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June 14, 2016

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Hi Haglund,

I, too, was there for the opening of Swan Lake. I can't begin to come up with the right words to describe how fabulous and memorable it was (so I'll leave that to you). I have seen many Swan Lakes in my time, and this was definitely one of the best performances ever... if not THE best. I'm going to see Swan Lake three more times this week, but I'm sure it will be hard, if not impossible, to top the Monday night event with Gillian and Marcelo. I’m so glad I was there. It’s one of those performances I won’t forget.

Maybe the powers that be are listening to you, Haglund. Melanie did the pas de trois tonight and was gorgeous.

B, I agree that in a week of less than optimal pairings, we probably saw the best on opening night.

Laurel, good to hear that Melanie got to shine on Tuesday night. She has extraordinary swan-like legs, feet, arms, and torso. Her brief stint with Thomas Forster as Odette a few long years ago at a gala revealed a special affinity for the role - which has gone completely ignored by ABT. Of course.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuwTwykSvsM

Catherine Hurlin had a very good night on Wednesday as one of the big swans/Spanish princess. As did Christine Schevchenko in pas de trois.
The performance however belonged to Veronica Part (with some fine showing by Marcelo Gomes as Von Rothbart). The crowd went wild after the third act. How I wish she were partnered with him instead of Whiteside.

Thanks, Anna. That's all good to hear.

We may never see Veronika and Marcelo together again in Swan Lake because they would eclipse all other couples by a long shot. Everyone would want a ticket and the attendance to the other performances would suffer. Thus, McKenzie doesn't give us the best that ABT has to offer because it would make his riffraff look even worse than it is.

Last night's performance was fantastic. Part is now my favorite Swan Queen. I was very disappointed that Gomes wasn't her prince but he did good work as von Rothbart.

I second a previous comment regard Catherine Hurlin. Also Teuscher also did good work in the Pas de Trois. A corps dancer who caught my eye was Patrick Frenette. He stood out in huge crowd scenes and even had an impromptu acting scene with Gomes' von Rothbart.

Great to hear, melponeme_k.

Yes, Frenette has had quite a season. His rooster in La Fille was excellent; in Le Corsaire, his work as a demi-soloist in the Forband section was sharp as a sword; even in his S.L. Act I corps work, he danced it with the commitment and exactness as if it were a star turn. His face reads exceptionally well into the house. His footwork is SAB-cleansed. It would be nice to see him with Courtney Lavine in something.

Indeed nice to see Lavine in something!:) I was there on Tuesday evening and would like to toss my hat in for her as well as Waski as the princesses. Waski, whom we haven't seen much of this season, IMO also did a splendid job with Giangeruso as the Big Swans, I felt they were very tight as a pair and danced with commitment as well. Hope to see more of them all in the rest of the season!

Whiteside is generally fine technically, but as my mother said he always looks like he is thinking about his dancing. I like him in roles that don't require much emotional depth (he was very good in La Fille Mal Gardee), but as Siegfried he is simply too blank. The difference is all the more pronounced when Gomes appears on stage. His Rothbart had more emotional chemistry with Part than her actual romantic interest.
I don't know what's happening with ABT. But most pairings leave me trying to figure out who would be better with this or that dancer. I think Stella Abrera actually manages to bring emotion out of Whiteside and I would love to see Gillian Murphy with Sterns, but it is simply criminal not to pair up Part with Gomes. I am also somewhat curious what would happen in a Simkin/Kochetkova pairing.

So disappointed that I bought all my ABT tickets before Murphy was assigned as Semionova's replacement! I have a limited budget and can only see a handful of performances each year (I also don't live directly in the city, so it's a transport issue as well), which makes it doubly frustrating when McKenzie consistently pairs his best dancers with lesser partners. It's as if he expects city-dwelling ballet fans to see two performances of each ballet in order to catch a good Lise and Colas (for example) separately, or that he believes people from out of town & more casual ballet fans don't know any better.

I really wanted to see Bolle's Prince Siegfried or Dreamboat Romeo, but Seo is (for me at least) so monochrome that I'm taking a chance on next year's casting. Nothing depresses me more than an Odette who just looks at the floor the whole time. Like so many others, I have been crossing my fingers very tightly in hopes that Veronika would take Semionova's open Swan slot. Now THAT is something for which I would have broken my bank account.

