The Vail International Dance Festival opened Sunday night. On Wednesday Herman Cornejo will dance Rubies with Tiler Peck in excerpts from Balanchine's Jewels with the Pennsylvania Ballet. Later in the week he and Alessandra Ferri will perform a bit from Angelin Preljocaj's Le Parc. Haglund wishes that Herman would jump to NYCB so that we could watch him dance almost every night and where he would receive the management's respect. It's time. The time is now. Make the jump.
This Friday night, Veronika Part will be Giselle at the Mariinsky Ballet in a Coming Home performance that is sure to send the audience into a tizzy. How great it would be for her to reclaim an association with the Mariinsky on a more permanent basis. How great it would be for us to see all those videos of her performances that ABT's management won't let her dance.
It was surprising (and slightly disappointing) that New York's Ukrainian community allowed the Bolshoi Ballet's visit to Lincoln Center go by without so much as a token protest against Don Putinxote. But the Ukrainian Congress Committee of North America based in upstate Watervliet, NY has organized a protest for TONIGHT at the open air venue in Saratoga Springs where the Bolshoi will perform Don Quixote.
"It's not against the ballet and performers," said Dr. Andrij Baran, president of the Capital District chapter of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of North America. "It's to raise public awareness that there's tragedy going on."
Though they might want to, let's hope none of the dancers grand jete out of the idyllic Barcelona festivities to join the protesters. It's best that they stay on stage and just enjoy the action around the perimeter from a distance.
When the Bolshoi Ballet last brought Spartacus to the Metropolitan Opera House in July 2005, they draped Lincoln Center with billboard-sized hanging posters that were fierce red, evil black, and conquering gold. There was no mistaking who was in town.
During that same month, insurgents were continuing to rise up in Iraq and had just invaded the London transit system killing scores of innocents in retaliation for Britain’s presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. Insurgents thousands of miles away had us all thinking about our own safety.
Skip forward to 2014 – the Bolshoi Ballet brought no big red hanging posters to Lincoln Center with their Spartacus. Instead, a modest sidewalk poster outside the theater featured the company's one American, a tall cool blond in a cool blue scene from Swan Lake. For this visit, it may have been a little risky to highlight any current connection of Russia to insurgents when the townspeople were unlikely to be empathetic. It isn’t very pretty what a town without pity can do, wailed Gene Pitney.
But Saturday night, Yuri Grigorovich’s production had us rooting for both the Thracian gladiator and the Roman Republic, because each side danced just as magnificently as the other and they frequently did the same steps. Most often in ballets that we see in New York, we are accustomed to the women boring us with repetitive steps, such as the ubiquitous tombe, pas de bourree, glissade (or worse, petit temps de fleche), saut de chat in Balanchine’s work. In Spartacus, the major corps work was not performed by leaf-light ladies in pink tights who adorned the stage perimeter but by sweaty, handsome hunks with raging testosterone who were holding sharp weapons. It was hard not to pay close attention to what they were doing – over and over again.
Denis Rodkin, fairly new to the title role, gave a superb, intensely dramatic, utterly convincing performance. His "chain dance" during Act I conveyed the magnitude of his despair and desperation so well that Haglund completely forgot that he was watching a ballet rather than listening to someone’s story. At the end of Act I when Rodkin's Spartacus incited revolt among his warriors and they all marched to the front edge of the stage with their fists and weapons raised – right then and there – Haglund was ready to sign up with the insurgency. Just slap a Callaway hybrid sword with graphite shaft in his palm and he’d help chase Crassus down hole after hole. Dare we say, there were not many in the audience who wouldn’t have followed Rodkin wherever he wanted to lead them.
Not like the well-known squatty Spartacuses (early Vasiliev and current Vasiliev) or the impossibly virile, meaty Spartacus of Irek Mukhamedov, Rodkin possesses the lean elegance and broad shoulders of an NFL wide receiver. His high flying, space devouring grand jetes suggested that he would give Jerry Rice (pre-DWTS) a run for his money.
