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ABT 2019 Swan Lake


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After Christine Shevchenko's exceptional performances in Le Corsaire, I would not be surprised if her Swan Lake ends up being one of the major events of the season. To my eyes — and, I think, for many who wrote about her recent performances here — she had an even fuller command of the stage, an even more intense expressivity, and an even stronger command of technique than ever before. Although she appeared very thin (almost alarmingly so, especially in the Act I Corsaire costume), judging by her dancing, she is now in excellent shape.

All that said, I find it disappointing that she was given only one Odette/Odile this year. Looking at the calendar, it makes sense that Misty would have two; Isabella has typically only had one, which doesn't bother me; Hee always seems to get two, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but I've gotten used to it. I get the sense that Devon and (especially) Aran are currently much favored by ABT artistic leadership, so I suppose it was to be expected that they'd get two.

Anyway, I would not be surprised if Christine's performance ends up feeling like even more a special event, given that there will only be one.

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I never thought Shevchenko is alarmingly thin- she looks perfectly normal to me.

I've seen her SL debut last year and indeed it was the highlight of that week. If I were to see just one SL performance this season I would probably see hers. I'm seeing Shevchenko, Teauscher and Boylston(to see Simkin but I might switch this one depending on his injury status) this season. Hopefully Teauscher can bring it this time cus her performances in last two years have been disappointing in many ways.

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4 minutes ago, alexL said:

I never thought Shevchenko is alarmingly thin- she looks perfectly normal to me.

I've seen her SL debut last year and indeed it was the highlight of that week. If I were to see just one SL performance this season I would probably see hers. I'm seeing Shevchenko, Teauscher and Boylston(to see Simkin but I might switch this one depending on his injury status) this season. Hopefully Teauscher can bring it this time cus her performances in last two years have been disappointing in many ways.

I have the same three SL casts.  Based on their chemistry in R&J,  I think Bell is going to be a great Siegfried for Teuscher.

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1 hour ago, Leah said:

I just changed my ticket to see Shevchenko after her Corsaire. I had to downgrade my seating section because it was so well sold. 

I think no matter which cast you were changing it from, it may well prove to be an upgrade in the end!

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32 minutes ago, NinaFan said:

Based on their chemistry in R&J,  I think Bell is going to be a great Siegfried for Teuscher.

I am quite torn. I really want to see Bell's debut (I think he's going to be amazing) but last year Teuscher bored me to tears. It didn't help that she was paired with Stearns, but besides her non-existent character development and bland acting, I was shocked at how stiff she was so many of the iconic O/O poses were lost. I'm having a hard time convincing myself to cough up the money when I really, really don't want to see one of the leads. I may have to be satisfied with reading everyone's reviews afterwards.

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9 minutes ago, ABT Fan said:

I am quite torn. I really want to see Bell's debut (I think he's going to be amazing) but last year Teuscher bored me to tears. It didn't help that she was paired with Stearns, but besides her non-existent character development and bland acting, I was shocked at how stiff she was so many of the iconic O/O poses were lost. I'm having a hard time convincing myself to cough up the money when I really, really don't want to see one of the leads. I may have to be satisfied with reading everyone's reviews afterwards.

I've never been a particular fan of Jose Sebastian (though I don't have any particular aversion to him — he's just never really captured my interest and attention) but the prospect of two potentially strong debuts convinced me to finally get a ticket. I, too, felt this way about Devon's O/O two years ago.

For the first time in I don't know how many years (a lot), I'm seeing three, as Forster's Rothbart convinced me to check out Hee Seo's O/O again — despite the fact that Cory Stearns is unlikely to bring out her best (which hasn't been enough for me in the past).

Edited by nanushka
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14 hours ago, ABT Fan said:

I am quite torn. I really want to see Bell's debut (I think he's going to be amazing) but last year Teuscher bored me to tears. It didn't help that she was paired with Stearns, but besides her non-existent character development and bland acting,

As we all know, sometimes one dancer brings out the best in another.  IMO Bell brings out the best in Teuscher.   But that's my opinion of course.  

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1 hour ago, NinaFan said:

As we all know, sometimes one dancer brings out the best in another.  IMO Bell brings out the best in Teuscher.   But that's my opinion of course.  

Agreed. You might think Stearns would, but I guess the fact that they (Teuscher and Stearns) are both emotionally reserved dancers cancels out the fact that they are actually a couple.

