What a fabulous Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema transmission on Sunday – and impressively attended! The Bolshoi dancers did fairly well with their two company premieres, Robbins' The Cage and Lander's Etudes, and showed that they are as fluent in Ratmansky's lexicon as any other company with their extraordinary performance of his Russian Seasons.
If the lady insects in The Cage weren't as bitingly aggressive as what we enjoy seeing at NYCB, just give them a little time. They'll come around. Let's hope they don't invite trouble by using theatrical makeup to make either of the intruders look like a less-than-beloved local politician. Uh-oh, we probably shouldn't have said that, but it's too late now... Perhaps our own home company could do something similar, especially if the NEA gets slashed and dismantled. The audience and the dancers would derive much more satisfaction from that than a simple burning in effigy.
Olga Smirnova acquitted herself well in Etudes. Bolshoi Superwoman spokesperson Katerina Novikova explained beforehand that we would be seeing the "1952 version" but didn't explain what that meant. We figured it out though, oh yes, we did. It was the pre-Toni Lander version of Etudes, you know, the one without the bells and whistles. But honestly, Olga was a pleasure to watch in what she did. In this ballet, her extensions a la second were a lot more turned-out and properly placed than what we saw during her unfortunate visit to ABT some years back. She also had those ribs under control.
Johnny Eliasen staged Etudes on the Bolshoi at Lise Lander's request. (She was the 3rd Mrs. Lander immediately after Toni Lander. Without question, Toni is the ballerina most identified with this classic, but Lise didn't mention her during the intermission interview with Novikova.) Eliasen still has some clean-up to do with the ladies in the early tendus section.
The men, Semyon Chudin and Artem Ovcharenko, had mostly successes with their variations but were not especially brilliant. Poor Semyon – the tempo of his first grueling variation was at a pace slower than a Pestov men's class. After that test, though, he was fine. Ovcharenko muffed his series of double tours, but impressively saved them.
All during Etudes, Haglund thought about Devon Teuscher, Christine Schevchenko, and Gillian Murphy. Since ABT now has enough ballerinas who can dance this spectacular piece, why aren't we seeing it? At yesterday's Bolshoi screening, some people were standing up at attention in the aisles to watch the last half of it. We need to see this ballet again in New York, and ABT needs to dance it in order to toughen up and clean up the ranks. These days every dancer there seems to have his or her own version of tendu and personal placement of legs a la seconde. The reality is that a la seconde is a la seconde. Side is side. If the dancer can't get the leg there, he/she shouldn't be in the ballet. At the screening yesterday, those dancers were so perfectly placed to the side that their legs looked like they were plotted on graph paper.
Speaking of lapses of discipline in today's ballet dancers, Diana Vishneva has now followed Paloma Herrera in publicly criticizing the current generation's distractions with the internet and over-focus on its own happiness rather than classical ballet. She also inferred that the students and young dancers are being coddled.
Most importantly, Diana ripped Nikolay Tsiskaridze and Makhar Vaziev for claiming that the Bolshoi and Mariinsky styles are "the same." In recent years, we've seemingly lost a lot of the cherished Vaganova style and perfume in the Mariinsky. That's lost art. To hear that Tsiskaridze and Vaziev claim that the styles are the same is like hearing someone claim that churches, mosques, synagogues, and all houses of worship are the same. Hopefully, when Diana finishes her flirtation with contemporary dance, she'll settle down and help restore Vaganova at the Mariinsky and wherever else in the world they value it – before it's too late.
After the Bolshoi in Cinema screening yesterday, Haglund ran up to Lincoln Center to catch the evening performance of Paul Taylor Dance Company with guest company Lyon Opera Ballet performing Merce Cunningham's Summerspace. Also on tap was Martha Graham's Diversion of Angels. Both were danced in the spirits of their creators and revealed the distinct paths that led to Taylor's own brilliant, very American choreography. Our greatest joy of the evening, however, was in seeing the season's single performance of Taylor's Promethean Fire to music by Bach. Created in the months following 9/11, this dance still packs an emotional punch after 15 years. As the dancers swirled in darkness, piled atop one another, rose from their human rubble, and lifted their arms, the most haunting images of the past still came to mind.
