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ABT 2019 Harlequinade

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It's opening night. Hard to believe the season is finally here! I'm looking forward to seeing the debuts of corps dancer Gonzalez as Harlequin and Royal as Pierrot. But, most of all, seeing the ever glorious Lane again as Columbine.

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Posted (edited)

I was at the performance tonight. I’ll post more later, but I couldn’t get over how empty the theater was. I’ve never seen the Met so bare. It impacted the show, because there didn’t seem to be any energy. The dancers were “okay”, not great, but I partly blame the empty audience. I also forgot how little dancing this production has. 

 

I couldn’t help but think the empty audience was a metaphor for ABT’s declining product the past few years. Also depressing to think their season will be cut 3 weeks in 2021 (when the Met Opera extends theirs). How soon until they realize they need to do something different? Sad to think of all the star power and buzz the Met had back in the early 2000s and how much of that is gone now. 

Edited by Dancerboy90210

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Dancerboy90210 said:

I was at the performance tonight. I’ll post more later, but I couldn’t get over how empty the theater was. I’ve never seen the Met so bare. It impacted the show, because there didn’t seem to be any energy. The dancers were “okay”, not great, but I partly blame the empty audience. I also forgot how little dancing this production has. 

 

I couldn’t help but think the empty audience was a metaphor for ABT’s declining product the past few years. Also depressing to think their season will be cut 3 weeks in 2021 (when the Met Opera extends theirs). How soon until they realize they need to do something different? Sad to think of all the star power and buzz the Met had back in the early 2000s and how much of that is gone now. 

Very sad to hear. I do think a lot of Harlequinade's choreography is really beautiful and appreciate it as a fascinating piece of dance history, but it was not a show meant for The Met (and none of the performances I saw last year really wowed me...the energy was weird then too even with multiple casts). I feel that most people who were interested saw it last year, realized that they paid to watch 20 minutes of a children's dance recital, some patchy pantomime by the adults (saved by some lovely bursts of artistry and solo work), and decided to skip it this year. I also can't bear to face all the empty seats in that huge theater, especially after a Met Opera season full of packed houses and/or soaring enthusiasm. 

This season has so little momentum behind it. Honestly, cutting three weeks off the 2021 season might snap some better decisions into ABT's sluggish leadership. 

Edited by Inge

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6 hours ago, Inge said:

I feel that most people who were interested saw it last year, realized that they paid to watch 20 minutes of a children's dance recital, some patchy pantomime by the adults (saved by some lovely bursts of artistry and solo work), and decided to skip it this year.

🙋‍♂️

Yup, that's me.

The Met season used to be the highlight of my dance-going year — indeed, one of the highlights of my year, period. This year I'm barely aware it's begun.

I'm skipping Harlequinade, skipping Whipped Cream (loved it, but we've had it two years in a row already), seeing one Ratmansky mixed program, then nothing else until Jane Eyre — which, based on the few clips I've seen on social media and elsewhere, I would typically run not walk away from, except I've been dying to see Tom Forster do a full-length lead at the Met.

Edited by nanushka

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Hmm it's strange because I really like NYCB's Harlequinade. I like Ratmansky's too but I was there Monday night and agree the energy just was not there.

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4 minutes ago, canbelto said:

Hmm it's strange because I really like NYCB's Harlequinade.

I assumed they were a good deal different (have never seen NYCB's) — no?

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2 minutes ago, nanushka said:

I assumed they were a good deal different (have never seen NYCB's) — no?

No they're not really actually. There are some differences here and there but it;s remarkably similar. Maybe the biggest difference is the wedding pas de deux/variation. 

Here's some excerpts form a McBride/Baryshnikov performance at the White House:

 

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8 hours ago, Dancerboy90210 said:

I was at the performance tonight. I’ll post more later, but I couldn’t get over how empty the theater was. I’ve never seen the Met so bare. It impacted the show, because there didn’t seem to be any energy. The dancers were “okay”, not great, but I partly blame the empty audience. I also forgot how little dancing this production has.

I was also there on Monday, and found it similarly bare. It felt like a real whiplash of a difference after the packed houses for the Ring Cycle last week, but honestly, I've been at the Met during the opera's season and found it similarly empty on Monday nights. I remember specifically going to see La Fille du Regiment this year on a Monday. I sat in one of the side boxes and was amazed at how empty the theatre was—and if I'm remembering correctly, other nights towards the end of the run practically sold out. This is not to say it isn't dispiriting (it is) but filling the opera house is a task that the opera itself is not often up to—it is a big theater.