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17 hours ago, ABT Fan said:

I I agree she [Shevchenko]  should have been given two, but the others are clearly more favored (esp Teuscher). ...

Indeed. Let's not forget that the three ballerinas scheduled to dance O/O at Wolf Trap-Wash, DC, are Seo, Copeland and Teuscher, in that order. Seo gets the all-important opening night reviews.

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1 hour ago, Roberta said:

Indeed. Let's not forget that the three ballerinas scheduled to dance O/O at Wolf Trap-Wash, DC, are Seo, Copeland and Teuscher, in that order. Seo gets the all-important opening night reviews.

I haven't see Seo's O/O in a long time (I believe not since that season when she filled in like crazy and ABT was dubbed "Seo Ballet Theatre" here on these forums). However, I've seen Teuscher's Swan Lake for the past two years at the Met, and while I'd say her debut was promising, there wasn't much development in the second year, and as has been noted, she wasn't able to pull off the iconic arabesques and her portrayal was overall a bit bland. I hope this year she may find more success with the role, but I have no interest in seeing her a third time. I think what Teuscher mostly has going for her is that she's a strong turner. 

I was often critical of Murphy's O/O for lacking lyricism and pathos, but she brings so much more to the role than Teuscher. I was hoping Teuscher could be an O/O in the mold of Murphy, but that hasn't been the case (yet).

I'm only seeing Shevchenko, and I can't wait! She's the most interesting Swan Queen to me now that Part has left the company. I'd also relish the opportunity to see a more well-rehearsed O/O from Lane. 

Edited by fondoffouettes
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2 hours ago, fondoffouettes said:

I'm only seeing Shevchenko, and I can't wait! She's the most interesting Swan Queen to me now that Part has left the company. I'd also relish the opportunity to see a more well-rehearsed O/O from Lane. 

Totally agree on both counts!  Shevchenko is by far the best O/O, and I would love to see Lane given another chance.  That being said, I am still seeing three SL's.

Edited by NinaFan
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Last night's Swan Lake opening was a real mixed bag.

Cory Stearns looked more emotionally engaged than in the past during Acts I-II. There were some smiles in Act I, before things turned introspective; his brief solo in front of the scene-change curtain in the interlude was ardent; and he seemed truly moved by his encounter with Odette. He was more of a blank in Act III, though — I don't think he does sexually charged passion as well as those other emotions. And it's really unfortunate that, in all these years, no one has gotten this guy into some better makeup. The top half of his face just reads as a blank from any significant distance. (I was somewhat further back in orchestra than usual tonight, so I particularly noticed this.) His eyes could really use some definition.

As usual, Cory's dancing was generally very good, though with some occasional minor slips — the sorts of things that would be easily forgiven or perhaps even go unnoticed with a dancer who's really going for broke, but with one who's all about refinement and control seem to have less of a place. He has such nice lines, though.

The PDT was Blaine Hoven, Catherine Hurlin (1st var.) and Katherine Williams (2nd var.). Blaine has been looking quite good this season — I didn't love his Lescaut as much as some here, but there was much to be admired in it. The same was true here. Hurlin and Williams were both quite good, with one particular standout moment being the former's manège near the start of the coda, which got big applause. You could see where she gets her nickname.

We had prime casting for the cygnettes, with Brandt, Trenary, Paris and Graniero. Graniero was the weakest link, looking particularly effortful in the series of pas de chats to stage right that so many ABT cygnette quartets seem to struggle with keeping in tempo. Otherwise, though, the number was fast and crisp.

Speaking of, David LaMarche conducted, and as I've often noticed his tempi were kind of all over the place, and often very fast. This can be nice, but only if there's a real attention to the dancers, and I really didn't get a sense he was giving that — the Black Swan PDD coda being a particular case in point.

Hee Seo had a very mixed night, with some of the best and some of the worst dancing I've seen from her. Her Act II was the former, overall. She was dramatically engaged, had lovely extensions, fluid port de bras, very nice speed, luxurious arabesques. Unfortunately her variation ended on a very slightly off note, as her finishing diagonal of turns was the weakest part of it. Then she waited a bit too long to come back onstage for her bow, and the applause wasn't perhaps as strong as expected, so there was that slightly awkward sense that the audience was responding to the dancer's call for applause rather than the dancer responding to the audience's call for a bow.

