On November 24, 2010, the Mariinsky presented a special performance of Swan Lake to honor Natalia Makarova on the occasion of her birthday. The day before the performance, Makarova went to the studio to rehearse Ulyana Lopatkina and Danila Korsuntsev, who would be Odette/Odile and Siegfried on the special night, in their White Swan Pas de Deux. Ironically, Lopatkina wore a black practice tutu for the session.
The Mariinsky has loaded a video of this extraordinary meeting and rehearsal on its website. The tiny Makarova coaching the current giants of the Mariinsky in the finer points of the pas is just remarkable.
She helped Lopatkina find where her wings came from within her shoulders and she dialed back the final arabesque penche from 180 degrees to about 165-170 so that Korsuntzev's head and face were not blocked. She met resistance on the latter point and acknowledged that they have great differences of opinion, but the tiny tiger mother prevailed. She told Lopatkina not to miss the chance to communicate with her partner.
Korsuntzev is a huge man who lifted Lopatkina so very easily and seemed incredibly tender and refined. He will be Veronika Part's Siegfried when she returns to the Mariinsky in Swan Lake on February 19th.
Makarova's parting request to Lopatkina was for her to "Sing this for me tomorrow."
This clip is a treasure.
When Haglund decided to attend the Saturday matinee performance of Alexei Ratmansky’s The Bright Stream at The Kennedy Center, he didn’t realize that it would be about characters who pretend to be who they aren’t, chase after what they shouldn’t have, are unfaithful, accept lavish gifts from outsiders, and the principal character is a community amusements organizer – in short, another theatrical depiction of Washington, DC. But it was very funny.
The Bright Stream has a long, detailed libretto without having a story of much depth or significance. Le Corsaire is weighty by comparison. Lots of hilarious things happen over a two day period; many characters are introduced; relationships are developed. It’s more of a collection of crazy episodes that are woven together without really being related. But the thin threads of this weave certainly did provide the dancers with opportunities to strut their extraordinary stuff and act up a storm.
Xiomara Reyes as Zina, a local amusements organizer, Herman Cornejo as Pyotr, her husband, Isabella Boylston as the Ballerina, and Daniil Simkin as the Ballet Dancer were all dead serious about their comedy and executed it with expert timing and the astonishing technique that we have to fight ourselves not to take for granted. Xiomara and Herman tore through turns and allegro while making it look not only pretty, but effortless. No punching the steps by these two.
Both pairs of dancers had PdDs filled with the swirling, swooning, and (yeah!) big lifts to the shoulder – especially a nice one that has the woman being held in sort of a fish position and the man just whips her up over his shoulder. Boy, did Simkin make this look easy – it was as smooth as Vasiliy Alekseyev snatching his way to the Olympic gold medal. Isabella was down and then all of sudden she was up on his shoulder – all in one move. Beautiful. Simkin’s pointe work as the sylph was hilarious. He went for every move with 110% commitment – and while all of it might not have been especially pretty, it always succeeded in getting him where he was trying to go in unique fashion.
Let’s talk about the exceptional debut by Isabella in what was, Haglund believes, her first principal role in a full length ballet. She nailed it. She has always gotten the steps. The girl not only jumps like a deer, but unlike some other big jumpers with bigger press followings, the shapes of Isabella’s legs and flexible feet while in the air are beautiful. And today, she made a big, big statement about her theatrical value to this company. Yep, we got ourselves another one – another dance actress hatched out on stage before our very eyes.
Craig Salstein as the Accordion Player and Maria Riccetto as Galya, the school girl, are going to get their own spin-off sit-com. The audience screamed as Salstein leered at and pursued the wide-eyed Riccetto while burning up the floor with Ratmansky’s imaginative allegro.
Susan Jones nearly stole the show as the Anxious-to-be-younger-than-she-is Dacha Dweller who pursued Simkin and the Dacha Dweller (Clinton Luckett) while wearing pointe shoes, a red dress, a red wig and while carrying a fan as though she was Kitri in Don Quixote. Then she picked up the rifle and – oh, heck, Haglund isn’t going to spoil everything for those who plan to see this production in the spring at the Met.
Isaac Stappas, Simone Messmer, and Alexei Agoudine contributed memorable performances as the Tractor Driver/dog, Milkmaid, and Inspector of Quality. Isaac was initially outfitted in the basic farmer overalls without a shirt which did a lot to dress up the rather drab scenery and costumes. Maybe the drab was an intentional pullback for fear of experiencing the wrath that was dealt in connection with the Sleeping Beauty costumes. However, when Haglund saw the top of the front curtain which appeared to be an almost neon red/pink with drawings of the hammer & sickle, rakes, sheaves of wheat, airplane(?), and sun, he thought “Oh, no, here we go again with the promiscuous palettes.” But that wasn’t to be. The costumes, except for the Tractor Driver's and Ms. Anxious-to-be-younger’s, were quite drab, and the lighting was way too dark in almost every scene. What gives with all the diminished lighting at The Kennedy Center?