Haglund was unable to get to the Ashley Bouder Project over the weekend but he spoke with people who saw it and who were quite impressed with both Bouder's own choreography and Liz Gerring's. The NYT review of it, however, raises certain serious questions:
Why does Alastair Irrelevant plop down in his theater chair and proceed to watch every ballet on stage through his penis instead of his eyes? He spends an inordinate amount of time focusing on where his big boy might fit in the action on stage. Most every review these days obsesses over whether or not there is same-sex partnering in the choreography. When there is same-sex partnering in the dance, he now questions whether it's sincere or simply gratuitous. He needs to open his eyes when watching ballet and leave his zipper closed. And that's the straight up truth.
My goodness, we've covered a lot of territory on the blog today.
If Orange County didn’t already have enough reasons to adore Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream at the premiere on Wednesday, they got another one Thursday night when Herman Cornejo as The Boy arrived on stage with Gustavo Dudamel hair curls hanging in his face. In the same role the night before, Daniil Simkin was able to capitalize on every aspect of his eternally too-youthful appearance that has been an obstacle for him in most principal casting. Cornejo, on the other hand, while lacking height, has never had a problem being perceived as an adult on stage. Thursday night he had to find his inner 7-year-old and convince the audience of the authenticity of his character without appearing to be an obnoxious adult acting childish. We’ll dispense with details and just say that Cornejo was straight out of Art Linkletter’s Playroom. Sure, it was all choreographed; but when he stood still on center stage in his white Confirmation shorts while intensely focused on what was before him and then casually lifted up a foot to scratch the back of the other leg, his kid’s character was cemented.
At the beginning of Act II when The Boy awoke and realized that he was in the hospital and being watched by a twitching eye suspended from above, he reacted quite precisely like ABT's Juliets who upon awaking in the crypt, then turn on their knees to face the back of the stage to look upward while expressing horror at the winged sculptures above. The copying of this moment in MacMillan's staging was obvious the first night as well and came off as Ratmansky trying to make a joke of another choreographer’s superior work. (Thumbs down on this and on any and all quotations, borrowings, and references to other choreographer's creations.)
Over the years we have seen Cornejo dance many brilliant variations in every type of costume. But blistering allegro is not exactly what tends to explode out from under a hospital gown, if you get our drift, the way it erupted from under Cornejo's in his dazzling solo. Many thanks to whoever came up with the idea of actually showing us that the bed pan next to The Boy’s hospital bed was in need of emptying.
Yes, Cornejo was brilliant, and Cassandra Trenary as Princess Praline matched him step for step. In the premiere performance, Sarah Lane’s Princess Praline was sweet and nutty; Thursday night Cassandra’s character was a little more saucy and knowing. Her dancing was stunning in its clarity and force, if perhaps less nuanced than Sarah’s. Every arabesque made a strong statement. Every position was crystalline. All in all, she gave an exceptional performance and was a very good match-up with Cornejo. Sure, there were a couple of PdD elements that could have been more smoothly coordinated between the two, but their chemistry was vibrant. Cassandra has one of the bolder stage personalities that Cornejo has danced with, and it brought a little extra out of him.
Hee Seo and Cory Stearns as Princess Tea Flower and Prince Coffee made less of an impression than Abrera and Hallberg the night before. There was prettiness in Hee's dancing and a coyness in her expression, but not much else. Her dancing didn’t have the crispness and definition that Abrera’s had. Cory’s Prince Coffee came out strong and steamy but soon after seemed decaffeinated. His actual dancing was very good — no complaints whatsoever – but the development of character dissipated early on.
Calvin Royal III’s Prince Cocoa was terrific. He had good control of those incredibly long limbs and had a deep stage presence. Perhaps he wasn’t the whiz that Joe Gorak was the night before, but who is? Arron Scott as Don Zucchero also danced well, but like last night, we found ourselves wanting to turn our eyes away from that unfortunate costume.
