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ABT Fall 2019 NY season

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I agree with many of the comments regarding Saturday evening's T&V. I was sitting very close and Lane seemed quite nervous and defeated throughout the performance. It was really sad to witness. Her technique is gorgeous and she is such a beautiful dancer, but T&V is such a difficult role for a ballerina and to pair her with a partner not up to the task is unforgivable. As others have noted, Gorak has beautiful lines and feet, but his partnering is so, so weak -- no wonder Lane seemed nervous -- who wouldn't be!? He barely got her on his shoulder at the end (she really wasn't all the way up) and then he was literally holding on for dear life as the curtain closed. 

I didn't mind the Tharp piece -- loved the music and Cornejo is always thrilling. I did not like the costumes at all. They look like something a high school dance troupe would pull together from old halloween costumes found in the back of their closets and the Goodwill. Just ugh.

I loved Seasons but felt it was too long. Hurlin's whirling-dervish entrance in the Winter section was a real crowd-pleaser. What a force of nature she is!  Zimmi Coker is a star in the making. I remember noticing her in the corps last year and was not surprised she had two featured roles last night. She has a beautiful, light, expansive quality and seemed very confident and entirely comfortable in everything she danced. She's definitely one to watch.

 

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Was Zimmi Coker the dancer with bright red hair and Catherine Hurlin the dancer with red hair but not so bright? I was sitting in the second ring and can't quite make out the faces unless I know the dancers really well.

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10 minutes ago, angelica said:

Was Zimmi Coker the dancer with bright red hair and Catherine Hurlin the dancer with red hair but not so bright? I was sitting in the second ring and can't quite make out the faces unless I know the dancers really well.

Yes, Zimmi has the bright red hair.

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1 hour ago, Sal said:

Yes, Zimmi has the bright red hair.

Thank you, Sal. I'm going twice more this week, so it will feel better for me because I like to know who is dancing what.

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Very disappointing to hear about Lane's T and V last night. Her weak spot is definitely her nerves and having unfortunate poor partnering probably had an effect. 

However, I am happy to report that this afternoon's Some Assembly Required with Stearns was delightful. I wouldn't put Lane and Stearns together but they really work wonderfully well as a partnership. Lane seemed to shine with spark, spunk and confidence. With so many intricate lifts, she could depend on solid partnering from Stearns. There was no evidence of nerves in this performance. As for Stearns,  I haven't really found him to emote much feeling in his dancing but he definitely brought something out with Lane today. This was certainly an exploration of the highs and lows of a relationship. I could see the playfulness, the frustration, the flirting, and more. They definitely fed off of each other, like two actors reacting together in a scene. Lane and Stearns are a very satisfying partnership. I hope to see them dance together more often. (I wasn't a big fan of Jane Eyre, but I'd run to see it with Lane and Stearns. Onegin as well.) 

Apollo was just okay. Ahn certainly has the makings of a principal dancer but, like Stearns, doesn't seem to emote much feeling. I could tell how hard he was working, focusing on the steps. He gave an okay performance. One issue I had was with the costumes of the muses. Much too short! Every time there was a lift, the skirt rode up, making it look like a shirt with tights. Even standing still, the edge of the skirt rested just above the bottom of the buttock. It was kind of distracting. Also, Stella got what looked like stage makeup on the back of her skirt. It was a rather large, light brown stain. With such short skirts, it was kind of noticeable. She did dance wonderfully though. 

Bell and Hurlin were thrilling in Let me sing forever more. So much joy, they were practically sparkling as bright as their costumes! This could have been longer, wish it was. I look forward to seeing them dance together again. 

Edited by Lena C.

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40 minutes ago, Lena C. said:

Very disappointing to hear about Lane's T and V last night. Her weak spot is definitely her nerves and having unfortunate poor partnering probably had an effect. 

There were plenty of problems with the performance, but I personally did not see Lane's nerves as being among them. She looked fine in that regard.

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3 minutes ago, nanushka said:

There were plenty of problems with the performance, but I personally did not see Lane's nerves as being among them. She looked fine in that regard.

Oh well that's good to hear. 

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3 hours ago, angelica said:

Was Zimmi Coker the dancer with bright red hair and Catherine Hurlin the dancer with red hair but not so bright?

I believe Coker is also significantly more petite than Hurlin. She has a rounder face, while Hurlin's is more oval.

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27 minutes ago, cobweb said:

I believe Coker is also significantly more petite than Hurlin. She has a rounder face, while Hurlin's is more oval.

