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Casting for The Sleeping Beauty


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I hate the practice. It would be equivalent to interpolating high Cs into every aria. Perhaps that would be okay in some Rossini comedies, but it would be intolerable in Mozart's Da Ponte operas. I don't like the overheld balance, but I am willing to tolerate it in Don Quixote. I find it wholly inappropriate in Sleeping Beauty.

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I hate the practice too whenever it's not skilfully and elegantly done. I have seen it done by a few truly exceptional ballerinas and I found it very beautiful, there was nothing "look at me" about their performance, they were musical and all was done within the music. To me it really depends on HOW it is done but I do respect you dislike it. 

Edited by Katia Kapustin
typo
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The first time I saw The Sleeping Beauty, it was with Antoinette Sibley as Aurora at the Hollywood Bowl in The Royal Ballet's production.   In the Rose Adagio, her third balance was held and held such that she skipped the fourth and last promenade.  It did not come across as a circus stunt at all, but as youthful exuberance.  She was glorious in the role and elegance personified.   I was watching on stage as a student super. [One night it was Sibley and Dowell, the next it was Merle Park and Nureyev, and I got to take company class and watch all the rehearsals.  It was utter heaven for me as a young dancer.]    

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7 hours ago, volcanohunter said:

I disagree. I can't tell you how much I was looking forward to Cojocaru's first Aurora with ABT. I had only seen her in the Royal Ballet's film, where her Rose Adage was stupendous. The audience at the Met greeted her rapturously. ABT audiences can be extremely enthusiastic, and when there are 3,800 of them, the effect can be overwhelming. So imagine my distress when Cojocaru began playing to that audience, mugging and holding on to her balances for a very long time, past any degree of musicality. The balances were confident and perfect, but she was definitely "milking it," and the audience rewarded her with very loud applause. I came away bitterly disappointed, and I still blame the audience to this day. :angry2:

Alina Cojocaru was recently (on 19th February) honoured with a National Dance Award for "Outstanding Female Classical Performance" as Aurora in "Sleeping Beauty" by the UK Dance Critics 'Circle.

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On 3/12/2019 at 7:37 AM, PeggyR said:

In the Blue Bird, Jimison was excellent; I suspect we’ll be seeing her in the corps next season, and in more solo roles over the next few seasons.  A very confident, charming, technically secure performance.  I did think her smile looked pasted on, but that’s understandable in a relatively inexperienced dancer making a major debut.  Aside from that, there was no visible tension, although I didn’t think she and Hernandez had much stage chemistry.  He danced beautifully, but he doesn’t project much to the audience:  looks great, not a lot of presence.

As for other ‘new talent’:  in the third act, the Jewels’ Cavaliers were Cavan Conley and Lucas Erni, neither familiar to me, and both scheduled to dance Blue Bird later this week (I’m seeing Conley on 3/13, and Erni on 3/16 matinee).  Very impressive dancing from both.

As to the rest of the performance (Sunday, 3/10):

Froustey was a delight, although a few of her supported turns with the suitors needed to be hauled back to the vertical, which I suspect was the fault of partnering, since she’s usually very centered.  The Rose Adagio went well, the balances somewhat less ‘milked’ than I’ve seen from her before, and the last one was pretty spectacular.  But her insistence on visibly holding on to the balance makes her look tense instead of relaxed and confident.

PeggyR, I was glad to read your comments here. I was at that same performance, and I was rather surprised at the way Froustey had to struggle through some of the Rose Adagio's holds and turns. I do get a sense it was a partnering thing; she's usually so impeccable here. At one point during the back attitude hold (when switching suitors' hands), I thought she was going to fall back. The audience clapped when she didn't (are you remembering this too, or am I dreaming?), but I can't help but think that a dancer must hate that supportive, "it's okay, you're great, even when you [almost] fall!" clapping that comes when a dancer has a noticeable gaffe/wobble. My heart was in my throat, watching that last hold. I adore her; I didn't want her to have a bad balancing experience. It was fascinating to me, watching her maintain her balance in that last hold - it was pure determination that kept her there, which came off as very "Aurora" (read: rebellious 16-y-o girl who's not going to come down without one last splash of a balance). I was glad to see her holding it after the earlier wobble. Now I get that she might have had the earlier imbalance because she was striving to hold onto it, instead of grabbing for the next hand. Like you, I thought she looked/seemed tense. I certainly felt tense, watching!

