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June 02, 2016

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Haglund, I saw only the matinee yesterday, but I agree with everything you wrote in your review, especially what you said about Gabe Stone Shayer, who never should have been hired by ABT in the first place. The only thing he can do is jump high and look smug. Also, although I didn't see the performance with Stella as Gulnare, I did notice how quiet Veronika's shoes were. I was in Row A Orchestra and didn't hear a sound, talk about rolling through the feet.

Like you, I was struck by the pale showing of our male principal dancers today, compared with those of the past. Cory has all the goods: handsome, gorgeous line, beautifully proportioned body (unlike poor Mr. Whiteside whose bared torso only served to emphasize the disproportion of his long upper body v. short lower body), awe-inspiring jumps (which I saw in a studio rehearsal) and turning ability. So why doesn't he deliver on stage? If you google "gene for risk taking," you will come up with a bunch of hits that are summed up thusly: "Being a risk taker has been linked to a certain DNA change in the DRD4 (Dopamine Receptor D4) gene. The idea is that if you have this mutation, you will do riskier things." I think the guys who go for the gold, so to speak, have that gene, which is seen in other behaviors in their lives, e.g., both Bocca and Corella started their own ballet companies, Stiefel goes motorcycling and took a turn at RNZB, Nureyev and Baryshnikov both defected to the West. Even Hallberg seemed to suggest having that gene in his decision to go to the Bolshoi. From my vantage point up close, it seemed to me that Whiteside pulled out all his stops and was taking big risks too. And we know about some of his risky behaviors. But Cory doesn't have that gene. So when he goes on stage he's going to dance artfully, but he's not going to take chances, chances that might cause him an injury or cause him humiliation. Of course, one can attribute the behaviors of the above dancers to things other than the gene (artistic fulfillment, etc.), and you may not agree with this, but I think that Angelica's Theory of Risk Taking in Ballet is worth thinking about and suggests a possible/probable reason that Cory falls short for us. Oh--and did I mention Vasiliev?

I think you're onto something, Angelica. And yes indeed, Veronika's shoes were very quiet.

Gabe Stone Shayer was striking and energetic in La Fille Mal Gardée. He's the only corps member who stood out for me. Perhaps he's not ready for his role in Corsaire (haven't seen it) but I was very happy to watch him dance earlier in the week.

Watched the evening performance on 6/2 with Cornejo, Kochetkova, Cirio, Lane, Simkin and Salstein. It was technically good but this ballet leaves me cold. Something is missing and characters are ill-defined. The crowd seemed enthusiastic though. Cirio was very good as Ali, and Cornejo was appropriately pirate-like. Salstein lacked impact and Simkin was Simkin. I always enjoy watching him dance but he is too playful to be menacing. Shevchenko and Paris stood out as odalisques. Brandt needs quieter shoes.

Thanks for the shoutout to the retired men of ABT. I remember those days when they were egging each other on. And were the best in the world.

Ah you hit my "love nerve" in my heart with these mentions Haglund...Missing these names Corella, Carreno, Stiefel, and Bocca, and I will throw my hat in for Baryshnikov! Thanks for the indepth review too! Many may not agree with me, and this is only a personal thought but I have not been a fan of Whiteside, after seeing him in a few past performances, I just feel as if he is dancing for himself, I have yet to see him really connect with his partners, he is not a believable as I have see with the "masters" whom are mentioned above, he is good technically but I think he is best to continue his work for his own brand that he advertises: JDubs? (I believe that is his own brand). I just can't see him every becoming one of the greats, not now anyway!
And completely agree with Annie H. about the men egging each other on in the past, I remember those days too! Healthy competition and you can see they had fun! That may be another issue now? I don't know much about the inner workings, but perhaps it is the lack of "healthy" competition/challenge/camaraderie for some? Maybe also board driven decisions for those who get on the extreme fast track too? I would think these factors would cause low morale in any company, which would reflect on performances!?

I was also at the 6/2 performance and agree with anna that something was missing. Cirio was good, but no one goes to Corsaire to see a good Ali; we are there to see a great one. Simkin may have been Simkin for some, but for me he generated star power that reached beyond the edge of the stage and brought life to the piece whenever he appeared. It was a competent but dull evening. In this case the ship deserved to sink.

