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Winter 2019


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9 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

In NYCB's production, the American suitor is costumed to evoke a Native American. In past productions the dancer performing the role has worn a long black braid, a few conspicuous feathers in his headgear, and a fringed cape and tall beaded boots evocative of haute buckskin. (Ahem, and also darkened his face.) You can get a pretty good look at the four costumes in this footage of Ashley Bouder's Rose Adagio. I believe Ask La Cour is America, Taylor Stanley is Africa, Zachary Catazaro is Asia, and Jared Angle is Europe (I think.) I've always assumed that Asia is supposed evoke Ottoman or South Asian royalty.

https://www.facebook.com/nycballet/videos/10158366933385529/

 

American companies have realized they have to excise blackface. Wouldn't it make sense to touch up some other details that are at least mildly problematic? Suggesting that a Native American should be a suitor to a European princess? How about making the suitors Spanish, French, Italian, and Russian? There's no claim that this is an historic reconstruction, so it doesn't matter what Petipa did. 

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20 minutes ago, California said:

Suggesting that a Native American should be a suitor to a European princess? How about making the suitors Spanish, French, Italian, and Russian?

On the other hand, it's a fairy tale. Why shouldn't the princess have suitors from distant regions of the world?

(This is not to dismiss the other potential problems with the naming/costuming of the princes.)

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49 minutes ago, California said:

American companies have realized they have to excise blackface. Wouldn't it make sense to touch up some other details that are at least mildly problematic? Suggesting that a Native American should be a suitor to a European princess? How about making the suitors Spanish, French, Italian, and Russian? There's no claim that this is an historic reconstruction, so it doesn't matter what Petipa did. 

I suppose that the objective of this almost 30 year old production was to show that princes came to court Aurora from all the continents as a demonstration of her worth and renown. (I don't think the conceit of having a prince from each continent was part of the original production, but if someone knows, please say! If we can trust Wikipedia, the four suitors are Prince Chéri, Prince Charmant, Prince Fortuné , and Prince Fleur de Pois.)

Since the Native American prince is pretty clearly capital-R Royalty on a par with the other princes, I suspect the production team intended the depiction to be nothing but respectful. I don't think it would be unreasonable for someone to see at least vestiges of colonialism in the African, Asian, and American princes, however, so perhaps it's time to rethink the fancy-dress and just let them be plain old fairy-tale princes once again. 

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell
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I find it a bit strange Mearns was asked (had chosen?) to retire Lilac, as I believe she is younger than Bouder and Hyltin, who still dance the 16-year-old Aurora. Not that I'd want any of those fabulous ballerinas to have to retire roles while in their prime.

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1 hour ago, Emma said:

I find it a bit strange Mearns was asked (had chosen?) to retire Lilac, as I believe she is younger than Bouder and Hyltin, who still dance the 16-year-old Aurora. Not that I'd want any of those fabulous ballerinas to have to retire roles while in their prime.

Mearns still seems to be going full-throttle in the rest of her rep, so it's hard to imagine she's at the point where she could no longer pull off the role from a technical standpoint. I think Lilac can be a good role for more senior ballerinas, depending on the difficulty level of prologue variation, which really seems to vary from production to production. Reichlen is a year or two older than Mearns, and I believe LeCrone, who is debuting the role this season, is, as well. So maybe it's just a matter of Mearns or management feeling it's time to move on and give others a chance. Mearns writes in the comments: "my time with [the role] is done. I want to remember the amazing years I had with it, not the years where I was hanging on for some emotional reason."

Someone upthread mentioned that Mearns had talked about dancing both Carabosse and Lilac Fairy this season, and NYCB produced this video of her discussing both roles. I wonder what happened.

 

Edited by fondoffouettes
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Tonight- I loved King as Lilac.  Bouder was on point(e)... however this being my first time ever seeing SB, her character is total bore.  We don't get to know her...Happy girl has a party-falls asleep- wakes up happy, marries stranger.  Okey dokey!

I guess I'm just not a lover of full length story ballets at NYCB; all of the shorter works by Balanchine I'm in love with.

Edited by Balletwannabe
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8 hours ago, Fleurfairy said:

She is getting to the age where ballerinas are retiring roles. It nice to see her acknowledge that younger dancers deserve their place in these roles. 

I suspect that this season will be Bouder's final run of Aurora.  