Rodkin stunned with his partnering power and passion. Haglund had seen a brief video clip of his debut in the role last year during which the dramatic, strength-sapping one-arm lift was carefully steadied with the second arm. In Saturday’s performance, however, caution was replaced with steely resolve and Superman strength. His power came from the lightening fast, efficient coordination that has been a trademark of Bolshoi lifts since the early Grigorovich days. When Crassus’ army finally caught this Spartacus and dispatched him, the swords hurt us all. This was a Spartacus as gripping as those seen here nine years earlier in the Bolshoi’s incredible performances at the Met Opera House.
Maria Vinogradova’s Phrygia, also newly minted a year ago, is a dancer of expansive, exquisite harmony and beauty. Who thought that an elbow and wrist broken over the top of the head could convey such sadness and passion? While the repetitiveness of some of the men’s choreography brought boredom, Haglund never got tired of watching this Phrygia’s high developpe battements a la second that fell forward into deep battement attitudes with the back leg. Her bourrees in her Act III solo matched the lightness and sweetness of the flute’s notes while her generous port de bras opened up to reveal the passion in her heart. What a beauty and what sincerity in her character.
Vladislav Lantratov as Crassus had fabulous moments of fierce dancing but wasn’t always convincing as a ruthless Roman. That may have contributed to the conflicting loyalties one felt when watching this cast. Both Spartacus and Crassus had characteristics that we liked and feared. It was thrilling to watch from a safe distance as they faced off dramatically, and yet, we didn’t want to see either one lose. When dancing with his Aegina, Ekaterina Krysanova, Lantratov’s Crassus turned into a puppy, eager to receive what Aegina offered instead of taking it from her as one would expect an ego-driven Crassus to do. But his dancing was superb with especially admirable grand jetes in which the torso was straight and high off the legs.
Ekaterina Krysanova was a seductive and entitled Aegina who just needed to show more ruthless feminine ambition. Her portrayal was more Rubies tall girl than Roman courtesan, although the personality types do overlap in places. One couldn’t quibble with her dancing, however. Extraordinary length, flexibility, and physical power were on display.
What a surprise it was to see that the New York State Theater stage could accommodate a Bolshoi production of Spartacus – maybe not as impressively as the Met stage, but there was plenty of room for the dancers to power through this remarkable production. There is nothing schlocky about this Spartacus - a description that some tend to throw around. It is a huge undertaking of a grand story that requires a sustainable high level of physical and dramatic energy that few companies can muster. It is a thrilling ballet. Here’s hoping that the Bolshoi brings it to us again soon, but accompanied by Marco Spada and some more recent acquisitions.
The H.H. Pump Bump Award, a Gladiator sandal with protective shin guard, is bestowed upon Denis Rodkin (who one confused but very excited audience member kept referring to as Dennis Rodman) for his gripping portrayal of Spartacus.
Tuesday night’s Playbill cover looked more like an issue of the quarterly publication, Ballet Review, with its classic black and white photo of Maria Alexandrova as Kitri. Here the emphatic beauty of the exact performance moment and the linear harmony within the artist’s life-filled pose were exclaimed without the overpowering and distracting effects of the red in Kitri’s dress. This is an artist who we have held in high esteem for a long time, the Bolshoi's photo conveyed. Alexandrova, who is in her 17th year with the Bolshoi, is one of three current principals who hold the honorary title People's Artist of Russia - the others being Anna Antonicheva and Sveltlana Zakharova.
Even though Alexandrova’s grand allegro was not as exceptional as it would have been had the dancer been given several more months of recovery from her major Achilles injury, her overall performance was more than enjoyable for its sassy, comedic, feminine interpretation of Kitri and the masterful use of music that included some stunning arabesque balances. She has been dancing the role of Kitri for 14 years, and yet, the freshness and joy of her interpretation were apparent. It’s been a while since Haglund has seen a Bolshoi Ballet performance of Don Quixote that didn’t rely on circus ponyism – and what a relief it was.
Alexandrova’s Basilio, Vladislav Lantratov, has been dancing the role for about three years. He comes by Romantic grace and form naturally whereas being a spunky barber is more of a challenge. He was a strong and reliable partner for Alexandrova, and his masterful skill in several one-armed lifts was impressive. What made Haglund sit up straight, however, was a two-handed overhead lift followed by a fish dive in which Kitri switched direction 180 degrees as Lantratov tossed her into the perfect fish position. She was facing left in the air over his head, and suddenly she was facing right over his knee. With no safety net. Oh, probably Alexandrova’s own fouette coordination had something to do with the spectacular effect of the move, but let’s give this one to Lantratov.
