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Fille at ABT

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Something simply must be said in tribute to this. Last Friday's premiere of ABT's new production of Fille Mal Gardee was a Triumph for this company. A beautiful production of a sublimely beautiful Ballet. If Ashton had never done anything but Fille in his entire career, he would have been entitled on it alone to a place in the first rank of Classical Choreographers.

Friday night was, by a country mile, the best I've ever seen Ethan Stiefel perform. The youth, buoyancy, the technical demands, even the lightness of the role suit him perfectly. His dancing was extremely clean and at the same time powerfully impressive.

I find I really don't want to say more about it. Sometimes you enjoy something so much that you don't want to describe it or diminish it, but instead to keep on savouring it and only to describe your reaction. That is almost as good two days later as it was Friday night.

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One of the many things I loved about the Fille on Friday was the audience reaction. I was sitting next to a well-dressed middle-aged woman, who, when the ballet started, kept saying "Oh, the chickens!, Oh, the rooster!" and got so excited when they came back. And during the second act, when Colas lifts Lise from the top of the door, and swings her gently to the music, she let out such a sigh of satisfaction. Many in the audience seemed new to the ballet, but there were enough old timers to give Alexander Grant a standing ovation when he took his curtain call. It was, as the reviews has said, a genuine company triumph, as was The Dream. The corps looked beautiful in both ballets (I understand Georgina Parkinson, who was in the original corps of Fille, worked with them) and the character roles were so understated but so clear.

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I saw the Saturday matinee of Fille and it seems it was every bit as wonderful as Friday night. I don't have a lot of time, so if I'm

going to post at all I'll keep it very brief. Reyes and Corolla were the principals, and they were just perfect (IMO anyway.) From the

beginning of the ballet they really seemed like they were in love.

Reyes is a wonderful dancer, and as the older ladies next to me kept saying she was "adorable" in the part. And I've never seen

Corolla better. The words Michael used to describe Stiefel's dancing of the part - "the youth, buoyancy, the technical demands, even the lightness of the role" all describe Corolla's

Colas too. Hernan Conejo's Alain showed that his acting is as strong as his dancing. I actually felt sorry for Alain at the end. As has already been said several times, this is a beautiful production

of a classic ballet. I hope ABT keeps dancing it for many years to come.

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I just came back from Gillian Murphy's Lise.

What she lacks in the arms, she makes up for with her feet.

The performance was a perfect tonic with all that's gone on in the world. A brought a guy friend with me who'd never been to a ballet before and was a bit sheepish about going, but at the end admitted that he felt like he fell in "young love" along with Lise and Colas.

I wonder why it took ABT so long to get this production in their rep, I hope it stays. And I hope more people show up, the orchestra was dotted with empty seats. But I got to sit next to Julie Kent and family!

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Hi, Lynette!

I knew it hadn't been performed often in England during the past few years, but I didn't realize Fille had been out of rep that long. And the performances we saw here last spring were rough in some characterizations (the Widow Simone, most notably) and fuzzy in some details. The ABT production actually looks rehearsed! Well-rehearsed.

Grant spoke at the DCA Conference about staging and coaching. As dancers often do, he said that any classically trained dancer could dance anything, there's no problem with other company's mastering Ashton's style. He talked about Alain being a child -- although he didn't say this, Alain has often been played (at least it was when I first saw the ballet in the late '70s and early '80s) as a simpleton, and it was often uncomfortable to watch. Especially when he was a middle-aged simpleton. But the ABT characterization is of a child.

Grant also said something very interesting to me about costuming. Alain's clothes in the first act are too small, as though he's outgrown them, and his wedding clothes in the last are too big, as though his thrifty father had bought him clothes he would grow into.

I hope the Royal performs more Ashton than its currently one a year ration, but I hope ABT, which has always had a wonderful nose for what's popular and successful, will get a few more. The Two Pigeons, say, or his Cinderella, to replace the one they've now got.

How popular "Fille" actually is here is complicated. There were empty seats on the Friday, opening performance too -- remembering that the Met is huge, this isn't unusual -- but the people who were there seemed to love it. Laughed heartily at all the right places, gave the dancers many curtain calls. I remember reading that this was the situation in the '60s as well. People who went loved it, many stayed away because, it was thought, of the title. Hurok wanted to change it to "The Farmer's Daughter" in America.