Christine Shevchenko, Alexander Hammoudi, and Thomas Forster were magnificent as the three liquors. Mature artistry, fabulous chemistry, knife sharp dancing technique among the three made this much more than a PdT of bufoonishness.
Once again, the stars of this production were the designs by Mark Ryden. If Whipped Cream were on Broadway, Ryden would win a Tony Award which he would then share with Camellia Koo and Holly Hynes who managed the processes that brought his imagination to life.
This ballet is a marketeer’s dream; it is hard to imagine a ballet being easier to sell. It's possible to think of hundreds of ways to whip up enthusiasm, if not hysteria, about it. But ABT, always in a “let it sell itself mode” is not likely to engage in any aggressive or creative marketing. We just have to pray that we don’t see a revised version of that 20-year-old TV spot with the same droning announcer’s voice hawking the season like a public service announcement encouraging everyone to get flu shots.
The H.H. Pump Bump Award, a delight that comes in either vanilla or chocolate (recipe on cakecentral.com), is bestowed upon Herman Cornejo for his detailed, brilliantly danced creation of The Boy.
Last night at the Segerstrom Center in Orange County, ABT served up sweet after sweet in its world premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Whipped Cream - a full length ballet to Richard Strauss’s music and libretto entitled Schlagobers (1924), which is the German equivalent of whipped cream. The ballet's main character, a young boy celebrating his Confirmation, over-indulges at a sweet shop, gets sick, goes to a hospital, and has one crazy nightmare. Strauss’s creation did not initially receive much respect from critics who complained that the composer had demonstrated a “dreadful tendency toward triviality and kitsch.” His retort was reportedly, "I cannot bear the tragedy of the present time. I want to create joy. I need it.” Oh, my. How much times have not changed.
Whoever said that ballet doesn’t always have to be "a big, pink, puffy, glittery nightmare" forgot to mention just how much fun it is when ballet is exactly that. (Christopher Wheeldon has since eaten his words and has gone on to create some pretty big and impressive puffy stuff himself.) This Whipped Cream, swirled throughout Mark Ryden's brilliant surrealistic designs of pink, pink, and more pink, earns two Michelin stars, i.e., Exceptional cuisine, worth a detour – if your aim is to find a good dessert. If you’re looking for hanger steak and veggies, this may not be the plate for you.
Upon walking through the doors of the Segerstrom Center, Haglund spied The Candy Table. Six dollars got you all the skittles, gummies, and you-never-know-what-you’re-really-eating sugary things that you could pack into a Chinese food carton. “Fill it up. You don’t have to be able to close the lid either,” said the candy-pusher who was also tending bar. “Sure, you can take it into the ballet. Hey, you can get a lot more candy into that carton.” All of a sudden the skittles and gummies were bouncing all over the table and onto the floor as Haglund tried to pack down the contents of his carton.
Up one flight to the Orchestra level lobby and there was another Candy Table and more! A pink Mark Ryden designed tee-shirt?! Gimme gimme. Who could resist the same design in black? Not Haglund. He was now out $66 in souvenirs and candy and hadn’t yet made it to the bar for a drink. The 5-minute bell rang not a second too soon.
Act I opened on a scene so magical that Haglund’s eyes started to mist up. First candy, now a pony! Not a real pony – better than a real pony! Ryden’s imagination was brought to life – larger than life – with enormous character heads spectacularly detailed with curling eyelashes, wrinkly skin, and expressive features. The huge size of the character heads worn by all the adult figures and animals overwhelmed the size of the dancers portraying children and helped to convince us of their youth.
The door of the chapel opened and out scampered children dressed in white confirmation clothes who climbed in the cart behind the pony and ventured off to the pastry shop. Among the children was Daniil Simkin as The Boy whose appetite for sweets got the best of him. Pettifores of petit allegro ensued until The Boy pinked-out with a stomach ache and was carried off to the hospital with his friends following, not to be seen again until Act II.
