Stella Abrera will be Calliope to Roberto Bolle's Apollo with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall on November 27th, 28th and 29th in a program entitled Dudamel & Bolle. Devon Teuscher and Hee Seo will dance Polyhymnia and Terpsichore. Subscriptions go on sale April 7th, and single ticket sales begin on August 23rd.
Meanwhile, Down Under in Sydney – Come on H.H. Team 6 B.A.D, what's going on down there?!
West Siders in Manhattan are very excited about the anticipated takeover of the Whitney Museum of American Art from the East Side. Our new Whitney, another curious design by Italian starchitect Renzo Piano, opens on May 1st. It certainly looks better than the Pez Candy Dispenser that Piano designed for the new NYT headquarters, doesn't it?
The museum sits between the Hudson River and The High Line in Chelsea's Meatpacking District. It will include 50,000 square feet of indoor gallery space and 13,000 square feet of outdoor exhibition space that faces the High Line.
All of the construction workers get a free year's membership to the museum.
Next up for the West Side's development is our new Culture Shed which we reported about on the blog two years ago. Since then, excitement has picked up and there is even a Wikipedia entry for it. Foundation work is already underway, and full construction will begin very soon.
The new artistic director of the Culture Shed is Alex Poots. He is the Founding Artistic Director of the Manchester International Festival in the UK and the acting Artistic Director of the Park Avenue Armory here in Manhattan.
The Culture Shed has the beginnings of a website, and now is the time to bookmark it.
London's Daily Mail spotted Mick & Melanie climbing into a limo in Manhattan recently. Oh, this hurts. It's not a good time for one of Haglund's favorite ballerinas to be distracted. Preparations for ABT's Met Season are about to move into full swing – maybe Mick is Melanie's warm-up swing.
Anyway, this is an entertaining read, particularly the comments. One reader noted that Mick has a face like a map of Iraq while another wondered how it felt to be with a guy who has to use more hair colour than you do. Tsk, tsk, tsk.
Haglund wishes that Melanie and a few of his other favorites like Courtney Lavine, Tom Forster and Leann Underwood would pack up and move to London to dance. Yes, it always seems like the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but really, right now, where is it more parched and lifeless than at ABT?
Speaking of London - Osipova is injured again and had to withdraw from rehearsals for a week and performances of Balanchine's The Four Temperaments at the Royal Ballet. What - they wouldn't create a Fifth Temperament for her?
So Osipova is injured and Olga Smirnova is STILL injured. Yet, McKenzie is still selling tickets as though Smirnova is going to perform in La Bayadere during the Met Season. Oh heck, maybe she'll dance in soft slippers – ok? If she doesn't at least dance La Bayadere in soft slippers, how will McKenzie be able to make a splashy announcement that she's a new ABT principal thereby avoiding the promotions of the company's authentic classical stars, Stella Abrera and Sarah Lane?
At what point will consumers begin complaining to the New York Attorney General about ABT's yearly fraudulent selling of performances by artists when it is unreasonable to believe they will dance? If anyone is slightly interested, here's the link: http://www.ag.ny.gov/consumer-frauds/Filing-a-Consumer-Complaint.
The full casting for Alessandra Ferri's return to the Royal Ballet in Wayne MacGregor's new Woolf Whistles Works has been announced, and RB-omanes are wondering aloud why the company's principals are all in the first cast.
To our faithful readers in Sydney, Australia: Haglund hopes that you will get some good bootleg vids of our Stella Abrera as Giselle in The Australian Ballet's performances at the Sydney Opera House on April 13th and April 15th matinee. We'll pay good ole Yankee dollars for them.
This comes from the Department of It's-best-to-come-up-with-one's-own-original-artistry-instead-of-messing-with-another-genius's-respected-work-and-trying-to-call-it-your-own.
The Director of Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet has been fired as the result of his re-working of Wagner's opera 'Tannhauser' which was offensive to a lot of people. According to the Siberian Times, "The dismissal came as several thousand protesters rallied against the opera, waving patriotic flags and banners. One said: 'Orthodox Christianity is the foundation of the great Russian culture.'"
