ABT presented the first performance of its All-Classic
Program Tuesday evening – a pastiche of works by the 20th century masters
MacMillan, Tudor, Ashton and Balanchine. This is just the kind of program that
a small-minded local newspaper critic will use to rank choreographers.
You've heard him before, "I was having a splendid time until ABT had to remind
me of MacMillan and his insipid Manon." - or something along those lines. But these evenings of dance are never about the choreographers. They are about the dancers and the life
they bring to steps that have no life or meaning without them. The only thing that will
ever give any choreography importance or value is the dancer's performance of
it. And because there is no ultimate authority on choreography, no ultimate
textbook on choreography, no Ten Commandments of Choreography, everyone
and anyone can hang out a shingle as an expert on choreography – which far
too many have done. The newspaper dance critic's emphasis today on analyzing
choreography instead of critiquing performances is a lazy way of getting around
learning about the art of dance. If someone wants to be a choreography critic,
he should call himself a choreography critic - not a dance critic.
The evening opened with Balanchine's Allegro Brillante.
This is not a piece that Balanchine created for Ballet Theatre, but
you wouldn't have known it by last night's performance. Gillian Murphy and
Ethan Stiefel burned up the marley in one of the most exhilarating and musical
interpretations that Haglund has seen in a long, long time. There was a moment
of concern when a corps member, the beautiful Hee Seo, went belly splat on the
floor downstage. Shaken but seemingly uninjured, she quickly picked herself up
and completed her corps responsibilities as though nothing had happened and then
a few short minutes later delivered a beautiful Thais PdD with Sascha
It was hard to believe just how beautiful Murphy looked in
the Karinska-designed costume. Her red hair and creamy complexion were stunning
against the peach color of the costume's fabric. But it was how the
choreography seemed to emerge from her organically that made Haglund think
that perhaps Murphy is the dancer that this ballet has been needing and even waiting for. Every
step of the foot was effortlessly placed in its perfect position easily within
the music and without looking rushed – no small accomplishment. Some of the
complex partnering took on new added value – when Murphy and Stiefel were
holding the other one's hands in profile before executing the
roll-over-and-under-the-arm rotation where Murphy ends up in penche arabesque,
they looked into each other's eyes as if excited to get to this
particular challenge and confident that it would be perfect. It was. When
Stiefel swept Murphy off her feet into a long, romantic fall to the side in his
arm, it was heavenly.
The corps of four men and four women was superb and they made all of those first arabesque sautes look like something other than the usual monotony. Haglund
wishes, however, that when Balanchine's works are set on ABT, the stagers would
refrain from trying to instill messy hands and funky fingers as part of the
choreography. The messy hands and fingers in Balanchine's works evolved on
their own over decades of ballerinas trying to out-exaggerate one another.
Later as dancers aged and their legs and feet declined, their arms and hands
became all the more ornate as if to compensate. The old TV shows of
performances by Maria Tallchief and Melissa Haydn depict beautiful classically formed
hands and fingers with little or no funk. The fingers and hands devolved to
their worst in the 1980s and 1990s. So if ABT is using stagers from that period
of time, care should be taken not to adopt the worst affectations that some
stagers hold on to so as to identify themselves as Balanchine
Following Allegro Brillante, we were treated to three PdD
which took us from restrained beauty (Tudor'sRomeo and Juliet) to exotic and
mysterious beauty (Ashton's Thais) to unbridled passionate beauty (MacMillan's
Manon). If Haglund hadn't had such a bad headache, he would have loved to have
seen the Wedding Night PdD from Mayerling added to this trio for its terrifying, insane
beauty. Watch it here, if you dare. If we wish for it, it will
TheTudor PdD is set to Frederick Delius' music which is
lighter fare than the Prokofiev score with which we are more familiar. It
is sweet, indeed, but doesn't hold the passion or the foreshadowing of tragedy the way the Prokofiev
does. The PdD, while beautiful in its simplicity and last night touchingly
performed by Xiomara Reyes and Gennadi Saveliev, isn't strong enough to stand on
its own in a mixed repertory program. Nor does it persuade Haglund in the least
that he would like to see Tudor's Romeo and Juliet production substituted for
the MacMillan masterpiece. Of course, a critic who makes it his life's
mission to discredit MacMillan will probably call for just the
The Thais PdD was stunningly performed by Sascha Radetsky
and Hee Seo. It made me look at Radetsky in a new light - not the tough guy,
not the comedian, not the over-anxious technician – but someone who clearly has
the makings of a romantic lead. This was one of the most profound and sincere
performances Haglund has seen from Radetsky since his role as a grieving father
in Tudor'sDark Elegies. Hee Seo was exceptionally beautiful in form and she
conveyed the mystery and allure of her character exquisitely. An all around
fantastic performance from both and the audience conveyed its appreciation very
warmly. Haglund can't wait to see them again tonight!