Now we were in the pastry shop by ourselves (Who hasn't had that dream?) but not really alone. The cakes, candies, and all the goodies suddenly sprang to life. From within the shelves loaded with delights appeared Princess Tea Flower, Stella Abrera, accompanied by her tea leaf attendants April Giangeruso, Catherine Hurlin, Paulina Waski, and Katherine Williams. For those unfamiliar, flowering teas are handcrafted into rosette bundles by tying tea leaves around a flower. The rosette is then placed in a clear glass tea pot or tea cup. As hot water is poured over the bundle, the flower magically begins to bloom as the tea steeps. It’s tea theater, or to some, tea thea-tre.
Princess Tea Flower is a step-intensive petit allegro role of the type that we have come to know in Ratmansky’s ballets. In fact, most all of the dancing in Whipped Cream is in a similar vein. Stella is exceptionally adept at producing the quick, off-centered changes of direction and the unexpected darting quality that the choreographer favors. More than most, she can execute it all while maintaining an airy lightness in the quality of movement thanks to her soft, quiet feet. This she did last night to spectacular effect. In her tutu of green tea leaves with narrow pink bodice, Stella was the jasmine tea flower in full bubbly bloom.
Enter Prince Coffee, David Hallberg, in percolating pursuit of Princess Tea Flower. Their PdD, a light roast with overly complex herbal essences, was always interesting to watch but it was so packed with choreographic minutia that there was very little room for the dancers to contribute their own artistry. In fact, a sense of hyperactivity pervaded most of the dancing throughout the ballet. David’s own solo wasn’t of the type that allowed us to admire his lines and general elegant style, but it was a happy relief to see him not only dancing well but seeming to relish being in the midst of a lot of craziness.
Prince Coffee had some competition for Princess Tea Flower’s affections in the way of Joseph Gorak’s Prince Cocoa and Blaine Hoven’s Don Zucchero, but of course, he ultimately won her over. While Joe Gorak’s variation provided some of the most dazzling dancing of the evening, we may have had trouble appreciating Blaine’s work due to the unfortunate costume design that was rather like a big white tent shift dress.
Act II provided nearly all of the thin story line. The Boy lay sick in his enormous hospital bed on a darkened stage. A glowering eyeball (a Ryden specialty) staring down from above told us that his environment was dangerous. He was, however, rescued by a sweet, slightly nutty Princess Praline, Sarah Lane, who danced her little feet off in allegro so complex and fast that it required Theme and Variations type skills to get through.
Sarah and Daniil (The Boy) danced an enjoyable kinetic PdD with no visible partnering issues. It was all just as complex as the PdD of Princess Tea Flower and Prince Coffee and even had similar choreography. Simkin’s part in this ballet allowed for the most amount of character development which we thought he handled the best that we’ve ever seen from him. His final solo to music from the main waltz of Strauss’s composition was a high-value technical display of the type for which Simkin is best known. But it fit perfectly; after all, here was a boy happy to have recovered from his stomach ache and ready to start all over again indulging in sweets if given the chance.
The final scene of this ballet is to die for. It will send the sugared-up kids of all ages over the edge. Mark our word, the matinees of Whipped Cream at The Met this year are going to be pure pandemonium.
For all the diehard classical ballet fans out there, rest assured that Ratmansky didn’t forget that we all want to see a White Act in a full length ballet. Actually, there are a couple of White Act-type scenes in this ballet. In Act I of Whipped Cream, you may observe something that reminds you of the white Shades in La Bayadere coming down the ramp – if you can think of them slip-sliding on their butts. And in the Act II hospital scene, you may see something that reminds you of a group of fierce Wilis – although they might also remind you of Nurse Ratchet (“It’s medication time, everybody”). Gosh, already we’re giving away too many details.
As for similarities to The Nutcracker, there were very few times during the evening when that came to mind. One of the times was during the PdT of Marianne Chartreuse (Catherine Hurlin), Ladislav Slivovitz (Duncan Lyle), and Boris Wutki (Roman Zhurbin) which came across similar to the three Russian bumbling buffoons in Ratmansky’s Nutcracker. Perhaps the two men made us think of the Nutcracker buffoons because they have always acquitted themselves so well in those particular roles, too. The Marianne Chartreuse character seemed to be modeled off of the Princess Tea Flower character in her ditziness and coyness – too much so.