Olga Smirnova as Queen of the Dryads was quite the beautiful example of Vaganova schooling in her upper body, but didn’t convey the Bolshoi tradition. The difference between her approach and Alexandrova’s Bolshoi authenticity could not have been made more clear than when the Dryad Queen tried to follow Kitri down a diagonal of arabesques during Act II. Each dancer was individually lovely, but together they were like mixing vodka with red wine – each immensely enjoyable in a glass, but not as a cocktail. One could imagine Olga’s Dryad Queen following the Mariinsky's Tereshkina down Kitri's diagonal, but here, she looked out of place – beautifully out of place, though. No doubt about it.
Denis Rodkin and Oxana Sharova smoldered as Espada and Mercedes – the fierceness of his dancing and character were unlike any of the hot but gentlemanly Espadas who we customarily see in this town. Sharova, of the youthful lumbar vertebrae and dazzling smile, easily found the sultriness in those dramatic backbends.
The character artists always carry the Bolshoi Ballet’s Don Quixote as much as the principal dancers. Alexander Petukhov as Sancho Panza, Denis Savin as Gamache, and Alexei Loparevich as Don Quixote have long been associated with their roles and were as superb as expected. Kristina Karasyova as the Gypsy created her own dramatic and compelling story ballet in a few short moments. She told us her own fortune, or rather her own misfortune, with extraordinary passion and sweeping Graham-like floor work.
The choreography for Cupid was more minor than one would have liked, but it was well-danced by Yulia Lunkina. The soloists in the Act III Grand Pas, Maria Vonogradova and Ana Turazashvili, each displayed beautiful length and grace in their variations and when dancing together.
The H.H. Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon Maria Alexandrova with our thanks for making the trip to New York even though she probably shouldn’t have been taxing her Achilles tendon in Don Quixote quite yet. We’ve had a special Lanvin Kitri flat custom-made for her since we think it's inadvisable for her to flaunt around in stilettos for a few more months.
It's terrific to hear that Angel is the new Artistic Director at Pennsylvania Ballet. Wow. Wow. Wow. Can't wait to use the Amtrak senior pass to go down to Philly to experience a dose of that Angel energy in PA Ballet's super dancers.
What a great artistic fit. What a smart Board of Directors to grab this guy!
Chalk up another one for Haglund's legendary speculation spectacles. From the blog on June 10th:
Haglund has been peering through his legendary speculation spectacles this morning.
Angel Corella has virtually worldwide sympathy from the ballet community for his situation in Spain. Everyone believed in him and his abilities to succeed as a director to the extent that he succeeded on the stage as a dancer. Many wanted to work for him. Many still want to work for him.
Now that Angel has announced that he has had to dismantle his ballet company due to Spain's failure to support it and will leave his country, everyone is curious where he will land. Probably some bright-thinking dancers have even dusted off suitcases.
You know, Pennsylvania Ballet needs a new Artistic Director now that Roy Kaiser has decided to retire. Wouldn't Angel be a perfect fit? His sister Carmen used to dance there before joining ABT.
Philadelphia would be so lucky, and America would be so lucky to have Angel back on its soil. Let's cross our fingers and hope that this or something similar happens very soon.
Fathom Events will host five cinema presentations of The Royal Ballet in the coming season, four of which will be live-streams.
Manon on Thursday, Oct. 16th (Nunez & Bonelli)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland on Tuesday, Dec. 16th (Cuthberson & Bonelli)
Swan Lake on Thursday, Mar. 19th (Takada & Bonelli)
La Fille Mal Gardee on Tuesday, May 5th (TBC)
That's a lot of Mr. Bonelli that we are presently scheduled to see.
An earlier recorded performance of Wheeldon's A Winter's Tale will be shown on Tuesday, Feb. 17th.
The Google Translator doesn't do such a great job with Japanese to English text. But, according to this article that was published in Japan yesterday, Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews will star in the U.S. premiere of John Neumeier's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Houston Ballet in September. It's unclear from the awkward translation of Yuriko's comments whether that means the first performance or that they are one among several pairs who will be performing it. It would be nice to know specific dates. Nevertheless, it's pretty exciting news.
