, but like most in these roles, were overwhelmed by the speed and unable to finish with the music.  The big reveal of the party scene (for me) was Aran Bell.  As he seems to be the AD’s Chosen One for the Future, I was delighted to see him finally perform in character (mime), as a party guest, smiling (!), laughing (!), and playing tipsy for his wife.  Hope he extends this skill building exercise into the spring.

The women of the corps seemed buoyed by the presence of the Studio Company dancers and older students from the school.  As others remarked, their dancing was amazingly uniform, and seemed determined to perform in character.  There was far more glaring menace to the snowflakes this last year than last, and the flowers were overjoyed at the sight of the bees!  In Act 2, I noted the presence of Melanie Hamrick in the Spanish Dance, retiree Kenneth Easter as Mother Ginger (Grandfather in Act 1), and Jonathan Klein as a bee.  All three were great.  Klein appeared fully recovered from his injury, and I would love to see him get another chance as the Boy in Whipped Cream. 

Happily, Friday night’s show was just as wonderful as Thursday’s.  Whatever problems Lane and Gorak may have experienced earlier in the week had vanished by the time they stepped on stage, because their performances were near flawless.  Doubtless, the extra rehearsal time was crucial to them.  With the glaring exception of the torch lift, which they didn’t even attempt, they performed every other part of the pas de deux, and did so with the beautiful lyricism for which they’re both known.  Gorak had no trouble with the other lifts.  It was wonderful to see these two dancing together again.  The last time I saw Gorak perform a leading role was in 2015’s Cinderella with Stella Abrera, right after her promotion.  While his dancing was fine, I recall his demeanor as wooden and somewhat bland.  On Friday night, all that had changed.  Here, the Prince and Princess gazed at one another with great romantic intensity, and their ardor seemed almost palpable.  The beauty of their complementary styles, their flowing, flexible arms, the perfect, supported pirouettes, Gorak’s cabrioles with his gorgeous feet (he nailed every landing), blended together to create a lovely, dreamy, romantic haze, which would have been even better if capped by that torch lift.  I think their personal friendship and Lane’s ability to draw her partner into the performance helped to make this nearly-complete pas de deux a success.  If Gorak were able to improve his partnering skills I think he could soar to the clouds! 

Both Thursday’s and Friday’s shows appeared to be nearly sold out.  The audiences were very, very vocal in their appreciation of the upbeat, joyful performances, especially on Friday, when there were roars of laughter for the comic antics of the Little Mouse (a young woman named Logan Cooper), the Grandmother (Gemma Bond) and her giddy dance, and even the three Russians (Duncan Lyle, Nathan Vendt and Roman Zhurbin).  The Nutcracker’s Sisters (Alex Basmagy, Katie Boren, Skylar Brandt, April Giangeruso and Betsy McBride) were amazingly clean and uniform; I don’t think I’ve seen their dance performed better.  Drosselmeyer was Alexei Agoudine, in a near repeat of Duncan Lyle’s performance, but with more mystery and reserve.  Columbine and Harlequin were Luciana Paris and Garegin Pogossian, Recruit and Canteen Keeper were Patrick Frenette and Cate Hurlin.  Frenette is tall, with long legs and an elegant, princely line.  I wonder if he’ll ever be given an opportunity to show what else he can do.  I also love the way Ratmansky staged the large corps numbers; the party scene, the battle with the mice, the snowstorm, and the waltz of the flowers.  Action happens downstage, mid-stage and upstage; no mater where you look, there is always something interesting occurring.  I loved seeing the company so engaged this year, and performing so skillfully!  It allows me to hope that performances in the spring will be just as good.  Happy New Year to all!

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I attended the opening night performance and, as a general comment, the dancers were not fully engaged physically or emotionally.  Hee Seo, whom I enjoyed in last year, was dancing with a wilty lyricism without musical phrasing. She is blessed with beautiful line and that and Cory Stearns's excellent partnering skills got her through intact. 

I saw both Shevchenko-Forster performances and was thrilled to see the two pas de deux danced without my being  made aware of all the land mines in the choreography - until these performances I did not think it possible. Though I have enjoyed several of the other ABT principals, the Shevchenko -Forster performances went above and beyond and transformed the pas de deux into seamless execution and great beauty. They also thankfully avoided the cutesiness that I have seen in others' performances, particularly in the will-you-marry-me sequence  after the grand pas de deux. Their second performance had even greater authority than their first. Forster was allowed to prove that he is an exceptional danseur noble. 

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1 hour ago, laurel said:

They were superb in every way, and I can’t say enough good things about them.  If by some miracle they are teamed again this coming spring in New York, I would say you should not hesitate to buy tickets to their performances.  They are enthralling!

 

I'm thrilled to hear these reports of how well the Forster-Shevchenko performances went. 

At least we'll see them together in On the Dnieper, but gosh, I'd love to see them in Swan Lake. The last thing I need to see is another Siegfried from Whiteside. I hope any future casting shifts will provide Forster with some more opportunities. 

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1 hour ago, fondoffouettes said:

I'm thrilled to hear these reports of how well the Forster-Shevchenko performances went. 

I am too! 

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