Last evening was a complete pleasure and we’re looking forward to this evening as well. Whipped Cream is whipped cream. It’s not caviar. Some weeks ago, we wrote that we were anticipating this ballet in the way we approached The Met Opera’s Hansel and Gretel which isn’t many people’s favorite opera, but it draws large audiences of both adults and children due to the incredible production values. Our approach turned out to be right on target. The fantastical production values of Whipped Cream make this ballet a special treat and one that as many children as possible should see. Surely, it will draw the New York art crowd interested in Mark Ryden’s unique work and maybe bring them back for other ballets as well. For a first foray into translating his art for the stage, this is a spectacular success. If the choreography simply goes along for the ride, that’s okay, too.
Bravo to the whole creative team and especially to the dancers for their outstanding performances all evening. The proverbial icing on the cake last night was the return of David Hallberg to the ABT stage after a long injury-induced absence. We're so happy to see him on stage again.
The H.H. Pump Bump Award, a torta zapato, is bestowed upon Mark Ryden who back in 1998 presented a solo art show in Pasadena that was called The Meat Show and featured, yeah, that. Almost 20 years later, he's back in town with his desserts.
Winter Storm Stella is now only a few hours outside of the New York metro area. Is she really going to sock us in with snow and wind so that we can't get to Costa Mesa to see our own Stella as the first Princess Tea Flower in Whipped Cream? Say it ain't so.
The casting for the Bolshoi in Cinema broadcast on Sunday March 19th looks pretty enticing. We hope that Olga is up to the task in Etudes although we are definitely not expecting to see any hopping fouettes. Praying for energetic tempi and a brave ballerina.
The Novice: Ekaterina Krysanova
The Queen: Yanina Parienko
First Intruder: Nikita Kapustin
Second Intruder: Alexander Vodopetov
Ballerina: Olga Smirnova
Principal Dancers: Semyon Chudin, Artem Ovcharenko
Couple in Yellow/White: Yulia Stepanova, Vladislav Lantratov
Couple in Red: Ekaterina Krysanova, Denis Savin
Couple in Green: Anna Nikulina, Anton Savichev
Couple in Blue: Anna Okuneva, Dmitry Dorokhov
Couple in Violet: Victoria Litvinova, Artur Mkrtchyan
Couple in Claret Red: Victoria Yakushev, Mikhail Kochan
Pennsylvania Ballet set sail its handsome new production of Le Corsaire last night at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music and, oh, what a voyage it was. Stylish swagger among the men, shimmering beauty among the women, pyrotechnical wizardry among everyone – it was all on full glorious display in this Corella-staged Petipa-based classic which is loosely tethered to Lord Byron’s poem of the same name. For all intents and purposes, Le Corsaire is the balletomane’s high glycemic, high calorie carbohydrate that reignites all those cravings for the gazillion revolution pirouettes, the split-switch leaps, the fouettes, the manèges with every variety of sauce imaginable. Guilty pleasures, for sure. Enjoy, but don’t weigh yourself in the morning.
No living artist is more identified with this ballet than Angel Corella who for more than a decade and a half generated pandemonium in the Metropolitan Opera House whenever he set foot on stage in the role of Ali, the slave, in Le Corsaire. Now as artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet, he is handing down not only his famous role of Ali but also his roles of Conrad and Birbanto for which he is fondly remembered. Step by step, the ballet is handed down from generation to generation like a cherished family recipe for Grandma’s bourbon cake – except, as we’ve learned, no one will ever be able to make it taste just like Grandma's. That won’t keep everyone from gobbling down the new cakes, however.
Praises to the chef for Sterling Baca’s Ali, Arian Molina Soca’s Conrad, Lillian DiPiazza’s Medora, Jermel Johnson’s Lankendem, Mayara Pineiro’s Gulnare, and Etienne Diaz’s Birbanto in last evening’s premiere.