Veronika Part's Albrecht for the Mariinsky performance of Giselle on August 1st will be Yevgeny Ivanchenko. All fingers and toes are crossed for some YouTube video.
Perhaps we can wonder whether the all-Grigorovich content for the Bolshoi Ballet’s current tour was arranged during the post-Filin trauma when Grigorovich supporters (a.k.a. anti-Filin, anti-progressives) saw a potential opportunity for restructuring influence. In January of 2013 when Filin was attacked, the 2014 tour to New York had not yet been announced. After it was announced in June of 2013, it was several more months before a Lincoln Center venue was pinned. The Bolshoi tours for which plans were likely already firmly settled at the time of the attack seemed to include more recent stagings: Le Corsaire & Bright Stream for the May 2013 tour to Brisbane; Flames of Paris and Jewels were part of the July 2013 London tour; Lost Illusions went to Paris in January 2014. But instead of getting a more recently staged selection that might even have included Marco Spada or Onegin, New York received only the Grigorovich vision of the Bolshoi Ballet.
Not only were we allowed only the Grigorovich vision of the Bolshoi, but that vision and its grandness were boxed into a shallow-staged venue like a family of five squeezed into a 300 sq. ft. Moscow apartment. The result was that with regard to Swan Lake, we didn’t get to see the bolshoi in the Bolshoi Ballet. Haglund fears that the production of Spartacus, which he has always admired, will fair even more poorly due to the lack of space. Whether it is a Grigorovich production or not, it’s not fair to squeeze the Bolshoi Ballet onto a stage designed for streamlined Balanchine repertoire. It’s not fair to the artists, and it’s not fair to the audience. If the Lincoln Center Festival cannot come to terms with the Met Opera House, which is the only performing space in this city that will accommodate huge ballets, then it should not present them.
On a stage where Balanchine portrayed ballet as woman, Grigorovich portrayed ballet as man with women incidental to Swan Lake’s themes and sketched plot. That said, the man who ran the show last night, Semyon Chudin, was a superb Prince Siegfried who pulled off his responsibility with humility, well-rounded artistry, and fabulous technique. A recent Bolshoi acquisition who was schooled at the Novosibirsk Choreographic College, not the Bolshoi school, and has eight years of performing experience with Seoul’s Universal Ballet and the Zurich Ballet, Chudin is one finely polished dancer. As noted previously, he is not the most handsome dancer in the Bolshoi, but he seems to be its best.
With feet that are wide like tiger paws, Chudin launched grand jetes with animal grace and power and landed them silently. His leg lines were strong and made a clear statement whether split in the air or standing flat in tendu. The clarity of his batterie was quite beautiful. Every step was like a word spoken eloquently without being over-articulated just for the sake of articulation. Chudin was a skilled partner who had his hands full in this performance, and seemed to have the ability to accurately gage the sometimes-erratic Olga Smirnova, who danced Odette/Odile. Upon entering the stage, he found an almost immediate connection with the audience which he held throughout the performance and made you feel like you were in the story with him. He made you care. His chemistry with Olga was superb. The love and the trust each had for the other was palpable.
Olga danced her heart out. You could not help but love her even though some of her choices drew winces. There was the turned-in leg in extensions a la second. During the section of the Black Swan PdD when she launched a big saute fouette that was supported by Prince Siegfried, Olga’s extended arabesque leg and hip were so wide open that they looked like they were in second position, not arabesque. Her swan arms were propelled by her shoulders not from her back, and frequently those shoulders were plastered up against her ears. How can a former top student at the Vaganova Academy not have great swan arms? Nor does she seem to be able to spot her head correctly and efficiently in supported pirouettes. And yet, she was beautiful in so many ways, in particular, how she conveyed Odette’s torment with her face. Given the fact that Odette had no mime with which to convey her situation, the face action was very helpful. One can only imagine what Olga might do if given a little authentic Mariinsky mime. Haglund’s recurring thought throughout the evening was that the world may have lost a miraculous artist because Olga decided to go to the Bolshoi instead of to the Mariinsky for finishing.