Thanks to everyone for the astute comments. Re-reading my blog post convinced me to buy another ticket for Saturday night with the hope that "closing night energy" will lift the cast. So, it will be a double-pirate day for Old Hag on Saturday.

A reader has just reminded me that I was remiss in not including Luis Ribagorda in my short list of great Birbantos. My apologies - he was one the greatest ever. Look at these lines and the intensity:


Luis Ribagorda as Birbanto

Wow! I totally forgot as well, my bad too Haglund as I felt he was a great loss too, but not surprised with the sinking ship at this point! Let's hope they don't do likewise to his wife!

Hi Haglund,

I saw two performances of "Le Corsaire": on Thursday night and Saturday night. As much as I like Herman Cornejo and Sarah Lane, I was very disappointed on Thursday. I can't quite put my finger on why, but the entire performance seemed tired, lethargic and dated. I went back on Saturday evening, not expecting much, but surprisingly, I had a great time. It seemed to me that everything just came together better last night. I particularly enjoyed Veronika Part. I thought she lit up the theater! It's a shame we don't get to see more of her.

Hello again,

I saw in Playbill that Nicole Graniero was dancing with the corps last night. What a surprise! I know she left ABT last summer to join The Washington Ballet. She says on Instagram that she is back again with ABT for the rest of the Met season while on summer layoff from TWB. I think it's great to get the opportunity to dance with two different companies. Good for her!

I agree about Saturday night, B. I saw both performances on Saturday and each showed a lot of improvement.

I simply don't think that Conrad is a good role for Mathias Heymann but I can certainly appreciate and admire the French integrity in his dancing. The showboating required and the tackling of such an absurd and ridiculous story kind of goes against the grain of his POB upbringing.

Stella danced one of her strongest, most beautiful Act Ones ever in this ballet. And you know what, no one was in the Company's Box to watch her. If ABT can't round up the director, assistants, or go-phers to watch its dancers, how can it expect other people to shell out vast sums of money to watch them? McKenzie has been doing this for years. He skips Stella's performances, he's often skipped Veronika's, he used to skip Jared Matthews' and any number of other dancers who aren't named Simkin, Boylston, Seo , Copeland or "guest artist". How does a director give feedback to a dancer after a performance if he doesn't even bother to watch it? Oh, wait, maybe McKenzie doesn't bother to give feedback to the dancers after performances - except for (see above).

In the evening, everyone seemed to be trying a lot harder. It was much better but not even close to the Noche Latina Le Corsaires a decade ago. Stearns had a lot more energy; Whiteside took some good risks (very appropriate for Le Corsaire but not most elsewhere) and took his dancing a level up; Gabe and Joo Won -- they couldn't get out of I-wanna-be-a-danseur mode to really tackle their characters. Years ago Carreno was such a hoot in Lankendom. One second he was scheming and the next second he was clueless as to how he got into trouble. Cornejo and De Luz were dark and dangerous as Birbanto. Their fierceness was totally believable and their humor was very sharp.

In the evening, Veronika was simply sensational. We're so happy to see her dancing on such a high level.

It is interesting that Alastair Irrelevant et al are resisting with their noses high in the air any reviews of Le Corsaire. They seem to think that the production is beneath them to watch.

Here's a link to veteran NYT dance critic Anna Kisselgoff's review of Le Corsaire in 2002: ( https://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/19/arts/dance-review-corsaire-tells-its-tale-by-leaps-and-bounds.html ) She absolutely loved it and made this astute observation: Every individual performance has to be at the highest level for the staging's stunning impact to come through. That may be what part of the problem was this week.

Four years later, ABT put together the two Noche Latina performances which were blockbuster successes. The NYT's dance critic at that time, John Rockwell, had a rip-roaring good time at the performance he reviewed: ( https://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/25/arts/dance/25cors.html )

It was good to see that the attendance was a lot better than Sylvia. That certainly would have irked Mr. Irrelevant.

And yes, isn't it good to see Nicole Graniero back again!

I didn't mean to imply that I don't love watching Simkin, I do. But to me he steals scenes, and while it's a great quality, sometimes he needs to disappear into the role completely and shine the spotlight on whomever he is partnering. Gomes for instance does both effortlessly.
Now I wish I had gone to Saturday's performance instead.
P.s. I never see anyone in the company or director's box.

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