Last year, I did catch Harlequinade, but only the first act (I had to leave in the middle of the performance) so it was nice to see the full piece. I do really enjoy the sequences of the children dancing, though I recognize that is not what most people are attending ABT to see. I don't mind a pantomime-heavy Swan Lake or Romeo and Juliet (I enjoy the music enough to carry me through those sections) but the music in Harlequinade is pretty forgettable IMO.

For what it's worth, although he really didn't do any actual dancing, I thought Thomas Forster was hilarious as Pierrot. I saw Hallberg in this role last year and it was just kind of... sad? Dejected and dispirited, where Forster's character seemed more lighthearted. I definitely laughed a lot more this time around.

 

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10 hours ago, Dancerboy90210 said:

I was at the performance tonight. I’ll post more later, but I couldn’t get over how empty the theater was. I’ve never seen the Met so bare. It impacted the show, because there didn’t seem to be any energy. The dancers were “okay”, not great, but I partly blame the empty audience. I also forgot how little dancing this production has. 

 

I couldn’t help but think the empty audience was a metaphor for ABT’s declining product the past few years. Also depressing to think their season will be cut 3 weeks in 2021 (when the Met Opera extends theirs). How soon until they realize they need to do something different? Sad to think of all the star power and buzz the Met had back in the early 2000s and how much of that is gone now. 

I am surprised to read all the reports of an empty theater. I assumed that with TDF, TKTS, and freebies to students, they could do better. But like many here, I didn't see a lot in this season that screamed: you must jump onto an airplane to see THIS. I'll see Manon (great casts, Bolle retirement), a couple of Corsaires, the Tharp trio (can't get enough of In the Upper Room), and the opening of Jane Eyre (mainly out of curiosity). That's it. I have seen Whipped Cream and Harlequinade and have no interest in seeing them again. 

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Posted (edited)

I am so sorry to hear about the empty house this week, but I guess I’m not surprised.   Bring back Bright Stream if you want to show Ratmansky. I’d love to see that again.

It’s rare that my first set of ABT tickets starts with week three.  Like many on BA, the spring ballet season at Lincoln Center has always been a particularly exciting time of year with ABT and NYCB in town at the same time.  The first few weeks of ABT’s repeat programming make it a no brainer this year as I don’t even have to choose between the two companies.  I always loved the abundance of ballets performing opposite each other at the same time.

I’m still “toying” with the idea of seeing a Harlequinade this week even though I saw it twice last year.  But that's mostly because I can't see myself missing the first few weeks of ABT.  Thanks to everyone for their reviews as it reminded me of how much the children dance in Harlequinade.  While I enjoy the children for a few minutes, twenty minutes is too much when I am really there for the adult dancing.   I've pretty much decided to skip Whipped Cream this year as I’ve already seen it four times.   However I am going through ABT withdrawal so who knows.....

Edited by NinaFan

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39 minutes ago, NinaFan said:

Bring back Bright Stream if you want to show Ratmansky. I’d love to see that again.

I, too, would love for ABT to do Bright Stream again. I am going to see the other Ratmansky programs this Spring at least once, but would have shelled out a decent sum of cash to see Bright Stream and bought tickets to see it more than once far in advance. 

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1 minute ago, vendangeuse said:

I, too, would love for ABT to do Bright Stream again. I am going to see the other Ratmansky programs this Spring at least once, but would have shelled out a decent sum of cash to see Bright Stream and bought tickets to see it more than once far in advance. 

Agreed!

I don't understand why ABT is doing Whipped Cream again. If one idea is that this production could become a reliable, family-friendly money maker à la Nutcracker, even just thinking slightly longer term it would seem to make sense to wait a year (assuming they're not planning to do it four years in a row!). Some kids who've been too young to attend would grow more into it, and some families who've attended and loved it would be even more eager for its return.

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I attended on Monday.  Yes, the house was eerily empty.  The dancing was superb (especially Boylston), but I feel like this is a flimsy offering for a full evening of entertainment. 

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3 hours ago, NinaFan said:

I’m still “toying” with the idea of seeing a Harlequinade this week even though I saw it twice last year.  But that's mostly because I can't see myself missing the first few weeks of ABT.  Thanks to everyone for their reviews as it reminded me of how much the children dance in Harlequinade.  While I enjoy the children for a few minutes, twenty minutes is too much when I am really there for the adult dancing.   I've pretty much decided to skip Whipped Cream this year as I’ve already seen it four times.   However I am going through ABT withdrawal so who knows.....

