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June 06, 2018

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You know, it just dawned on me that the bulk of Ratmansky's (very expensive) work for ABT lately have been "reconstructions." If I'm not mistaken (and correct me if I am), isn't 'Whipped Cream" derived from some Russian thing-or-the-other? Boy, is he working it like the rent's due.

Whatever one thinks of "Harlequinade," today's matinee revealed Simkin to be an indisputably dancer phenomenon in utter service to his character, the story and the choreography. Bravo, Simkin! And bravo Haglund for his learnèd reportage.

I seem to be in the minority, but I loved this production, every bit of it. It was full of beautiful, wonderful things, and kept me engaged and enthralled all through the 90 minutes or so. I enjoyed it so much, I'll be back to enjoy it once again on Friday. Thank heavens for Sarah Lane. Even after that slip + fall behind the parasol early in Act II, she still whirled her way through that intricate choreography like the pro she is. And yes, those rondes de jambe into arabesque - three in a row! - wow! My jaw literally dropped open at her gorgeous execution. Ratmansky can reconstruct anything he likes, I will sit through it all, an audience of one, if need be! I love his work!

Thanks for the excellent review, Haglund. So glad I opted for the Friday night cast. Some day I have to see Trenary in something substantial so i can see what the person who described her as (I'm paraphrasing here) an old-school elegant European ballerina meant. I've only seen her in Cockerel and Whipped Cream, but I hear her Gamzatti was terrific.

True, LLF, Sarah was remarkable. I think it says something that this particular cast's performance was the one for which a number of luminaries were invited as guests. Seeing Edward Villella and Mikhail Baryshnikov – both great Harlequins – sitting across the aisle from one another gave the evening an almost gala feeling. They are both so gracious and accommodating when the public gets excited about seeing them in the audience.

Eulalia, I agree with you about Simkin's Harlequin today. He knocked it out of the park. So utterly perfect for the role. Skylar also had a great performance. She was confident, wonderfully theatrical, and of course, had no problem with the choreography. What a trooper to step in on short notice and dance so amazingly!

I forgot to mention in the review how odd it was that the Production History written by ABT for the Playbill included no mention whatsoever of either the Burlaka creation or Mishutin reconstruction. ABT only mentions the Balanchine and Gusev versions.

Nina Ananiashvili's State Ballet of Georgia in Tbilisi has wonderful version by Mishutin which can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMLA9feb38I Her dancers are so beautiful!

This interesting YouTube video just showed up today. It is a comparison of four different versions of the Harlequin's Act I variation (Petipa, Balanchine, Burlaka, and Mishutin) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_X0no_ObB0

Hello, Haglund,

I saw two performances: Lane/Cirio/Abrera/Hallberg and Trenary/Shayer/Shevchenko/Hoven. I loved this piece. I didn’t go expecting a Swan Lake; I went expecting an entertaining bauble for a summer night and that’s what I got.

I’ve tried, I really have, but I just can’t warm to Lane. I’m coming to the conclusion that she just isn’t the dancer for me. I preferred last night’s cast to tonight’s, but the standout for me was Abrera, not Lane. Tonight’s cast was lacking sparkle; something just wasn’t there for me, with one exception: Hoven. I loved Hallberg: his Pierrot was a bully, a wife-beater who raged against his wife at every opportunity, but Hoven’s Pierrot struck me more as a besotted fool who loved his wife and just couldn’t figure out why things kept going wrong. Bravo to each man for keeping me interested.

Off topic on a totally different subject: did you go to DC to see the Cubans?

Ellen

I went to see the Shayer/Trenary cast, admittedly for Shevchenko and Hoven as Pierrot/Pierrette, and I wished I had seen any other. I could see what Shayer was going for, but he missed the character entirely and Trenary was shaky, putting it charitably. Shevchenko and Hoven were great and I wish they were pared up in Swan Lake. Alas...
Someone needs to explain to me Aran Bell and why he is getting soloist roles when he dances like someone straight out of the Academy.
The children were nice, albeit not synchronised. The choreography was charming but I kept thinking what Ashton would have done with it. La Fille Mal Gardee has a similarly thin plot but such a sparkling choreography.
I love Ratmansky. But I feel this was a misfire. Of course maybe a different pair of principals would have made all the difference.

I love this Harlequinade - everything about it, including the full Drigo score, which deserves to be recorded. I also love that ABT finally allowed Ratmansky to do “the full Design Monty” with substantial, richly-crafted sets and costumes, not reliant on projections or cheesy polyester fabrics, which ruined his Sleeping Beauty for me.

To whoever asked, Whipped Cream was first presented at the Vienna State Opera in the early 1920s but Ratmansky just followed the scenario with tweaks to the main character, to allow him more dancing and on-stage time. However, Ratmansky recently said that he used his “lessons about Petipa” when crafting his original ballet.

