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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2002 10:08 am 
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Oh this is going to be interesting! Tonight it is for me. <P>lara


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2002 11:53 pm 
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I saw the show last night and the casting was as follows:<P>Odette/Odile: Ashley Tuttle<BR>Siegfried: Gennadi Saveliev<BR>Benno: David Hallberg<BR>Von Rothbart: Brian Reeder and Carlos Molina<P>As the reviews mention, von Rothbart, as choreographed by Kevin McKenzie, is a brilliant role. Being relatively new to ballet, and entirely new to "Swan Lake" (besides knowing the general story-line), I thought that von Rothbart always out-shone Siegfried. Chills danced down my spine during von Rothbart's solos. He was a powerful, magnetic dancer who seduced the audience as well as the characters on-stage.<P>Siegfried. Is it me, Mr. McKenzie's choreography, or does he not get to dance very much at all? Of course, I wasn't duly impressed by the man playing him. He was competent enough but he was consistently showed up by the other male dancers (von Rothbart and Benno in particular). <P>Ashley Tuttle is a gorgeous dancer. Absolutely beautiful. Except, and this is my main complaint for the two stars, she seemed rather dull. She fixed a single expression on her face and it remained through-out the entire performance. So, while her dancing was entirely flawless, I felt she lacked the emotion behind it. The only time she really threw herself into the dancing was during the Black Swan Pas De Deux, and even then, she still appeared to be holding back.<P>David Hallberg as Benno was superb. Not only did he have more dancing than Siegfried, all of his dancing was more thrilling than Siefried's. When they two were on-stage, your eyes naturally roamed towards Hallberg, and Saveliev faded into the scenery.<P>Let me take a moment to mention the sets, and costumes. The sets were incredible. Rarely have I seen such well done sets (and, even if I'm not a regular ballet-goer, I've been going to musicals since I was very young), and the use of transparent curtains (to set up the lake scenes) was inspiring. Even though I'll love and appreciate ballet no matter what package it is in--stark sets combined with simple leotards is fine with me--a breath-taking package, when done right, enhances the dancing. And this was most certainly done right.<P>Back to the dancing. Gillian Murphy and Michele Wiles danced with David Hallberg for the Pas de Trois and, for the most part, I felt that Murphy was selling it too much. When she soloed it was fine, and great. She was incredible. But when she was dancing with Wiles and Hallberg, her flair was incongruous with the other two, and she looked very out-of-place. A bit like a scene stealer, to tell the truth. As I said, I appreciated her dancing when she was soloing, as she was absolutely magnificent. <P>As I said, my main complaint for the entire show was a complete lack of emotion. Except for one, or two, key players (von Rothbart was absolutely brilliant and got a slew of applause), the dancing was very cut-and-dried. Yes, it was danced beautifully. I was unbelievably impressed when it came to the dancing.<P>But I felt that, as a show, it was lacking. There were times when I got the feeling that the dancers felt they had to do nothing but dance. That they could rely entirely on their dancing to convey the story. Which, though important, of course, is not the case. Since, without the underlying emotion, the dancing comes across as sterile, and cold. It was difficult for me to believe that Odette and Siegfried were in love to the point of suicide, since they'd been almost entirely indifferent to each other except for the dancing. They didn't <I>look[/i] like a couple in love; they simply danced well together.<P>But it was still brilliant. I feel bad complaining, even a little bit (or perhaps it's not so little), because the dancing was truly spectacular. <P>Katie.


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2002 12:10 am 
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OK, C-D friends. My first pass at notes for this run:<P>American Ballet Theater “Swan Lake”<BR>Thursday, February 14, 2002<BR>Music—Tschaikovsky; Chor—Kevin McKenzie after Petipa/Ivanov; Sets and costumes—Zack Brown; Lighting—Duane Schuler<P>Odette/Odile—Paloma Herrera; Prince Siegfried—Marcelo Gomes; von Rothbart—Ethan Brown & Ricardo Torres<P>Recent viewing of a McKenzie “Nutcracker” at the Kodak Theater just 2 months ago, naturally leads to wondering about a McKenzie “Swan Lake.” What to make of the new, amazing von Rothbart—one who gets his own variations! <P>The bottom line from this ballet watcher is a plus on both counts.<P>Though between the last line and this one a large percentage of readers may have decided that scratching their nails on the nearest blackboard is preferable to finishing these notes, I’ll try not to lose the rest by issuing a qualification: The artistic choices incorporated in the McKenzie “Swan Lake” are worth watching and worth thinking about but not all are worth keeping. This is apparent within the first few minutes of the ballet.<P>Caveat: if you prefer to be surprised by some of the details, don’t read the whole thing.<P>The performance begins with a prologue showing von Rothbart completely re-thought. Green hide, capacious chest, and ram’s horn head—this is the Demon Rothbart. He scowls at us then disappears. Odette as a young girl capers along. A tall, elegant man in a goatee appears—Svelte Rothbart. Rothbart accosts Odette and she is interested, but he picks her up in a ballet lift and both disappear. Demon Rothbart reappears holding a struggling swan tucked under one arm. The lights go down on them. It is a perverse refiguring of Leda and the Swan with the ravager as human and the victim as swan.<P>I didn’t care for this way to begin the ballet. First, showing Odette as an ordinary woman never seemed a good idea to me. But, at least McKenzie avoided the error of the version performed locally a few years ago by the Royal Swedish Ballet, which had the worst possible Odette transformation. After defeating von Rothbart, Odette changed into an ordinary mortal in heeled shoes and a long dress that seem to add about 10 kilos to her weight. My other objection—is simply one of taste. Von Rothbart is shown caressing the swan’s neck in a manner that is almost certainly proscribed by Judeo-Christian law. When the lights go down on them, we don’t want our imaginations to go there.<P>But, in addition to revealing sexuality to be a major preoccupation of the ballet, the prologue does at least introduce the other main theme, narrativity. Artistic decisions have been made to lend unity between the story and the divertissement. For example, in Act III, the Princesses are given entourages who perform the divertissement. <P>Perhaps I haven’t been paying close enough attention in the past, but the character dances in Act III always seemed to bring the story to a halt. Not so here: as each Princess is presented to Siegried and the Queen Mother for approval, her entourage performs a character sequence from her land. The Hungarian Princess presented the Czardas; the Spanish Princess presented the Spanish Dance; the Italian Princess, the Neopolitan Dance; and the Polish Princess, the Mazurka. The Czardas and the Mazurka were particularly fun to watch and the dancers looked great in their character costumes. The Spanish dancers, however, looked more like “Nutcracker” Marzipans in their yellow outfits—beanie caps for the boys and Little Bo-Peep shoes for the girls. The Neopolitan duo, Jerry Douglas and Sean Stewart, in outrageous disco shirts and bared chests had what in Soviet productions would be the jester’s job—turns, leaps, jumps, and all manner of manly grand batterie. The Princesses were beautiful in their sumptuous costumes like a revival of a more spacious age. They were Stella Abrera (Hungarian), Marta Rodrigues-Coca (Spanish), Jennifer Alexander (Italian), and Michele Wiles (Polish).<P>The ballet’s preoccupation with sexuality has always been there as more than a subtext—but this production has accentuated it. For instance, the ballet continuously presents comparisons—certainly between opposites like the Good Girl vs the Bad Girl, the “approved princesses” who stand for duty, honor, and civic accord vs. Odette/Odile who stand for the mysterious, the romantic, and the irrational. These oppositions are repeated within the choreography’s distinction between Odette’s preference for adagio and Odile’s specialty for allegro passages; between the Princesses’ waltz with Siegfried alluding to dance of the social idiom and the classical purity of the grand pdd form like the Black Swan pdd.<P>But, to traditional thematic oppositions, McKenzie has added the contrast between a deluded and indecisive Siegfried and the animal magnetism of Svelte Rothbart. Consider on the one hand the Prince—one who when faced with the choice of the civic duty (choosing one of the Princesses) or his own heart (Odette)—is the chump, does neither, and loses all. Compare Svelte Rothbart who practically steals the stage from Siegfried. Poor Siegfried who can’t even master the simple phallic object (the crossbow) given him by his mother. Ricardo Torres’ Rothbart by contrast rules the stage the minute he arrives with Odile. He charms the Princesses, dancing a short sequence with each before curtly dismissing them from the stage just in time for the Black Swan pdd.<P>Did I mention that Rothbart is actually in the Black Swan pdd—as an advisor to Odile. No doubt he whispers such gems as “Odile, try partnered turns!” Odile whispering back, “Yeah! Guys are such suckers for turns!”<P>There is, BTW, an interesting allusion to the Freudian difficulties of “Hamlet.” Like Gertrude in the famous Olivier version of “Hamlet,” the Queen Mother is played by woman close enough in age (corps girl Rosalie O’Connor) to the Prince to be considered a possible consort. When Svelte Rothbart mesmerisingly kisses the Queen Mother’s hand, he could be Claudius making love to Gertrude. When Svelte Rothbart is able to charm breathless the Princesses so impotently examined by Siegfried, he is making the Freudian triangle considerably more complicated. A Shakespearean moment, indeed.<P>Yet, I don’t wish to give the impression that this “Swan Lake” isn’t full of traditional values. The Act I pas de trios is danced by Erica Cornejo, Xiomara Reyes, and Herman Cornejo. Erica and Xiomara take turns being Pointe Girl and Turn Girl and Herman Cornejo shows himself a future Svelte Rothbart. In gaiety of spirit and fleetness of steps, this pas de trios is a companion to the “Giselle” peasants pdd. The Cygnets are satisfying in their precision and are sans the drooping shoulder that sometimes creep in during the jumps on the oblique. They are Marian Butler, Karin Ellis-Wentz, Anne Mileswski, and Maria Riccetto.<P>Though I leave comments on the dancing to the dancer-watchers in the audience, it wouldn’t be right not to make a few comments: Paloma Herrera is amazing as Odile. Her performance exhibits complete command and precision. Breathtaking really. Marcelo Gomes continues to impress me with his partnering. Finally, the swan corps I thought especially fine. They delivered on the promise I suspected from their “Nutcracker” Snowflakes.<P>Last comments: it is nice to see what looks like a completely booked house. Also, it might be the Valentine’s Day hoopla, but I thought the audience looked especially spiffy this evening.<P>I am looking forward to another viewing tomorrow.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2002 9:07 am 
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My thoughts from Thursday's performance at the OCPAC.<P>The cast has already been listed by Jeff so I will just repeat the lead roles: Odette/Odile—Paloma Herrera; Prince Siegfried—Marcelo Gomes; von Rothbart—Ethan Brown & Ricardo Torres.<P>I have seen a few different variations of Swan Lake and found McKenzie's view to be just fine, nothing to complain about and the addition of the prologue was interesting and helped set up the story for newcomers to the ballet. Von Rothbart's variations were a welcome addition as I really love men's ballet with their powerful leaps and turns.<P>The costumes and sets were simply sumptious. Absolutely amazingly beautiful.<P>The dance was incredible also but Paloma Herrera left me cold. Technically there but emotionally not, especially as Odile. Her dancing lacked vulnerability and the lack of fluidity in her arms was particularly noticeable.<P>Only in the famous exit in Act II with her back to the audience does she use her arms to full effect as wings. <P>I thought Adam Cooper did a much better job as The Swan emotionally and with better arms in Matt Bourne's version.<P>As Odette she was much better but still passionless.<P>I think a ballerina should stand out in her performance from the soloists and corp, but I could see other dancers in the corps that were better swans than Herrera and others that seemed to have her technical ability. <P>That said I must add, her footwork was impeccable and her balance so very steady. But more is needed. I was always aware that it was Paloma Herrera dancing — and not a Swan Queen.<P>Jeff said: “ Consider on the one hand the Prince—one who when faced with the choice of the civic duty (choosing one of the Princesses) or his own heart (Odette)—is the chump, does neither, and loses all.”<P>— but after the princessess were presented to Sigfried at the ball he told his mother he didn’t want any of them, his heart belonged to another. <P>He made a choice, but was fooled by the magic of von Rothbart and Odette. I didn’t see him as a chump, just a guy in love who didn’t think to ask the questions about how his Swan could be at the ball. Magic blinded him. Ok, he might not be the brightest bulb on the porch but not a chump.<P>It is probably just me but I didn’t see the animal magnetism of Richard Torres as von Rothbart.<P>Herman Cornejo as Benno was particularly good in his variations. The height of his jumps for a little guy, was impressive.<P>Marcelo Gomes was a super Sigfried — a BIG guy who can execute the partnering moves with assurance, lifting Paloma WAY over his head upside down. Never a falter which must have made her feel very secure. He has a powerful, high jump and very soft landing, not a thud to be heard. <P>I just wish that MacKenzie had added more dance for him when revising the choreography. His acting was good and believable although there weren’t many sparks between the two leads until curtain calls when he actually seemed to be moved by the flower Herrera presented him and the ovations from the crowd.<P>Speaking of thuds — or rather clattering — the noise of the pointe shoes was deafening at times overpowering the softer moments of the orchestra who sounded too thin most of the time. <P>This score needs more sound to be really impressive. The fortissimo passages at the end would have been so much more moving if they had just been a bit louder. I was in the orchestra section fairly close to the musicians and needed more volume so I wonder how the folks further away felt.<P>The clattering of the pointe shoes was very distracting. This was some of the worst I have ever heard. The corps dancing was a bit uneven at times. Even when standing still with their arms folded heads were at different angles, eyes looking in different places, arms at different heights. Arabesques were messy and not uniform.<P>But I thought they were dancing in the moment and enjoying themselves in all the acts — not just putting in a day’s work.<P>All in all a very enjoyable evening at the ballet.<p>[This message has been edited by laraH (edited February 15, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2002 9:22 am 
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I was noticing in evagation's post that Sigfried was danced by Gennadi Saveliev, a corps member, and not Stiefel who was scheduled to dance. <P>Was the casting change annouced or any reason given in the cast notes in the program? If I had bought tickets to see Stiefel and instead saw Saveliev, I would want to know why.<P><p>[This message has been edited by laraH (edited February 15, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2002 11:24 am 
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I have heard - could be in error here - that Stiefel is injured. In dance the casts are always subject to change.


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2002 12:03 pm 
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Basheva,<P>I understand casts are subject to change - it would be nice though, to have a mention of it I think. And with all the strong male principals and soloists they have I am surprised at the choice of a member of the corps. Of course Corella is unavailable as he is dancing in London but there are so many others! Wonder where they all were.<P>lara


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2002 1:27 pm 
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Hmmmm...interesting Lara -<P>I once saw ABT do Romeo and Juliet with Romeo danced by a member of the corps. I enjoyed it very much. He hadn't yet worked out his understanding of the role and actually I enjoyed that. Seeing the barebones so to speak ....and thinking how he would eventually develop the role. He did go on to become a principal eventually.<P>Sometimes it can be interesting to see a dancer just starting into a role.<P>What do you think?


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2002 4:16 pm 
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Interesting how the same comments keep popping up about the lack of artistic depth of the ABT dancers. I've thought that for awhile now watching ABT over the last few years -- they certainly do have dancers who can repeat the steps and repeat them very well but ballet is about more than just steps. I just thought I was spoiled from watching NYCB and SFB but I guess I'm not alone in my perspective. Does the artistry come from coaching? Or is it just a matter of style?


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2002 4:24 pm 
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Hmm...methinks dancers like Angel Corella in ABT do a lot more than '...repeat the steps and repeat them very well...'


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2002 4:31 pm 
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Actually, lara, it's interesting that you bring that up. When I saw that ABT was going to Orange County, I knew that I would be seeing it no matter what... but I did choose that particular night because I'd wanted to see Ethan Stiefel. <P>Except he was taken off the casting a number of weeks ago. Originally, he was replaced with a "TBA" on the ABT website, and only a week or so ago was Saveliev put in as his replacement. And no reason was ever given.<P>After the show, I examined my response to it very thoroughly, since I wanted to make sure that my lackluster impression was due to the show itself, and not dissapointment at not seeing Stiefel.<P>But I've been to tons of shows where my favorite cast members have been replaced at the last minute, and I've usually managed to enjoy the show (occasionally even switched allegiances from one cast member to another) when the show is good.<P>So. Yeah. I was a bit saddened by the casting change, but even more saddened by the show itself. And, to be honest, I'm almost glad the casting was changed because I don't think I would have wanted to see Stiefel in such a boring role. I'd much rather see him in something more interesting.<P>Katie.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2002 9:40 pm 
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Stuart, I was referring to the company as a whole.


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2002 7:04 am 
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I've also been lucky enough to see several ABT performances in the past year. And I agree with Azlan. The talent pool is simply amazing but it's a shallow pool in terms of depth. There are a few members who have emotional depths to draw from, but not many. I have to wonder if this is becuase they've chosen to make technical ability a priority in lieu of more a comprehensive view of the dance (technical, aesthetic and dramatic) when choosing new company members, or is it a decision on the part of the artistic staff to downplay emotion in favor of technique?


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2002 7:51 am 
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Well, I am not sure that I agree...but some of that depends upon if we are speaking of the company with a long view or a short view. Every company goes through good times and less than good times. It ebbs and flows.<P>I also think that touring is a consideration. Compared to NYCB and SFB, American Ballet Theater tours quite a bit. That is always a difficult prospect. Not an excuse, but a consideration.<P>


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2002 8:01 am 
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Basheva,<P>You said "Sometimes it can be interesting to see a dancer just starting into a role."<P>Yes I agree...that is why I rather enjoyed seeing Gomes as Sigfried since he isn't yet a seasoned principal his interpretation was not spoiled by an "oh, here we go again" attitude. <P>I was just surprised to see a corps member dancing, but maybe Sigfried on tour is the best way to get ones feet wet if they are new to a role.<P>Stuart, your comment "methinks dancers like Angel Corella in ABT do a lot more than '...repeat the steps and repeat them very well..." was right on. Corella does invest himself emotionally in his roles. It seems that the lack of emotional depth seems to be coming from the women and not the men?<P>Stiefel garnered wonderful reviews for his portrayal of Lensky in Onegin in London recently so he is not lacking in the dramatic depth department.<P>The role of Sigfried is not a particularly exciting one so like evagation said, it wasn't terribly disappointing to not see Stiefel in that part.<P>As for the reasons behind the seemingly lack of depth at ABT I doubt seriously that touring would be a factor. It is a touring company and being prepared emotionally to bring dramatic depth to performances should be a given on any day.<P>It is one thing if one or two dancers has a bad night, but what I am reading on the national level is that ABT, while very excellent technically, does not bring many of the female roles to life.<P>Hey, Sarah Wildor is free, they should bring her to ABT!<BR>


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