Anyway, this is very much along the same lines of complaint I've seen here often, so apologies for the repetition. I'm a relatively young ballet fan who can see that my generation is being marketed to very badly. It's as if other than Misty and Isabella's media interviews and Maria Kochetkova's Instagram (which is great, but she's still my fifth choice female principal dancer) are all they need to get young people invested in this company. People in their 20s will only keep coming back and create future audiences if they're absolutely blown away. Every time I bring someone new to a ballet, I know that if it's not Murphy-and-Gomes-do-Swan-Lake caliber, my guests will not buy their own tickets in the future. I'm desperately worried about ABT cultivating new audiences (as opposed to NYCB, whose performances seem to attract people of all ages, including a lot of children).

Grushenka, you hit the nail on the head when you said "It's as if [McKenzie] expects city-dwelling ballet fans to see two performances of each ballet in order to catch a good Lise and Colas (for example) separately". That is precisely how he assigns casting: the great paired with the mediocre so that he can force people to look at mediocrity as the price for seeing the beauty.

Look how that works: until 12 years ago I regularly attended about 40 Met performances per season, frequently dragging newbies with me. This year I'm only seeing 14 performances. It appears that much of ABT's Met audience is thinking likewise.

There are people in the supporting casts who I would like to see, but I'm not going to fork over my hard earned cash for a ticket and then have to put up with Copeland, Boylston, Kochetkova, Seo, Whiteside, Simkin, guest artist, etc. That's like going to a restaurant because it has great side salads with its rancid chicken main course.

Maybe it's too much to ask to have eight stellar casts of ballets like Swan Lake when ABT doesn't have the dancers to make that possible. Or maybe it does but it promotes the wrong dancers. Melanie Hamrick was fabulous in that clip at the Gala and I would buy a ticket to see her, rather than the mediocre dancers cast this year. And normally I wouldn't miss a Veronika SL, but the thought of having to look at Whiteside kept me away. Macaulay actually praised Veronika this year, but he's late to the party and there's no principal male dancer on the roster who would make an adequate partner for her except Bolle, and Seo hasn't fulfilled her early promise.

Maybe we can get a Stella SL next season, dancing with Thomas Forster?, although she seems to like Whiteside. I hear he's a really nice person and an excellent partner. I just can't bear to look at him onstage.

Angelica, if Melanie had come along while Baryshnikov was the director, we would today be celebrating her as one of ABT's glorious principals of the past.

I skipped Veronika's SL for the same reason as you. I could take the match up with Whiteside for Don Q, but not for this.

@Haglund

If Baryshnikov were director, Sarah Lane would have been one of his go to partners ASAP. No question about it.

I agree as soon as any dancer in ABT receives notice, they are immediately gang pressed into using their potential star power to prop up unpopular dancers. It breaks and sacrifices their career momentum on purpose.

Agree with you there, melponeme_k. Imagine those two in Giselle. Or imagine Sarah in Giselle with anybody:

Sarah as Giselle with Lake Cities Ballet
This photo is from her Giselle debut with Lake Cities Ballet a few years ago. More here:http://haglundsheel.typepad.com/haglunds_heel/2009/11/sarah-lanes-giselle-debut-lakecities-ballet-theatre.html

Hi Haglund,

I agree with you and melponeme_k about Baryshnikov and Sarah Lane! I was pining to see Veronika Part again in SL but making the trip from Boston along with seeing Whiteside was not appetizing. In the previous SL I saw, she was partnered by Stearns who I thought was flat and disappointing. I loved her in the Ratmansky back in May. I saw a lot of Whiteside at Boston Ballet where initially he was technically strong but wooden and uncommunicative. His face always looked tense and as someone here said, he looks as if he's thinking about his dancing, or he seems to be dancing for himself.

Thanks again for your terrific reviews.

After reading your SL review on Wednesday morning, Haglund, I was so inspired that I spontaneously bought tickets to see Part/Whiteside that night. I love Veronika and am always keen to see her in SL.

Well, I'm sorry to say it was a very disappointing performance: Veronika started Act II beautifully: powerful, mournful, confident. But somewhere in the middle of the pas de deux, the light went out of her eyes (which I could see as I bought *expensive* orchestra tickets) The show and dancing went downhill from there.

It became clear to me that she was not only uncomfortable with Whiteside's partnering (which was not great that night- esp the pirohuettes:come on, man), but also that she didn't want to be dancing with him. It felt like she lost faith in his ability to properly partner her; she even put her hand to her waist in the big arabesque press. (My husband, not a dancer, asked me if that was supposed to happen...)

But I was hopeful for Act III bc I have seen her absolutely KILL IT as Odile with her brilliant smile and seducing eyes. Instead, same thing: her eyes were bright and playful when she came in with Gomes, but then as soon as the pas de deux started, that light was gone. She seemed unsteady, uncommitted to the performance. I was squeezing my husband's hand during the fouttees, praying she would pull it off. It wasn't until the final notes of the pas that she came back out of herself to display that bright, fiendish smile of vicotry that she displays so beautifully.