Roman Zhurbin as usual was the perfect lakeside Rothbart, though I unfortunately missed some of it, as I was seated too far to the right to see him hanging out by the ruined pillar.

April Giangeruso and Melanie Hamrick were, as often, the two big swans, and Hamrick was, as always, the stronger of the two.

I went last night for two main reasons: to check out Hee Seo's progress as O/O, which I hadn't seen her dance for awhile (as I've tended to avoid her in most things for a number of years now), and to see Forster's ballroom Rothbart. Forster had an off night, in terms of his dancing, but he was dramatically compelling in the role. From the very first snap of his head to gaze on his prey in the prologue, he invested every moment with force and meaning. There was more dramatic intelligence in that prologue than Cory showed all evening. The same was generally true in Act III, though his dancing was uncharacteristically less than fully impressive. Certainly it was among the stronger 50% of performances I've seen in the role, but it just felt like he wasn't hitting his full potential. His partnering of the princesses in the first half of the solo seemed a bit labored, both in his management of the stage space and in the lifts. Overall, he just seemed not as his best, with the arabesque balance as an example: in his preparation, he seemed ready to go, but then just before he lifted the leg one could see he lost his center, and by the time he regained it and was able to reach the pose there wasn't time for him to really hold it. Still, he continued to put in a strong dramatic performance for the rest of the act; shooing off the princesses before the PDD, for instance, his gesture was deliciously dismissive. (I got the impression from his curtain bow at the end of the performance that he may have been disappointed in himself, as he really didn't seem to fully take in the applause before rushing back off behind the curtain.)

The first three portions of the Black Swan PDD were decent, though not as strong as Act II. In the coda, though, things really went awry. As mentioned above, LaMarche took the fouetté bars very fast — to the point that Seo couldn't possibly have performed them in time to the music. She began them well, warming up from a few singles to at least one double; but then trouble struck. She hadn't been traveling much, but suddenly she went sharply toward downstage right, almost tipping over. She fell off pointe a few times, and then actually had to do one full rotation just hopping around on the ball of her foot; she did manage to get back on track by the end, I think, though I may have been covering my eyes at that point. The coda continued to speed on toward its conclusion, and in the final supported pirouette, Seo again very nearly tipped right over to the right.

The corps, by the way, looked quite good all through the night, and especially in Act II. I get the sense from social media posts that the company is in very good spirits this season; the programming (with substantial stylistic variety in the first half of the season and more of the old standbys held off until the second half) may have served them well.

I'm very excited for tonight's performance from Christine Shevchenko, and I'm also very curious to see how Hammoudi does. He's disappointed me often in the past, both in this role and others, but he gave such a strong performance in On the Dnieper that I wonder if he may be working harder and reaching his potential more now than in prior years.

Edited by nanushka
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32 minutes ago, nanushka said:

Last night's Swan Lake opening was a real mixed bag.

We had prime casting for the cygnettes, with Brandt, Trenary, Paris and Graniero. Graniero was the weakest link, looking particularly effortful in the series of pas de chats to stage right that so many ABT cygnette quartets seem to struggle with keeping in tempo. Otherwise, though, the number was fast and crisp.

I'm very excited for tonight's performance from Christine Shevchenko, and I'm also very curious to see how Hammoudi does. He's disappointed me often in the past, both in this role and others, but he gave such a strong performance in On the Dnieper that I wonder if he may be working harder and reaching his potential more now than in prior years.

Thanks for your thorough report, nanushka. 

I always look forward to seeing Graniero return to the Met from Washington every year, but I swear every time I see SL she's cast in the cygnettes, and every time she's the one who gets behind the music during the pas de chats. I wonder if she'll be cast again tonight. 

I'm also very much looking forward to seeing Shevchenko tonight. And, I'm curious to see if Whiteside has grown in this role since I last saw him in it several years ago with Part. He seems to be having a very good season, too. I'm less enthusiastic about seeing Hammoudi (I wish it were Forster), but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

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I have a single orchestra prime ticket for Swan Lake tonight (with Shevchenko) that I won’t be able to use. Does anyone want the ticket? TBC, am not selling the ticket, happy to give it to anyone who wants to see what promises to be an exciting performance! Any takers, message me directly please. I will update this post if/when the ticket is claimed. 

EDIT: TICKET HAS BEEN CLAIMED. 