The Manon PdD was performed by Diana Vishneva and Jose
Manuel Carreno. It was okay except for the fact that it wasn't Ferri and
Bocca. Sorry, it's just too soon to get over them. Haglund has too many
powerful memories of their honest passion in Manon.
The second half of the evening's program was a top tier
performance of Ashton'sThe Dream with Julie Kent, Marcelo Gomes and Craig Salstein as
Puck. Salstein was magnificent! It was so good to see him in this major role.
Turns, split leaps, comedic timing, devilish confusion – it was all there in
very good form. But the dominant character in this performance of The Dream was
Gomes. You've not clearly seen the mime of Oberon until you've seen Gomes
employ it. His execution of Ashton's amazing array of combinations was
phenomenal. The big guy was moving at top speed last night. Can't wait for
Friday night's performance. Julie Kent was a beautiful Titania and her rapport
and timing with Gomes were perfect. The Ashton choreography makes wonderful use
of Julie's expressive arms and lovely leg/foot line especially during her final
PdD with Gomes' Oberon.
The fairies, especially Gemma Bond (Mustardseed), Simone
Messmer (Peaseblossom), Isabella Boylston (Cobweb), and Luciana Paris (Moth),
were terrific. Gemma Bond, looking soft and radiant, really took on the persona
of the fairy and moved with just a touch more confidence than the others.
It was a very satisfying evening of ballet, and Haglund
bestows this Prada jeweled Pump Bump Award to Radetsky and Seo's Thais
Pas de Deux because it was just such an unexpected stunner:
A Red Velvet Cake Conspiracy has been victimizing Haglund
all summer to the point where he has been worried whether he would continue to
fit in his red velvet seat at the Met Opera House. Unlike with the seats on the subway, you
can't spread across two seats in the opera house and just say, "Sorry Bud, go to
the next car." Nor is it well-received when your anatomy spills over into the
next person's space - especially when it's hot and muggy. So, Haglund
was not put out at all last night when some of the higher calorie lifts were omitted
from the Act II Pas de Deux at Swan Lake. The lower calorie
substitutes were all quite delicious and nutritious. By Acts III and IV,
Haglund's gut was ready for the big old dessert tray once again. And boy was it
loaded last night.
Let's stop all this silly food talk and get to the meat of
the matter. Last night's Swan Lake cast had a last minute substitute of
Veronika Part and David Hallberg because Irina Dvorovenko suffered an injury and
could not perform. Irina and her husband Max Beloserkovsky have supplied us
with some of the classiest and most enjoyable Swan Lake performances throughout
the years and so it was just awful to hear of Irina's injury. Haglund'eelers
everywhere wish her a very speedy recovery.
With little rehearsal and to Haglund's recollection, not
much more than one previous Swan Lake together, Veronika and David closed the
week-long run of Swan Lake with a fantastic performance. They are quite
handsome together and if adjustments had to be made during the partnering and a
lift truncated, it did not jar the audience out of the fantasy. Odette had a
much more reasonable tempo with which to convey her predicament in Act II than
she did on Monday night. Her final series of supported pirouettes and
concluding penche arabesque were the miracle the audience always holds its
The Act III Black Swan PdD was excellent. Hallberg is
simply unmatched when it comes to beauty of line and those jumps that sail
through the air. The speed with which he gets that back leg into attitude
position on his coupe jetes brings the whole shape of the jump into clear view.
Speaking of attitude positions – last night Haglund observed from both Odile
and Siegfried some beautiful, tight, square, 90 degree angle attitudes that were
gorgeous. Haglund loves the perfect square attitudes and wishes they would be
used a little more frequently instead of the elongated ones where the knee
sticks out past the side of the shoulder and the shape zooms upward. He would
especially love to see perfect square attitudes used in the Rose
The Act IV PdD was sensational and the lifts were, too.
Siegfried lifted Odette sky-high with seemingly no effort and she arched
backwards with stunning beauty. A fantastic Act IV from these two - just
fantastic! A smallhowever - Odette stepped off the cliff
vertically while looking down as if she was unsure where the pond was. We don't
want to see her bounce back up the way Siegfried Carreno sometimes does, but a
little more of a horizontal exit would have been nice.