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Report from the matinee performance. Lovette and Gordon were a huge success. Lovette was radiant, natural, and technically secure, while Joseph Gordon IMHO has become one of the most important male dancers they have. He made the fishdives look effortless, smooth and secure. It's been so rewarding to see him grow into principal roles. May he have a long and injury-free career. I look forward to seeing it.

Rarely do I say this but I wish there was another intermission. Or if there must be only one, move it to after Act I. When the curtain came down on the sleeping Aurora, with the perspective retreating further and further from the castle into the woods, to where it's totally overgrown and indicating the 100 years' sleep, I was emotionally prepared to take a break as well, as the 100 years progress. Instead, the music continues... moving on!! And this has been much discussed, but I agree about the superfast tempi. The fairies looked rushed. 

Miriam Miller was a beautiful Lilac Fairy, honestly she must have the most beautiful spread of arms in the whole company. But I found her bland and very lacking in authority. The fairies -  Sara Adams and Kristen Segin were especially sparkling. But Claire Kretzschmar as the Fairy of Generosity, with the beautiful pizzicato behind her, was unfortunately brittle, and I found her similarly unappealing in the precious metals section (Silver). Emma von Enck (Emerald), in the most prominent role I've yet seen her in, made a strong impression, charming and fluid. It was interesting to see Ashly Isaacs (Ruby) back since I don't know when. Still has a strong presence, but more tentative than I recall. Finally, young Mira Nadon continues to cut a very striking presence in background roles. She has some distinctive and special qualities, and I hope she flourishes at NYCB.

Edited by cobweb
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I was also at the matinee and agree much of cobweb's review (It was also a great pleasure to see you again cobweb, I hope to see you at the ballet on many more occasions) 

I admit, I went to see Lauren Lovette with some reservations because she has technical weaknesses that I though might interfere with her ability to give a satisfying performance. I was wrong, She was a natural Aurora, shining with radiance, she related to her suitors, parents and everyone in stage with a natural warmth and lovely characterization. Rose adagio didn't have long balances, and she had to do some adjusting with her attitude leg, but nothing that jarred the overall effect. I agree with cobweb, that Joseph Gordon has grown into one of the most important male dancers in NYCB. It's great to see particularly with DeLuz's recent retirement.

I give Miriam Miller's Lilac a firm - eventually. She has the elements, but needs to put them together technically, and bring authority to the role. 

The fairy variation seemed a hair under the usual tempi to me, which was a welcome change. Kristen Segin was a real stand out.

A few comments about the last act. I don't think I've seen this ballet from the fourth ring before, and seeing the garland dance from there was fantastic. Mr. B - I loved it

Daniel Ulbricht is a pleasure in whatever he does, both technically and in stage presence (court jesters)

I was disappointed in Blue Bird Pas. Lauren King had her usual appealing radiance but has struggles with partnering. Troy Schumacher doesn't have the power and clarity for the variation.

I totally agree with cobweb about wishing for another intermission (and I often think NYCB has too many). 

 

 

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Gordon had a smashing debut this afternoon. He was rock solid in adagio of the Act II pas de deux, but while the fish dives were perfectly clean, they didn't have the super-fast snap that can make them so exciting. He was bounding with energy in his variation, which was beautifully executed. He's one of those dancers who can dance so impressively without any look-at-met affectations. What a prince.

I agree with others' assessments that Lovette is very well-suited to Aurora, so warm and graceful. She fully inhabited her character in the Rose Adagio, rather than making it a series of tricks; but she did have mixed results with the balances. You never knew what you were going to get with each individual balance, and you could read Lovette's reactions to the balances on her face (which was very endearing). She had a couple very iffy moments in the second set of balances. Overall, I really enjoyed Lovette as Aurora, but there was very little change in character between the birthday, vision and wedding scenes. She was pretty much the same Aurora throughout. 

Yes, the tempi are extremely fast for the fairies and precious stones, but I think Martins' choreography is equally to blame for the herky-jerky quality of the dancing in these sections. I really enjoyed Emilie Gerrity as the fairy of tenderness and felt the faster tempo suited this variation, which can sometimes have a plodding quality. 

Miriam Miller has an expansive, expressive upper body, but she was a rather bland Lilac Fairy. And she had her fair share of bobbles.

I agree with Vipa about the bluebird pas de deux. Schumacher seemed unable, perhaps because he's simply too short, to partner King. And I was so disappointed by Schumacher's absolute lack of ballon in his solo dancing. King could have really shone with a different partner.

