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volcanohunter

Best and Worst Ballet of 2018

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This has been touched on in a different thread, but in years past we've compiled lists that focused on the best and worst in ballet over the year. I've still got two performances to attend in 2018, but this is my tentative overview.

Best

Ruslan Skvortsov and Denis Savin (Bolshoi Ballet), paired as Albrecht and Hilarion, Romeo and Tybalt, Don José and the Torero, Pechorin and Grushnitsky. Nostrils flare, the air crackles, sparks fly, neither holds back anything, and it makes for incredibly thrilling viewing. Just as importantly, everything they do is genuinely and unapologetically true. It's a great pity Savin is the wrong "type" for Lensky.

Sonia Rodriguez as Romola in Neumeier's Nijinsky (National Ballet of Canada). An original and uncommonly complex portrayal. Not the long-suffering martyr most interpreters portray, but a woman who has had it "up to here," often comes close to walking away, but then persists. Stunning work. This is what comes from 28 years of professional stage experience.

François Alu in the grand pas from Paquita with the National Ballet of Ukraine. Normally I have very little use for "boom-boom" dancers. They can do 540s till they're red in the face, and I am more likely to be irritated about ballet being turned into a circus than I am to be impressed. But Alu combines high-octane virtuosity with French schooling, which makes him a completely different animal: jaw-dropping flash and thrills, including total mastery of pirouettes, delivered with beauty and finesse.

Worst

The sexual misbehavior mess at New York City Ballet, which, thankfully, the company seems to have weathered.

Denis Rodkin as Onegin (Bolshoi Ballet). Shallow, supercilious and repellent. When I've met men like that, my reaction was to think "what a jerk," not to write a love letter.

Yulia Stepanova in "Diamonds" (Bolshoi Ballet). Inelegant, sometimes even vulgar, sluggish, technically sticky, musically lugubrious and literally unwatchable. A profanation. The nadir of my ballet-going over the past decade.

At the Paris Opera Ballet, Hervé Moreau being unable to retire fittingly owing to the injuries that were the bane of his career, and Josua Hoffalt retiring prematurely. 

Biggest disappointment

How ballet marked the Petipa bicentennial. While Alexei Ratmansky staged reconstructions of Harlequinade and La Bayadère (which I did not see), the Royal Ballet presented a new Swan Lake, in which much of Petipa's contribution was re-choreographed, the Bolshoi presented an "anniversary" gala that inexplicably featured works by the likes of Preljocaj, Maliphant, de Bana and Cherkaoui, and most companies, such as the Bavarian State Ballet, which had inherited Ivan Liška's Petipa project, limited themselves to a few "after Petipa" productions and went about their business as usual.

Edited by volcanohunter

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Best:

1) Joaquin de Luz's farewell. A senior dancer going out at the top of his game, and with class. A wonderful memory for everyone who was there to witness it.

2) Ratmansky's Harlequinade. A wonderful reconstruction of a Petipa charmer, that managed to avoid the pitfall of seeming stuffy.

3) Some consistently great performances from some of my favorite dancers -- Sterling Hyltin's Sugarplum Fairy and La Sylphide, Tess Reichlen and Russell Janzen's Diamonds, Tiler Peck and Joaquin de Luz's barnstorming Fall in Robbins' Four Seasons, Tiler Peck and Joaquin de Luz in Tchai pas de deux.

On that note, Balanchine alumni like Patricia McBride, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Eddie Villela coming back to coach roles, and as a result, Coppelia, Rubies, Other Dances and Prodigal Son had details I hadn't seen before. 

4) The dancing in an otherwise uninspired Chorus Line revival at NYCC. In the end, only Michael Bennett's choreography really holds up.

5) Anne Rose O'Sullivan and Marcellino Sambe in a really wonderful Tarantella and Tchai pas de deux at the Festival of Balanchine.

6) Paul Taylor Dance Company's final season in 2018 before the master's death in September. Some dances like Mercuric Tidings looked better than ever.

7) Sarah Lane's debut as Nikya in La Bayadere: she was fierce and delicate at the same time.

Worst:

1) The NYCB photo-sharing scandal that led to three principals being fired and much embarrassment for the company.

2) Xander Parish's Apollo. Holy hell where do I start with all the ways it was terrible. The muses (young Vaganova grads) were good, but Parish's Apollo is something I want to delete from my brain.

3) The Joffrey's 4 Temperaments which had a smiling (!!!) Sanguinic. No, just no. 

4) Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg's Giselle, which found both of them diminished both in scope of dance and expressiveness. I wouldn't say it was BAD exactly but it was disappointing compared to their former selves.

5) Ask la Cour's Cavalier in Nutcracker. Just unacceptable. Bad partnering, bad dancing. 