Thanks, Cobweb. That will help a lot sitting in the second ring. I love to sit in Row A Orchestra, but the Koch prices are prohibitive. My sweet spot is Row A second ring.

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3 hours ago, nanushka said:

There were plenty of problems with the performance, but I personally did not see Lane's nerves as being among them. She looked fine in that regard.

I agree with this. And if she had a better partner, I think her overall performance would have been better (though I think she did really well anyway).

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I made a quick trip to NYC and was able to see three weekend performances (Sat and Sun). I'm not disappointed that I am not able to see more. I don't disagree with observations others have made about ballets and performances. Just a few quick thoughts:

  • Theme and Variations (Sat eve): I would add "sad" to the descriptions. I am just astonished that they gave Gorak that role. A few years ago when I was finally able to see the Ratmansky Nutcracker at Segerstrom, he bailed from the Friends dress rehearsal opening day, where he was cast as the cavalier. No explanation, but he did several other roles that week. Wouldn't he have figured out by now that if he aspires to principal roles he needs a program of serious weight-training, something so he is able to manage those lifts and the other partnering? Everything about his performance in T&V was weak -- slow, unextended, unimpressive. Let somebody else give it a try - couldn't be any worse!
  • A Gathering of Ghosts: What a waste of talent and money! Cornejo was at least given some astonishing variations and technical displays, but that was the only worthwhile thing about it. In the promo film they show in the lobby (and on-line), Cornejo and several others are wearing cream blouson tops and colorful tights. I wonder what this ballet would look like in those, instead of the Elvis outfit and the Consorts dresses that looked like they were rejects from a Justin Peck ballet. But I guess you'd have to also get rid of the bizarre cast of historic characters. Proust? Marie Antoinette? really?
  • Apollo: I thought both Calvin Royal (Sat) and Joo Won Ahn (Sun) were excellent. Royal's feet seem a little sloppy at times, but that was the only (small) problem for me. I could do without the birthing scene, but I love those stairs at the end and am sorry NYCB abandoned them. I'm always curious, though: this is his oldest surviving ballet (1928), but I gather there is historical evidence that he made "dozens" of dances before then, with no evidence left of what they looked like. Isn't there anything out there in diaries, etc. to give us a glimpse of what his work was before this and how he evolved into this true masterpiece? Did Danilova ever talk about the pre-1928 work? 
  • Some Assembly Required: A reminder of what a terrible loss Clark Tippett's early death was for the ballet world. He was a genius in imaginative ideas for moving people around, whether in a PdD, as here, or for a large ensemble in his Bruch Violin Concerto (which I get to see at Colorado Ballet, and love). Skylar Brandt and Roman Zhurbin on Saturday and Sarah Lane and Cory Stearns on Sunday were all very impressive in this often high-risk partnering, with a staggering range of interactions and emotions. I kept thinking: no way could Gorak ever do this one! And no ballerina should ever trust him to partner her either. Very glad they revived it.
  • Let Me Sing Forevermore: A very nice interlude for Isabella Boylston and James Whitewide (Saturday) and Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell (Sunday). Playful, fun, with some risky and interesting partnering. 
  • The Seasons: I missed this at the Met last spring and am glad I finally got to see it. So many movement ideas packed into this, it was hard to know where to focus. I assume it will be back next spring. Very much in Ratmansky's "style" of taking the classical vocabulary and making it faster, more complicated, more difficult. I noticed several elements that seemed drawn from the classical rep and wonder how many more I missed. E.g., the table top lifts in Giselle Act II appeared near the end, with Boylston and Whiteside -- but he carried her across the full length of the stage on the diagonal! They only did it once and I wonder if other casts can pull that off. Wow!  For the final tableau, Whiteside popped her up into a one-armed torch lift -- the treacherous move so many have bungled in Ratmansky's Nutcracker. A series of double tours/pirouettes looked lifted from T&V. Are there more? We should be grateful he didn't try to reconstruct Petipa's version and instead make his own choreography. (I assume there's a reason this Petipa ballet never was handed down to us!)
  • James Whiteside: I have a new-found appreciation for him in the past year. His partnering is so strong (see above!) and his personality so perfect for things like Deuce Coupe (where he repeated his super-fast variation with a little Floss thrown in), he has found his voice. 
  • Aran Bell: So nice to see him given so many roles where he can develop. As Winter in The Seasons and in Let Me Sing Forevermore, he shows the carriage, technique, and presence that portends great things. 