The pressure of Corella’s past brilliance turned into inspiration for young Sterling Baca who was making his debut as Ali. He charged through his Act II solos like we have never seen him dance before. Ever. Baca has had impressive technique and power for a while now. But this sudden authority, fearlessness, and leadership on display was unexpected and nearly overwhelming to watch. Only in the end was he unprepared – for the ovation that the audience dealt him. His face registered a slight shock at the wave of cheers.
The glamour composite score of Arian Molina Soca and Lillian DiPiazza is simply off the charts. They could stand there twiddling their thumbs while gazing into each other’s eyes, and Haglund would be fascinated. Their bedroom PdD and the PdT with Baca’s Ali were heavenly. Soca’s manèges of aerial turning arabesques and arrow-like coupés jetés displayed an uncommon clarity and ease. What can we say about the beauty of his leg lines… They’re Cuban made – enough said. The effortless partnering, especially the spinning of DiPiazza’s pirouettes, brought gasps from the audience. Lillian, a beautiful dancer under the previous artistic director, is now in full bloom. She, too, exhibited a new authority in her dancing. Her lovely arabesque line has added height and length. Where before there was a sense of caution when approaching fancy technical matters, now there is confidence.
Jermel Johnson’s high-spirited Lankendem gave us those crazy elastic assembles that went right into grand plie. (Don’t try that at home.) There was a shade of Oberon’s over-confidence and conniving in his Lankendem. You’ll recall that Oberon sprinkled special flower powder on Titania that would cause her to fall in love with an ass. Here, Lankendem sprinkled insta-sleeping powder in a flower which he arranged to have couriered to Conrad via Medora. We’re not suggesting that Lord Byron got his idea from Shakespeare, but it is an interesting coincidence.
Mayara Pineiro danced a stunningly beautiful Gulnare. Delicate, warm, steely, plumbed and square as can be. She may turn out to be Corella’s greatest find. Also Cuban educated, her own harrowing story of defection is a testament to her will to survive and her love of the art form. Tomorrow afternoon Mayara debuts as Medora. Those lucky enough to have tickets will surely be in for a treat.
Etienne Diaz, a young corpsman who arrived at PA Ballet with Pineiro, is also Cuban born but was trained in the U.S. He possesses many qualities that remind us of Corella including a fiery intensity and urgency. He’s quite short, but his lines have lengthened and straightened over the brief time that he has been with the company. As Birbanto – and like a very young Corella would – he sometimes applied more force than his placement would sustain. But he was exciting to watch and is definitely a name to look for in future castings.
The three-act production runs just over two hours with two intermissions. The production designs utilized a palette of burnished plum/rust with lots of gold and aptly conveyed an ancient Turkish time. Especially beautiful was one of Medora’s tutus that had a spectacular gold top layer.
In addition to PA Ballet’s sharp Corps de Ballet, elite students from The School of Pennsylvania Ballet danced in the production. In the Jardin Animée section of Act III, the small children nearly stole the show for a time. They ran out and dove into their choreography like one sees from students of NYC Ballet’s School of American Ballet – little stage animals, completely aware that everyone was looking at them instead of the grownup professionals behind them. The student dancers who were mixed in with the corps de ballet were excellent and indistinguishable from the professionals.
If there was a weakness observed in this production, it might have been the orchestration which sometimes killed the momentum of the action on the stage or did nothing to spur it on. Several different pieces of music with less engaging and less energetic melodies were used in Act I than is customarily heard in the ever-popular staging by Anna-Marie Holmes which is performed by ABT and Boston Ballet. We observed an ongoing problem of the ends of variations not meeting ends of music which we’ve noted before. Sometimes it appeared that the dancers fizzled while waiting around for the end of the music. Other times it was just the opposite problem — the music lagged or paused while waiting for the dancer. It really took the punch out of the moment, more so than if an outright mismatch of finish with music had occurred.
Le Corsaire has four three more performances this weekend (two on Saturday, one on Sunday) and then its final four performances begin next Friday. This is a "don’t miss” event if you are in or close to Philly.
Are we ever psyched that the Mariinsky is bringing La Bayadere to the Kennedy Center during the 2017-18 season and Alicia Alonso is bringing her Ballet Nacional de Cuba to perform both Giselle and Don Quixote! The KenCen seems to be on a ballet authenticity kick for the season.