6) The overly frenetic tap dancing that infects most musicals nowadays. They become mind-numbing in their repetitiveness. I rewatched Book of Mormon and how selectively it uses tap and it was like a different era. I also saw Casey Nicholaw (same choreographer) in Mean Girls and there was so much tap it lost all impact.

 

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The absolute worst for me is seeing the cesspool "culture" of calumnies, filth and fabrications, notoriously associated with the Moscow "fanboys" of Bolchoi (some would be more correctly termed "dealers"), is being exported across the continents by the Russian expatriates steeped in it from top to bottom.

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10 minutes ago, Laurent said:

The absolute worst for me is seeing the cesspool "culture" of calumnies, filth and fabrications, notoriously associated with the Moscow "fanboys" of Bolchoi (some would be more correctly termed "dealers"), is being exported across the continents by the Russian expatriates steeped in it from top to bottom.

I have no idea what that post refers to at all, would you care to elucidate?

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Always a pleasure reading people's lists! I don't see anywhere near as much live ballet as many who post here but I'll give this a go:

Best: Alina Cojocaru as Aurora in the ENB Sleeping Beauty.  I didn't post about this at the time I saw it in part because I haven't the words...

That's a stand alone "best"--and counts as a highlight in a lifetime of ballet going not just in one year. But other highlights of my year include:

1. Quality of Royal Ballet's dancers from top to bottom across multiple casts in the company's intriguing new production of Swan Lake.

2. Ashley Laracey's debut in the second ballerina role in Concerto Barocco (unfortunately, I did not see her debut in the first ballerina role); icing on the cake--her beautiful dancing in Peter Walker's dance odyssey the same weekend.

3. Programming at NYCB that enabled an out of town visitor to see two entirely different all Balanchine programs the same weekend alongside a program of new work that included substantial and/or much talked about works by Ratmansky and Peck (see below).

4. A spring NYCB performance of Ratmansky's Pictures at an Exhibition led by Hyltin, Mearns, and (Tiler) Peck that simply knocked the breath out of me.

5. Warm and charismatic performances of Sergio Masero-Olarte and, especially, Airi Igarashi in Atlanta Ballet's new Nutcracker.  And, more generally, the emergence of Igarashi as an outstanding young ballerina at Atlanta Ballet -- as well as the consistently terrific dancing of Nikolas Gaifullin. Can't wait to see more of them.

Honorable mention to the very high level of dancing that NYCB's Joachim De Luz sustained to the end of his career--I caught him in a Tchaikovsky pas de deux just a few months before his retirement. And to the premiers of Maxim Petrov's somewhat Ratmansky-esque Concerto Armonico and, allowing for a few caveats, Yuri Possokhov's quirky new Nutcracker--both with Atlanta Ballet.

Worst:

The sexual/photo-sharing scandal at New York City Ballet. Exactly what happened and how and when and to whom we may never fully know, but what we do know so far is bad enough. [Edited to add: if/as it leads internal problems at the company to be addressed, it could lead to positive changes; in and of itself, it’s still the “worst.”]

That's a stand alone worst that transcends (if that is the word) one year's ballet going. Outside of that, I did have a few disappointments, maybe even "worsts," in my year, but I think I will let them pass unremarked. I will say that it appears that some life events/issues may take a bite--or, at least, a nibble--out of my ballet going in the future, and from a selfish point of view that would be the worst of the worst.

Edited by Drew

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Best: In best Ruby Keeler fashion, Matthew Ball replacing the injured David Hallberg in the second act of Giselle after getting a call at home to get to the theater.

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Best:

  • Kimin Kim in ABT's La Bayadere June 1, especially having seem him in that role at the Kennedy Center with the Mariinsky in 2017
  • Yuka Iseda in Pennsylvania Ballet's Swan Lake in March (then a corps member, now promoted to soloist) (partnered by Jermel Johnson)
  • Joseph Gordon in NYCB's Coppelia (partnering Ashley Bouder) in June, foreshadowing his much-deserved promotion to principal
  • In ABT's fall season: Symphonie Concertante, Sarah Lane in Other Dances, and Herman Cornejo in In the Upper Room
  • The release of Cranko's Onegin on DVD, the first of what I hope will be many releases of his work

Worst:

  • The difficulty finding things to put on my "best" list
  • The NYCB scandals
  • Jessica Lang's Garden Blue for ABT

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I didn't see a lot of ballet this year thanks to the shortened SPAC season, so my list is also short and I'm confining it to performances:

Best: NYCB All-Balanchine program, especially Sebastian Villarini-Velez and Indiana Woodward's debuts in the third movement of Symphony in C; Justin Peck's Pulcinella Suite, and Robbin's The Four Seasons at SPAC;  Stars of American Ballet Jerome Robbins tribute at Jacob's Pillow; finding Bolshoi and Royal Ballet programs in nearby cinemas

