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ABT 2019 Le Corsaire

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1 minute ago, fondoffouettes said:

I’ll need to read the statement in full, but I hope “those times” refers to 19th-century Europe, not whatever era is supposedly depicted in the ballet. An Orientalist ballet is more a reflection of European values and fantasies, not those of the actual Middle East. I really hope the statement makes that distinction.

The portly, bumbling Sultan figure (or whatever he is supposed to be) is probably one of the most racist caricatures you can find on the ballet stage. I’m curious to see whether they alter anything relating to him; the part where he and others kneel in prayer feels particular cringe-worthy.

Yes, the Orientalism is problematic. But the Arab slave trade victimized tens of millions of people. I think it's problematic to state that the ballet doesn't portray at least some of "the actual Middle East"- I don't know if you meant to suggest that and I apologize if you didn't. 

Personally, I've always really loved the Mariinsky's production, which I feel does a better job of putting slavery in a negative light than ABT's, which seems to err more on the side of comedy. Granted, I've only seen both of these productions on video. I too am curious to see the ballet this week and then compare to the 1999 version.

 

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On 6/10/2019 at 12:49 PM, fondoffouettes said:

In case you aren't following Simkin on Instagram, this is what he may attempt for his manege in the pas de trois:

 

Well, folks, he did them tonight. Will have more thoughts later, after my brain finishes exploding. It was a FANTASTIC Act II pas de trois tonight!

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What a night!! 

Fantastic ABT debut from Brooklyn Mack. He was a wonderful, swaggering Conrad who had great chemistry with Skylar. I was so impressed by his technique and stage presence. Great elevation (like he’d been shot out of a cannon in his last pas de trois jump), gorgeous leaps (two particularly impressive splits in the air in act III), quick turns, strong lifts and attentive partnering: he was the full package. 

I’ve had the privilege of seeing Daniil’s incredible Ali before but he really outdid himself this time. As @tutu noted, he did a type of manège in the pas de trois almost no one else can do. He was, literally, jaw-dropping. He really pushed the limits of technique to the utmost yet looked utterly confident and at ease the whole time. Very “what, like it’s hard?” I hope someone with better technical vocabulary than me can give a fuller description! The audience went absolutely crazy.

That act II pas de trois was really just some of the most thrilling ballet I’ve seen in a long time. 3 great dancers firing on all cylinders. 

Has Skylar danced Medora at the Met before? She was wonderful:  super-fast and secure pirouettes, lush port de bras, expressive mime.

To return to the discussion about the changes to the ballet itself: 

while the Pasha is still bumbling and smarmy, the prayer caricature @fondoffouettes Referenced is gone—that was the only Act III change I noticed. I also recall now that in the old act I the enslaved women are ringed in by ropes in addition to being flogged: that’s all excised in the updated act I. I think they may have been roped together in Act II as well, but not in the new version. 

The statement itself doesn’t mention orientalism. This is the meat of it (there’s an intro bit about the artistic value of the ballet):

”as you prepare to experience ABT’s production of this classical ballet, we want to acknowledge the challenging subject matter depicted: slavery, piracy, and the subjugation of women. The original version of Le Corsaire premiered over 160years ago and is loosely based on Lord Byron’s 1814 epic poem of pirates, Pashas, and damsels in distress. it is situated in a time and place where slavery and polygamy were driving forces of the Economic and social landscape.

many great classics depict the disturbing social norms of bygone eras. In our Corsaire, ABT has chosen to adjust certain scenes in tone and character out of respect for those whose lives and stays were marginalized. There may still be images some find offensive but we hope our audience members will be transported to the period in which it is set and realize such scenes are a reflection, not a validation, of life in those times.” 

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Posted (edited)
33 minutes ago, MarzipanShepherdess said:

“as you prepare to experience ABT’s production of this classical ballet, we want to acknowledge the challenging subject matter depicted: slavery, piracy, and the subjugation of women. The original version of Le Corsaire premiered over 160years ago and is loosely based on Lord Byron’s 1814 epic poem of pirates, Pashas, and damsels in distress. it is situated in a time and place where slavery and polygamy were driving forces of the Economic and social landscape.

many great classics depict the disturbing social norms of bygone eras. In our Corsaire, ABT has chosen to adjust certain scenes in tone and character out of respect for those whose lives and stays were marginalized. There may still be images some find offensive but we hope our audience members will be transported to the period in which it is set and realize such scenes are a reflection, not a validation, of life in those times.” 

I don’t disagree with this statement, but it seems crazy to me that it only addresses subject matter, not the distorted Orientalist lens through which that subject matter is presented. Slavery is offensive as subject matter, yes, but presenting slavery as sexy, exotic fun for the delectation of European audiences is also problematic. This statement from ABT only goes halfway in addressing the ballet’s issues.