I thought that all three Columbines who I saw - Boylston, Lane & Brandt - were terrific. While we have no facts on why Celebrina pulled out as yesterday’s matinee Columbine, I’m wondering if she will ever dance the role? We may know next January 29, 2019, when Harlequinade opens at the Kennedy Center in DC...as she seems to be a special KennCen favorite. Time will tell. The other possibility is that Harlequinade might be scrapped for the tour, in favor of a ballet in which Celebrina shines?

Jeannette, I'd be surprised if they scrapped it for the Kennedy Center to accommodate the Celebrina. They can draw on the box office attraction of using 33 local kids in their production. However, I would NOT be surprised if the Celebrina tried to wiggle herself into the role of Pierrette thereby displacing Murphy, Abrera, Seo or Shevchenko. McKenzie is probably already try to work his own wiggle to get it done.

Ellen, I saw the Cuban National Ballet in DC do Giselle last Saturday. The Grande Dame Alicia Alonso was in attendance in the President's Box and received a standing ovation prior to the show which she acknowledged with signature flair.

The production was very different. The penche arabesques in Giselle's variation in Act 1 were not present, and there was a style of arabesque with the company where the head, torso, and arms were presented quite efface to the audience. Also the willis regularly had a position with their hips jutted out and I think their arms were much wider in fifth position than perhaps the American style. The musical arrangement was also different from other productions, but that's not uncommon, and they had a pas de six in Act 1 rather than the peasant pas featured in ABT's production. Another interesting note is that Hilarion (he might have been named something else in their production) was much more physically violent towards Giselle in their productions than in others I have seen. I thought Act 2 was definitely better than Act 1.

I am sad to not have been able to see their Don Q.

Rachel, thanks very much for this report.

Hi, Anna. I'm glad I skipped last night, but I think I may have to catch this cast on Saturday to see if anything has settled down with the leads. Trenary has been injured; so, we don't know how much that might have impacted the performance. I'm surprised to hear that Gabe Shayer missed the character. Hopefully his interpretation will evolve quickly.

In my view, Simkin was the best Harlequin of the three I've seen so far. He was superb. His dancing sparkled; his character sparkled. Whenever you give this guy a prop to use, he turns it into a million dollar performance. Unfortunately, yesterday, there seemed to be a misfire with the "money machine" that sends currency into the air. But it passed by almost without notice because Simkin was working his golden "slap stick" to the hilt.

Haglund, Thank you for clarifying that Trenary was injured. That is unfortunate and it certainly explains things. I generally like Shayer and I really hope he settles into this role. Seemed like his Harlequin was meant to be good natured, somewhat childlike and exuberantly happily in love, but something was just not clicking. Both leads were also behind the beat a few times and the lifts took some visible effort, and that affected the overall performance. Bell laboured to partner Shevchenko in Act I and I dread to think what he will make of Von Rothbart on the 20th.
How great it must have been to see Simkin as Harlequin with Brandt as Columbine. He is my remaining favourite principal but he keeps getting cast with Misty and I am just not a fan. I hope Saturday's performance is better, but if nothing else just to see Shevchenko's charming Pierrette dance circles around Hoven's hapless Pierrot is worth it.

rachel Perez, thanks for your comments on the Cubans. I actually went down to DC for 4 performances: the 2 Don Qs and the first 2 Giselles. The Giselle Wilis were the most frightening I have ever seen; bent over at the waist with their arms in front of their faces, they looked like a flock of snapping, pecking birds. I loved this conception of the Wilis. The Don Qs were fabulous: high energy, well-rehearsed, firing on all cylinders. On the first night of the Don Qs and the Giselles, Alicia Alonso was escorted on stage during the curtain calls; even blind and at age 97, that woman has more IT factor, charisma, call it what you will, than any NY area AD we could mention. The applause for Alonso was thunderous both times.

Back to Harlequinade: It's a shame about Shayer, but I see others feel as I do. He just missed the mark. CIrio was much more lively, more into it. Maybe I'll consider going to see Simkin. God knows, tickets shouldn't be hard to get. The amount of empty seats both nights I went is truly saddening.

Ellen, agree. These Willis almost had "agency" for lack of a better word. They weren't the mindless whispy followers of Myrta you see in many productions. When they do the "talk to the hand" motion to refuse Giselle and Albrecht (forget again what first name he was given in this production) assistance, it was with a deliberateness that suggested each of them was making an independent choice not to help, rather than a groupthink motion made solely at the behest and power of Myrta.

The green tint of their costumes also made them look at little more sinister and "from the deep lagoon" or decayed, which added to the terror.

It's always enjoyable to have your preconceived ideas about a ballet challenged by something new (to you).

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