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June 25, 2015

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Thank you for your thoughtful review. I wish I could have been there. I did have the opportunity last Monday to see Veronika's dress rehearsal of Act III. I was struck (and impressed by) her choice to smile delightedly at the Prince, Von Rothbart and the party guests throughout the Act. It underscored Odile's confidence and power in a way I haven't seen in other interpretations. It was totally credible why the Prince would "fall for her" and betray Odette.

Hi, Jennifer.

I hope Veronika knows how much we appreciate the details of her interpretations and the obviously never-ending thought that she puts into her artistry. Every year I so look forward to her miming the lake waters and her mother's tears that flow off the tips of her fingers. It is all so clear and heartfelt.

I was at that performance too, Haglund, and also felt that Veronika outdid herself. In particular, she exhibited a new confidence and was so secure in her turns and balances that I was no longer chewing my nails when she got to the 32 fouettes. Most of all, I felt that her acting was exquisitely refined and detailed, perhaps because she no longer felt that she had to act for both herself and Cory. He is slowly but surely improving in that regard. But when he lifted her above his head and carried her upstage, all I could think of was "Do you know how much responsibility you're taking on there?" Actually, I think he did, and was trying his best to be a good partner to her. This performance was surely the highlight of the season.

I agree, Angelica, that Veronika's confidence seemed strong and newly reinforced. Every time she dances this role, I feel like I'm listening to her story for the first time.

I also noticed that every time Siegfried lifted her, her form took on a sense of flight. She literally looked like she might continue to ascend from his hands.

It was one of Veronika's most glorious performances.

Haglund!! You MUST see Stearns with Hee Seo. I understand completely what you're saying about him. He's very anemic, -- when he's with the wrong partner, which is almost all the time, because McKenzie is a fool.

He's an understated actor, and his technical style is more about punctuated phrases, energetic turns and nuanced, very physically close partnering; he doesn't look right with Veronika Part, who's melodramatic, creamy smooth, and has a much more expansive style. They look like they're dancing in completely different ballets, and I get the feeling they don't have much chemistry at all.

BUT. When you see him with Hee Seo, suddenly there's magic. I've been saying for years she's Ferri come again (especially in R&J). Unlike Alessandra, who had Wayne Eagling, Julio Bocca, and a host of other partners of her own choosing, Seo hasn't been allowed to dance with HER partner, the person she notoriously likes to dance with who likes to dance with her: Stearns. I know, I know, you're going to say "oh but I don't like Seo or Stearns, and isn't the dullness double when they're in the same place?" You'd think so, but it's really something transcendent. Saw their R&J last year and their Giselle this year and was in tears the whole night, and I've been going to the ballet for twenty years. They're completely in sync with each other and it's a rare privilege to watch.

His Albrecht is unique. His Act I is arrogant and boyish, and Giselle's death seems to shock more than hurt. But there's this marvelous moment at the close of their Act II PdD where he suddenly understands how wonderful she is, and begins to see what he's lost; and as she disappears at the end of the night, it occurs to him that THIS is what it feels like to love someone, and becomes a man. He doesn't have the petit allegro of Cornejo, but his turns have a surprising blend of elegance and sharpness that I haven't seen since Ethan Stiefel was in his prime.

Your reviews about Stearns hop back and forth based on his partners, and well they should! Keven McKenzie is wasting Stearns, Part, and Seo by not pairing them together with people they connect with or match stylistically. I mean, come on, the man was putting Hallberg with Osipova (imagine Hallberg with Abrera!), and Kent with Bolle (imagine Bolle with Part!). And forget about finding a regular partner for The Great Cornejo (what about Lane?). Good partnerships used to be the key to ABTs success, and I think it still is.

Please please give Stearns/Seo a chance though! Just try their R&J or their Giselle. I've never seen you review any of their shows together, and I'd love to hear what you think of them together. Sorry for the long post!

Hi VGN. I hear ya. I hear ya.

I saw Stearns and Seo in La Bayadere this year – was happy with him but not with her. I only attended because Abrera was Gamzatti, and I must say that her connection to Stearns was far more theatrically compelling than Seo's with him.