Swan Lake is a lot more than just Odette and Siegfried.
Once again last night we were treated to a brilliant PdT from Blaine Hoven,
Stella Abrera and Maria Riccetto. When Blaine positioned himself in the
downstage corner to prepare for his diagonal of spectacular, splitting grand
jetes entournant, he wore a wonderful, confident expression on his face that
said "Watch this, I'm about to make you crazy" – which he did. Stella belted
out entrechat sixes and flying assembles that caused the audience to interrupt
with applause. Maria finished those supported pirouettes with such authority
and charm. Oh, these three are very, very good in this PdT – and they
know it – and that makes it all the better.
Jared Matthews gave a hugeperformance as the
sexy, dangerous Von Rothbart. This guy is now attacking every role with a new
fearless authority and blistering energy that is making him very exciting to
watch. What a year he is having!
The ladies and gentlemen of the corps were superb as
well. There just are not enough thanks for the swans – all of whom were truly
beautiful all week long and gave such pleasure to the 30,000 or so people who
saw them. That's a lot of memories made in a short time.
And so, we come to the close of another Swan Lake Week.
The fantasy never fails us and it always leaves us aching for more. Haglund
must venture below ground to the secure vault in the saferoom to bring out the
Golden First Position Pump Bump Awardfor this week's grand
Get on over to the Koch on Saturday afternoon or Saturday
evening to see one of the final performances of Peter Martins' new work Mirageset to an original score composed and conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen with a set sculpture by
Santiago Calatrava, and violin solo by Leila Josefowicz. Ignore the New York Times'
review. Macaulay either has to complain irrationally about a dance or gush
irrationally about a dance, because just saying something is okay or nice or
perhaps worth taking a look at doesn't inspire reading the newspaper or buying
it. Okay is not news that's fit to print.
The composite experience of the music, choreography,
scenery and the fantastic Jennie Somogyi makes Miragea pleasant and interesting
middle to the evening's program. The Martins cliches are ever present;
however, there is plenty of new and inventive material to ponder. And if it's
not new material, it looks new because of the interpretive powers of
Blessed with the absolute lowest center (Haglund
knows that's modern dance-speak) of any ballet dancer anywhere,
Somogyi's slinking, grounded style deals uncommon strength to her torso and
hips. When her powerful legs extend, one can almost see and feel the path of
the energy as it travels through the limbs and out the end of her feet. When
Somogyi's leg flies up in a battement, one sees the energy arc as it is drawn
with her pointe. All of her movement emerges from her lower core, and it is
truly beautiful to watch the power, control, and freedom that gives
The Calatrava set is stunning. Industrial art meets the
stage. Here's a picture of it opened up but much of the time its halves, which resemble big combs of steel, are closed together is one form or another:
It slowly turns and twists its
shape throughout the music - which is part of the choreography by Martins. It divides
and assembles. It raises and lowers. Steel silver for most of the ballet, it
takes on colors at the end. It's fascinating. Haglund thought that it was cool the way the backs of the costumes of Somogyi and her partner Jared Angle had vertical combs that connected the viewer's eye to the sculpture.
The music, clearly "new music," is much more than a violin
solo for Josefowicz and doesn't strive to hurt the ears the way some new music
does. It has depth and passion and melody and drama. But as with most new
music, Haglund cannot recall 8 counts of it to hum.
NYCB's whole concept of the season's Architecture of Dance was a really good one, and Haglund hopes the company repeats it utilizing other architects or visual artists and more new musical compositions. But next time, let there be more actual collaboration among the artists - particularly the composers and choreographers.
Sunday is Darci Kistler's last dance. It will mark the
passing of an era as the last Balanchine-trained dancer leaves the company. The
symbolism of this retirement has been underestimated instead of underscored, but it will be honestly
felt come Sunday afternoon.
Haglund bestows this Calatrava-inspired Pump Bump Award to Jennie Somogyi for her lovely performance in Mirage:
Haglund needs to put out a health warning for
balletomanes who might have weak tickers: Subjecting oneself to the emotional
1-2 punch delivered by Veronika Part's Odette/Odile on Monday night and Diana
Vishneva's on Tuesday night may lead to a state of euphoric incapacitation that
may reveal all or some of the following symptoms: racing heart beat, watery
eyes, shortness of breath, disorientation, weak knees, emotional exhaustion.
