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June 22, 2016

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Hi Haglund,

I’ve seen two casts so far this week: Marcelo Gomes and Diana Vishneva on Tuesday night, and Gillian Murphy and Alexandre Hammoudi tonight. Marcelo and Diana… what a partnership!! I knew it would be an absolutely stunning performance… and it was. There’s really not much more I can say. Tonight’s partnership, however, was less awe-inspiring, Gillian was fabulous as Juliet, but unfortunately, I can't say the same for Hammoudi as Romeo. While he was fine in the supporting role of Paris on Tuesday night, I don’t think he has the stage presence for a role like Romeo. It’s not a question of talent. Some very talented dancers (like some talented actors) are just better as supporting players, and this may hold true for Hammoudi. Throughout the evening, I kept thinking that Blaine Hoven (who was Benvolio both nights) would have been a better Romeo. He's tall, good looking and has beautiful, classical lines. With the proper coaching, I think Blaine would have more of that “wow factor” that was missing from Hammoudi’s performance tonight.

Hi, B.

Hammoudi definitely excels in the prince roles such as Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Cinderella as well as the "darker" roles in the rep such as Othello/The Moor's Pavane. I imagine that he would do very well in the role of Death in The Green Table. But the roles that call for expressive emotion, while within his eventual grasp, are some ways off being what an audience expects. With Hammoudi, my gut feeling is that it's a matter of natural reserve and lack of confidence that are getting in the way. I wasn't able to see Wednesday night's performance due to a conflict but I am definitely finding Hammoudi's development worth watching.

Completely agree about the Marcelo and Diana duo! Can't wait to see how the Ferri return will be tonight, nose bleed section seats might be my issue, but binocular ready! I just wanted to throw my hat in for one corps though, Waski, who seem to be new in the role of Rosaline the other night? Not an entirely lengthy role or much dancing but I thought her entrance and stage presence was also quite impressive. I do hope the AD will continue to nurture and grow this talent as I can see her as one of the tall principals one day?

Definitely, H.F.

I could only do one R&J this season and it will be the Ferri/Cornejo tonight. I'm interested to see if the Mandolin Dance is still sloppy, if the Harlots still aren't bringing it. One of my biggest complaints of the last several seasons is that corps and soloists always look so under-rehearsed.

Does no one at ABT understand that the principals alone don't make a satisfying evening, that everyone on stage has to contribute? (What's that old theater saying? There are no small actors, only small parts.)

Hi, Ellen.

I suspect everyone on stage will be "on high alert" tonight.

But, yes, there seems to be a methodology of "we'll schedule this amount of time to rehearse this and that amount of time for that," and then whatever comes of it gets thrown on the stage regardless of how ready it is. The quality of the coaching (excepting Kolpakova's) doesn't even rise to the low end of average. Think about whether you ever saw any performances by McKenzie, Roberts, Raffa, or Luckette that ever truly moved you in any way. I certainly can't think of any; and yet these are the people who are responsible for passing on the artistry of the repertoire. How can they pass on what they don't know and never could accomplish? How can they claim artistic authority over classical roles they never danced? Is anyone surprised when dancers reflect the dullness, lack of sparkle, shortcomings, and boring personalities of their coaches?

You have hit the nail on the head Haglund! I was just reminiscing the Baryshnikov days recently, especially after hearing the announcement of Luckette replacing Barbee! I recall his lack of appeal back in the day and yet he became a ballet master?! That in itself was a shock ... and now KM's right/left hand?! I was so hoping for Carreño's return, he would have been an amazing addition to the artistic staff, but I guess he would have overshadowed all others, including KM (except Kolpakova)! I just feel so bad for the lack of proper training for those talents we mentioned above :(

ABT definitely needs a coach on the men's side on a par with Kolpakova on the women's side. There are several names that come immediately to mind: Baryshnikov, Carreno, maybe Bolle when he no longer performs (hard to imagine, he's just amazing!). But as long as the current AD (along with Luckett no less) is the men's top coach, we are going to have a deficit in the men's coaching roster.

ITA, Angelica.

Another name that comes to mind is De Luz. There has to be someone who is intensely results-oriented, can communicate expectations clearly and forcefully, and inspire the dancers to stretch beyond that which is possible today. ABT's current "I'm OK; you're OK; let's all have a nice day" approach inspires mediocrity.

I brought some ballet first-timers to the Diana/Marcelo performance, and they are STILL talking about it on repeat. Such is the power of their chemistry with one another and imersion into these roles. And even though I agree that the death scene felt rushed and anticlimactic, Diana and Marcelo have certainly perfected the art of the movie star curtain call, haven't they? You could hear the audience swooning.

Echoing many of the sentiments here, I was also extremely uncomfortable whenever it was time for the corps to dance. Not only the mandolin dance, but Juliet's friends after she drinks the potion were just as sloppy. Their extensions were all over the place in terms of height and most annoyingly, where was any sense of formation?! Will someone please bring in an old school screaming maniac to get things in order if that's what needs to happen? I had to explain to my friends that the corps is not usually just a time filler. that it's usually an attraction as well. Perhaps the corps will be tighter for Sleeping Beauty. I imagine KM thinks he can phone in R&J a bit since the original choreography and score are Teflon beauties.