The corps work was spirited and there was interesting choreography for the Highlanders and Fieldworkers that involved some unexpected bends of the torsos.
The orchestra sounded super. Maybe the richness was the result of the hall being so much smaller than the Met, or maybe it was the result of better musicianship – whatever it was, it was nice.
Haglund looks forward to seeing The Bright Stream at the Met in the spring and hopes that he has the opportunity to see Isabella and Simkin together again in this production. We honestly do not need a guest artist for this – or anything else.
A grand and successful effort by everyone this afternoon, but the special Pump Bump Award with custom-ordered accordion strap is bestowed upon Isabella Boylston and Craig Salstein for their huge performances.
Haglund is penning this beneath the light of the dappled moon while coasting up the cold steel rails of the Northeast Corridor – listen: rickity rickity rickity rickity - a 3/4 waltz in the dead of night.
It was not a night to pass up at The Kennedy Center. ABT’s middle repertory evening included a stunningly beautiful Theme and Variations led by Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo. If you had an opportunity to see the Kirkland/Baryshnikov clip of T&V on YouTube before the Balanchine Police arrested it, you saw that this ballet looks extraordinary when the steps are not punched out and pummeled for the pure joy of pummeling them like most couples do at both ABT and NYCB. Be damned the Balanchine Regime’s annoying proclamation in every freakin’ Playbill that These Balanchine Ballets are produced in accordance with the Balanchine Style© and Balanchine Technique© Services standards established by the Trust yak yak yak. When you entrust the choreography to the senses of artists like Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo, you get a superior result that exemplifies graciousness, good taste, and almost unimaginable beauty. They were tops tonight and looked like a seasoned partnership even though they seem to be dancing together less and less frequently.
To deny the public an opportunity to see these two in Swan Lake now borders on criminal. This spring at the Met, we have to watch Cory Stearns dance Swan Lake twice, Julie Kent twice, Gillian Murphy twice, and David Hallberg twice. It’s insane to force this on your audience when you have Cornejo and Lane available. It’s insane to neglect development of a new Odette for six years when you have such extraordinary talent within the ranks and choose instead to throw money at multiple guest stars whose output doesn’t match their media hype. And Haglund is about to get started on the neglect of Maria Riccetto, who was a revelation this evening in her debut in Duo Concertant while her partner, David Hallberg, was somewhat miscast.
Haglund doesn’t like to see wimpy danseurs, that is, unless the choreography calls for it. Tonight the male leads in Duo Concertant and Lilac Garden were so light weight – gauze-like – that it was apparent why these guys have such trouble picking up anyone but the smallest ballerinas in the company. They’re wimpy. They have no strength in their arms or shoulders. They look like Ralph Lauren’s emaciated male models. A half hour less of rehearsal each day for these guys and a half hour more in the weight room would bring a much needed improvement.
But back to the subject of Duo Concertant – the music was awful. First of all, the violinist was standing too far down the side of the piano on the stage. He was nearly at the far end of it. He should have been more forward and turned more to the side so that the sound of his instrument reached the right side of the house. The sound of the piano completely overpowered the sound of the violin making the whole performance sound uneven and well, unfortunate.
Maria Riccetto was outstanding in every way in Duo Concertant – a truly exceptional debut performance. David Hallberg was excellent technically, but he looked odd dancing the steps, and there was a lack of maturity in the overall quality. Only during the last section which is danced on a darkened stage with a single spotlight did Hallberg shine in this. But Maria was sensational. The little old couple sitting next to Haglund, who began fidgeting in their seats when the Stravinsky music started, were by the end of Duo Concertant crazy in love with Maria with the little old man declaring She’s my all-time favorite.
Lilac Garden included a successful debut by Melanie Hamrick. Haglund adores Melanie and was delighted with her performances last year in Lady of the Camellias and Birthday Offering. But her interpretation of Caroline looked as though it was based on don’t do so much with this movement. Caroline’s predicament becomes evident through the choreography, but it looked like someone had told Melanie Don’t bend so much. Don’t move your head too much. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. And it didn’t help that she was dancing with a blank sheet of paper as a partner. Nothing came through in Stearns’ character. Nothing. However, he executed the steps reasonably well. The electricity in tonight’s Lilac was generated by Veronika Part’s encounters with Vitali Krauchenka and especially Daniel Mantei. As soon as Mantei had his first near-encounter with Veronika, Haglund’s focus went to him every time he entered the stage. Every time. Here’s a guy who could lift a ballerina. Haglund has been aware of Mantei since he joined the corps, but never really picked up on anything special about him – until tonight. He's got theater skills worth investigating, that's for sure.