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10 minutes ago, California said:
  • The Seasons: ...I noticed several elements that seemed drawn from the classical rep and wonder how many more I missed. E.g., the table top lifts in Giselle Act II appeared near the end, with Boylston and Whiteside -- but he carried her across the full length of the stage on the diagonal! They only did it once and I wonder if other casts can pull that off. Wow!  For the final tableau, Whiteside popped her up into a one-armed torch lift -- the treacherous move so many have bungled in Ratmansky's Nutcracker. A series of double tours/pirouettes looked lifted from T&V. Are there more?

My favorite example of this comes in the PDD: at the moment when Balanchine would definitely have choreographed a développé à la seconde (there's a certain point in almost every adagio where he puts one, and you can always hear it in the music), Ratmansky seems about to do that, but then the développé turns into a promenade in passé (maybe in demi-plié?), so you think, "Oh, he tricked us" — but then it turns back into a completed développé, and to top it off he has the man do one as well, standing behind the ballerina! So brilliant. I think sometimes that what Balanchine was to Petipa, Ratmansky is to Balanchine. (Sometimes.)

10 minutes ago, California said:
  • James Whiteside: I have a new-found appreciation for him in the past year. His partnering is so strong (see above!) and his personality so perfect for things like Deuce Coupe (where he repeated his super-fast variation with a little Floss thrown in), he has found his voice. 
  • Aran Bell: So nice to see him given so many roles where he can develop. As Winter in The Seasons and in Let Me Sing Forevermore, he shows the carriage, technique, and presence that portends great things. 

I completely agree on Whiteside — he looked fantastic Saturday night. As for Bell, I've warmed to him, but I still don't find his physique particularly appealing; he's so broad-shouldered, and he seems to carry himself in a way that somewhat exaggerates it. (Maybe a bit too slouched? not sure that makes sense, though...)

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He has such a boyish face too, which adds to the effect.

Ah well, an excellent dancer nonetheless! Especially for his age.

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When preparing to watch Theme and Variations with ABT, I hardly expected the company to equal let alone surpass the magnificence of NYCB's performance with Tiler Peck and Joaquín De Luz last fall. Although no match for NYCB's production, ABT's possesses its own loveliness, and is worth seeing. Moreover, even slower speeds adopted by ABT cannot deprive this ballet of all its beauty. Certainly Sarah Lane's performance would have been more effective with stronger partnering; however, I enjoyed it nonetheless. Far from being reluctant to see Theme and Variations with ABT again, I await with eagerness Devon Teuscher's second performance tonight.  

On the other hand, what an unquestionable boon to be able to view ABT's excellent production of Apollo—with the prologue and apotheosis—also! In either version, Apollo is a stunning success for Balanchine and Stravinsky, and a defining work of the art form. Two or three casting choices for the Muses caused a little uneasiness beforehand; nevertheless, the dancers in both casts—Joo Won Ahn, Stella Abrera, Katherine Williams, Melanie Hamrick; Calvin Royal III, Hee Seo, Christine Shevchenko, Zhong-Jing Fang—proved well-matched. (There was nothing wrong with the pleated tunics of the Muses either.)

Of the other five ballets included in ABT's first two programs this season, a couple are premieres, one premiered last spring, and a pair are older works unfamiliar to me.

From way up, the luminous flooring of the stage effectively becomes the background for the dancing, and makes all the proceedings in A Gathering of Ghosts appear more tedious. A seat in the orchestra is preferable in order to at least observe the shapes made by the "Ghosts" against the black backdrop. Still, a puzzling new ballet by Twyla Tharp, whose best moments are in the second movement with the four consorts and Cornejo.

During my first viewing last Thursday—from the orchestra—Ratmansky's The Seasons was spellbinding throughout, and elicited wonder at the choreographer's seemingly inexhaustible capacity to create material of such beauty and originality as to make a variety of dancers truly shine. A second viewing from the fourth ring caused a more muted reaction, partly attributable to the unfolding ballet's deteriorating color palette. There is little doubt, however, about the exquisiteness of the Winter section, which drew memorable performances from Aran Bell (Winter), Katherine Williams (Frost), Devon Teuscher (Ice), Catherine Hurlin (Hail) and Luciana Paris (Snow).

