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July 05, 2019


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I plan to see the 7/6 matinee specifically to see Aran Bell. He has more potential than any dancer at ABT in years. I've avoided the Ratmanksy redo as the videos I've seen look heavy and slow, the costumes are pretty but just too much. SB has never been a favorite but this year I am holding my nose and going to see the younger up and comers who I like much better than the established crew. Also, the promotions for 2019 have been announced...looks ABT is making strides to add solid, young male dancers which is good, but better use of the group they have would be appreciated too.

Glad to hear that you're going to see Sleeping Beauty tomorrow. Would love to hear your take on it, particularly Bell's fast allegro in the Act III variation. He's obviously extremely talented. However many extremely talented men have withered on the vine at ABT after being promoted to soloist-- due to neglect. It's like that soloist vine has terminal powdery mildew and black spot.

If today's promotions are the only ones, it'll be another year ABT holds back soloists (and a corps member or two) that (literally) dance circles around current Principals in show after show.

Greetings, Haglund. Thank you for your as ever enlightening observations. I was at the Wednesday and Thursday matinees of SB when both times Abrera was magical as the Lilac Fairy. On Thursday, she made her difficult variation look like child's play and both days was eloquent in mime. Gorak and Bell were very different types as the Prince but
both compelled admiration and appreciation--if some feet speak, Gorak's sing.
Trenary was an exquisite Aurora Wednesday and Boylston's athleticism Thursday was
tremendously exciting. Hurlin, Thursday's White Cat in the Wedding Act, stole the show. What a talent Hurlin is! Haglund, do you think that the abundance of lace cuffs and ruffs of this production, so to speak, can be tailored to allow a little more dancing and slightly less non-dancing fuss? The music demands the uttermost in eloquence and in this production it seems at times--as you point out--not always to get it.

I have complained from the start of Ratmsnsky's " new production" of Sleeping Beauty with those ridiculous 30 lb costumes and stiff choreography.
Poor Herman could not move in that idiotic coat and wig. He COULDN'T dance.And there are classics go a reason. Sleeping Beauty is one. When is ABT going to stop calling it "nre"
"original" as an excuse just to mess it up and be called "genius"
This production is just annoying.

Beware. Bell's variation was deleted from the Thursday matinee, and I would not be surprised if it were also deleted from the Sat. matinee. He has an injury.

Is it any surprise?

Whiteside parties on Sunday to the point of sickness and is unfit to dance the opening night of Sleeping Beauty. Bell, a corpsman who hadn't yet danced the role, is suddenly thrown into both of Whiteside's performances and his own two scheduled performances because McKenzie thinks it will cause a buzz and make himself look like a progressive manager for throwing this type of risky challenge to the young Bell. Now Bell is apparently injured although we don't have confirmation of that. And as we know, ballet dancers rarely fully recover 100% from injuries. There are generally lingering problems that follow them their whole careers that require precautions.

Meanwhile, Hoven and Forster, each of whom could have easily stepped in to cover for Mr. Job Be Damned, I'll Party If I Want To sit on the sidelines.

Opening nights are supposed to be a privilege. Given Whiteside's history of antics, you have to wonder what McKenzie was thinking when he cast Whiteside in the S.B. opening night as the Pride festivities were winding down. It's just plain stupid. Not only stupid, but management seems to have looked the other way even though Whiteside jeopardized the whole performance which caused cast changes that have led to the injury of another dancer.

Bell did dance his solo at the Saturday matinee, and did a wonderful job. Fingers crossed that next season he will debut as Albrecht if they bring back Giselle.

Good to hear that Bell managed Désiré's variation well.

Speaking of Giselle - ABT is touring it to D.C. in February. The Kennedy Center has been mailing info for months about the gig. The brochures emphasize repeatedly that the shows will showcase ABT's new generation of international stars AND lures the potential ticket buyer to be enticed by classic moments such as Giselle's hops on pointe..

So who are these new international stars who are going to lead Giselle and be able to do the hops on pointe?