Edited by MarzipanShepherdess
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1 hour ago, ABT Fan said:

I'm also very much looking forward to seeing Shevchenko tonight. And, I'm curious to see if Whiteside has grown in this role since I last saw him in it several years ago with Part. He seems to be having a very good season, too. I'm less enthusiastic about seeing Hammoudi (I wish it were Forster), but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

I saw Shevchenko/Whiteside's Swan Lake last year and Whiteside was wonderful, plus they have great chemistry.   Have fun tonight.  I can't wait!

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2 hours ago, nanushka said:

The first three portions of the Black Swan PDD were decent, though not as strong as Act II. In the coda, though, things really went awry. As mentioned above, LaMarche took the fouetté bars very fast — to the point that Seo couldn't possibly have performed them in time to the music. She began them well, warming up from a few singles to at least one double; but then trouble struck. She hadn't been traveling much, but suddenly she went sharply toward downstage right, almost tipping over. She fell off pointe a few times, and then actually had to do one full rotation just hopping around on the ball of her foot; she did manage to get back on track by the end, I think, though I may have been covering my eyes at that point. The coda continued to speed on toward its conclusion, and in the final supported pirouette, Seo again very nearly tipped right over to the right.

Yikes. That's a shame about the tempo. I feel like, in general, ABT conductors are very responsive to each ballerina's needs, particularly in Swan Lake, where tempi are often slowed down so they can luxuriate in some of the adagio passages. I would have assumed LaMarche and Seo would have worked out some sort of agreement about the tempo, especially if it's a passage that they know is not her strong suite. I can only recall her somewhat shaky fouettes from when she filled in mid-performance for Murphy; I recall her traveling a lot but since it was such a last-minute substitution, and she must have been exhausted from her own scheduled performances, I wasn't sure if it was indicative of her normal ability to execute fouettes. 

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26 minutes ago, fondoffouettes said:

Yikes. That's a shame about the tempo. I feel like, in general, ABT conductors are very responsive to each ballerina's needs, particularly in Swan Lake, where tempi are often slowed down so they can luxuriate in some of the adagio passages. I would have assumed LaMarche and Seo would have worked out some sort of agreement about the tempo, especially if it's a passage that they know is not her strong suite. I can only recall her somewhat shaky fouettes from when she filled in mid-performance for Murphy; I recall her traveling a lot but since it was such a last-minute substitution, and she must have been exhausted from her own scheduled performances, I wasn't sure if it was indicative of her normal ability to execute fouettes. 

Yes, I don’t totally blame Seo for the fouetté mess last night, as I wouldn’t be surprised if she got thrown off by the tempo. Certainly, a really technically solid dancer might well have powered through, but it seemed quite possible to me that what happened with the music was at least a factor. I actually felt rather angry on her behalf at the conductor then — his speeding up the music seemed so extremely insensitive. (That said, I suppose it’s possible he and Seo arranged it in advance for some reason but then things just went awry unrelatedly. But based on what I heard, that didn’t seem likely.)

I’m seeing three different conductors this week, according to the Met site, so I’m curious to compare more directly, though I’ve heard them all conduct the work before.

Now that I think of it, I actually remember something similar happening with Sarah Lane’s fouettés — a sense that the conductor’s fast tempo (though not as extreme) had in part thrown her off. I’ll have to dig up my program to see if DLaM was the culprit then too. If so, I’m surprised he hasn’t been corrected on it. I doubt conductors in ballet have the same degree of authority they often have, for instance, in opera.

Edited by nanushka
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59 minutes ago, nanushka said:

Now that I think of it, I actually remember something similar happening with Sarah Lane’s fouettés — a sense that the conductor’s fast tempo (though not as extreme) had in part thrown her off. I’ll have to dig up my program to see if DLaM was the culprit then too. If so, I’m surprised he hasn’t been corrected on it. I doubt conductors in ballet have the same degree of authority they often have, for instance, in opera.

I'll be very curious to learn who conducted the Lane Swan Lake. As much as it pains me to watch these two dancers who are no longer with the company, I went back to this video of Part and Gomes to see how quickly Part, who certainly wasn't a naturally strong turner, took the fouettes. The music still sounds brisk, but it's definitely not breakneck fast, and she's pretty much able to stay on the music. (I realize it's probably recorded music, but I imagine she would have elected a recording that worked for her.) It's hard for me to imagine a conductor wanting to express his artistic control in that particular part of the score, but who knows. God, Part is just gorgeous here... (sorry, couldn't help myself). I so miss seeing her do those arabesque hops. And she makes a strong case for doing solid singles if you aren't someone who can easily toss off multiple revolutions. 