Like others, I'm skipping the first half of season and focusing on NYCB instead. This is a first for me after 15 years of attending... I've bought half the number of tickets as normal. I don't need to see Whipped Cream for the third year in a row, and I'd rather see ABT's mixed rep programs in the more congenial setting of the Koch Theater (I assume they'll reprise at least some of the pieces for their fall season).  

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Sarah Lane just posted an Instagram story (public facing, but you can't link a story here) that says "Last chance to see Whipped Cream coming up", and then lists her performance dates. So, it seems that the company has already decided, and told the dancers, that they're not doing it next year.

 

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15 minutes ago, ABT Fan said:

Sarah Lane just posted an Instagram story (public facing, but you can't link a story here) that says "Last chance to see Whipped Cream coming up", and then lists her performance dates. So, it seems that the company has already decided, and told the dancers, that they're not doing it next year.

 

I saw that, too, but wondered if that was just last chance to see it this season. Still, given the miserable attendance, I can't  imagine they'd risk it again anytime soon.

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1 minute ago, California said:

I saw that, too, but wondered if that was just last chance to see it this season. Still, given the miserable attendance, I can't  imagine they'd risk it again anytime soon.

Miserable attendance for Whipped Cream? Was it that bad last year? I knew it was less well sold than the first year but thought it ended up getting still decent audiences.

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2 minutes ago, nanushka said:

Miserable attendance for Whipped Cream? Was it that bad last year? I knew it was less well sold than the first year but thought it ended up getting still decent audiences.

Sorry - I was thinking of this week for Harlequinade. It will be interesting to see how Whipped Cream does, though.

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14 minutes ago, California said:

Sorry - I was thinking of this week for Harlequinade. It will be interesting to see how Whipped Cream does, though.

Right, gotcha.

I wonder how much of a given it was that they'd do Harlequinade for a full week again this year. I know there's a tendency (usually justified) to bring a new piece (especially a full-length) back for a second year, but I wonder if it was ever considered for one of the half-week slots. Harlequinade doesn't have the same sort of box-office appeal as, say, Whipped Cream. May not have been a very wise decision.

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2 minutes ago, nanushka said:

I wonder how much of a given it was that they'd do Harlequinade for a full week again this year. I know there's a tendency (usually justified) to bring a new piece (especially a full-length) back for a second year, but I wonder if it was ever considered for one of the half-week slots. Harlequinade doesn't have the same sort of box-office appeal as, say, Whipped Cream. May not have been a very wise decision.

Good point -- the Ratmansky trio is only getting four performances and the Tharp trio is getting five performances. Whipped Cream is getting seven. 

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13 minutes ago, California said:

Whipped Cream is getting seven. 

Eight, in fact!

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Posted (edited)

I went to the Tuesday night "Harlequinade" - the orchestra section was not empty but certainly was about a little over half full.  The cast was mostly new.  Corps dancer Carlos Gonzalez made his New York debut as Harlequin.  I would describe him as very promising.  His technique is good and clean with well-defined jumps and turns.  Some of the character jumps - the splits, the one where the legs make a diamond shape, etc. - have been danced better by others.  Where he is weaker than say Simkin, Cirio or last year Gabe Stone Shayer (who was really wonderful before he got injured) is that he doesn't project quite enough personality onstage.   His dancing is more inclined towards the classical than bravura character and he doesn't project as much characterization as other more experienced senior dancers.  Last year I think I liked Simkin and Shayer best as Harlequin.  Gonzalez I wouldn't mind seeing as Gold in the Jewels pas de quatre or the Bluebird in "Sleeping Beauty" or the Peasant Pas de Deux in "Giselle" or Benno in "Swan Lake".  Sarah Lane's Columbine looked like she stepped from a turn of the (last) century photograph and danced like a feather floating in the breeze.  She was really lovely and more confident than she was in her first performance last year.  Beautiful revolving turns where the legs seemed to float and dainty little hops on pointe.  Lots of charm - more girlish and modest than the other Columbines.  Calvin Royal III did well as Pierrot but the part really lacks any dancing - the best one actually is Hammoudi who gets the hangdog sad clown affect down perfectly and acts well.  Devon Teuscher danced very well as Pierrette with beautifully arched feet and sharp footwork.  