Edited by fondoffouettes
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A question about intermissions. Studying the program, I see that I got the scene/act divisions wrong in my post above. It seems to me like there should be an intermission between the spell and the vision scenes, rather than after the vision scene as there is in this version. After the spell seems like a natural place to take a break (to allow some time to pass, while the 100 years presumably goes by), and it seems jarring to me to split up the vision and awakening scenes. Maybe it would feel different if the awakening were longer, but it's so short I'm left puzzled about why it's not put with the vision. In the versions with two intermissions, where are they usually placed? 

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I was at tonight's performance. Bouder was stellar... in the Rose Adagio, she held the last few balances for an insanely long time and made it all look so easy. She  tripled a few of the pirouettes. Fish dives in the final pas de deux were daring. Garcia was a perfectly competent prince, but I found him somewhat bland and his jumps looked (and sounded) rather heavy. He still manages to land most double tours cleanly in 5th position though. Partnering was solid, even if I wasn't convinced that these people were actually in love.

Despite a few mishaps, it was a good night at the ballet. King was a fabulous Lilac Fairy -- lovely port de bras and lots of warmth. Phelan really stood out as Courage and later as Emerald. Sanz (subbing for Walker) looked great as Gold with lovely lines and high jump, despite stumbling out of a pirouette towards the end of the turns à la seconde sequence. 

Hoxha and Adams had some major partnering problems in the Bluebird/Florine part. Two times, if I remember correctly, he couldn't manage to spin her around, and the mistakes clearly threw both of them off because they finished the sequence long before they were supposed to, took bows, and then scrambled to strike the final poses and bow again with the correct music queue. Individually, though, both were excellent and "bird-like" as the roles required. Hoxha's footwork is really clean and precise -- Anthony Huxley-esque -- and his jumps looked weightless. 

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I was at the matinee yesterday, my first time seeing this production. Tiler Peck was a delightful Aurora, gliding through the vision scene and with a particularly delightful third act solo. I held off getting tickets until casting was released so I could see her and I was not disappointed. I particularly enjoy how she is able to capture multiple phrases within the music simultaneously within her dancing, and I truly felt there was a distinct Aurora with each act. I found Tyler Angle to convincingly capture the prince's searching and longing quality, even if his solo came a little short of the top of his game. Ashley Laracey's Lilac Fairy was fine, a little bland in interpretation perhaps, but I can't tell if that's part of the Lilac Fairy's character to be uniformly good to the point of one-dimension at this point. Sara Means was a fabulous actress for Carabosse- I found myself grinning every time she was on stage. I also found myself longing for an intermission after the first act- it seems like the natural place for one instead of heading straight into the vision scene. The usher by me had to whisper "it's not over" as many heads had turned towards the door as the curtain fell on act 1. 

Highlights (besides Tiler Peck's ebullient performance, a gift to behold) included Harrison Ball as Gold, who gave it his all and got an impressive response from the matinee crowd, and Unity Phelan, who's Diamond variation was so lovely and precise I wished we could have seen more of her. 

Low moments- I found the Puss & Boots pas to be quite disturbing, particularly in the wake of all that's been going on in the company. The music and costumes are intentionally a little off-putting, but what really made me wince is  Puss and Boots is repeatedly clawing his way up the White Cat's skirt- and the audience is laughing at that. It read similar to the R&J slap, to be honest. Surely there are other versions of this PDD equally entertaining but without the undercurrent of assault? 

Edited by manontroppo
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I saw the Sunday matinee and just want to report that Tiler Peck was a real star, pretty much dominating the stage when she was on it. As noted up-thread, the balances were not what I was expecting from the incredible dancer that she is, but other than bringing her hand down very quickly in those balances, she was amazing. Tyler was looking beautiful too. Also Harrison Ball was a standout as Gold, looking really elegant. The bluebird pas de deux was again a letdown. In the Saturday matinee, at least Lauren King brought her brilliant smile and radiant charm. On Sunday, Brittany Pollack, again dancing with Troy Schumacher, simply did not project or charm the way King did. 

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2 hours ago, cobweb said:

I saw the Sunday matinee and just want to report that Tiler Peck was a real star, pretty much dominating the stage when she was on it. As noted up-thread, the balances were not what I was expecting from the incredible dancer that she is, but other than bringing her hand down very quickly in those balances, she was amazing. Tyler was looking beautiful too. Also Harrison Ball was a standout as Gold, looking really elegant. The bluebird pas de deux was again a letdown. In the Saturday matinee, at least Lauren King brought her brilliant smile and radiant charm. On Sunday, Brittany Pollack, again dancing with Troy Schumacher, simply did not project or charm the way King did. 