 

Edited by fondoffouettes
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19 minutes ago, fondoffouettes said:

I'll be very curious to learn who conducted the Lane Swan Lake.

I just looked back at what I wrote here on BA at the time, and it turns out it was Barker, not LaMarche. These were my impressions then of how her fouettés went awry:

Quote

[Lane] started off with the single-single-double progression that many do, and then when she shifted to all singles at the halfway point I felt that Barker picked up the tempo — or at least didn't keep it slow enough at the pace she was going (which was indeed a bit slower that usual). It seemed she was straining to keep up and that threw her off. (That may be giving Sarah too much credit; it may have been not at all Barker's fault; but before she stopped I was really wishing he would slow down to match her.)

So if those impressions were correct, the situation was somewhat different, but still I felt there was a need for more sensitivity to the dancer's needs.

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4 hours ago, nanushka said:

Hee Seo had a very mixed night, with some of the best and some of the worst dancing I've seen from her. Her Act II was the former, overall. She was dramatically engaged, had lovely extensions, fluid port de bras, very nice speed, luxurious arabesques. Unfortunately her variation ended on a very slightly off note, as her finishing diagonal of turns was the weakest part of it. Then she waited a bit too long to come back onstage for her bow, and the applause wasn't perhaps as strong as expected, so there was that slightly awkward sense that the audience was responding to the dancer's call for applause rather than the dancer responding to the audience's call for a bow.

The first three portions of the Black Swan PDD were decent, though not as strong as Act II. In the coda, though, things really went awry. As mentioned above, LaMarche took the fouetté bars very fast — to the point that Seo couldn't possibly have performed them in time to the music. She began them well, warming up from a few singles to at least one double; but then trouble struck. She hadn't been traveling much, but suddenly she went sharply toward downstage right, almost tipping over. She fell off pointe a few times, and then actually had to do one full rotation just hopping around on the ball of her foot; she did manage to get back on track by the end, I think, though I may have been covering my eyes at that point. The coda continued to speed on toward its conclusion, and in the final supported pirouette, Seo again very nearly tipped right over to the right.

I would find it strange if the conductor did not work with Seo prior to her performance.  I've attended many rehearsals where the conductor works with the ballerina to get the timing just right.   Some want slower, some want faster....   I wasn't at her performance, but it sounds like  she had an off night, even with an awkwardly timed bow.  Is it possible that she planned to do the fouettes at a different speed, but wasn't able to manage them in performance? 

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7 minutes ago, NinaFan said:

I would find it strange if the conductor did not work with Seo prior to her performance.  I've attended many rehearsals where the conductor works with the ballerina to get the timing just right.   Some want slower, some want faster....   I wasn't at her performance, but it sounds like  she had an off night, even with an awkwardly timed bow.  Is it possible that she planned to do the fouettes at a different speed, but wasn't able to manage them in performance? 

It's definitely possible — and I too would be surprised if there'd been no coordination between LaMarche and Seo — but my impression was that the tempo was just too fast for even a really technically strong dancer to keep up, if she expected to do the fouettés on the beat (which I suppose isn't necessarily a given).

There could well have been multiple problems at play, including a somewhat off night on Seo's part and a tempo that wasn't quite what they'd planned on LaMarche's part.

Edited by nanushka
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With all the fouette problems in the company, you'd think these dancers would just stick to accomplishing clean, solid singles. Singles done well still look impressive and they are a lot easier than trying to throw in doubles and triples. At least, they were for me when I was dancing.

I suppose Misty will do her menage of pique turns again this year.

Edited by Fleurfairy
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4 minutes ago, nanushka said:

It's definitely possible — and I too would be surprised if there'd been no coordination between LaMarche and Seo — but my impression was that the tempo was just too fast for even a really technically strong dancer to keep up, if she expected to do the fouettés on the beat (which I suppose isn't necessarily a given).

There could well have been multiple problems at play, including a somewhat off night on Seo's part and a tempo that wasn't quite what they'd planned on LaMarche's part.

I imagine it's difficult when things go awry since it's all happening so quickly.   

Here's hoping Seo and LaMarche gets this resolved before her next performance.  By the way, thank you for your detailed review of last night.

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