Take in these two ladies in Swan Lake on consecutive nights at your own risk. And
then, do it again.
What a fantastic Tuesday night where everyone shined their
brightest - the big stars, the new stars, and the little twinklers who are just
But first, let's talk about Blaine Hoven in the Pas de
Trois with the incredible Stella Abrera and Maria Riccetto. Every jump, every
turn, every pose by Blaine was a picture made for the New York Times. Grand
jete entournants that split to perfection right on the music. Click. Pirouettes
perfectly formed that finished with a pow. Click. Beats that crossed. Click.
Arabesques - huge. Click. Click. Click. What a night he had!
And Stella - she's making us into crazy people with her
miraculous comeback. What a stunning display of all things beautiful. Maria -
such joy, neatness, and deserved confidence. This PdT was one heck of a way to
start the evening and Haglund must say that he has watched this trio develop the
SL PdT for some time now and thinks they are fast approaching the all-time
greatest performance ever by Cornejo, Cornejo & Reyes. Go, Blaine, go!
Sascha Radetsky - one blazing, sexy, menacing,
sexy, you're-scary-but-I-want-you-anyway von Rothbart. Excellent
characterization details. Excellent dancing. Great elevation. Click. Click.
Isaac Stappas - the ugly von Rothbart gone insane.
Terrific performance. Frightening.
Diana Vishneva - Haglund has always loved Diana's Odette
and this time he noticed that moment in the Act IV PdD when she realized her
fate, and her face became numb, blank, expressionless - like death. But then
she snapped out of it and fought and fought and fought von Rothbart to save
Siegfried and herself. And then, oh no, oh yes, she went over the
cliff with a little temps de fleche to the back and Siegfried dove after her in
a weeping, lay-out of resignation. So perfect.
Diana's Odile wore one evil, smirking smile
and inserted turns a la seconde into her fouettes as if to dare Siegfried into
his own a la seconde spinning frenzy. Diana always plays the Black Swan PdD
recklessly - because, well, Odile is a reckless bitch of a swan - a
switch, if you will - and so she should look wildly out of control -
but while doing everything perfectly, of course.
David Hallberg was a devoted, somewhat naive but
passionate Siegfried who seemed caught up in a situation beyond his control. So
all he could do was dance miraculously with sky-high leaps that traveled
endlessly, pirouettes so musical that it hurt to see them end, delicate
partnering, pondering so serious and troubled that you just knew that fate would
not deal this prince a break. Another fully thought-out, tremendous performance
from Hallberg. He's not just a pretty face of a handsome prince - but he's a
brainy, handsome prince.
The ladies and gentlemen of the corps surpassed their
fantastic performance of the night before. The Aristocrats with Sean Stewart,
Jeff Golladay, and Gemma Bond stood out for their vibrance -- these are
three dancers who you know will never choose to dance anything
ungrammatically. Haglund thinks he's really talking about
integrity in their dancing.
All of the peasants including Joes Gorak & Phillips
and Isadora Loyola were just wonderful. The swan corps, again,
Tuesday's Swan Lake was full of ravishing performances,
but the Haglund's Heel Pump Bump Award(Leather Belted Bliss)must be bestowed upon Blaine Hoven for his handsome,
It had been a long 359 days since Haglund's last Swan Lake
- when Nina Ananiashvili bid us farewell and Haglund thought the world might end. Good thing it didn't – wouldn't want to have missed this year's
opening performance with Veronika Part as Odette/Odile and Cory Stearns as Siegfried
- a late substitute for Marcelo Gomes who was to have been a substitute for
This was Stearns' New York debut. Junior just got his
Siegfried operator's license last April (in Chicago) and tonight he took the
company's Odette LX 950 out for a spin. In six lanes of traffic - at top
speed. He squealed the tires once or twice, stuck close to the road's shoulder,
and rarely looked in the rear view mirror choosing instead to focus on the
road straight before him. He was observed trying to smoke while driving. At
other times he seemed to stand at a green light waiting for it to change.
Junior was not exactly sure where he was going with the Odette LX 950, but he
didn't have an accident, didn't nick her finish and managed to bring her home
safely – to the relief of all.
Faced with the responsibility for the opening night
performance of Swan Lake and then having two partners wuss out with injuries,
Veronika went on to give one of her strongest, most confident performances ever. She made a
clear statement which Haglund will paraphrase as, "I don't need no stinkin' _____ in
order to bring down the house with Swan Lake." And no, she doesn't.