Olga’s Odile was far superior to her Odette. Where her intensity and sometimes overly-mannered approach did not always befit Odette, it worked beautifully in Odile. Her flashing eyes and perfectly beautiful smile seduced the audience as well as Siegfried. The Odile variation that began with backwards chugs in arabesque in a circle was quite likable and immediately suggested that the character was of a dangerous nature. Backwards is often a dead giveaway of evilness. Witches ride broomsticks and goats backwards, and sometimes their feet are backwards. If you play certain Beatles’ records backwards, they reveal a clear and convincing Satan connection. And of course, vengeful Wilis are initiated by making them spin around backwards. The proof is there; you just have to look for it.
Olga whipped off her fast single fouettes in the Odile variation with good confidence and only a moderate amount of traveling forward. Her pirouettes and pique turns in her variations were a little workman-like but she got the job done and did it in character. Her grand jetes were okay, but not spectacular.
The Evil Genius, Artemy Belyakov, was excellent. He really epitomized what Haglund expects a Bolshoi dancer to be. He gave a huge theatrical performance with big technical chops to back it up. The same goes for Alexander Smoliyaninov, whose character, The Fool, did much to energize some of the rather dull ensemble work that was on the stage around him. All of the Brides (Ana Turazashvili, Yulia Lunkina, especially Anna Tikhomirova, Maria Vonogradova, Yanina Parienko) danced their variations beautifully. The Four Swans (Daria Gurevich, Svetlana Pavlova, Margarita Shrainer, Anna Voronkova) were the most perfectly matched set Haglund had ever seen – physically, stylistically, and technically.
While the production itself will never be a favorite of Haglund’s, it’s not really so bad that anyone needs to act like they’ve been personally offended. Sometimes there is a very fine line between respect for tradition and laboring under a stronghold. Grigorovich is responsible for a huge part of the Bolshoi’s legendary greatness that came into being because of many of the personal characteristics that his successors now chafe against. Even Ratmansky still salutes him with a Grigorovich lift in his Nutcracker for ABT - which by the way, could only be done properly by Jared Matthews. Haglund will miss seeing that in December.
Considering that the Bolshoi dancers successfully mounted these Swan Lakes while dancing literally on half the depth of the stage while the scenery took up the other half, and that the stage when empty was far smaller than that to which they are accustomed, they deserved the big applause and standing ovation that they received yesterday. It was a job well done.
A word about the scenery and costumes: Haglund thought most were quite interesting and beautiful in a gothic sort of way. A curtain hung from the ceiling in the middle of the stage with an image of Swan Lake. Rather than being the beautiful lake that we are accustomed to seeing in most all other productions, this lake was darkly beautiful. It looked dangerous but tempting. It obscured the flock of swans but also made for a beautiful image. The costume designs gave a metallic impression without being shiny. The use of variants of gray and metal hues throughout the bolder colors was pleasing. All of it would have looked much more impressive on an adequately sized stage.
The H.H. Pump Bump Award, a tiger paw stiletto boot of great style and power, is bestowed upon Semyon Chudin for his Prince Siegfried.
Here's hoping that the NYT's maintenance staff has sufficient cleaning solvents to restore Alastair Macaulay's chair seat after today's orgasmic eruption over David Hallberg. Oh Lord:
Ballet — large parts of which are still old-fashioned and riddled with class distinctions — still has plenty of room for dancers who play princes, kings, immortal spirits and divine powers. What’s extraordinary is that Mr. Hallberg — born in Rapid City, S.D., and who began his dance studies in Phoenix — is the first American dancer in history who seems tailor-made for these, as much by temperament as by physique. Duke Albrecht (“Giselle”), Prince Siegfried (“Swan Lake”), Prince Désiré or Florimund (“The Sleeping Beauty”): Where other dancers have to impose themselves on these roles, he seems to have them by birthright.
It seems that American history is now a specialty of Alastair's, and he has decided that it starts and stops with what he has witnessed.
Let's see – where to start –
How about Royes Fernandez who was born in New Orleans? Gayle Young - born in Kentucky? Fernando Bujones - born in Miami? Or Patrick Bissell, Clark Tippet, Jeremy Collins to name a few sterling American-born ABT danseurs from the 1950s into the 1980s who were born to dance princey roles but who Alastair has most likely only seen on video, if at all.