I thought Jasmine Jimison was an absolute delight. Good heavens, what is she doing as an apprentice?! I guess Helgi only had so many corps de ballet spaces available to slot new members into. Her performance reminded me of Dores André's Enchanted Princess. I also was thrilled by Conley and Erni's performance as Cavaliers. Both of them looked great. I'd seen Conley in Russian Dance during Nutcracker, so I had my eye on him, but Erni was a surprise. 

I also attended opening night, but am thinking that it was oddly unmemorable. That sounds bad; Sasha danced beautifully and without a hitch. Carlo di Lanno was a solid partner. Jen Stahl was a great Lilac Fairy (so funny, to see her and WanTing Zhao switch roles on Sunday, with Stahl as Fairy of Darkness, etc), all the fairies did their variations with charm and distinction. I'm a big fan of WanTing Zhao and it seems her talents are underused. She was absolutely lovely as the Lilac Fairy on Sunday.

Lastly, I thought Vitor Luiz was a fabulous Desiré to Froustey's Aurora. He danced well, was the perfect amount of support, managed to act the role without looking bland or vaguely bored (I think di Lanno still needs to acquire a level of animation/artistry so that he looks like he's found his true love). I don't think I've seen the two of them paired in a story ballet before. Enjoyed it.

Edited by Terez
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I saw Sasha last year as Aurora and recently as Kitri.  She seems fine technically, but not particularly memorable.  Just my opinion, of course.

Honestly the most memorable for me, from last year’s Sleeping Beauty, was Max Cauthorn’s Bluebird.  I thought he was fantastic.

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[Various thoughts and responses]

De Sola has wonderful control and consistency, and her dancing has a fineness that almost makes her appear fragile, but then you eventually notice that she goes along unfazed, and never seems to lose a step or a beat, and really, she is physically stronger than one would imagine. Rachel Howard (in The Datebook) was very pleased with De Sola's dancing on opening night, so it kind of depends on what you are looking for in a role or dancer. De Sola looks like an Aurora, to me, so she has that in her favor.

The Rose Adagio is so particular in its demands that the steps/balances just don't suit everyone (or most). There's nothing about the RA that is representative of Mathilde Froustey as a dancer, or for that matter, the young Sofiane Sylve (although she's known for her uncommon balance abilities). Froustey is at her best when she can dance full-out with great flair, or display a haunted, lyrical quality. That's not the RA. But I can bet she always looks best in the final act dances (I think it was the same with Sylve). It's no wonder that so few dancers perform the entire Aurora role well - there's too much range to cover, and it's all classical technique.

For me, the Rose Adagio is so plainly an acrobatic interlude, it is not "dancing" in the traditional sense of the word. Many people have wondered exactly what Balanchine would have done with this section of The Sleeping Beauty given that it is so un-Balanchine (the RA may have been one of those important things he couldn't find a solution for, so he never presented a full-length Sleeping Beauty). For me, there's no reason to insist upon a certain approach to the RA that is the one and only interpretation to follow. I'm open to different interpretations from dancers. And if a dancer can sell her particular "solution" to the problem, then I'll applaud her efforts.

Even though the RA is a famous part of the classical vocabulary, it doesn't represent the things I care most about in dancing, or performance, so I can easily move on to the next thing.  😉

Good to hear about Jimison's successful debut.

Zhao is high on my list of dancers who should have been prepared for the Aurora role, but that would have had to start long ago. The first preparations for SB began at least as far back as the summer of 2017. And at SFB, these story ballets generally run for two seasons (I assume because that is more cost effective, and it gives dancers time to settle into the roles), so, theoretically there was time for a number of dancers to learn and develop lead roles. But it didn't really happen. I'm sure the Unbound Festival madness took up everyone's time, energy and headspace.

Max Cauthorn is another dancer we're not seeing a lot of so far. But the upcoming programs may (hopefully) change that.

EDIT: Almost forgot, does anyone remember any details of how Scheller handled the Rose Adagio?

Edited by pherank
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5 hours ago, Katia Kapustin said:

Alina Cojocaru was recently (on 19th February) honoured with a National Dance Award for "Outstanding Female Classical Performance" as Aurora in "Sleeping Beauty" by the UK Dance Critics 'Circle.

:offtopic:I don't doubt for a second that Cojocaru deserves it. Indeed, on the basis of video evidence I suspected that she must be the great Aurora of our time. I'm referring to a particular performance during which, apparently in response to an overly enthusiastic audience, she began mugging and milking, a clear departure from her usual approach. 

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Would love to hear what others think about Wona Park's debut on 3/13.

I was there, and was impressed by her abilities. She danced beautifully, though I feel there is much room for her to settle into the role and pay attention to little details.