I say this as someone who thinks Orientalist works shouldn’t be discarded, but rather appreciated with an understanding of what they truly represent.

I commend ABT for addressing this but I don’t think they’ve done the work to represent the complexity of these issues. The statement is a self-preserving copout.

The fact that they omitted the prayer scene shows that the company knows that part of the problem is how European artists chose to depict the Arab world, not just subject matter.

 

Edited by fondoffouettes

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I was also at tonight's performance, and I thought Brooklyn Mack was a little rough in the first act.  I put it down to nerves, but by the second act he had settled in and as noted above, the pas de trois was off the charts.  I would also like to put in a word for Blaine Hoven; I believe tonight was his first Lankendem and I thought his first act in particular was terrific.  Hoven has been doing yeoman service for the last few years; of the three Pierrots in Harlequinade that I have seen (Hallberg, Hoven, Forster), Hoven was my absolute top in the role.  If promotions are handed out and Forster gets one and Hoven doesn't, I will cry foul.

I'm going back tomorrow for the matinee to see how Mack does as Ali and again the following night to see him partner Shevchenko.  Friday night I'm cheating on ABT by going to Alvin Ailey.  

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1 hour ago, MarzipanShepherdess said:

Has Skylar danced Medora at the Met before? She was wonderful:  super-fast and secure pirouettes, lush port de bras, expressive mime.

 

Thanks for the report!

Skylar did debut Medora in 2017 at the Met with almost no notice. It was a remarkable debut, and I'm looking forward to seeing her dance it again on Saturday!

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Skylar Brandt made her debut as Medora in Le Corsaire in Spring 2017, when Maria Kotchetkova, along with several other principals, was injured during the first week of the season.  Lane, Shevchenko, and Teuscher all made unplanned debuts and picked up extra performances and were promoted at season's end.  Brandt had danced Medora in Studio Company and made her unplanned debut as Medora onstage at the Met as well.  She was terrific, but her performance tonight was vastly improved, showing great maturity and real work on character interpretation.  If you want to see a woman who can knock out speedy fouettes and pirouettes as if they were nothing at all, and whose arms and hands do not look like the broken branches of a tree flailing in the wind, then check out Skylar Brandt this season.  She is a joy to watch!

As long as audiences are willing to pay to see the kind of fireworks we saw on stage tonight, then this silly ballet with its 19th century attitudes towards slavery, piracy, and harem girls with exposed midriffs for the delight of men in the audience will continue to be performed.  It was as if Simkin had challenged Brandt and Mack to try and top his acrobatic pyrotechnics in the pas de trios.  At the end of his manage, he threw in an extra move, a kind of extra torso twist while on the ground, bent backwards from waist up.  People began to scream in astonishment and delight.  What a display!  I enjoyed seeing Brooklyn Mack for the first time.  He is an enormously powerful dancer and a great partner, but he struck me as lacking in the kind of finesse that Marcelo Gomes and Herman Cornejo possess, which help put them the virtuoso territory.  But boy, would I rather see him dance again in anything if it meant I could go without seeing Whiteside or Stearns.  He is a vast improvement over those two!

There is no one now, nor will there ever be, another dancer in the company with a port de bras like Sarah Lane's, and her dancing was particularly gorgeous tonight.  Gulnare is pretty much a thankless supporting role, but Lane always brings a lush sensuality to the character, coupled with an unending sadness.  It's a beautiful and complex combination.  Cheers to Blaine Hoven for his fantastic debut as Lankendem.  If he and Tom Forster were promoted at season's end I'd be thrilled.  Unfortunately, management has shown time and again that there will be promotions only for those who dance leading roles like Albrecht, Siegfried, Prince Desire, and neither of these two men have been cast in these roles.  It makes Aran Bell's promotion inevitable following his upcoming Siegfried debut.

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Posted (edited)

Although Blaine Hoven was a remarkable partner today(Lane literally floated in his lifts), he didn't do those grand plié landings for his Lankendem variation.(he just landed in fifth instead.) Maybe he was being cautious to avoid possible injuries. Nevertheless it was a little puzzling since I've never seen any Lankendem who's completely omitted that step. 

Mack was also a great partner but he looked rusty in the first act, especially the failed barrel turn... or was it 540? his air position was so off that I didn't even know what to make of it. He did an admirable job in the 2nd and 3rd act though(tough act to follow after Simkin. In my experience, the only Conrad who wasn't upstaged by Simkin was Vasiliev)

Both Brandt and Lane were just lovely in every aspect. Lane's solo in the first act deserved more applause- sometimes you just wanna tell everyone that what they are seeing is more difficult than it looks!! Brandt had some technical problem in act 2 grand pas(over turned á la seconde etc) but she handled her nerves well and recovered quickly. Her fouettes were on spot with the tempo, perfectly musical. I'm also glad that she didn't open her mouth as often as she used to.