The Russian Culture Minister, Vladimir Medinsky, fired Boris Mezdrich and replaced him with –
(wait for the trumpet roll, please)
– Vladimir Kekhman, who will now wear two hats as the head of the Mikhailovsky and the Novosibirsk.
At the end of last year, the ballet artistic director of the State Primorsky Opera and Ballet in Vladivostok, Russia (where our very own Joseph Phillips is the highest ranking Principal Dancer) was ousted following the company administration's dissatisfaction with the manner in which Tchaikovsky's beloved music was manipulated in Swan Lake and other ballets. It seems particularly disturbing was the treatment of a waltz in connection with Von Rothbart. That character has made a career out of getting stagers in trouble.
Down in Washington DC at ABT's Kennedy Center gig, Julie Kent withdrew from both of her performances on extremely short notice due to injury. Many were saddened when the DC casting originally revealed that Stella Abrera would not have an opportunity to dance a warm-up Cinderella before the Met Season because Julie needed to ride one last tiara into the sunset.
Injuries are always a shame. Being so grabby with roles at the end of a career is shameful. Not being prepared to dance them and then not acknowledging it in time to give others a chance is shameless diva behavior.
Due to Julie's uncertain physical condition, she should be withdrawn from all but her final Met Season date to insure that she has plenty of time to prepare to give her last performance of Romeo and Juliet her very best. The Giselle belongs to Stella Abrera who will in April perform it with the Australian Ballet and will receive coaching from world-respected classicists for her company debut. Unlike Julie, Stella will be in top performance condition with a fine-tuned Giselle when the Met Season begins.
The Monterrey International Ballet Gala has announced its lineup for performances on September 5th and 6th:
5 y 6 DE SEPTIEMBRE, AUDITORIO LUIS ELIZONDO
Marianela Núñez - The Royal Ballet
Thiago Soares - The Royal Ballet
Greta Hodgkinson - The National Ballet of Canada
Marcelo Gomes - American Ballet Theatre
Victoria Ananyan - Dutch National Ballet
Daniil Simkin - American Ballet Theatre
Victoria Jaiani - The Joffrey Ballet
Fabrice Calmels - The Joffrey Ballet
Antonio Douthit-Boyd - Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre
Kirven - Douthit-Boyd - Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre
Katia Carranza - Ballet de Monterrey
Much more information is available at the organization's Facebook Page.
Well, it sounds like Ric Burns’ reputation as a legitimate documentary-maker is about to fall into the sewer if this new ABT Infomercial gets aired on PBS as it is supposed to on May 15. From accounts received here at the blog and read elsewhere after its screening in Washington DC last night, the documentary is really a promo and misinfomercial for Kevin McKenzie’s re-imagining of ABT’s history (that is, a lot of it doesn’t exist) and the promotion for his own mismanagement of the company.
The press release for the Washington DC screening called it the World Premiere Screening. Now, apparently, McKenzie is trying to call it a work in progress. How about a disaster in slo-mo.
No mention of Cynthia Gregory, Gelsey Kirkland, Fernando Bujones, Toni Lander, Veronika Part, David Hallberg, Julio Bocca, Alessandra Ferri and many others.
But there is Misty Copeland blabbing away about diversity and still NO MENTION, NO ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, NO THANKS to the wonderful black female soloists at ABT who paved the way for HER and opened doors for HER. Nora Kimball, Anne Benna Sims, Shelley Washington apparently didn't and don't exist.
The greatest advancement in diversity in ABT’s history came prior to McKenzie’s tenure and occurred during a very difficult cultural environment where true resistance could have been a problem. McKenzie completely failed to build on what Baryshnikov and other directors did before him and is now trying to save his legacy by pushing forward a black soloist who is a mediocre classical dancer. Never mind that in the latest, most classical of ABT’s efforts, its new Sleeping Beauty, the best secondary principal role Copeland could secure was 5th cast Princess Florine - that’s 5th cast, as in last cast, as in 4 came before her including a corps dancer - and by others’ accounts, she still stumbled through it.
And there is apparently footage of Isabella Boylston presented as an ABT exemplary Odette? Has the world gone mad? No Cynthia Gregory or Veronika Part in Swan Lake, but there is Boylston?
No mention of McKenzie’s over-reliance on guest artists for the past decade. No mention of the extraordinary talent that the company permanently lost due to the practice of replacing its own talent with imports.