I'm really surprised to hear about Tiler's balances. I've seen Tiler dance Aurora in two previous outings of Sleeping Beauty and her balances were out of this world secure. When I saw her last Thursday I was surprised to see her do a quick "hand up, hand down" kind of balance but thought it was nerves or just a bad night. It's totally okay to do the Rose Adagio that way, it's just very surprising from Tiler. To me it's like Joan Sutherland not doing any interpolated high notes in Lucia di Lammermoor. 

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Some performers on the stage (or for that matter any steadfast member of the audience) may feel that they are experiencing their own "Groundhog Day" during this two-week run of The Sleeping Beauty. In truth, and keeping in mind Tchaikovsky’s glorious music, for the sympathetic viewer supernatural intervention is not a prerequisite in order to watch all three parts from Act I of NYCB’s engaging production—The Christening; The Spell; The Vision—as well as The Awakening from the second act over and over in the course of a couple of weeks. Only parts of The Wedding can become wearisome. The popular movie referenced indeed merely underscores the greatness of the centuries-old tale.

Coming up at the Metropolitan Opera soon will be three Ring cycles. Whatever one may think of Richard Wagner as a person, even a cursory familiarity with his ten best-known operas reveals the composer (who wrote his own librettos!) as one of the most ambitious and sophisticated artists who ever lived. The monumental Ring cycle—made up of four of these operas—is one of the greatest works of art created by humankind. Act 3, Scene 3 of the 3rd opera, Siegfried contains an unmissable similarity to The Awakening scene from The Sleeping Beauty.

As with any successful presentation of the ballet, the highlight of last evening's at NYCB was the superb performance of the ballerina enacting the role of Aurora. On this occasion it was a mesmerizing Sterling Hyltin, dancing with authority, vitality, and precision throughout, while brilliantly and convincingly creating the character's arc from girlhood to womanhood during her allotted time onstage, and skillfully imbuing the work's fantastic The Vision segment with a haunting touch of mystery and poetry. During the spectacular display at the end of the wedding festivities when all on the stage dance simultaneously, the identical choreography also assigned to Aurora can appear too undignified for a queen. Nevertheless, this was not the case with Hyltin, due to her majestic countenance and carriage. For the same reason likewise, despite the tremendous shift in the tone of the music which occurs afterwards for the coronation, a smile on her face at that juncture did not seem misplaced.

Many dancers from all ranks are doing commendable work in these performances. A striking Teresa Reichlen as the Lilac Fairy, a fiery Maria Kowroski as Carabosse, and Brittany Pollack and Ashley Laracey as Emerald and Ruby respectively—both of them elegant, dazzling—were especially enjoyable last night. Although not as exemplary in the role as judging by his looks one imagines he could be, Russell Janzen turned in a respectable performance as Prince Désiré.

 

Edited by Royal Blue
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Not sure if this is the best place to put this, but according to a recent article in the Times today, Peter Martins moved around the Sleeping Beauty casting at the last minute.

Quote

Mr. Martins retains artistic say over his ballets, including “The Sleeping Beauty,” now in performances, and “Romeo + Juliet,” which was performed last February. Both had been programmed before Mr. Martins retired under pressure in January 2018.

He changed the casting for “The Sleeping Beauty” just before the roles were officially announced — pulling Ms. Bouder from her usual position as Princess Aurora in the first cast and switching her with Sterling Hyltin in the third cast. He also swapped out several other dancers at the last minute. This has left some in the company bristling at Mr. Martins’s remaining levers of control.


Casting decisions are always fraught in the dance world, given the intense competition for plum roles. And every City Ballet part is technically up for grabs, though certain important roles unofficially belong to particular dancers, who have owned them year after year in the first casts.

Sara Mearns, for example, leads the first cast in “Swan Lake,” Megan Fairchild has “Coppélia,” Ms. Hyltin has “Romeo + Juliet,” and Ms. Bouder has “The Sleeping Beauty,” which she danced for the first time at the age of 20 opposite Damian Woetzel.

Ms. Bouder said she believed that Mr. Martins made the casting change to retaliate for her outspokenness about feminism and gender equality and to reward Ms. Hyltin, who had publicly defended him.

 

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