My complete guess is that McKenzie plans to bring in Brooklyn Mack for the engagement for shameless PC reasons, because he knows that WP's Sarah Kaufman will write ad nauseam about him and hopefully bring in more ticketbuyers. Meanwhile, Forster, Hoven, Gorak who have waited for a long time for their chances and certainly deserve them as much and more than the newly appointed soloists will be sitting on their hands.

And who are these new international stars who will be dancing Giselle and doing the hops on pointe? KC must be nervous because they continually plant pictures of Hallberg and Murphy as the featured Albrecht and Giselle.

When the KC is touting "new international stars" in all its ads, no one should be surprised if McKenzie punts away ABT's own talent next year and goes on an import spree.

Saturday 7/6 matinee. Overall, I enjoyed this performance but that was primarily because I went with very low expectations...

First, the score is truly lovely. The sets are beautiful as well. The costumes...well they certainly look expensive (aside from the awful wigs). The large headpieces are distracting at best(especially the glittery empire state bldg on the queen) and the mens' hats prevent the dancers from projecting any character or feeling. This was especially true for Aran Bell. While his dancing was still very strong, it wasn't quite as sharp and sparkling as in SL. When he enters the stage, he has plenty of presence and I think, will mature into a thoughtful,intelligent artist. It would help to be able to see his face though and for someone to tell him how to turn away from the audience but bring their attention with him. I felt that his partnership with Devon brought more out of him artistically than Hee. His variation was good, petit allegro solid if not yet crisp. But for his age, all very promising. If KM is smart, he'll pair AB with Devon, Catherine Hurlin and Skylar. He can learn to be playful and light from them. I think he can pull off serious fairly well already.

The rest...Hee Seo has pretty legs and feet and nice arms. Her technique is clean especially compared to Isabella, Misty etc. Artistically though, not very interesting.I actually really liked her in Manon and was pleasantly surprised but yesterday not so much.To me,proper matching of partners is key to a good ballet. She needs someone with a more forceful nature. I would rather have seen Devon yesterday. Her lilac fairy lit up a very dull ballet. She has a spark that can't be taught and audiences can feel it.

Skylar Brandt was excellent as the Canary and Diamond fairies. The other fairies, Paulina,April,Stephanie,Rachel were not up to parr. Attendants were not good except Zimmi Coker who stood out as clean and musical.The costumes make them look much bigger than they probably are.My companion who doesn't know the company thought they were students.Again the cavalier costumes are too much and prevent actual ballet steps.Garland waltz was surprisingly good after seeing the attendants struggle,JKO little kids were better than expected. Aran's acting was best in Act 2 vision as he interacted with Devon's Lilac Fairy.She struck just the right notes and presented the strongest character throughout.

Wedding act. Skylar very good as noted. Catherine Hurlin's white cat best of show. Her acting and technique are very strong. Courtney Lavine sweet and pretty Alice, Marshall Whiteley excellent wolf. Grand Pas was good, clean but I don't at all like the choreography. The change to a strange a la seconde lean instead of the dramatic fish is awkward at best. I don't mind the low passe or low legs but the music calls for drama that has been stripped away.

Roman Zhurbin as the king and Craig Salstein as Carabosse were excellent.For such a long ballet, I could go on but this is already long winded. The Ratmanksy treatment that works so well for me in the Nutcracker and Firebird falls flat here. I think SB is a story that loses its drama and dark side with such light treatment.

Thanks much, ECL. I wonder if the weight and bulk of the costumes, including the hats, get in the way of the dancers. I'm thinking of some awkwardness that I saw in the four princes in the Rose Adagio. At times it looked like the hat and costume might be getting in the way of the partnering.

Also, lol, thank you for clarifying that the substitute for the fish dives included an a la seconde leg extended. To me, it initially looked like an efface devant developpe or something in between devant and a la seconde. I would never in a million years expect Hee Seo to manage it well at that speed, but Sarah did (better the first performance than the second) and I imagine Cassie got it, too. Would love to see Skylar give it a try.