Even though Haglund was still in short pants when he saw Royes Fernandez and Gayle Young perform Prince Siegfried and his memories of them may be more memories of childhood excitement rather than critical notes, the historical photos and accounts bear out that during ABT's first 40 years, the company had several exceptionally fine American-born danseurs who were tailor-made for princey roles.
As wonderful as David Hallberg is as a dancer, and as historically important as the NYT wants to make him, he is definitely not the first American in history who was tailor-made to dance the big princey roles. He may well be the most important American dancer who Alastair Macaulay ever chooses to write about, but that's another story in itself.
Now, it's time to tidy up and hurry ourselves to the Bolshoi's Swan Lake before Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin start the party without us.
The International Ballet Competition - Varna will live-stream competitions at 8pm Central European Summer Time on July 26th, 27th, 29th, and 30th at this link: http://tv.bnt.bg/bntworld/ . Just so you know, the schedule on the IBC-Varna website suggests that the events each day get underway at 9pm, rather than 8pm. Here's a handy time converter.
Veronika Part will be Giselle at the Mariinsky Theatre on August 1st. Yes, she will.
Her partner has not yet been listed on the Mariinsky website, but will surely be posted shortly. How wonderful that the rest of the world recognizes who ABT's great Giselles are even though Kevin McKenzie cannot. Part, Abrera, Murphy, Lane, Kajiya – all have been pushed aside to make way for a dumpy-dancing equinarina and a geezerina who can no longer do the steps. Haglund is happy that he threw his little bit of financial support to Houston Ballet, another place where the true talent of ABT has been recognized and finally rescued.
Houston Ballet is taking Giselle to the Detroit Opera House on November 1st & 2nd. We're not sure where else the company might tour the production. If Jared Matthews and Yuriko Kajiya are cast as Albrecht and Giselle, Haglund will gas up the ole Gisellemobile for a quick trip to the Motor City. There'll be room for one more in the cab with the cats and then plenty of space in the back, if anyone wants to come along.
If this truck could float, we'd be pedal-rowing our way over to the Thrilla in Manila in September where Stella Abrera will dance Giselle for the Ballet Philippines Gala Performance. The supporting foot in the above-linked photograph is enough to start Haglund weeping. Stella's fundraising drive to rebuild a school in the aftermath of the typhoon is gaining momentum and now has new FB and Twitter pages.
The second episode of Secret Lives of Dancers that features the Royal New Zealand Ballet has been uploaded to the same place where this season's first episode is located. If you need the link, just email Haglund. We're not publishing it in an effort to make it available for viewing a little longer before it is discovered and blocked.
Angel Corella will stage a full length Don Quixote for 60 pre-professional students of The Hartt School's Community Division in West Hartford where he is in residence at the school's four-week ballet intensive program. The Don Quixote will be on Saturday, July 26th at 7:30 pm at the Millard Auditorium on the University of Hartford campus. Tickets are available through the University Box Office at 860-768-4228 or 800-274-8587, or visit hcd.hartford.edu, to purchase tickets. Admission is $10.
Unfortunately, at the moment, Haglund has a conflict that night by the name of Spartacus. But the opportunity to see what Corella can do with 60 kids in a Don Quixote is very, very, very tempting. Meanwhile, we're all waiting to see where he will end up as Artistic Director since he hinted strongly that an announcement was forthcoming. Haglund's guess has always been Pennsylvania Ballet although his wish has been ABT.
The Vail International Dance Festival is running practice sessions around the track before the green flag drops on July 27th. Herman Cornejo has been rehearsing Robbins' Dances at a Gathering with Damian Woetzel. Here's a little video of that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIPsUTBfJpY&feature=youtu.be
One very interesting development is that NYCB's Lauren Lovette and Chase Finlay are preparing to perform the Act II PdD from Giselle. Here's a little video of that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv07nEfaHXw
In case no one has been paying attention, here is why that is important and what it could mean for our futures. (Speculation follows.)
Next year with Peter Martins' new production of La Sylphide, he will be signalling strongly that NYCB is the Number 1 "full-service" ballet company in this city and country – a company that uses its own homegrown artists to present the greatest neo-classical work, contemporary work, new work, and now the greatest full length classics. Next up - Giselle and Don Quixote - the latter could even be Ratmansky's existing production, and wouldn't that be a grand and perfect fit?