So here are my thoughts: I agree that McKenzie is...missing in action. Whiteside is NOT a match for Veronika. (Besides being extremely lackluster in his own right. This is ABT. That used to mean something.) My husband said it perfectly, (again NOT a balletomane- this is how obvious it is): "He is too short for her and he's boring. She is too powerful for him but is holding back."

I have long yearned to see V really unleashed: given a partner to press her like a feather, someone who makes her feel so confident that she can really go for it. She has everything she needs to be the most spectacular in everything she does; I do not understand why anyone would entrust her to a partner who is not up to the task. It really breaks my heart to see a dancer like her not fulfilling her potential.

Do you engage in or have any ideas on how to communicate all of our thoughts with the movers and shaker of ABT? Is it the board we should write to? It's a crying shame to just let the company shrivel up and die like this. I would feel better if I felt like there was something that could be done.

Thank you for your excellent writing, as always, Haglund. It's thanks to you I even bought tickets this year!

Hi Liza. What a shame to have to witness our greatest and most important Odette in the past 14 years served so poorly.

To add insult to injury, Boylston gets a second performance of S.L. and her partner is Marcelo. Why isn't Whiteside matched up with Hee Seo more often? Answer: Because McKenzie knows how unappealing he is and wants Hee to have a star partner to try to pump up her popularity - which isn't working. Now he thinks a Boylston/Gomes match is going to make Boylston look like a Petipa ballerina. McKenzie must be on drugs or else he needs some.

Knowing that Boylston gets Marcelo infuriates me. That is just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. All night my husband and I wondered why Marcelo was doing Von Rothbart instead of Sigfried- V's chemistry w/ him was palpable.

Veronika is and can be a spectacular Odette/Odile: I've seen her bring the house down. Why anyone at ABT would put her in the precarious position of having to be partnered by someone less than able is beyond me. It is criminal. I'm really pissed now.

McKenzie needs to be replaced. Where is the petition to sign??

Boylston is not a classical dancer no matter what she thinks of herself or McKenzie thinks of her. Neither is Copeland. They are both modern dancers and better serve modern choreography that can overlook their less than stellar port de bras.

But ABT is classical company. Or at least I thought it was once. The real travesty is that the company has all the dancers it needs to create a new renaissance of classical dancing. All it requires is to get rid of the nepotism and build on momentum. Lane and Gorak had something great going, the rational action would have been to throw everything at them to see if their partnership had legs and create a must-buy affect on the box office. But no, they were both used to prop up other dancers thereby stifling their dance growth and doing nothing for the wannabes they gild on stage. They aren't isolated cases either.

The problem is the Board itself. Which is why I think writing to anyone involved won't help.

The Board is revealing their ignorance about classical ballet if they think McKenzie is doing his job. I guess the question is who is benefitting from maintaining the status quo? Someone always is when problems this big and obvious are left unchanged... maybe I'll go catch up on some back posts from Haglund- I have a feeling you have some ideas about this...!

I am put in mind of a record album once recorded by Cybill Shepherd at the behest of her boyfriend Peter Bogdanovich, called “Cybill Does It! To Cole Porter,” in which she sang off-key and with little understanding of the true nature of the songs. It was an enormous failure. These ABT performances of Swan Lake might well be called “Misty Does It! To Marius Petipa” (or Boylston or whichever inappropriate dancer an audience was forced to watch). They are rather like the personal vanity productions of someone who thought it was a grand idea for these dancers to be given leading roles for which they are so ill-suited. Once again, we have enormous failure.

A precise equivalent comparison, LLF.

More vanity roles in our future, I'm afraid. The manner in which Copeland expressed her desire to dance Kitri (without ever mentioning the technical obstacles) [ http://wwd.com/eye/people/misty-copeland-ballerina-talks-retirement-plans-10431973/ ] sounds like she or her agent has already informed McKenzie that she will dance the role in the next run. Ratmansky has been quoted as saying if a ballerina doesn't possess technical virtuosity, she should "stay away" from Don Q. Copeland doesn't possess the technical virtuosity required of any classical role that she has danced so far, and yet she seems to be handed them with great fanfare and free tickets for her fans. IMO, a complete and utter affirmative action failure.

Boylston is simply unfit for classical ballet but has weaseled in on the basis of the shape of her legs and feet. This afternoon, her illustrious partner will spin her furiously and lift her high, but when she has to dance on her own, it will be the same dumpy, horsey, inelegance over and over again.

It is a travesty whenever either of these dancers comes within a mile of white tulle.


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