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November 11, 2013


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Didn't Bujones do double pirouettes from 5th position followed by double tours in Theme? As I recall, Baryshnikov did single pirouettes and Bujones did doubles. Maybe someone out there can clarify.

Hi J. I don't know what Bujones did but I sure wish I'd seen it.

Before departing New York and while I still have in hand a couple of hours, I thought that I would like to offer a broad overview of my responses to this year's ABT Fall season. I hope that you are yourself intending to write something of the kind and, should that be the case, then what follows might make a useful contribution to a discussion that needs to be had.


I think that it has been, overall, very uneven. Accepting the artistic decision to programme only mixed bills, there seems to me to have been a somewhat awkward mix actually chosen. Much more classical, that is to say purely classical, pieces and many fewer modern oddities would seem to me to give a better idea of what this generally wonderful company can do.


Last night I saw for the first time ever "A Month in the Country". It is the very epitome of what I was trying to convey by what I said in my earlier comment on the topic of beauty as the essence of ballet. A simple narrative conveyed with simple and crystalline clarity. Exquisitely crafted choreography. Great classical music matched with taste and refinement to the stage action. Similar taste and refinement in the staging itself.

And the dancing, the dancing.

Xiomara Reyes gave what was in effect a master class in how a great ballet dancer who is no longer in the first flush of youth can move an audience deeply by making intelligent and elegant use of what she has retained from those earlier times. Mr Stearns, whom I find uneven in performance, really did pull off the role of the Tutor. Mr Scott, whom I cannot recall having seen previously in a comparably challenging classical role, gave a first class performance. The real star was, for me, Miss Lane as the emotionally confused daughter. Such grace and style in movement. Such credible acting. Surely ABT will have the good sense to see that this extraordinarily accomplished young dancer is given a sensibly calibrated chance to dance major roles, BUT with each new role accompanied by the best available one on one coaching. Given the proper direction and encouragement, I believe, based upon a number of performances seen this Fall, that there is nothing that this young woman could not accomplish in the world of real, romantic and traditional ballet.

This ballet was for me the clear winner of the palm for best ballet and for best overall performance

You speak of "Bach Partita" and I know from your own critique how greatly you admire the work. I saw it two or three times, (I forget which, without my Playbills which are winging their way to Sydney), and I am more ambivalent than you.

Great music, of course, and I agree wholeheartedly with your praise of the violinist. About the choreography I am not so sure. For a ballet that is non-narrative and that depends, therefore, upon pure movement, it struck me that the piece was too long, too busy and too repetitive. An amateur like me can make little sense at all out of being told that this or that dancer does an entrechat or an arabesque like no other. An amateur ballet enthusiast, which is all that I can ever claim to me, has no conceptual understanding against which to test such assessments. That inevitably makes it harder to come to grips with a non-narrative ballet such as the Partita piece. I admired the skill and the suppleness of the dancers, but I was left ultimately recalling a critique which I read a long time ago about a performance of "Fidelio" conducted by Karajan, no less. "It was perfect", said the critic, " like the perfection of a well -rounded icicle". I'm sorry, Haglund, but there it is.

"The Moor's Pavane", of which, also, you make specific mention, I saw some four times and, interestingly, with the same cast on each occasion. I liked the ballet itself. I thought it simple and stylish, well staged and well lit. Of the dancing, I would say: three clear hits and one overall miss. The overall miss was the Moor's wife. She looked unsettlingly diminutive alongside her three colleagues. More importantly, matched against superb performances by Miss Part, her stage presence was no better than workmanlike. I have said that I find Mr Stearns to be an uneven performer, but I must say that the role of the Moor's friend seems to me to fit him like a glove. I saw him dance the piece last year, (I think), and had the same reaction. (Digressing while I remember the incident, I thought that Mr Stearns made after one of last week's performances a very attractive pitch for support from the audience members for the DRA initiative).

"Gong" and "Clear" I thought to be a total waste of time. I kept thinking of Macbeth: " Sound and fury signifying nothing".

The "Shostakovich Piano and Trumpet Concerto" was, I thought, like the curate's egg, good in parts. It certainly had plenty of zing, especially when Miss Murphy or Miss Reyes was onstage, (I saw both in different performances). But some of the tableaux looked like things that one would expect to find on a circus poster. Overall I thought that it was fun but shallow.

Let me finish with "Les Sylphides", which I love as much as you. I believe that a great deal depends on the one man in the cast. Should one of the ladies be below par, then there are plenty of other ladies who, if dancing well, can make up for that deficiency. If, on the other hand, the poet is not up to scratch, then the whole piece becomes unbalanced. I saw both Mr Stearns and Mr Gorak. The former I though to be good but no more. The latter, not nearly as experienced, I though made much more of the role. May I repeat that I think that Mr Gorak is the male equivalent of Miss Lane. Why, I have found myself asking repeatedly during this season, is he not a Soloist? I would stack him up against any of the male Soloists whom I saw during the past ten or so days


Very interesting comments, Haglund. They raise in my mind two obvious questions. First, what is the Artistic Director doing to have such a think happening under his nose? Secondly, what is the Balanchine Trust doing about the matter?

The very suggestion that Mr Siimkin is doing what you suggest disappoints me greatly.

But he is good, Haglund, very, very good at his job.

Hello, Mr. S. Thank you for your wonderful contribution above. Have a safe trip home to Australia or wherever you go.

With regard to your observations about Sarah Lane, I could not agree with you more. You should know that there is a huge population of devoted fans of Ms. Lane who are indignant about the lack of opportunities that she has been given - most notably the roles of Odette/Odile which she has danced in Europe to great acclaim. In fact, she was initially cast as a guest artist in the Rome Opera Ballet's Swan Lake which runs from the end of 2013 into mid January 2014 but recently her name was removed from the cast list on the website. Why, we don't know. But the fact is that she has excelled far beyond those dancers who are Kevin McKenzie's current flavors of the month and far beyond those who he has hired as guest artists. His reluctance to cast her and take full advantage of her obvious talent has been frustrating to many people.

Sarah is only one of several soloists who are being unfairly denied principal opportunities and principal designation. If ABT had presented more classical selections as you suggested, you might have had the opportunity to appreciate Stella Abrera who is one of its consummate classicists. You wouldn't know it by the casting that she has been handed lately.

Unfortunately, I missed Xiomara Reyes in A Month in the Country – without a good excuse other than not wanting to see what was programmed on either side of it. But I'm not surprised to hear that she gave a superb performance.

With regard to Simkin, his liberal casting in unsuitable principal roles has been upsetting to many in ABT's core audience. His promotion to principal dancer was even harder to understand. There are many roles in which he excels such as a pre-teen who plays with kites and balls in A Month in the Country or any role where tricks are the name of the game. But in pure classics such as Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty, he looks and dances like an adolescent performing in a ballet competition. It's dreadful.

Thank you again, Mr. S., for commenting. I'm very happy that you have found Haglund's Heel.

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