Is there anybody out there who wouldn't rather see Lauren Lovette and Chase Finlay in a new production of Giselle, any production, than the new pair offerings that McKenzie has been tossing onto the stage at ABT? Stay tuned.
Bolshoi Ballet arrives next week. Haglund will see Swan Lake on Friday, July 18th, which is scheduled to be Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin followed by Maria Alexandrova's Kitri in Don Quixote. Alexandrova, who has long been one of Haglund's Bolshoi favorites, seems to have miraculously recovered from a severe Achilles tear less than a year ago. Here's hoping that she has the performance that she wants to have.
Usually by the time a company comes up with a PR plan for damage control to minimize the negative impact of embarrassing events, it’s already too late.
This spring ABT was faced with the prospect of another three highly-talented and popular dancers in the primes of their careers defecting from the company because of the entrenched director's failure to recognize their talent and accord them the performing opportunities that they deserved. For several weeks after the resignations were announced (one announced by a dancer, the other two announced by the dancers' new employer and confirmed by ABT), ABT sat twiddling its thumbs until someone came up with the idea “We’ll have a party and celebrate each one of them! Everybody loves a celebration, especially our big donors. So, we’ll party the quitters out the door like it is a happy, wonderful event.” Meanwhile, the core audience reacting on Twitter, Facebook, forums, and blogs had already assessed the situation for what it was and had begun conveying unhappiness and anger at deafening decibel levels.
ABT began a flurry of eye-winking solicitations for people to attend “Fond Farewell" performances, and distributed free tickets in order to try to fill the Metropolitan Opera House and make it all look like a successful gala celebration week. The company had taken a play right out of the George W. Bush Handbook: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.”
At Sascha Radetsky’s last performance, Haglund struck up a conversation with the woman next to him. Upon hearing that it was Sascha’s last performance, the woman said, “Oh, is she going to another company? Has she danced here long?” Now curious, Haglund asked the woman if she had been to ABT previously. She snickered and said, “No, I’m over at City Ballet.”
At Yuriko Kajiya’s last performance, Haglund sat next to a trio from Europe who had received their free tickets from their hotel. They had never heard of ABT and didn’t have a clue as to what Coppelia was about.
At Jared Matthews’ last performance, Haglund met people who were visiting the Met Opera House for the first time ever and likely wouldn't come back unless they were lured there for free.
ABT's core audience and donor base have continued to dwindle as disaffected patrons withdraw support because the company has become less about its own dancers and more about other companies' dancers. It doesn’t seem to matter much to the entrenched director. The underlying internal problems that precipitated the decline in support, the mass exits, and all of the contrived celebration were easily solvable. Easily, painlessly solvable without expense.
Collectively speaking, 40 years of skilled institutional knowledge walked out the door during one long weekend due to artistic management’s mistreatment – that’s years of monetary investment in their artistry, years of rehearsals paid for, years of training and preparation down ABT’s drain – sums of money that have to be immediately raised and spent again in order to cover these dancers’ replacements. While replenishment of talent is always ongoing, it is devastating to have 40 years of knowledge walk out the door at one time when the returns on the company's investment in those dancers are really starting to roll in.
Doesn’t the ABT Board wonder at all why Jared and Yuriko, two of the company’s finest soloists, decided to accept lateral transfers to a smaller regional company, in effect, take demotions rather than stay at ABT?
The entrenchment of McKenzie as artistic director is a textbook case of nonprofit irresponsibility. The Board’s blind loyalty to the company’s worst AD in its 75-year history has over-shadowed its positive contributions.
Because of the high caliber talent of Jared and Yuriko, these final two performances of ABT’s ultra-lite version of Coppelia were turned into Cinderellas. Yuriko gave a performance of Swanilda of artistic depth and technical precision that were peerless this season. Her characterization was completely unlike any we had seen before from either herself or from other ABT ballerinas. Whereas in the evening performance, little distinguished Paloma Herrera’s Swanilda from either her Kitri or her Act I Giselle; she served up the same old soup in a different bowl.