Christopher Wheeldon's An American in Paris will also be presented during the season. DCers are going to go cray over this production.
There has been a change in casting for the premiere week of ABT's Whipped Cream in Costa Mesa. The brilliant soloist Skylar Brandt will replace Misty Copeland as Princess Praline due to a reported – ahem – injury to the celebrina. We imagine that, injury or not, she was having her share of problems keeping up with Skylar, Sarah, and Cassie, all of whom dance rings around her. Now the over-ballyhooed ballerina can devote more time to figuring out how to fake her way through Giselle in Oman where she has managed to have her face planted first in the traditionally alphabetical listing next to a nearly-disappearing B&W plain-jane photo of senior ballerina Gillian Murphy. Honest to god, why does ABT allow her and her agent to pull this self-serving crap all the time. When she was a soloist debuting in Swan Lake, she took the official marketing image of all of the women performing Odette/Odile and photoshopped it so that her own image was bigger than everyone else's and then sent it all over Facebook. So obnoxious and selfish...
Don't forget about the Bolshoi in Cinema's transmission on March 19th. Robbins' The Cage, Lander's Etudes, and Ratmansky's Russian Seasons are on the bill.
Speaking of Harald Lander's exciting Etudes, it seems to Haglund that it is past time for ABT to present that ballet on a rep program again. Gillian Murphy, Devon Teuscher, Christine Shevchenko, Skylar Brandt, and maybe even that little Kaho Ogawa in the corps could comprise an impressive crew in the major ballerina role. It would be nice to see someone try those hopping fouette turns that the amazing Toni Lander pulled off.
Speaking of the Bolshoi, Maria Alexandrova will appear in a contemporary program with Blanc Li at NY City Center March 29th through April 1st. City Center's website describes Goddesses and Demonesses as Drawing on Greek mythology and the contrasting languages of classical ballet and contemporary dance, Li and Alexandrova explore the dual nature of femininity, transforming into archetypes ranging from nurturing mothers to femme fatales.
Thanks to Haglund'eeler "Rkb " for sending us this mash-up of Angel Corella, age 23, and Sterling Baca, age 23, at precisely the same moment in Le Corsaire.
We are so thrilled that our all-time favorite Ali, who burned with the force of 10,000 suns, is handing down his role and knowledge to a new generation at Pennsylvania Ballet. We can't wait for tonight.
ABT has posted some Whipped Cream costume photos on its website. There are some very imaginative designs including the costume in which Justin Souriau-Levine seems to have graduated from the Little Mouse in Nutcracker to the Master of Ceremonies in Whipped Cream. How time flies.
Before anyone begins grumbling about this production being copied off of The Nutcracker, please be aware that the original Whipped Cream ballet, under the German name Schlagobers (1924), preceded the popularity of The Nutcracker which had its first performances in the U.S. in 1944.
The costumes from 1924 were pretty outlandish. Here is a link to an image of the original production at the Vienna State Opera maintained at the U.K.'s Lebrecht Music and Arts Photo Digital Library. Here's another one from Theatermuseum - Straus und die oper.
Here's hoping that ABT knocks it out of the park with this production and that it draws a lot of interest from the family-oriented audience. It's odd how there is no mention from ABT that Ratmansky already choreographed this ballet in 1994 with Tatiana in the lead. We're wondering if this is all new or if it is part revision. It doesn't really matter. Today's choreographers don't seem too keen on revising their works after the initial publicity dies down; so, if an important one shows that it can be done successfully, that will be a plus – maybe even start a trend.
Looking forward to the premiere.
Reminder about the Lincoln Center Festival Jewels jubilee tickets:
Pre-sales are in process for donors. From LCF:
This is the schedule:
Monday, February 27: Member levels $1,000 and above
Monday, March 6: Member levels $500 and above
Monday, March 13: Member levels $100 and above
Monday, March 29: General Public
We will be announcing the full lineup for Lincoln Center Festival on March 20, so stay tuned.
This is going to be such a huge event!!!