Simkin- what can I say. In terms of the applause noise level he did overshadow the main couple. He even elevated his free leg in the arabesque position as he lifted Brandt overhead(á la Vasiliev.) The only visible mistake I could think of was the fudged chainé turns after landing the last saut de basque. My non balletomane friends didn't even know that was a mistake. I've been following his career since... well, his first competition in Japan and he never ceases to amaze me. Looking forward to seeing him again later this week. 

Out of the three odalisques Hurlin had the best port de bras and feet. She also had a handful of technical errors in her variation but I think she was just nervous on the opening night. I hope she improves as the week progresses. 

Regarding laurel's comment, this is how Simkin ended his variation:

 

 

Edited by alexL

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Minority report here. Corsaire is far from my favorite Petipa, but I'd been anticipating it with such excitement  it almost felt like I was waiting for ABT opening night - finally classical ballet!
 
I have to say that (with a few exceptions) I found it to be rather dull, even the music lacked propulsion and I wondered if they'd revised the score.

First the good - great, really. Simkin was just amazing last night. His pas de trois solo was jaw dropping and definitely the highlight of the evening. He was also one of the few dancers who really acted the part - he was Conrad's devoted slave from his first entrance to his last.
 
I thought Brooklyn Mack was ok, good even - but not great. He was a swashbuckling Conrad, his acting was very dynamic but I was less impressed with his dancing. He had great elevation but his positions in the air weren't well articulated and overall he looked a bit sloppy to me. His partnering was solid, though and I'd certainly rather see him than Whiteside or Stearns so I wouldn't be upset if they signed him. I wouldn't avoid him like I do them, I just wouldn't go out of my way to see him.
 
Lane was lovely, though the role is small. Brandt has beautiful arms, lovely line and is quite a turner, but to me she doesn't yet have the ability to command the stage. There are some dancers you just can't take your eyes off and I don't see that in her. Still, she is very talented and young, perhaps she will develop that quality.
 
I found Hoven disappointing as Lankedem. His dancing was adequate, but no more that that. Anyone who saw Malakhov's Lankedem back in the day wouldn't even recognize the role. There was no bite - not in his characterization and not in his dancing. Sometimes it looked like he was just focused on getting through the steps.
 
I'm going to see this again on Saturday with Simkin and Mack again, this time with Shevchenko and Trenary. Perhaps it will have settled in by then.

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Posted (edited)

As may have been clear from my earlier post, I was quite impressed with last night’s pas de trois — agree with @MarzipanShepherdess that this was some of the most thrilling ballet I’ve seen in a while.

Simkin was, of course, astonishing.

Mack is charismatic, has incredible elevation and is a strong partner (Brandt was noticeably more comfortable with him than with Simkin). It seemed as if he was fighting the nerves—he boffed catching Medora’s tossed flower and seemed a bit tense in the first act, but relaxed into his technique and stage presence as the ballet went on. (Anyone else think he could have used some support from the orchestra? The tempi seemed a little quick for his solos.) Does Mack have Hallberg’s feet and precision? No. Is he absolutely flying in his jumps, attentive and secure as a partner, and capable of dramatic depth, even in this silly problematic circus of a ballet? Yes. He’d be a good addition to the principal roster, and I wish I could see another performance from him as the nerves wear off.

Brandt was really lovely, the best I’ve seen her. Her pas de trois solo was remarkably strong. She earned a round of applause for the series of passés—hardly the most thrilling step in the repertoire, but performed with refinement and sparkling energy. (She had some minor, minor trouble with the second rotation of her à la seconde turns in one of the coda series, but nothing throwing her completely off). Brandt is so small, but dances so big, and I couldn’t stop watching her. Based on tonight’s performance, she is entirely deserving of a promotion, whenever the spot opens up.

Lane was lovely as Gulnare, and I only wished to see more of her.

Like @nysusan, I found Hoven’s Lankendem serviceable but disappointing, lacking in “bite.” I wouldn’t wish those grand plié landings in the solo on any dancer’s knees, and didn’t miss them, but I was looking for something, any kind of acting or presence, to speak to the character. Likewise, I found the Odalisques fine but not fab; I’m hoping it was just opening-night jitters and that they’ll settle in. 

This ballet is not my favorite. Aside from the Orientalism (agreed that it’s odd that the statement didn’t address that), and the subject matter (I appreciated losing the chains and the whipping—both were unnecessary details), it’s a series of thrills with only the thinnest storyline and movie music. But the principal performances tonight were worth the price of admission—a great evening at the ballet!