No mention of Eliot Feld among the choreographers for the company.
This is a documentary? Ric Burns’ reputation is on the line here, and it doesn’t look good for him. It could be hard to trust anything of his again.
Good read in the Washington Post online in which Sarah Kaufman profiles ABT's three retiring ballerinas and digs a little deeper into the matter of Paloma Herrera's withdrawal from Sleeping Beauty. It seems Kevin McKenzie refused to give her so much as a simple choice of ballets in which to retire and pushed her into the Sleeping Beauty. You know, like every ballerina wants to contend with hellish balances in the Rose Adagio on her last performance with the company while wearing an unattractive white wig and overblown costume. Well, after the performance in Costa Mesa, Paloma put her foot down and said NO.
“It wasn’t my choice to retire with ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ ” she says, in the lyrical rhythms of a light Argentine accent. “I don’t feel comfortable with it. . . . I wanted to do something that I’ve done a lot with ABT.
“I’ve been here for 24 years and it’s been my life, and I really wanted to retire with something that meant something special to me,” she continues. “It was not very nice that I didn’t have a choice. It was like, ‘You have to retire in this production.’ ”
After the Costa Mesa performance:
“It’s a whole different look,” Herrera says. “And I felt even more that it’s not how I should be represented in my last performance.
Here's McKenzie's snippy retort:
Asked to comment, ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie issued this statement: “Regarding Paloma’s decision to withdraw from her June 9th performance of ‘The Sleeping Beauty,’ I was taken by surprise that she would allow us to advertise her farewell performance in the ballet for six months before informing me that she would refuse to appear in it.”
Well Bud, push a ballerina too far with your nonsense and she just might push back.
From Paloma's description of the dancers' disruptive use of phones in class, in rehearsal, and in performance, it sounds like the little kiddies need a classroom monitor. Or maybe McKenzie should make them check their phones at the local deli where they can pick them up after school. No wonder ABT is in such a disarray; it's virtual playtime. What business, including McDonalds, allows employees unfettered recreational time on their phones during business hours?
Good for Xiomara Reyes for blasting ABT for using so many guest artists.
Julie Kent comes off with an overly strong sense of self-importance. As one who sat through too many of the performances that she just had to have one more of, or should never have had even one of (Theme and Variations comes to mind rather quickly), Haglund is dismayed but not surprised at Julie's lack of understanding of how she has been a major clog in so many other, younger, and better dancers' careers. You think she didn't have a choice about what ballet in which to retire?
Longevity doesn't automatically equate to greatness. It just means one held on, in this case with the help of being married to the Associate Artistic Director and with the help of being a lifetime friend of the AD who looked the other way as performance quality diminished.
There is some good news today, however. Tom Forster has been cast as the Poet in two Les Sylphides performances.
Maybe someday we'll have the opportunity to see our own Stella perform the role that she was destined to dance. Meanwhile, the rest of the world gets to enjoy it.
The Australian Ballet has just announced that Stella will perform the title role in Giselle at the Sydney Opera House on Monday, April 13th and Wednesday, April 15th opposite Principal Dancer Ty King-Wall. She is, of course, a Royal Academy of Dance Genée Awards Gold Medal winner which apparently is meaningful to most everyone except for Kevin McKenzie who would rather saddle us with a clumsy, inelegant horseface for Giselle than the beautiful, classically-gifted Stella.
Stay tuned. Thanks to our H.H. Team 6 BAD (Ballet Activities Division) in the South Pacific for the heads-up and for keeping us updated.
Sure, it was only the opening of previews, but those are some of the absolute best, one of a kind performances on Broadway.
Officially, An American in Paris opens on April 12th; so, for the next month, the production honchos will fine-tune and edit the musical to prepare for what could be a very popular and prosperous run.
Haglund has been looking forward to this event for five years - ever since he heard Robert Fairchild utter a few lines on stage in an innovative but unsuccessful dance-theater piece by Melissa Barak at New York City Ballet:
"Robert Fairchild, as Bugsy, showed the most theatrical polish with his lines and God only knows how many Broadway stages he will dress when he’s finished at NYCB."