The corps work tonight in Theme and Variations and Lilac Garden was excellent.
Unfortunately, Haglund had to leave at the second intermission in order to make the last train back to Clarksville; so he has no report on Fancy Free.
As you may be aware, the Kennedy Center has offered some generous discounts for orchestra seats this week. Haglund mentions this because the Playbill included the casting for all of the performances, and he thinks you may not want to miss The Bright Stream which features performances of the Accordion Player by those stylish interpreters Craig Salstein and Sascha Radetsky while the Tractor Driver will be portrayed by Isaac Stappas and Jared Matthews. Nor do you want to miss Simkin’s and Hallberg’s unique readings of the Ballet Dancer.
After all the complaining above, Haglund wants to reiterate how much he enjoyed the parts of the evening that he enjoyed. It was totally worth spending almost seven hours on the train today. He’ll do it again on Saturday. For tonight, the coveted Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo for their better-than-a-dream performance in Theme and Variations. What a treat it was to see them.
It's an orthopedic surgeon's dreamscape out there on the streets this morning. Black ice galore. Everyone be careful on your way to the OPENING NIGHT of NYCB'S WINTER SEASON. Haglund wonders if Peter Martins will come before the curtain with a little speech as he sometimes does. There certainly are a few things to discuss these days, but this is a family-oriented blog, so we won't go into them - at least, not now. Hope to see everyone at the performance tonight. And if you missed your little window of opportunity to squirrel away a few more shares of Apple this morning during its little slip & slide – too bad – but it's still a good nut for the nest.
Nobody's happy about not knowing who they're going to be seeing on stage before buying tickets, and everybody is especially unhappy when tickets are purchased to see certain dancers and those dancers don't show up on stage for the performance (or worse, Somova shows up in their place).
As recently as yesterday, changes to the Washington, DC casting were made, and the casting on ABT's website is still out of sync with the Kennedy Center's own site. Sync-ability is important. Ask Apple - they can give you 321 billion rea$ons why sync-ability is important. You have to be able to sync with your partners and concentrate on being in sync with your customers, or else they will desert you. Pay attention to Apple's earnings report on Tuesday, and you'll understand why it's stock is about to crack $400. Their sync don't stink.
Some performing arts organizations make the genuine effort to be in sync with their customers. NYCB not only emails reminders to customers about the upcoming performances for which they bought tickets, but they also send out emails when the new casting goes up, which is much appreciated. They took this effort a step further in December when they emailed customers about the upcoming debuts of several young dancers in important roles. Excellent idea!
The New York Philharmonic emails audience members after performances asking for their opinions of the program just attended. Haglund was delighted at the opportunity to express how much he enjoyed Thomas Hampson's interpretation of Mahler's song cycle Kindertotenlieder while simultaneously complaining that the new Thomas Ades piece affected him like shards of glass being pulled across his exposed nerves.
As of today, the ABT and Kennedy Center websites are out of sync. We don't really know who's going to show up to dance what. The only thing we can say with some confidence is that we'll be spared Somova, but it will be another tension-filled February when the Mariinsky arrives at the Kennedy Center.
Even if you've been stuck under a big snow drift these past few weeks, chances are you're looking forward to the next Great White Act that is coming your way courtesy of Emerging Pictures Ballet in Cinema program.
First up, the Royal Ballet's Giselle (Marianela Nunez & Ruppert Pennefather) will be streamed LIVE in theaters next Wednesday afternoon, January 19th, at 2:30 pm Eastern time with Encore Presentations at other locations.
Then on Sunday, January 23rd, at 11:00 am, the Bolshoi's performance of Giselle (Svetlana Lunkina & Dmitry Gudanov) and Class Concert will be streamed LIVE.
To find the theater near you that is presenting either of these Giselles, follow this link to the Ballet in Cinemas website and type in your zipcode in the bar at the top of the page. The website is not perfect. So, if you're having trouble maneuvering through it to get your information, call 212-245-6767.
Come on, People – especially you complainers who complain about never getting to see other big companies' productions while you're complaining about what's available in your own town – get thee to the cinema. If you want to see more of this type of programing, you have to support it.