I really think that I have to give up on Seo for a good long time because she has seemingly stopped trying to improve her technical deficiencies. In that La Bayadere, her difficulties with simple technical matters continued, e.g., double pirouettes. Maybe ABT's management has conveyed to her that she's good enough and doesn't need to improve. Regardless, a dancer should never stop trying to improve and be perfect: it's part and parcel of the blessed balletic personality disorder (BBPD).

VGN, I've concluded that Stearns' problem isn't just his projection, but also the the small facial features that are close together that make it hard to see what he's doing in that area. But isn't this why we have lighting professionals?

My solution is to begin pairing him up with the lovely, cool, small-featured Devon Teuscher, who hasn't had the best spring season at the Met this year (her first as a soloist) but clearly has some awesome technical chops at her disposal. Then, the lighting guys need to get busy and figure out how to get it right and make the two of them more visible on stage. I'm confident in their pairing.

My other solution, which is probably the best one, would be for Stearns to move to the Royal Ballet which is where he could be enormously successful because he is a perfect fit for their style and rep.

Haglund,

Do you think it is also an issue with Stearns' makeup (or lack thereof)? It seems sometimes like you can't see his face onstage.

I have had a lot of reservations to Stearns in the past, but I really enjoyed his Romeo (with Seo) this year. Seo was good, not great, in the Monday performance but far better on Wednesday.

Hi, MRR. I think it's a combination of things. First, Stearns' head and face are small. One of the things that strikes me as odd about the Stearns/Seo pairing is her face and head look huge next to his even though he is so tall. Stearns' facial features are small, close together, and his eyes are not an open shape. Add to that a tendency to squint. If he's dancing with a much shorter partner (e.g., Xiomara Reyes in The Dream), he has to look down at her. None of this facilitates projection to the audience. Probably people in the first 3 or 4 rows have no problem picking up his dramatic signals, but the rest of the house does. I'm sure it can be fixed, because I've seen him light up (eyes open, face open) in confrontations with Gomes or other men his approximate height. That's why I say to match him up with Devon Teuscher, who has the same type of face, and let the lighting professionals try to work their magic. I think that those two dancers are possibly an ideal match physically, although I haven't a clue whether they could create chemistry.

I do think MRR is right that the problem could be partly alleviated by better use of stage makeup -- in addition to the solutions Haglund suggests. I was sitting very close on Wednesday, and even there it looked like he had virtually nothing on his face. Giving his eyes some definition, for instance, could really help. Marcelo, on the other hand, was beautifully made up. His cheeks were given strong prominence by vertical shadows on the sides and his eyes were made to really penetrate through the space. Ironic that he, who hardly needs it (being so expressive) had all the added benefits of makeup while Cory had so little.

I'm sure you're correct about the makeup, but I wouldn't want to see Stearns adopt the overly liberal use of eye and lip product that we see with Whiteside. Addressing his face up into the light more, as opposed to addressing center orchestra (which is a downward angle) would probably also help.

Ahhh that's a shame about Seo. I must admit I've never seen her in a ballet with a lot of turns, more the romantic parts than the classical. Thanks for the advice! I'll check out her Nikia or Swan next year and see how I feel.

It's interesting you say that about Stearns! He trained with the RAD if I'm not much mistaken. I was speaking to an older woman at last night's SL about how ABT should try to get Mayerling while they have Gomes and she immediately said she'd want Stearns in the role. You're right, his technique is very English. Also, spot on about his features--handsome, but need more lighting. Good to hear your thoughts!

Haglund, I love this review! Thank you so much for your honesty. Everything you said here is right on. I also love your choice of words for the matinee lack of talent performance. I was fortunate enough to be at Veronika's Swan Lake on 6/24. Ever since Irina's retirement from ABT, I was at a lost. I just could not find my excitement with Swan Lake anymore. I was also at Hee Seo's Swan Lake 6/23 which made me want to jump off a cliff myself. Then Veronika's performance saved me the following night, I was ecstatic! I am beyond happy to have found my new swan queen.

Hi Angelique.

I miss Irina, too. I wish she would help out with some of the newer ones' SL interpretation AND technique. Both Irina and Max could be gold to ABT's artistic staff if only ABT cared enough to hire them....

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