Shoutout to Martine Van Hamel. The Nurse part can be very irksome (to me at least) when played with a heavy slapstick angle, but she brings so much wisdom and affection to the role.

Devon Teuscher is impossibly gorgeous and elegant (Can anyone else see her taking over the Julie Kent void if things fall into place?) but for me, too young for the role of Lady Capulet to the point of distraction.

Hoven really does have a wonderful presence. ABT really need to give a lot more work to the young male dancers in preparation of filling the Marcelo-shaped hole when he ages out of a lot of these parts. He's been doing a lot of heavy lifting for ABT lately.

@Zoot: Yes, ABT needs Jerome Robbins-type that will unleash hell because the current ballet masters aren't getting it done.

Anyone who attends the Ferri performance tonight, please let us know how it goes. It's incredible that she's still dancing at this level but a 53-year-old Juliet? That does require a huge suspension of disbelief.

No suspension of disbelief is required tonight. Ferri is dancing this role with more youth, facility and abandon than any I have ever seen. Those who strain to critique are likely to find themselves with hemorrhoids on their very expensive fillers.

Tonight's performance was easily the best I've ever seen. Not only was Ferri as magnificent as ever, her chemistry with Cornejo was unbelievable. They were truly teenagers in love. I saw tears in the audience.
The entire cast elevated their game. Salstein struck just the perfect balance of emotions and Zhurbin made a truly menacing Thibault. Stella Abrera brought all the right nuances to her role as Lady Capulet (her scene upon Thibault's death is so full of expression). Paris, Hamrick and Chevchenko were very good as harlots. And the audience was so amazingly quiet.
It was special. Truly special.

Could not agree more. Truly an A-list cast. Can't remember a Met audience that demonstrated more excitement. I noticed a number of dancers in attendance including Tyler Peck and Robert Fairchild

Last night I was transported back to more than 25 years ago, watching Bocca and Ferri in R&J for the first time. Though Cornejo is not Bocca in the role, the overall performance was more than I have seen all season. Lackluster casts and choreography have abounded. Watching Ferri last night restored my faith (a bit) in ABT. Maybe they realize that Ratmansky and Copeland are not ballet for New York ballet fans. Ferri;s artistry was wonderful to see!!!

Oh wonderful to hear! I'm jealous at all those who were in attendance. Alessandra remains by all-time favorite Giselle.

Well, I am clearly in the minority, but I found last night a so-so evening. Cornejo had stamina issues; he was visibly huffing and puffing early in the second act while his Benvolio and Mercutio weren't even breaking a sweat. Ferri was far too mature for the role of Juliet; I thought I was watching a boy dance with his mother. Apologies to all the fans, but I was very disappointed.

Ellen, I agree. I applaud Ferri for doing this -- can't even imagine how nervous she must've been -- and she retains much of her glorious technique. But the first act was super-tentative (especially compared to Diana's on Tuesday). I felt the music dragged, especially in the balcony scene. That sense of ecstatic freedom just wasn't there. Right before it, my friend whispered to me, "I'm nervous" -- as was I. Felt she was more on her game in Act 3, and her dramatic skills are undiminished. But overall, I wasn't as blown away as I had hoped, especially with Cornejo. To me, the chemistry was just "meh.' Oh well -- she did something amazing, so good for her. Now she can go eat a big cheeseburger.

I've gotta disagree with the last two comments-- I thought Cornejo was on FIRE. His turns were so crisp, and the view from one of the boxes (instead of the orchestra where I usually sit) brought into wonderful relief just how pristine and musical his technique still is in comparison to Salstein and Gorak-- there was a beautiful dimensonality to his steps; he was clear as a bell, and it was clear he was dancing for her. They had dazzling chemistry imbued with all these wonderful details, like when he pawed at the hem of her dress while sitting on the floor while she danced around him in the balcony scene-- together they were truly teenagers in love.

I must agree with the K's comment. I've been watching Cornejo for years. And I have seen the amazing Ferri and Bocca partnership when she was still a principal at the company. I have never seen him take flight like this. There were even sporadic applauses during his solo in the balcony scene because his love, joy, lust, his desperate yearning were palpable in every movement. He really was dancing for her and her alone, like no one else existed.
And Ferri's transformation throughout the night, her liquid exuberance in the balcony scene and her sheer misery in her bedroom pas de deux with Paris, when one could tell that she was recoiling from him with every cell of her being. It didn't feel like she was dancing or performing. It felt like this was all happening to her, and she was just living through every emotion while the rest of us watched.
I really hope Haglund was there and will post a review.

Thanks, Everybody for these comments about last night's Ferri/Cornejo performance. It took me a while to craft my own review. It is now posted, and I have re-posted your comments to the review of last night.

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