Of the two pas de deux, I preferred the one from the late 1980s. Even though the songs by Tony Bennett are evocative and lovely, Let Me Sing Forevermore unavoidably comes across as being part of a dance competition. The music by William Bolcom and greater sense of intimacy in Some Assembly Required (1989) are more appealing for a ballet. Some of Clark Tippet's choreography in fact feels artificial and overdone, yet the piece also contains moments of great depth of feeling. Fine dancing from the two casts of both works!

What a remarkable achievement and a welcome addition to ABT's repertoire is Twyla Tharp's Deuce Coupe, a ballet created in 1973 to songs by The Beach Boys. Music, costumes, scenery, lighting and choreography blend beautifully and consistently throughout, reaching a thrilling apogee with "'Cuddle Up’ — The Pas" as the cast (the women in lovely orange dresses) dances against a new-sprung blue backdrop. Yet the haunting aspect of this work is the presence of the woman in white—its sole ballerina! The juxtaposition of her movements—combining effectively with the rock music to a surprising extent—with the popular dancing by her counterparts is striking and affecting. Certainly there was outstanding work by many dancers in both casts of Deuce Coupe I saw. My gaze Saturday afternoon, however, riveted on a radiant Katherine Williams as the ballerina. And on Sunday afternoon, it fastened on Christine Shevchenko, who offered such a breathtaking display of beauty, skill, precision and control as to appear dancing the part surrounded by a halo. 

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With respect to the comparison of ABT and NYCB in T&V, NYCB has been casting soubrette types in the lead role for a very long time - Megan Fairchild, Tiler Peck, Bouder.  For me, it is always interesting to see a regal type of ballerina take on the role, such as Devon Teuscher.

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The NYTimes has just posted an announcement that Melanie Hamrick is retiring  at the end of the fall season. Nice interview too. Sorry I don’t know how to link it here. 

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45 minutes ago, abatt said:

With respect to the comparison of ABT and NYCB in T&V, NYCB has been casting soubrette types in the lead role for a very long time - Megan Fairchild, Tiler Peck, Bouder.  For me, it is always interesting to see a regal type of ballerina take on the role, such as Devon Teuscher.

Shorter ballerinas, of course, can appear regal and/or take on serious roles. Up until this ABT run, I had only seen Theme and Variations with the three NYCB women mentioned. It is undoubtedly exciting to watch a tall ballerina like Devon Teuscher perform the part.

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So did everyone catch Melanie's observation that promotions at ABT are "political".

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12 minutes ago, abatt said:

So did everyone catch Melanie's observation that promotions at ABT are "political".

Not sure which promotions she is referring to and how far back she is citing. We can only speculate. Many on this board, however, have in the last 4 years or so wondered in these posts whether one ballerina’s promotion to principal was based more on her ability to bring in revenue by filling the theater than by her ability to execute the difficult, classic prima ballerina roles.  As to other promotions, whether to principal or soloist, or lack of promotion of artists many ballet aficionados feel are deserving, I have no idea. If Melanie does not want to identify instances in which politics played a role in promotions, perhaps she shouldn’t have opened this can of worms. 

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12 minutes ago, CTballetfan said:

If Melanie does not want to identify instances in which politics played a role in promotions, perhaps she shouldn’t have opened this can of worms. 

I think the context matters — she was basically asked why she never got promoted, and she cited multiple possible reasons (including her own flaws): "So I feel it’s all of those combinations."

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23 minutes ago, CTballetfan said:

Many on this board, however, have in the last 4 years or so wondered in these posts whether one ballerina’s promotion to principal was based more on her ability to bring in revenue by filling the theater than by her ability to execute the difficult, classic prima ballerina roles. 

I don't disagree with this thought. But if influence and press brings in revenue, it'd make much more sense coming from someone else. Hamrick gets a lot of press for her personal life and additional gigs in comparison to many of her colleagues. 

Edited by Syzygy
grammar

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2 hours ago, abatt said:

With respect to the comparison of ABT and NYCB in T&V, NYCB has been casting soubrette types in the lead role for a very long time - Megan Fairchild, Tiler Peck, Bouder.  For me, it is always interesting to see a regal type of ballerina take on the role, such as Devon Teuscher.

During the first decade or so of my NYCB-watching career, I only saw taller dancers like Merrill Ashley, Kyra Nichols, and Darci Kistler perform T&V's ballerina role. Nothing against Fairchild, Bouder, and Peck, but I wouldn't mind seeing some of the company's taller women get a shot at it—and would very much have like to have seen Teuscher dance it. 

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