Edited by tutu

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12 hours ago, MarzipanShepherdess said:

The statement itself doesn’t mention orientalism. This is the meat of it (there’s an intro bit about the artistic value of the ballet):

”as you prepare to experience ABT’s production of this classical ballet, we want to acknowledge the challenging subject matter depicted: slavery, piracy, and the subjugation of women. The original version of Le Corsaire premiered over 160years ago and is loosely based on Lord Byron’s 1814 epic poem of pirates, Pashas, and damsels in distress. it is situated in a time and place where slavery and polygamy were driving forces of the Economic and social landscape.

many great classics depict the disturbing social norms of bygone eras. In our Corsaire, ABT has chosen to adjust certain scenes in tone and character out of respect for those whose lives and stays were marginalized. There may still be images some find offensive but we hope our audience members will be transported to the period in which it is set and realize such scenes are a reflection, not a validation, of life in those times.”  

Thanks for the full quotation here -- as a culture, we're in the middle of a big language switch to go along with changes/improvements in our overall awareness of equity and fairness.  I imagine we've all seen examples of this in all aspects of our lives, from the variety of acknowledgement statements in official documents and speech, through what I think of as the dance of the pronouns and other labels.  Like many of us, I don't want to lose the foundational works of the past, but I understand that they do have deep flaws that we need to recognize.  In an intersectional world, it can be a challenge to deal with this kind of Venn diagram (sexisim and racism and human trafficking), but I applaud ABT for making some good first steps here.

And now, I'm going back to watch the Instagram video of Simkin again.

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14 hours ago, MarzipanShepherdess said:

"...Lord Byron’s 1814 epic poem of pirates, Pashas, and damsels in distress"

This is a gross mischaracterization of Byron. "Damsel in distress" Gulnare is the one who kills Seyd Pasha and rescues Conrad. Sheesh, ABT, at least direct the blame where it belongs.

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Anyone attend today's matinee? I'd love to hear how Teuscher's and Williams' debuts went, and about Mack's Ali.

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I was lucky enough to see this last night!  Simkin was breathtaking, and Lane and Brandt were just lovely.  I want to see these two dance Swan Lake - I don't understand why Copeland, who can't do the steps, is given TWO Swan Lakes!!  (Sorry, that's a bit off-topic, but when you see two beautiful dancers, it's easy to get indignant on their behalf.)

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4 minutes ago, lostatthemet said:

I don't understand why Copeland, who can't do the steps, is given TWO Swan Lakes!!

Short answer: she sells tickets!

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42 minutes ago, nanushka said:

Short answer: she sells tickets!

Actually, I think SL is a ballet that sells very well regardless of who is cast.  They need Copeland to sell the  lesser titles, like Harlequinade and Jane Eyre.

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Posted (edited)

Does she actually sell a lot of tickets?  The few times I've seen her, the audience has been relatively sparse.  I know her fans are *loud*, for sure!  :)  I sat next to one teenager who just screamed her head off every time she did a pirouette.  I'm not begrudging her a devoted fan base, it just galls me to see her given roles she can't technically do.  

 

Edited by lostatthemet

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23 minutes ago, abatt said:

Actually, I think SL is a ballet that sells very well regardless of who is cast.  They need Copeland to sell the  lesser titles, like Harlequinade and Jane Eyre.

Agreed, but I think she does still have an impact. At least in past years her SLs have been total sellouts often. SL sells well regardless but doesn’t always sell out. 

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Loved Loved Loved Tuesday night’s performance!  Simkin was so amazing that I could not contain myself.   Looking forward to his Ali again tonight and Saturday night, with Shevchenko and Shayer plus Bell’s debut as Lankendem. 

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Just now, ABT Fan said:

Oh no, oh no, oh no! Simkin has been replaced as Ali for the rest of his performances!

Noooooooooooo!

This is so disappointing. I was really looking forward to seeing him tonight, and now I'm seeing Ahn twice in the role. (Was already set to see him Saturday afternoon.)

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3 minutes ago, ABT Fan said:

Oh no, oh no, oh no! Simkin has been replaced as Ali for the rest of his performances! Whiteside and Ahn cover.

I was SO looking forward to seeing him Saturday night.

He must be injured?!

https://www.abt.org/performances/master-calendar/

OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Posted (edited)

Oh no.  So disappointed.  He always gives his audience everything he has in his arsenal, and he is one of the few bright lights at ABT among the male principal dancers.   Apart from potentially having to reassign his secondary role in Manon, what happens to his SL with Boylston.  The ONLY reason I was willing to make a return visit to Boylston's SL was to see Simkin.

 

By the way I agree with everyone above who said his Ali on Tuesday was magnificent.

Edited by abatt

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