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I think if they'd call it "The Farmer's Daughter" you probably definitely wouldn't have half as many seats filled!

I think it's just such a great ballet, I was surprised at how "contemporary" it still feels. When Lise is pondering having three kids and (of course) become exasperated by them, everyone could relate. My male friend was glad that the guy wasn't "doing all the work" and just showing off the female.

I just think it's a great introduction to ballet type of piece. It's easy for people to follow along and you don't get lost amongst the phrasing. I'm going to try and go again this week.

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Yes, Glebb. That's in David Vaughan's biography of Ashton (and it was mentioned at the panel discussion of the ballet as well, at DCA). What I"m not clear about is who taught Karsavina -- any recent readers of "Theatre Street" know? I'd love to think that that little scene dates from 1788!

Calliope, I agree that today, "The Farmer's Daughter" wouldn't work -- and I think Hurok wanted it for cities and towns outside New York, too. Perhaps today it would have to be "How Lise Got Hers" or something like that :mad: In the '60s, the ballet became popular through word of mouth, so that may happen now, as well.

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In Ivor Guest's wonderful book on La Fille, he includes a contemporary description of Fanny Elssler's (I think of a performance in Russia) mime scene and it sounds exactly like the current one--imaging the wedding, the three children, etc. Fille was performed continuously in Russia, and I think I have read that Karsavina learned it as part of the tradition while young, so it could very well be from the mid-19th century, at least.

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For a magnificently inappropriate title, it's hard to top what ABT once called a previous incarnation of theirs: "Naughty Lisette," which brings to mind a ballet about a can-can girl who works over the customers in the back room....

The last time I saw Fille at the Met was the National Ballet of Canada's production (I just remember Bujones was Colas), when the lights went down after the overture for the second act, and never came back up -- there, or anyplace else in the city. Yep, 1977 was awhile ago, wasn't it? Then I went to Canada for the interesting experience of seeing Peter Schaufuss dance Colas one night and Alain the next.

There were no blackouts at last Saturday night's performance, which was just about perfect. The one positive thing I got out of that wretched Snow Maiden ABT did a few years ago was seeing how funny Ananiashvili could be, and that her killer sense of timing applies to more than just whipping off fouettes. Her technique was beyond flawless, and the purity of her attitude in that promenade in which she holds onto the ribbons held by the corps girls, well, it brought down the house. I'm surprised the Met is still standing, it was brought down so much that night. Acosta's dancing was spectacular. He really does have amazingly arched feet at the end of those long, long legs -- it's almost hypnotic watching him do beats, and he has the happy peasant farmer routine down perfectly. It was a delight to see how he acted with Ananiashvili.

I was really awe-struck by how beautifully Ananiashvili did the mime where she imagines being married and having those three kids; I swear, you could see every child and know exaclty how Lise was picturing them. Speaking of mime, anyone who's seen Guillaume Graffin's Gamache in ABT's Don Quixote knows he's a master character dancer, and a master of comic timing. I loved those qualities in his Widow Simone, but even more how he played her so you could actually see the pretty ingenue she must have been at eighteen (and is still, in her own mind). Graffin didn't just play Simone as a slapstick happless mother, but let us see just why this woman was able to land the richest farmer in the village twenty years ago, and also why said farmer is no longer among the living. Graffin's clog dance was a marvel of coquettry, and every stumble and mis-step was a masterpiece of timing. The scenes between Graffin and Ananiashvili were priceless.

The corps looked very good, and very well-rehearsed. I liked Carlos Lopez' Alain very much, but I wish he'd tone down the limp-wristed bit; it has different resonances today than forty years ago.

Tuesday night, Victor Barbee's Widow Simone was much coarser than Graffin's, and not as interesting, I thought. Xiomara Reyes was just so adorable I wanted to pinch her cheeks -- hard. (She did dance pretty well, though.) And Angel Corella was born to dance Colas. He does happy, sunny, carefree and brilliant better than any dancer I've seen, although anyone who's seen him dance an ever-smiling Lensky alongside an equally beaming Reyes's Olga in Onegin will understand why I found myself once again wishing for some insulin during their extremely perky love duets.

I hope this production stays in the ABT repertory for a good, long time. It's the first time in recent memory I've come away from an evening at ABT with nothing but happy enthusiasm for every aspect of the performance I've just seen.

Besides, next year I want to see Monique Meunier dance Lise alonside Marcelo Gomes' Colas.

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