Stahl seem to have an off night - didn't land her pirouettes neatly, and those sweeping arms in the beginning of her variation just looked so odd to me.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the production very much. It was lavish and gorgeous. 

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So here is my 2 cents about Rose Adagio. I have performed it many more times than I care to admit, knowing that regardless of how well prepared you are it really can be hit or miss. It comes immediately after your entrance, so not much time to shake the surge of adrenaline which can make you a bit jittery and can affect balance in a big way. Standing there looking at 4 different men, all of whom partner slightly differently, praying that everything will work, that your muscles will get under your control sooner rather than later, that your partners will be able to sense your balance pointe right from the start, that if they don’t praying that you will be able to adjust in a fraction of a second, Times 10000 other things that it is easy to get in one’s head. Now as a coach i refer to it as the ballerina’s obstacle course! No matter how many times i danced it, by the end my right big toe and my right calf muscle was spent and then you snap back and realize that you literally just began! But you are so relieved in that moment during bows that, at least for me, the hardest part was finished. It takes a tremendously skilled artist to not let any of that register in the upper body or face because it does require an extreme amount of concentration. I am sure many of you know this but when a dancer works in the studio, when you take a balance your eyes will usually fixate on a single spot that doesn’t move. Trying to balance with your eyes closed is hilarious. Seriously, try. On stage, everything moves and most dancers will fixate on one spot on their partner, on a piece of scenery, and unfortunately I’ve seen a few on the floor in order to try and recreate the studio experience. So when you are trying to hold balance and your ‘spot’ suddenly moves away it can seriously throw you. As you Cojocaru, her balances are superhuman. Every single dancer has experienced finding that sweet spot in a balance when you are so secure you can stay for days. As a dancer, it is second nature to indulge your own curiosity and stay just to see how long you really can hold it. And in your head you know you probably shouldn’t, that you should make sure that your movement is within the music and not play with tricks, especially in this supremely classical piece, but sometimes you just get carried away and can’t help yourself. And when that happens it will set your whole heart on fire, and when the audience gets behind it I ant even describe that feeling. Even when you know it’s inappropriate sometimes you just go with it. And you will always remember it. Is it too much, yes, uncalled for, yes, rewarding, you’ve no idea! I was never in the league of Cojocaru or any of these artists I’m sure, but there is a sense of joy every single dancer shares no matter if they are just beginning or at the end of their journey. Sometimes you have to indulge 😊 

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1 hour ago, Fraildove said:

So here is my 2 cents about Rose Adagio...

That was a great commentary, Fraildove. So many Auroras are just beaming in the 2nd half of the show - I've assumed it must be an "I am done with the Rose Adagio and now it's fun" smile.

39 minutes ago, PeggyR said:

First intermission of Naghdi’s SB. One word to describe:  WOW.  Take out second mortgage if you need to, but go to her Friday performance.

I'm so glad the out-of-towners will not be disappointed.  ;)
I'd like to hear how Joe Walsh does again with so little preparation.

Mrstrong_ballet, do you mean the Saturday, March 16 show (Park/Greco)? What role was Jen Stahl dancing?

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Just got back from the Naghdi/Walsh Sleeping Beauty.  Naghdi was really spectacular, so was Walsh.  All in all, a very enjoyable evening.  Definitely see Yasmine Naghdi if you have a chance!!

Some thoughts:

Sleeping Beauty is far from my favorite full-length classical ballet, and in particular, I don't love SF Ballet's production.  I dislike the orangey-brown hue of the sets and costumes in the Prologue and Act I.  I also dislike the giant staircase in Act III that takes the dancers a full 16 counts of music to walk down (makes me nervous just watching it).  The use of the corps de ballet seems spare, especially during the Act I Waltz and throughout Act II.  

Despite that, the corps performed admirably tonight.  I don't particularly like the Fairies' Pas de Deux with the Cavalier in the Prologue - it's got a bit of a classroomy partnering class feel to it.  Nor do I like the fairies' variations, they don't showcase the dancers' strengths particularly well, IMO.  However, there were some standouts - Ludmila Bizalion in particular looked good.

Jennifer Stahl was a fantastic Carabosse.  She's a great actor with a big stage presence.  I can't take my eyes off her whenever she's on stage!

 

On to the Rose Adagio - Yasmine Naghdi really brought the house down.  I truly thought it was the Gold Standard of Rose Adagios that I've seen.  She was attentive to all her partners, she milked the balances while staying on the music, her extensions were high but not vulgarly so.  Her dancing has a crisp clarity and technical precision and is truly enjoyable to watch.  I was blown away.  She made it look so effortless.