In the years after, there were other signs that Fairchild was destined for Broadway: his astonishing performances in Who Cares?, Balanchine's ballet set to George Gershwin's tunes, and a one-night return of the tap and tuxedo number, Not My Girl, choreographed by Peter Martins to a 1929 song by Fred Astaire and Van Phillips, for the NYCB Fall Gala in 2012. He's a rare performer who can bridge modern times with a bygone era and do it authentically with his natural style.
We see some of this in Director/Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, too, who took thematic inspiration for this musical from the iconic 1951 film starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. In recent years, Wheeldon has also given clear signs that he was bound for Broadway in many of his ballets that showed strong appreciation for sophisticated production elements like those used in big musicals: Estancia's wild horses, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Cinderella with their imaginative mix of video, puppetry, and choreography, and his brilliantly crafted The Winter's Tale which will finally land on an American stage in January 2016 when the National Ballet of Canada brings it to the Kennedy Center. Wheeldon previously used Gershwin's music in a ballet he made for NYCB entitled An American in Paris, and he has also has been drawn to Rodgers and Hammerstein's tunes from the 1945 Carousel for his choreography.
But let's get to the show which is far more dance-intensive than the 1951 movie. Everything dances. The scenery dances, the spoken dialogue dances, the tunes dance, and of course the feet dance.
The book for the show was written by Craig Lucas, and it is fantastic.
Jerry Mulligan, soldier turned artist, doesn't want to go home to face questions about what he did and saw in the war. He wants to stay in Paris and forge a career as an artist. He hooks up with two other guys, a composer and a performer, and all three end up falling for the same French girl. That's all you need to know about the plot before walking into the theater.
When Robert Fairchild as Mulligan rushed onto the stage and launched into lines and song, it was overwhelming to see this artist, formerly known to us exclusively as a premier ballet dancer, suddenly take over the stage with singing and acting talent that, up to now, we only suspected he had. All of the energy, conviction, and joy that he always brings to his performances at NYCB saturated every second that he was on stage in this nearly three hour performance.
Fairchild's strongest song and dance solo was his number that opened Act II, "Fidgety Feet" – what an explosion of Hugh Jackman-like charisma. And the audience ate it up.
Gene Kelly's voice was described as weak and wobbly, but it had an every man quality to it that made it unique among the voices of his day. Fairchild's voice is similarly light weight, possibly because he speaks and sings from the upper part of his vocal chords which depletes the volume and sometimes makes his voice sound apologetic. That was mostly noticeable when he sang with the other two leading men in the cast, Max von Essen and Brandon Uranowitz, who are very strong singers. In fact, one of the charms about this production was the uniqueness in the voices. Today's Broadway shows are so full of singers and songs that sound like they came out of the same mass manufacturing plant. But this show - these performers - these great songs - all one-of-a-kind from note one.
Now let's get to the female lead Leanne Cope who played Lise. OMG, OMG, OMG! OMG, again. Wait until you see this little ballet dancer from the Royal Ballet seize the stage and the spotlight and belt out number after number like she's been performing in musical theater her whole life. The first time she looked directly out at the audience, it was over. We were hooked. Wherever she wanted to take us, we were ready to follow that lovely and convincing French accent. Without any doubt, she was the standout of this performance - a true triple threat who probably just launched a major Broadway career. Producers are going to be lining up for this lady – just wait and watch.
Since the major artistic element of the show is Wheeldon's choreography, let's talk about it. It's very, very, very good for the most part. Inventive, showy where it should be showy, intimate where it should be intimate. It demonstrated yet another giant step up in versatility for this choreographer who in the last couple of years has bolted to the forefront among today's dancemakers. Only in one number in the last half of Act II did the choreography get somewhat long and boring. You know the poem, "When you don't know what to do, just pique soutenu." There was a lot of pique, pique soutenu, pique turn, pique battement fouette which we have seen a lot of in other work by Wheeldon. Call it pique-itis. Whenever it starts, it's time to stop and re-think. Hopefully, this long piece will get cut in half, because people in the audience started to get a little restless.
We hope that no one will be offended by the focus of this review on the ballet dancers in the cast. That's just our habit. Everyone else was superb as could be. In addition to Max von Essen and Brandon Uranowitz, this power cast included Jill Paice, Veanne Cox, Scott Willis, Victor Wiseheart, Rebecca Eichenberger and a composite ensemble of ballet and Broadway dancers who simply could not have been better.