Speaking of huge events, don't forget about the April 14th YAGP tribute to Julio Bocca which will also mark his 50th birthday. What a perfect year it would be for him to move back home to New York. What a perfect time it would be for ABT's board to do something about the sorry state of the company's directorship.
Look at this video of Julio as he speaks (in Spanish) so articulately and passionately about his company Ballet Nacional Sodre. He is so youthful and full of energy. Imagine all of the glorious Latino talent from around the world that would be beating down the doors at ABT to get in if Julio were the director here. (Print summary here.)
If more of ABT's board members would get out to see the quality of dancing at NYCB, they would realize what a piss poor job McKenzie is doing. Very few of the ABT dancers, regardless of rank, would qualify for a corps position at NYCB. The difference in institutional achievement is that stark.
In the winter season’s all-Jerome Robbins program of Glass Pieces, Moves, and The Concert, the endlessly different postures of humanity are seen marching in and out of light or under umbrellas which shield them from rain — all on undefined journeys. We don’t know the destinations of the women shuffling along in a line at the back of the stage in the dark during Glass Pieces, their forms backlit to obscure their individual faces while highlighting their distinct profiles. We don’t know the destinations of the aggressive groups and individuals in Moves who clearly harbor some disdain for one another but need each other in order to fulfill their killer-competitive instincts. We don’t know the destinations of the funny little people in The Concert who march in the same direction under individual umbrellas and then try to huddle together in mass under one or two umbrellas while continuing to travel.
We never know their destinations, but after more than a half century we are still fascinated by the journeys that Robbins mapped out for dancers over the course of his life. His centennial celebration will be in 2018. We hope that NYCB will include not only those works that he made for the ballet stage but also his vast contribution to Broadway. Never has NYCB had more dancers who could cross over from ballet to Broadway with true sparkle.
Robbins was a keen observer of social and anti-social behavior and the difficult relationships that individuals have with their groups in society. His ballets were not simply divided into soloist and corps work. The soloists frequently acted-out within or against the corps always suggesting a community undergoing some evolution or disruption.
On Tuesday evening the grands assemblés of the principals in the Rubric section of Glass Pieces (Ashley Hod, Meagan Mann, Lydia Wellington, Joseph Gordon, Peter Walker, Cameron Dieck) disrupted the earth-bound population of pedestrians walking hurriedly on their daily treks. In sleek pastel unitards that accentuated the long lines of their gorgeous limbs, the principals demonstrated an energy and purpose in their lives that was unknown to the others locked in daily drudge.
Maria Kowroski and Russell Janzen (debuting) gave the physique-dependent Facades pas de deux the length and limpid quality that makes it so much more than an acrobatic ballet from the ‘80s. How we have loved seeing Maria, Rebecca Krohn, Wendy Whelan, and Maria Calegari put their unique imprints on this role. A miscast of physical type in this PdD simply cracks the glass without achieving meaningful artistry.
The Akhnaten section performed by the corps de ballet sent the audience into a tizzy. Guest Conductor Harrison Hollingsworth (also principal bassoonist in the NYCB orchestra) inspired the dancers with his energy – or maybe it was vice versa – whatever it was, the audience was feeling the electricity run through their nerves.
The current generation at NYCB has given Moves a brand new contemporary energy that seems to have elevated the significance of the women in this ballet in terms of strength, control, directness, and ambition. This is not to suggest that the men are pushovers, but they are definitely facing a competitive tension from the women unlike generations before them. On Tuesday night, Emilie Gerrity and Taylor Stanley became embroiled in a consensual-bordering-on-fierce Pas de Deux where she looked like at any time she wanted, she could reverse roles and begin manipulating her partner. The sharp slicing limbs of Claire Kretzschmar and Ashley Hod also contributed much to this theme.
After the seriousness of Glass Pieces and Moves, The Concert offered comedic relief with Andrew Veyette, Sterling Hyltin, and Lydia Wellington leading the ensemble of very individual characters who attend a piano concert and vie for the attentions of the pianist (Elaine Chelton) and each other.
The HH Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon the ladies in the corps de ballet of Moves for their spirited situation control: