CriticalDance Forum

American Ballet Theatre in London 2009
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:24 pm ]
Post subject:  American Ballet Theatre in London 2009

In The Guardian, Sanjoy Roy provides an overview of ABT's history in a preview to the company's London appearances in "Swan Lake" and "Le Corsair" in March/April 2009:

The Guardian

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Mar 27, 2009 10:36 am ]
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Debra Crane reviews the opening night cast of "Swan Lake" (Michele Wiles/David Hallberg) in The Times:

The Times

Sarah Frater in The Evening Standard:

The Evening Standard

Gavin Roebuck in The Stage:

The Stage

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Mar 30, 2009 2:40 pm ]
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Clement Crisp reviews Michele Wiles and David Hallberg in "Swan Lake" in The Financial Times:

Financial Times

Jenny Gilbert in The Independent:

The Independent

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Mar 31, 2009 2:37 pm ]
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Clement Crisp reviews Veronika Part and Marcelo Gomes (together with the concurrent Royal Ballet production) in the Financial Times:

Financial Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:03 pm ]
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Alastair Macaulay reviews the London performances of "Swan Lake" (Wiles/Hallberg, Part/Gomes) -- together with the Royal Ballet production -- in The New York Times.

NY Times

Author:  Buddy [ Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:41 pm ]
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"Somewhere Over The Rainbow"

"Swan Lake"

I just got back from London where I saw four evenings in a series of what might have been the best performances of "Swan Lake" that I have yet seen.

Veronika Part and Marcelo Gomes (March 27)

Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky

Gillian Murphy and Jose Manuel Carreno (March 29)

Veronika Part and Marcelo Gomes (March 30)

I would say that at

All Four Performances

The Dancers Were Electric


The Audience Response Was Electric

The surge of applause, almost immediately palpable, would build to the end of each night with Cheers and Whistles enthusiastically surpassing the "bravos".

All this was totally justified.

The Odette-Odiles

I would have to say were

Equally Outstanding -- Almost Overwhelming !

All three ladies reached into the Outer Limits of what is humanly possible in this art form and were Incredibly Successful !

Among the Siegfrieds

Marcelo Gomes was Supercharged ! -- both as a partner and a soloist.

Jose Manuel Carreno was an excellent partner and danced very well.

Maxim Beloserkovsky did very well also.

The entire company, as part of their nonstop schedule, put on four shows in two days and stayed fully charged through all four of the consecutive evenings that I attended. The men in particular, from demi-soloists to corps de ballet members, always managed to keep the spark going with critically timed moments of bravura and excitement. The women, especially the Swans, were consistently lovely, charming and brilliant.


Veronika Part -- The Refinement of Beauty Personified with Mesmerizing Expression

Gillian Murphy -- A Magnificence of Expression with Outstanding Technical Prowess

Irina Dvorovenko -- Fine Expression with Exceptional Virtuosity

Along with Paloma Herrera and Michele Wiles this must be one of the most impressive companies of Odette-Odiles in existence !

I think that the audiences got much more than they were expecting and were greatly appreciative.

My only challenge in dealing with the highlights of these performances was to stay upright in my chair.

Yes ! -- It Was Almost Overwhelming !

Author:  Buddy [ Thu Apr 02, 2009 9:41 am ]
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Could I please offer a few more Very Heartfelt but very brief summary thoughts about the 'More Than Wonderful' Performances of Veronika Part and Gillian Murphy.

**** Somewhere Over The Rainbow ****


**** " Something In The Way She Moves.... " ****

Hands, Arms, Accentuating, Creating Visual Poetry (Odette Act II)

A Lyrical Softness (Odette Act II)

Entire Body Flowed Into A Magnificence Of Forms (Odette Acts II&IV)

A Dramatic Essence (Odile Act III)

Combining Of The Dream State With Exquisite Sculptural Motion (Odette Act IV)


**** Possibly Some Of The Most Beautiful Romantic Imagery Ever Created **** (Odette Act IV)

Her Face Had An Angel-like Softness (Odette Acts II&IV)

Someone That Raphael Would Have Dreamed Of

Her Dancing And Her Expression Merged Together Reaching For An Essence,
A Wave To Transport Her And Her Dreams (Odette Act IV)

Merging Of The Poetic Soul And The Physical Transcending (Odette Act IV)

Veronika And Gillian

Heart And Soul



**** A Poetic Dream State ****

Could I also highly compliment the very beautiful dancing of Hee Seo (Pas de Trois, etc) among the other very fine presentations by the entire company.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Apr 02, 2009 12:50 pm ]
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David Bellan reviews "Swan Lake" (Wiles/Hallberg) in the Oxford Times:

Oxford Times

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:35 am ]
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ABT's "Swan Lake"

Coliseum, London, 25th March 2009

American Ballet Theatre's season of full-length ballets might well have seemed a natural progression after the success of the Sadler's Wells visit, a couple of years ago, with one act works, However, bringing “Swan Lake” in particular to London can be a mixed blessing: full houses are virtually guaranteed, but the critics see so many productions of this famous and revered ballet that any problems or deficiencies stand out more clearly then usual.

ABT is famous for the strength in depth of its men and Kevin McKenzie's 2000 production introduces a number of innovations to make the most of this virtue: Benno, Prince Siegfried's friend, dances the Act I pas-de-trois and short variations elsewhere, providing dramatic continuity and another significant male role; Rothbart is performed by two dancers – a sinister figure for the lake-side scenes, and a sexy charmer who gets an extended variation in Act III; finally Siegfried gets several chances to shine in Act I, as well as his usual solos elsewhere.

McKenzie also tries to clarify the plot for newcomers with a short prologue showing a princess enticed by the charming Rothbart, transformed in a clever piece of stagecraft into the wicked sorcerer clutching a crowned swan. While a synopsis of the plot in the programme is an accepted device, it is a benefit if the story can be told succinctly on-stage, so McKenzie's prologue gets my vote, despite the claims of many that he is “dumbing down”; not everyone has seen this ballet 100 times. Another feature of McKenzie's production is a short final Act, running near continuously after the ball scene. To accommodate the major scenery changeover, we have a section for a few swans in front of a skim, but the narrow space inhibits the first stages of the finale, which never fully recovers. I did find myself thinking back to the magnificence of National Ballet of China's closing scenes, reviving Sir Frederick Ashton exquisite choreography

ABT's sets impressed me, with a beautiful, unfussy landscape for the palace grounds and a sumptuous ballroom, both in stark contrast to the bleak lake-side setting. The costumes are often attractive, but two bad mistakes stick in the mind: the peasant men in Act I have camp cycling shorts which distract with their silliness; and many of the women's full-length costumes have layer after layer of petticoats inhibiting movement and muddying clear lines.

So, the production is a mix of strong and weak points and the same can be said of the performances in the London premiere. ABT's men lived up to their high reputation. David Hallberg is a natural danseur noble, combining musicality, expressive acting and a delightful lightness of movement for such a tall, powerful man. When you remember that he played a rugged, fierce Death in ABT's “The Green Table”, the range of this dancer is quite remarkable. Daniil Simkin as Benno, makes a much greater impact than in most productions, and I was surprised that he wasn't there to take a bow at the closing curtain, considering the value he adds to the performance. He's a great mover and, despite his diminutive size, impresses with huge, beautifully controlled jetees. Marcelo Gomes, as the toothsome incarnation of Rothbart, has great fun with his extrovert ballroom solo, ending with a cheeky jump into the throne next to the Queen.

Turning to the women, both Sarah Lane and Isabella Boylston danced with elegance and warmth in the pas de trois and the corps de ballet worked their magic in the white Acts. However, Michele Wiles proved a major disappointment as Odette/Odile. I couldn't fault her technique, but there was little drama in her movement and the apparent stiffness of her back often made her dancing dull and unappealing as the Swan Queen. As Odile, her interpretation was difficult to fathom - I saw no hint of a spicy or malicious temptress leading an upright man astray. The cleanly executed fouettes featured doubles and even a triple or two, but couldn't save an uninspired performance. Few if any of the critics I spoke to or read had a good word for Ms Wiles's performance beyond mere technique, and I hope she has a chance to redeem herself later in the visit.

So, with caveats regarding some costumes and the final Act, this production of “Swan Lake” adds a celebration of male dancing to the usual ingredients. But overall, this particular performance has to go down as a disappointment, due to the hollow centre of Michele Wiles's portrayal. Perhaps other ballerinas in the season, or some of the younger dancers in a couple of years, will be able to bring the art of expression back to the role..

Afterword: A friend saw Gillian Murphy on the next night, and like her Sadler's performance in the grands pas from the same ballet, her turns were were a wonder, but expression was reportedly very low on the agenda. I see that Clement Crisp in the Financial Times was very impressed by the Russian dancer Veronika Part on the third night, so I'm pleased that at least one of the ABT Odette/Odiles has brought the role and the ballet to life in London. A point to consider: is the US ballet competition ethos now impinging on the expressive abilities of leading principal dancers?

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:42 am ]
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Buddy, good to hear that you enjoyed the performances so much and also that the audience response was very positive on the nights you were there. For Wiles/Hallberg, applause was luke warm and had almost died away when the leads came out from the curtains. Looks like the premiere was the least satisfactory, which is a shame as that is the one with 80-90% of the reviews. Was this a typical performance for Ms Wiles or an exception, I wonder?

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Apr 03, 2009 2:08 pm ]
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Sarah Crompton reviews "Le Corsaire" in The Telegraph:

The Telegraph

Author:  Buddy [ Sat Apr 04, 2009 4:12 am ]
Post subject: 

Thanks Francis for your references. I have read them all except for the most recent, which I will do as soon as possible. I tend to agree with Stuart in that it would have been nice if some of the critics had been able to see later performances. Only Clement Crisp seems to do this and he wrote a glowing review of Veronika Part's "Swan Lake" as well as of Ekaterina Osmolkina's with the Royal Ballet.

Hi, Stuart

Please let me compliment you on your fine writing style. Your comments are so clearly written and easy to follow.

I also thought that the sets were beautiful and that the men that you mentioned, David Hallberg, Daniil Simkin and Marcelo Gomes did an extremely fine job the nights that I saw them. Joining Marcelo Gomes, in his portrayal of von Rothbart ('The Handsome'), I would add the names of David Hallberg, Gennadi Saveliev and Cory Stearns. Each, in his own distinct way, made quite a show of it. Whatever its intent, I actually found the ballroom dance of von Rothbart and the princesses to be a beautiful, as well as a subtly very entertaining, extra few minutes of lovely dancing.

From my looking around at some of the other forums there would appear to be a consensus that the performances were extremely fine and well received as the week progressed, including warm praise for Michele Wiles' and David Hallberg's subsequent performance Sunday afternoon. From what I read, it seems that the dancers were not able to get to London until Monday and the performances started Wednesday. This could have effected the earliest of these.

I would have loved to have seen all the ABT performances as well as the Royal Ballet's "Swan Lakes". I would have surely enjoyed seeing Ekaterina Osmolkina (guesting from the Mariinsky) dancing at the Royal Ballet. I am extremely grateful to have seen what I did.

In regard to Michele Wiles, I am really hoping to see her "Swan Lake" when I plan to pass through New York in June. She was an 'Absolutely Delightful' surprise to me when I first saw her perform in Detroit about a year and a half ago. I was relatively new to viewing the ABT and I had not yet heard of her. She danced "Swan Lake" along with Gillian Murphy and Paloma Herrera. I thought that they were all brilliant! I became an immediate ABT fan.

In Detroit Michele Wiles, out of nowhere (for me), just flowed like a Beautiful Vision through her entire afternoon performance. I was surprised and 'blown away'. Please take a quick look at my enthusiastic comments at the time if you like.
(scroll about 1/3 down the page)

I truly hope that you will get another chance to see ABT's "Swan Lake" and that you will really enjoy every minute of it.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Apr 04, 2009 5:04 am ]
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Hi Buddy, many thanks for your detailed comments and clearly I should stick with Michele Wiles and see some future performances - I'm particularly pleased that folk enjoyed her Sunday performance.

I'll have to see whether I can fit in the "Corsaire" - not one of my "must-see" ballets; althought there is much beautiful dancing, the ludicrous plot and lack of emotional content diminishes the experience for me compared with "Giselle" or "Swan Lake" for that matter.

Author:  Cassandra [ Mon Apr 06, 2009 9:50 am ]
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Le Corsaire
American Ballet Theatre
The Coliseum
2nd April 2009

Le Corsaire was largely a forgotten work until about twenty years ago when we first saw the Vinogradov reworking of it for the Kirov. A few years later the former Kirov director Konstantine Sergeyev trumped him by creating something far superior for the Bolshoi, a production I still remember fondly. Shortly after, that production was acquired by Boston Ballet before being taken up by American Ballet Theatre and was extensively re-worked by Ann-Marie Holmes rather to the work’s detriment. As far as I’m aware ABT is the only major non-Russian ballet company currently performing this work in any form and dance it very much with an American accent, the general approach being that of Sinbad the Sailor meets the Pirates of Penzance. The emphasis is strictly focussed on fun and although some pretty nasty experiences befall several cast members, none of it is taken too seriously.

The first night cast was a strong one including ABT superstar Angel Corella, but it was Gillian Murphy in the leading role of Medora that I enjoyed the most. Though an emotionally reticent Medora in some ways; the spirited nature of her dancing won me over completely, especially her fouettés interspersed with pirouettes - a show-off combination to be sure, but very much in keeping with the near pantomime style of the production: Ms Murphy isn’t just technique though and had some playfully romantic moments with her lover Conrad as well. Conrad was danced well by Marcello Gomes with tongue in cheek humour throughout; his duets with Murphy were very much the ardent pirate showing his sentimental side. His unreliable sidekick, Birbanto, was Carlos Lopez who plotted, betrayed and lusted while outwardly playing the role of bluff sea-farer and danced with a nice sharp finish to his solos.

Xiomara Reyes was Medora’s best friend, Gulnare: I took an immediately liking to her because she is a silent dancer and makes not a sound as she dances, indeed these American girls all seem to favour the more moderate kind of shoe avoiding the near deafening clatter of certain other companies I could name. As Gulnara she is cute and flirty in character and danced very well, especially in the pas d’esclave where she is partnered by Herman Cornejo. In a ballet that provides no fewer than four meaty roles for the men it was Cornejo I warmed to best as the conniving slave dealer Lankedom who danced and acted with conviction and provided the best male dancing of the evening.

Finally there is Angel Corella as Ali, Conrad’s faithful slave: there is no doubting that Corella is the audience favourite and his astonishing faster-than–a-speeding-bullet approach to his solos seems to go down very well with most people though the speeding up of the music to accommodate him led to some less than harmonious sounds from the pit. I’ve seen a number of dancers that like a fast tempo and a few that like a very fast tempo, but Corella is exceptional in his continuous love of overdrive and for me at least it is wearisome to watch.

A downside? Very poorly lit throughout, with the second act altogether far too dark. Even though the action is set at night there is no excuse for that excessive gloom.

Overall it was an enjoyable evening but although it’s always a pleasure to welcome these infrequent guests to London, I rather regret the choice of repertoire this time around as I found the programming at Sadlers Wells on their last visit far more interesting and far more suited to the talents of this admirable company.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Apr 06, 2009 1:56 pm ]
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Clement Crisp reviews "Le Corsaire" in The Financial Times:

Financial Times

Judith Mackrell in The Guardian:

The Guardian

Zoe Anderson in The Independent:

The Independent

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