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Abt 6/24 - Jaffe Retirement

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I couldn't write about last night, it was far too emotional.

In all my years I've never seen a send off as loving as this one.

First, the performance.

With a cast of who's who in the company, it was a grand occassion.

Julio Bocca was Hilarion

Kathleen Moore came back to play Giselle's mother

Angel Corella walked around as Wilfred

and for the revelation of the night was the peasant pas de deux with Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo. I have never seen a man jump like he does. I'd seen him before but he was on helium or something last night!

Carreno was Albrecht to Jaffe's somewhat subdued, mad Giselle.

Jaffe's demeanor worked better for her in the second act.

Gillian Murphy was Myrta in the second act. Technically amazing, the face and the arms though- oy vey.

Michele Wiles and Stella Abrera had the thankless roles of Moyna and Zulma. The Wilis in general were the best I've seen in years. and at the end of the performance, while Jaffe took her 20 minute curtain call, one by one they each dropped a white flower in front of her. Followed by what seemed to be an entire florist's store. All of her partners, Hill, Stiefel, Graffin, and even Robert LaFosse brought her out a bouquet. It was just stunning, a standing ovation from the orchestra section. She was clearly overwhelmed and mouthed to the audience "I love you" followed 15 minutes later by "I'll miss all of you"

It was very endearing. I cried like a baby.

And despite my lack of a review, she danced like she could have kept on going for another 5 years.

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I consider myself lucky to have been there, too. I thought Jaffe's subdued Giselle made her performance all the more believable. It ain't easy to lose your mind and die of a broken heart, all within a matter of minutes, and she pulled it off. Carreno was superb, and it added to the gala nature of the evening to have the likes of Angel Corella in a minor role. I don't have much to add to Calliope's excellent description of the barrage of flowers and parade of former partners, some standing, others on bended knee. It was an emotional occasion for sure, but I have a few years on Calliope, and for me it didn't approach November 26, 1989. (Sorry, I feel I have to live up to my name every once in a while.)

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Susan Jaffe's retirement performance as Giselle was one of the most special evenings I have ever spent at the ballet. The audience was as wonderful as the dancers onstage, making it a rare event. I'll skip the details since Anna Kisselgoff can sum it up much better than I. See her review in the New York Times:

A Night of Purity and Grace to Cap a Career

June 26, 2002


It was anything but business as usual when American Ballet

Theater presented its first "Giselle" of the season on

Monday night at the Metropolitan Opera House. A packed

theater roared its greeting as Susan Jaffe entered in Act I

for what was billed as her final performance with the

company. As farewell rituals go, this evening was drenched

in exceptional warmth and special detail.

The 25-minute ovation at the end left Ms. Jaffe, a heap of

flowers at her feet, mouthing "I love you" to the audience.

There was also a parade of past and present company members

at the curtain calls and even some surprises in the


Complete review at:



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I, too, was at the Jaffe farewell. It was one of the most moving nights at the ballet I have ever witnessed. Clearly, Jaffe was loved by her co-artists and respected both as a dancer and as a person. The curtain calls lasted nearly 1 hour - not a half-hour as someone previously stated - including all the times Jaffe came out in front of the curtain. (Once, she brought out Irina Kolpakova with her.) By the way, the ABT program covers always change with each month. June's cover featured Jaffe in Giselle. At the top of the program page inside was the following message: "The dancers and the staff of American Ballet Theater pay tribute this evening to Susan Jaffe for 22 illustrious years with the Company. We honor her lovingly."

By the way, ABT also provided many of the flowers that were thrown from the audience as well as a shower of rose petals from the flies. I lost count of the number of bouquets that were presented - first by the usual tuxedoed backstage personnel and then by Jaffe's ex-partners, current company members, and, of course, by Kevin McKenzie. And then the Wilis each presented her with a single flower - and she said "thank you" to each. When Carreno presented his he did a double tour and landed lying on the floor at her feet! A dramatic and touching moment.

I just re-read the Kisselgoff piece: I KNOW she was there 'till the end, because I saw her come out. Why she had the idea that the curtain calls only lasted a half-hour I don't know. I often wonder if I have been at the same performance as she (when I know full well I have) because we seem to see things in a radically different way.

As for the performance itself - it was almost besides the point. Jaffe danced carefully and acted beautifully. Carreno was a passionate lover. Boca gave the best-danced and one of the best acted performances of Hilarion I have ever seen - he made it clear that Hilarion really did love Giselle and thought he was acting in her best interests by exposing Albrecht for what he was. Corella made as much out of poor Wilfred as possible (he had wanted to do the peasant pdd, but this went to Herman Cornejo - who danced brilliantly. Wow! is all I can say about his performance. I was less thrilled by Xiomara Reyes as his partner. She has some mannerisms I find annoying. In the second act, I was disappointed by Gillian Murphy's Myrtha. I found her very stiff. Her bourees COULD have been "tighter" as Kisselgoff suggests, but they were very smooth. The rest of the performance was not what I would have expected from her. Michelle Wiles and Stella Abrera (a fabuous Myrtha) were the thankless Moyna and Zulma - and did well. I thought the conductor was awful - the tempi were very, very slow throughout. In one of the lifts in Act II - soon after Albrecht first encounters Giselle, Jaffe had to put her hand down too soon because the music was SO slow they couldn't really sustain it.

Jaffe is a dancer who will be very much missed by ABT in more ways than one.

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