Was there with my granddaughter on Saturday matinee, and even though she’s not a favorite with Haglund :) , Paulina Waski is one of my granddaughter’s favorite and one of the reasons we attended, sadly she was replaced in matinee so I don’t think she danced the fairy per ECL. Agree with most about the bulky costumes and just to add IMHO maybe they should also trim down the amount of dancers, children included, for the garland dance? Looks so crowded and so hard to even bother to watch any dancing.

I think you're right in that he does need some editing down.

Coincidentally, the same week that ABT presented this Sleeping Beauty, La Scala dumped this version and went back to its original Nureyev version which definitely has its own problems.

Well, I went to the Saturday matinee and — overall and I'm no expert whatsoever — I enjoyed myself. I understand the objections about the costumes, but they certainly are gorgeous. I even like the wigs. I assume the designers were trying to transport us back to the (French) 17th century? I don't know, I kept thinking of Perrault. Bakst was obviously in there too. But definitely, sometimes less is more — I did feel the stage was overcrowded at times. Having seen Peter Martins's more streamlined (and certainly shorter!) Sleeping Beauty many times at NYCB, I relished seeing a very different take on the story (and on dance storytelling). But I must say that for me the dancing, again, overall, lacked what I call "snap." I'm not qualified or experienced enough to critique anyone on a technical level — everyone seemed fine to me, but a work as grand as SB should never be just fine, I feel. This may seem perverse but the one performance that (for me) had that "snap" that really makes me sit up take notice was the Princess Florine (Katherine Williams?) ... Blaine Hoven was top-notch too of course. And clearly, that Aran Bell is an up and comer. The grand pas de deux was well done if not quite grand enough, you know? I thought the substitute for the famous fish dives was pretty thrilling ... and on another pair might prove even more impressive. Or perhaps Aran Bell and Hee Seo just need more history together ...

My granddaughter enjoyed this one and personally I think if they trim it down so we can actually see the dancers dance, without all the business of the crowds, I’d be ok with it and it might even help for these long dragged out scenes IMO. And, for the sake of ECL my granddaughter just told me that Melanie stepped in for Waski in matinee.

Thank you for clarifying that HaglandFan! Must have been the wigs again! Sadly I heard Paulina may be leaving for BB.

I really did enjoy the performance overall, I'm just nitpicking, thinking aloud of my ideals. There were a few things like the attendants in Act 1 that I thought were unsuccessful but this year has brought much of the younger talent up front which is enjoyable. Glad you mentioned Blaine, forgot to say how good his bluebird was. I don't mind seeing many different stagings of a ballet. This one just isn't my favorite overall though I could pick out pieces of it that I liked.

Paulina has indeed announced that she will be dancing with BB next season (unsure of title).

Forster and Hoven certainly could have danced Desire. McKenzie knows exactly what he's doing. He did it some years ago when he threw Hee Seo into every injured dancer's role. He is being purposely obtuse. Why the Board hasn't slapped him into the next century is beyond me.

As for promotions, there is no room at the principal level for females anyway. So I wasn't surprised Trenary and Brandt still have a couple years to go at the soloist level I imagine.

Hi Haglund,

I enjoyed your review immensely. I was at the Friday night SB, first time seeing the Ratmansky. I have to admit that I chose the performance for the dancers and not the ballet. I've seen many stagings of SB and while I didn't love this one, I'd see it again with Lane and Cornejo. They were absolutely magnificent separately and together. Sarah Lane is one of my favorites and I think she's ideal as Aurora. If she had a few wobbles or strained facial expressions they didn't detract from the whole. Cornejo is surely the best classical dancer we have right now. His variation simply stunned! I think the production is overstuffed. Too much fabric, too many ensembles, ugly costumes and silly wigs. I could also do without almost all of the dances after Bluebird PdD. Hurlin, Joo Won Ahn and Stella Abrera were fabulous and I enjoyed very much seeing Luciana Paris, a dancer I'd never much noticed.

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