Joseph Walsh was great tonight - I'm constantly amazed at his versatility as a dancer.  He excels in contemporary works and looks totally natural in classical ballets as well.

 

The Grand Pas in Act III went well overall, though Naghdi did miss two out of three of her fish dives.  Seems uncharacteristic from what I've seen of her dancing.  I'm inclined to chalk it up to nerves/tiredness/new partner, though she did look a little shaken after her fish dives.  Nevertheless, I thought she and Walsh looked great together.  There was lots of clarity in both of their dancing.

 

Lots of other good performances tonight too.  I'm excited to see more of Cavan Conley, he looked promising tonight.  Julia Rowe has a great assuredness to her dancing that really shown through as Bluebird.  Madison Keesler has been having a great season and I'm hoping she's up for promotion soon!

 

All in all, I love that SF Ballet brought over Yasmine Naghdi.  The Royal Ballet and SF Ballet seem to have a good partnership going, I'm intrigued by the idea of more artist exchanges à la Naghdi/Wei Wang.  

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1 hour ago, Phrenchphry11 said:

The Grand Pas in Act III went well overall, though Naghdi did miss two out of three of her fish dives.  Seems uncharacteristic from what I've seen of her dancing.  I'm inclined to chalk it up to nerves/tiredness/new partner, though she did look a little shaken after her fish dives.  Nevertheless, I thought she and Walsh looked great together.  There was lots of clarity in both of their dancing.

Great report, Phrenchphry11. I'm afraid to ask, but what exactly happened with the "missed" fish dives? I hope Naghdi didn't hit the floor.

Edited by pherank
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1 hour ago, pherank said:

I'm afraid to ask, but what exactly happened with the "missed" fish dives? I hope Naghdi didn't hit the ground.

In the second fish dive, she stumbled after the pirouette but Walsh was able to sort of lift her and pulled into the dive position. The way I saw it only the second fish dive went awry, the first and the third one looked fine. 

I also want to add that Naghdi was the only ballerina that I ever saw who didn’t keep her gaze fixed on a single spot during the balances in the Rose Adagio but she actually noded to her cavaliers and kept her upper body totally relaxed. This was really something! The audience gave her a very warm welcome and supported through the entire performance.

ETA: For those who want to see Naghdi, her next performance is on Saturday evening, not Friday.

Edited by Dreamer
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What a wonderful "Sleeping Beauty" SFB delivered tonight, with the stunning Yasmine Naghdi skilfully partnered by Joseph Walsh. They both danced so well together and yes Naghdi's Rose Adagio blew us away, the most beautifully executed Rose Adagio I have ever seen (and I have seen many). Such an amazing control Naghdi has over her balances, she did indeed bring the house down! Her technical control, precision and clarity are impressive to say the least, and Naghdi dances with so much ease, she makes it all look so beautiful and effortless.  

The Act 3 Grand Pas was another highlight. With regard to those fish dives perhaps Walsh and Naghdi were standing a fraction too far apart in order to execute the pirouettes leading into those fish dives; what exactly happened in the partnering there is difficult to say.

I am very appreciative SFB invited Naghdi to dance with Walsh, a great opportunity to see Naghdi here in USA! Naghdi and Walsh fully deserved the standing ovation. 

The whole company danced beautifully, congrats to all!

 

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Yasmine Naghdi's show is not on Friday Drew but on Saturday evening. We are group of ballet fans, we love SFB and their dancers, and we are going again on Saturday night to enjoy the last opportunity (for now I hope) to see Naghdi here in USA. Apparently she is not coming to LA with The Royal Ballet this summer, such a shame, so we will enjoy her last show on Saturday. Is this the first time a RB Principal is a guest of SFB?

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On 3/14/2019 at 1:11 AM, Katia Kapustin said:

Is this the first time a RB Principal is a guest of SFB?

If it has happened before, it was a long while ago. If anyone knows different... Christopher Wheeldon does return with regularity to work on new choreography with SFB.

Normally if there are guest dancers, they are either participating in Nutcracker lead roles, or simply performing as a company as NBofC and Hamburg Ballet have done in the past. Sleeping Beauty is a special situation for SFB, and if there weren't so many dancers out at this point of the season, it's likely that you wouldn't have seen Naghdi. You can count yourself doubly lucky.  😉 Enjoy!

Edited by pherank
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5 hours ago, Phrenchphry11 said:

he Grand Pas in Act III went well overall, though Naghdi did miss two out of three of her fish dives.  Seems uncharacteristic from what I've seen of her dancing.  I'm inclined to chalk it up to nerves/tiredness/new partner, though she did look a little shaken after her fish dives.  Nevertheless, I thought she and Walsh looked great together.  There was lots of clarity in both of their dancing.