Conductor David LaMarche nearly wrecked the first two acts
with his cartoonish, fast tempos. Haglund thought, "Well, maybe this is how
ballet companies employ economies of scale to save money - they just dance
everything faster." Not a good idea. LaMarche has a proclivity for going
rogue with tempos and this wasn't the first time his erractic
conducting nearly wrecked a performance.
But Veronika prevailed, undaunted by the speed, and
delivered all the expected details: luscious lines that were endless in their
beauty, mime so full of emotion that Haglund's own eyes got misty, and
extensions where the top of the foot curved over giving the line the fluid
dynamic of an ocean's wave. When Odette collected her feet on pointe and began
a passe up the front of the leg, there was a whole chapter of her story in the unfolding of that developpe.
The PdD of Act II was beautiful. Stearns made no
mistakes, although his emotion did not register. He will look stronger
theatrically when he dances with a smaller, more reserved Odette. But Haglund
will give the kid credit for not freakin' out for having to debut in New York
opposite Veronika Part on opening night. No doubt he will tuck away that rose that she gave him
at bows in a safe place and the memories will last for a long time. His own
dancing included pirouettes that were slow and workman-like but he ended them with a strong
statement. The inflexibility in the back made his arabesque look 40 years old.
Same with his jumps which really didn't go anywhere and didn't form strong,
clear shapes. But Stearns stood firmly behind Veronika and was determined not
to let her down from a technical standpoint. He didn't.
Veronika's Odile was the best Haglund has ever seen her
perform. She hissed. She spit. She seduced. She not only did 32 fouettes,
she pumped 32 releves - with no resting in multiple revolutions. The
tentativeness that used to mark Veronika's Odile is gone.
Haglund must comment on some of the other fine
performances from last night:
The PdT with Sarah Lane, Yuriko Kajiya, and Jared Matthews
sparkled. Sarah, unfortunately for us, is a jewel being kept in the safe and is
only brought out for a quick peek now and then. She should have been our
Sleeping Beauty this year and she certainly should be our Juliet. She is
Exhibit A for McKenzie's under-utilization of the company's homegrown and
remarkable talent. Exhibit B is Stella Abrera who looked like another Odette
misplaced in the swan corps. She and Hee Seo were beautifully coordinated as
the two Big Swans. Exhibit C is Misty Copeland whose Hungarian Princess was
one of the most charming and prettiest solos in Act III. Exhibit D is Renata
Pavam, a small dancer whose fundamental abilities are the widest ranging and
strongest in a corps of technical wizards, continues to be overlooked for growth
Lastly, the ladies of the corps must be congratulated for
their superb performance. They were beautiful beyond words and brought the
magic of this story to life. Haglund knows how much the corps dreads Swan Lake
Week and the utter torture and fatigue that it brings each year. But he hopes
there is comfort in knowing that the swans bring a spectacular theatrical
production to life each and every night of that special week. Were there no
swan corps, no one would bother to come to see Swan Lake.
And so, with special thanks to the ladies of the corps,
Haglund bestows this gold and diamond Christian LouboutinPump Bump Award
entitled "Love Hurts" to all the performers for their incredible opening night
of Swan Lake.
This is justtoo bigto let go of. Who is going to be the choreographer for the new ballet score bySir Paul McCartney?
The Haglund Hunch-O-Meter needle is swinging wildly, wildly, and even more WILDLY.
See that Winter Season premiere by Susan Stroman on the NYCB calendar? Could it be her?!
OK, Haglund'eelers, let's get to work and sniff this out. This scoop could win us another year-end Baggie Award over on The Ballet Bagwhere they are currently highlighting their visit to the Tokyo Balletwith a side trip to the famousChacott dancewear store. Look at all that stuff!
Jennie Somogyi will be dancing FOUR times next week in Peter Martins' new ballet entitled Mirage with music composed and conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen and sets by Santiago Calatrava. The premiere is Tuesday (June 22nd) with repeat performances on Wednesday, Saturday matinee, and Saturday evening. Also dancing in Mirage will be Kathryn Morgan, Erica Pereira, Jared Angle, Chase Finlay, and Anthony Huxley. The guest violinist will be Leila Josefowicz.
Haglund is hopeful about this collaboration because of the high levels of experience of many involved - most notably Somogyi's. She's probably the company's most able when it comes to inhabiting modern music.
Even though Jennie Somogyi Week coincides with Swan Lake Week, Haglund recommends that everyone get to the Koch to see Jennie stoke this ballet.