Haglund loved this show and is going to go back again and again. He may even stop by the stage door and wait for Leanne Cope to appear to present her with her first H.H. Pump Bump Award, a Christian Louboutin sleek stiletto with supporting Eiffel Tower.
Despite what may have been written recently in The New Yorker or earlier in the NYT, the Paul Taylor Dance Company is still Paul Taylor Dance Company. PTDC is now the main component of Paul Taylor's American Modern Dance, but it still has its own identity.
From last night's Playbill:
Here's the BIG news:
That's the Orchestra of St. Luke's conducted by Donald York! Wow, what a difference they made.
And here's the BEST news of all:
Sorry for the blurriness, but Haglund snapped this pic of the fast moving Mr. Taylor with one hand while holding off the usher with the other hand. You gotta do what you gotta do.
What a terrific performance last night. Company B looked like new. Robert Kleinendorst's Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B) was a highlight as was Eran Bugge's Rum and Coca-Cola section. Kleinendorst as Troilus and Parisa Khobdeh as Cressida romped to the Dance of the Hours by Ponchielli (aka Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah from 1963) in Taylor's very funny Troilus and Cressida (reduced). Michael Trusnovec, now in his 17th year with the company, was and always has been a riveting central figure in Brandenburgs. Michelle Fleet danced gloriously with the gusto and zest for life that is the hallmark of Taylor's dancers.
We're going to get back to the PTDC and PTAMD several times over the three-week run and hope to see more ballet-type folks there, too. Marcelo Gomes was in the audience last night - a sure sign that it was the place to be.
Check this out. Don't miss Promethean Fire, Esplanade, Piazzolla Caldera, Sunset, Eventide, Cloven Kingdom and so many other great ones. The Limon Dance Company will stop by to perform Doris Humphrey's Passacaglia, and Shen Wei Dance Arts will perform Rite of Spring. Some performances still have $10 seats left.
For much of the past year, McKenzie has knowingly over-relied on Hallberg getting back on stage in order to peddle tickets. Only when it became obvious to 99% of the buying public that he wouldn't be dancing did McKenzie finally fess-up. Then, as though he had no other choices, he swiped Paloma Herrera's Sleeping Beauty partner (Bolle) out from under her and gave him to the Russian Faux-ABT kitsch-ster for Swan Lake as Hallberg's sub. Why? Because in the year that he's trying to pretend that ABT is so damned concerned about presenting a "proper" and authentic Sleeping Beauty, he can't stop himself from praying to the crotch-exposing, artless Semionova.
Hopefully, the Latino audience will observe the trashy treatment of Paloma Herrera by ABT in its blind service to the Russian faux-ABT kitsch-ster.
Hopefully, the Latino audience will remember ABT's trashy treatment of Angel Corella and Jose Manuel Carreno who the company pushed off the stage little by little in blind service to Russian kitsch-sters.
Hopefully, the Latino audience will see that Wednesday, May 27th will be DUMP ALL OF OUR LATINA PRINCIPAL BALLERINAS IN SERVICE TO RUSSIAN KITSCH-STERS DAY.
Hopefully, the Latino audience will just turn its back and walk away.
A Wednesday matinee Farewell slot is a slap in the face, a message of the honoree's insignificance. If Paloma doesn't want to be saddled with a Sleeping Beauty partner who is a guest sub-artist, as she was last week in Costa Mesa, who will blame her? If she'd rather go out on a Giselle, who will blame her? But McKenzie's foisting a Wednesday matinee while awarding the weak, klutzy, over-the-hill Giselles of Seo, Boylston, and Kent higher profile slots is just inexcusable.
By the way, the fraud and lies continue - Smirnova is still injured. The Bolshoi wouldn't dare slot her for future performances, but, oh yeah, ABT will. When it comes to the point where the Bolshoi is more honest and truthful in it's casting than ABT, it's past time to give McKenzie his own Farewell - at a tech rehearsal.
If that Sleeping Beauty slot vacated by Paloma doesn't go to Stella Abrera, you may see us get even more irritated.