It wasn’t just Yuriko’s fabulous balances and other tricks, always delivered with true modesty, that differentiated her; it was her ability to employ imaginative musical shading that made them into more than tricks. Her Italian fouettes that flipped one after the other with sharply-creased linear energy suddenly slowed to a lingering balance to reveal the beauty of their circular pattern as well. Each perch to arabesque combined calm stillness in the body with an endless lengthening through the limbs. Her feet were so quiet and supple that it seemed at times that she was dancing without shoes. In sum, Yuriko gave a masterclass on what it means to be a ballerina as opposed to just a ballet dancer plodding through principal steps.
In the afternoon’s performance Franz was danced by Joseph Gorak whose development many of us have been following and writing about for eight years. He was finally noticed recently by the myopic mainstream critic who needs to see a dancer under a follow-spot the size of a Las Vegas searchlight in order to notice him and then read a dozen blogs, forums and Twitter accounts to learn what he should write about. At this stage of his career, Gorak has already surpassed the current David Hallberg in terms of partnering coordination, depth of acting ability, and purely classical technique. He shows no social awkwardness on stage and is hell-bent on not making a mistake while making it look easy. If he can avoid Hallberg’s propensity for injury, he will likely have a career of greater impact. Here’s hoping that stage sightings of Gorak are with ever increasing frequency but in a slowly and sensibly acquired repertoire.
As the wholesome young Franz who was overly confident in his two-timing abilities, Gorak was able to hold the complete attention of the audience with his every move. And oh those moves. His manege of coupe jetes not only had the expected beauty in classical shape and line, but were so coordinated and efficient that they looked utterly effortless. His precise musicality in moments where preciseness is always most difficult, such as when completing pirouettes and double tours, was as perfect as could be. At the conclusion of the wedding PdD in Act III in which Franz held Swanilda across his back in a fish type position, Yuriko’s foot of her bent-positioned leg clunked Gorak in the face a couple of times. He looked out at the audience with an amused expression as though it was just going to be part of a great memory of a great performance.
In the evening, Jared Matthews gave a performance big as steer (they’ll understand that in Houston) to close out a spring in which he stepped in at the last minute to dance Albrecht with two different partners in Minneapolis, then flew to the Mariinsky to dance with Veronika Part, stepped in at the last minute to dance Albrecht with Xiomara Reyes during the Met Season, added other performances to his soloist schedule to cover for injuries, and prepared his own debut as Franz in Coppelia which he then performed with his own injury.
Jared knew exactly the impression he wanted to leave with the audience for this final performance on the Met stage. He gave a full-out reading of Franz’s character that could be heard all the way to the back of the Family Circle in the opera house. He delivered double tours with brilliant, forceful finishes after which he beamed his smile up to the tiers. They have become some of his highest currency along with his squeaky clean pirouettes with dramatic finishes.
It's not where you start, it's where you finish.
It's not how you go, it's how you land.
. . . .
And you can be the cream of the crop;
It's not where you start, it's where you finish,
And you're gonna finish on top.
Shirley McLain knew what she was talking about.
When at bows before the curtain, Jared motioned his thanks and farewell to the audience and turned to the Met’s gold curtain to do the same, Haglund thought how great he must feel to have his talent unchained. As a new member of the Houston Ballet along with Yuriko, he may be surprised to see the extent to which his New York following refuses to say goodbye.
This won't be our final Pump Bump Salute to Jared and Yuriko:
At the conclusion of today's matinee performance of Coppelia, Yuriko Kajiya was, of course, wearing one of her wedding dresses. She has several. Wedding dresses, that is. She has her Coppelia wedding dress and her Kitri wedding dress and her Giselle wedding dress, although that last one is a bit tattered.
Apparently Jared Matthews realized that Yuriko wearing all of these wedding dresses might be "a sign" because after tonight’s performance of Coppelia in which Jared danced Franz and Yuriko presented him with a bouquet, he raised up Yuriko’s hand and ring finger to show the audience that they had gotten engaged today! Franz ain’t so dumb after all.
More about the performances tomorrow after Haglund enjoys a round of golf, but he thought that the Haglund’eelers in the Houston area might be interested in hearing this tonight.
It is astonishing to watch Kevin McKenzie stand on stage cheering, smiling, and laughing as one supreme talent after another walks out on him because he failed to give them the opportunities and recognition that they should have had.