Special award for scariest-ever Wilis: Cuban National Ballet at SPAC

Worst: NYCB's lackluster tribute to Robbins at SPAC, featuring only 2 actual Robbins ballets, while 3 of only 7 SPAC performances were  R + J

Non-ballet dance:

Best: Dorrance Dance at Jacob's Pillow, Paul Taylor at The Egg

Worst: Ellen Sinopoli Dance at SUNY-Albany, in collaboration with SUNY faculty. The physics collaboration was OK, the rest was just tedious. At least the program was short.

 

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Happy New Year to you all, and a big thank you to the moderators that keep this site going.

I couldn't really come up with a best and worst list. I saw a lot of fine performances, and some not so fine ones too, but there weren't many super highs and lows.

One Best goes to the Joaquin De Luz NYCB retirement performance. It took class to go out doing Theme and Variations and he pulled it off beautifully. It was also a wonderful "feel good" event.

That's all I have to say about bests & worsts!

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 I want to echo Vipa in giving one Best to Joaquin de Luz’s NYCB farewell performance. Not only T&V with Tiler Peck but the other two ballets he danced that evening as well. He ran rings around the other male principals in energy, execution of his high jumps, and joy. He will be missed in NYC!

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Posted (edited)

Best.

Ratmansky's recon of Harlequinade. It is good to be reminded of how Imperial productions used to look like.

Ashley Bouder/Joseph Gordon in Coppelia. She's definitely my type of dancer. Legs and ankles of steel.

Osipova's Giselle and Bolle's Albrecht. They are real artists. I didn't care for their partners.

MCB's Nathalia Arja as Dewdrop, Jennifer Lauren as Sugarplum and Kleber Rebello as cavalier. Spectacular.

MCB' s Ballet Imperial. They know how to dance this.

Herman Cornejo in "In the Upper Room" 

Alvin Ailey's amazing end of season program, with the ever revered "Revelations"

MCB production of "The Cage". Fascinating piece!

Worst.

Megan LeCrone/Andrew Veyette in Nutcracker. Just painful to watch, as I said earlier.

Jessica Lang's Garden Blue for ABT. Horrid.

NYCB firing of Finlay, Ramasar and Catazaro. Just very sad and unfortunate.

McGregor's "Afterite" featuring "Misty the photographer"...😂😂😂

Edited by cubanmiamiboy

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Best

Cesar Corrales in Le Jeune Homme et la Mort with ENB

Francesca Hayward in MacMillan's Laidrette with RB and Ballet Black

Revival of ENB's Lest We Forget programme

Worst

RB's new Swan Lake

The lack of any acknowledgement of the 80th anniversary of Rudolf Nureyev's birth which was also the 25th anniversary of his death.  Absolutely shameful in light of everything he did for RB.

Outside of London Shechter's The Art of not Looking Back at POB was one of the worst ballets I've ever seen, let alone this year.

Not exactly just ballet, but  Covent Garden's new look has appalled everyone and now it seems it must be paid for in increased ticket prices.  Heads should role over this, but of course they won't.

 

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Posted (edited)

Best:

  • Sarah Lane in Giselle and with Herman Cornejo in Other Dances at ABT.
  • Thomas Forster as Tybalt in R&J and as Espada in Don Q at ABT.
  • Jeffrey Cirio as Mercutio in R&J and as Harlequin in Harlequinade at ABT.
  • Kimin Kim in La Bayadere at ABT.
  • Finally seeing Tiler Peck and Joaquin De Luz in Tchai Pas at NYCB. As incredible as everyone said they were.
  • Ashley Laracey's debut as the second ballerina in Concerto Barocco at NYCB.
  • The swan corps in Pennsylvania Ballet's Swan Lake. Pristine.

Worst:

  • The scandals at NYCB.
  • Devon Teuscher and Cory Stearns in Swan Lake at ABT. I was bored to tears and couldn't wait to leave the theatre.
  • Stephanie Williams as the second shade soloist in La Bayadere at ABT. An embarrassment from start to finish.
  • Jeffrey Cirio's departure from ABT to dance full-time at English National Ballet. He was woefully under-utilized by ABT, so it's a win for him, but it's a selfish loss for me in the ABT audience.
  • Viktoria Tereshkina and Kimin Kim in Tchai Pas at Balanchine at City Center. No Balanchine style whatsoever and lacking in charm, musicality and chemistry.
  • Ian Hussey as Von Rothbart in Pennsylvania Ballet's Swan Lake. Also an embarrassment.
Edited by ABT Fan

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