 

Not two out of three fish dives. It was only one - the second fish dive - and Joseph Walsh very skilfully partnered her into the next fish dive. Anything could have caused this, may be something as small as a ripple in the stage lining. Imo not worth a mention after such a remarkable and memorable performance by the whole company.

Edited by Katia Kapustin
typo
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Over the years, SFB invited a few guest artists. Those that I can remember are:

Cory Stearns  (ABT) as Onegin in “Onegin”

Lloyd Riggins (Hamburg Ballet) as Poet in “Little Mermaid”

Sarah Lane (ABT) as grown-up Clara in “Nutcracker”

Denis Matvienko (National Ballet of Ukraine) as Solor in “La Bayadere” (Kingdom of the Shades)

Joaquín De Luz (NYCB) in “Other Dances”

Johan Kobborg (retired) in PdD from “Manon” at a Opening Night Gala

 

So technically,, there was a brief guest appearance by a former RB principal. But not really.

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Thank you for the list Dreamer. Interesting to note there have been very few invited guest artists at SFB.

I think it is great that the Director prioritises the development of his own dancers but in the Yasmine Naghdi case it was fully justified: Joseph Walsh had/has a partner to dance with and the SF audience got to admire and appreciate a stunning guest ballerina from The Royal Ballet in London. 

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10 hours ago, pherank said:

Great report, Phrenchphry11. I'm afraid to ask, but what exactly happened with the "missed" fish dives? I hope Naghdi didn't hit the floor.

Ah, it may have just been from where I was sitting (rather far off to the side).  I didn't mean to blow it so out of proportion, it wasn't a big deal.  She looked a bit off of her leg in her pirouettes, so from what I saw Walsh had to reset her balance with both hands for the first dive.  The second dive was a bit more off, she stepped out of the second one.  It merely seemed uncharacteristic from what I normally see from her dancing!

However, she recovered nicely for the third and the audience broke into applause.  

She does it quite well in this rehearsal video, all one-handed dives here: 

 

 

The other thing I wanted to call out was how lovely her epaulement was through the entire ballet.  She had the perfect combination of control and alignment, but also was really expressive with her head and shoulders. 

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She is a dancer who seriously captured my attention when The Royal Ballet came to USA in 2015 and performed in Chicago, Washington and New York. They have many good dancers but for me she stood out in a special way. I was fortunate to find myself in London last summer and saw Naghdi dance Odette/Odile in "Swan Lake". I really wish I could go more often to London and watch The Royal Ballet as I really like their style of dancing. For the record I am also a big fan of SFB and they have lovely dancers too!

I remember watching this video of Naghdi - in the early rehearsal process of SB - it was filmed during the World Ballet Day about two or three years ago I think when she was preparing her Aurora debut. 

Naghdi is one of only three female RB principals who fully trained at The Royal Ballet School and I am not surprised you comment so favourably about her lovely epaulement, her perfect combination of control and alignment whilst simultaneously being so expressive with her head,  shoulders and hands. I think she is a real showcase for the English style of ballet dancing, with her purity and clarity of dancing, and without any mannerism, which I appreciate and love so much. I do hope we won't have to wait too long before she returns to the USA or a trip to London will have to be planned! As for now... there is still Saturday evening to come :) 

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16 minutes ago, Katia Kapustin said:

She is a dancer who seriously captured my attention when The Royal Ballet came to USA in 2015 and performed in Chicago, Washington and New York. They have many good dancers but for me she stood out in a special way. I was fortunate to find myself in London last summer and saw Naghdi dance Odette/Odile in "Swan Lake". I really wish I could go more often to London and watch The Royal Ballet as I really like their style of dancing. For the record I am also a big fan of SFB and they have lovely dancers too!

I remember watching this video of Naghdi - in the early rehearsal process of SB - it was filmed during the World Ballet Day about two or three years ago I think when she was preparing her Aurora debut. 

 

For me, it was the 2015 tour as well that got my attention--to be more precise seeing someone I didn't know or recognize genuinely stand out in Infra (a ballet in which many dancers, including genuine superstars, looked "good" to me without standing out out all--a flattening effect I put down to the choreography)  and figuring out eventually that it was Naghdi.  But when I saw the rehearsal posted above not too long after, that really got my attention because it showed her working  very promisingly on pristine classical choreography. I was super disappointed at missing her Swan Lake in London. (She was reserved for a student performance the week I was there and I couldn't get in...) I am hoping to see her live again at some point. And...uh...not in McGregor.

Edited by Drew
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