I thought certain sections looked better rehearsed - Ratmansky had time to clean a few things up.  The children looked better drilled in Act II and the corps work had better ensemble than what Canbelto described on Monday night.  The audience didn't seemed that pumped but they were appreciative.  At the end, the gold curtain closed and the lights immediately went up and everyone immediately went home.

Edited by FauxPas
grammar

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So sorry to read about the low audience turn-out for Harlequinade, a ballet that I loved last season. I'm afraid that, this season, I'm attending only next Monday's "gala" - in quotes because half of the program is the nice but gloomy Serenade on Plato's Symposium...hardly gala fare --and the opening Jane Eyre. I'm attending the "gala" for The Seasons. That's all.

 

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8 hours ago, FauxPas said:

I went to the Tuesday night "Harlequinade" - the orchestra section was not empty but certainly was about a little over half full.  The cast was mostly new.  Corps dancer Carlos Gonzalez made his New York debut as Harlequin.  I would describe him as very promising.  His technique is good and clean with well-defined jumps and turns.  Some of the character jumps - the splits, the one where the legs make a diamond shape, etc. - have been danced better by others.  Where he is weaker than say Simkin, Cirio or last year Gabe Stone Shayer (who was really wonderful before he got injured) is that he doesn't project quite enough personality onstage.   His dancing is more inclined towards the classical than bravura character and he doesn't project as much characterization as other more experienced senior dancers.  Last year I think I liked Simkin and Shayer best as Harlequin.  Gonzalez I wouldn't mind seeing as Gold in the Jewels pas de quatre or the Bluebird in "Sleeping Beauty" or the Peasant Pas de Deux in "Giselle" or Benno in "Swan Lake".  Sarah Lane's Columbine looked like she stepped from a turn of the (last) century photograph and danced like a feather floating in the breeze.  She was really lovely and more confident than she was in her first performance last year.  Beautiful revolving turns where the legs seemed to float and dainty little hops on pointe.  Lots of charm - more girlish and modest than the other Columbines.  Calvin Royal III did well as Pierrot but the part really lacks any dancing - the best one actually is Hammoudi who gets the hangdog sad clown affect down perfectly and acts well.  Devon Teuscher danced very well as Pierrette with beautifully arched feet and sharp footwork.  

I thought certain sections looked better rehearsed - Ratmansky had time to clean a few things up.  The children looked better drilled in Act II and the corps work had better ensemble than what Canbelto described on Monday night.  The audience didn't seemed that pumped but they were appreciative.  At the end, the gold curtain closed and the lights immediately went up and everyone immediately went home.

FauxPas’ review of last night’s (Tuesday’s) performance was spot on.  While the Met was only half-full, it was full of people who came out to see the ballet in a nonstop pouring rainstorm, and were awake, alert, and eagerly applauded at all the correct spots (unlike some Wednesday matinee audiences).  Some people were there to see their children or grandchildren who were dancing in Act II (many cameras came out), and the children were really good this year.  They were well rehearsed, and as each dance section ended and the dancers moved offstage, the children in the following group moved onstage to take their places quickly, very seamlessly.  They made Act II fly.  Calvin Royal was not very effective in the mostly mime role of Pierrot.  Rather than bumbling or foolish or even a melancholy soul, Royal played him as an angry man.  If Royal had the chance to dance - not mime - Pierrot as poignant, poetic figure, it would be wonderful.  I enjoyed Devon Teuscher as Pierrette, but she underplayed the role, and was not the saucy soubrette that Stella Abrera was last year.  This was Carlos Gonzalez’s Met debut in a leading role.  It was a fine debut, but as Faux Pas noted, he is not a bravura dancer and his character portrayal was MIA.  However, he was a careful and attentive partner to Sarah Lane – far more attentive than Simkin ever was when they first performed together.  The many lifts last night came off splendidly, and Gonzalez did not lose his grip or drop her.  Bravo!  Lane seemed very comfortable with the choreography this year.  During her Lark pas de deux solo – the one in which she hops on point into releve twice or three times – you could see her adding her own little interpretive flourishes to the dance, illustrating the Lark’s emotions as she moves from fearing the Hunter to caring for him.  It was lovely to see, as was her beautiful, lyrical, feathery dancing.  She did have a tiny bit of a mishap earlier, though, barely noticeable, as her little black bicorn hat began to fall from her head as she exited the stage to change costume for the Lark scene – chapeau malfunction!

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