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 Post subject: ABT-The National Ballet Co. "Swan Lake" in Detroit
PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 12:23 am 
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****Her Stirring Odile Must Have Registered On Radar At The National Hurricane Center****


[Quote by Guillermo Perez (Dance Magazine) about Gillian Murphy's recent performance of Swan Lake in Miami. (The South Florida Sun-Sentinel)]


* I would say that the above statement could apply to the 'Entire Evening' from 'The Moment That Gillian Murphy Set Foot On Stage As Odette' last night in Detroit !! *


http://www.sun-sentinel.com/features/li ... -headlines


Am I going Over-The-Top ??

Let me just say that this performance produced **One Of The Loudest Most Enthusiastic Audience Responses** that I have ever experienced !!

I had tears in my eyes at the end of the evening. A first for me at a ballet performance.

*Overwhelmingly Powerful* could be one description just to start with.

I will try and tell you some more at another time. I am in a state of 'Euphoria' at the moment !

Also announced last night and as reported in the press earlier, the US Congress has designated that the ABT is now be to be called the National Ballet Company. A bit of brilliant timing, I would have to say.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 10:02 am 
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thank you, Buddy! Just out of curiosity, did you ever see the PBS broadcast of Murphy's performance in Swan Lake (I think it was first broadcast in June 2005)? At that time, some people -- including myself -- felt that her performance was very good but not great in terms of emotional depth, but that given her age, she had time and room to grow. I just wonder if that growth has indeed been occurring.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:30 am 
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JaneH wrote:
thank you, Buddy! Just out of curiosity, did you ever see the PBS broadcast of Murphy's performance in Swan Lake (I think it was first broadcast in June 2005)? At that time, some people -- including myself -- felt that her performance was very good but not great in terms of emotional depth, but that given her age, she had time and room to grow. I just wonder if that growth has indeed been occurring.



JaneH, a very quick response. I also have the video. I watched it maybe twice and haven't looked at it since. I will certainly look at it again with new eyes.

Yes, In my mind both Her and the ABT-National Ballet Co. have carried their performance of Swan Lake and Their Identity In General to a New Level Of Excellence !!

I have to say that I have only seen the ABT three times before, but last night was noticeably different !!


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 12:38 pm 
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Some more quick thoughts.

Gillian Murphy's dancing last night was generally excellent, but what was wonderful to me was the 'Drama That She Sustained' throughout the entire evening. If the evening had stopped after her performance of Odile, I would have no idea how she could go on living with herself as a normal person. Her Odile was the Woman who Could Collapse Empires. She knocked over a few of mine in regard to my views of who's who in the world of ballet. It was definitely more a portrayal of seductive power than malice.

I have to say something else as well. She is one of the healthiest and most wholesome principal ballerinas that I have seen in a long time. The ABT female dancers as well as the female dancers at the Pennsylvania Ballet (the only two American companies that I have seen a few times) generally have a very healthy (to be direct, "normal weight condition") appearance. All for the Good, this !!!!

What last night's performance of the entire company showed me was that in addition to technical prowess the ABT has the emotional depth to equal any of the world's great ballet companies.

The scenery was magnificent as were the costumes. The director of the Detroit Opera House, who announced the ABT's new designation by the US Congress as the National Ballet Company also informed us that the ABT arrived with " 'Ten' semi's [very large trucks] full of stage scenery ! ".

Description of the Corps de Ballet could easily fill another posting. The Swans moved along dramatically, emotionally and expressively in a wonderful manner. They sustained what to me was an absolutely 'Symphonic Progression' of the entire evening.

The men were a constant source of highlight and more importantly an underpinning of security. There was no worry (there was a 'secondary' slight mishap that passed quickly) about any ballerinas being dropped here.

The ending was a bit ambiguous, but brilliant to me. Odette and Sigfried seem to jump off the face of the earth, but then reappear at the very end in a 'Wondrously Dramatic Final Affirmation Of The Triumph Of Love And Beauty'. This particular ending allowed Tchaikovsky's remarkable music to keep building to a magnificently dramatic conclusion.

When I said in my first posting that I had tears in my eyes at the end of the evening, these were not because of any sadness in the story, but because of the Absolute Beauty Of It All. !

If I have some additional free time I will try and say some more.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:42 pm 
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First some news. According to the ABT site Gillian Murphy is now scheduled to do a second performance tomorrow night instead of Dvorovenko and Beloserkovsky. Although I will miss seeing them dance, I would certainly look forward to seeing Gillian Murphy perform again ! I guess we in the audience Thursday night weren't the only ones who enjoyed her performance. It was electric !

Tonight Paloma Herrera danced with Gennadi Saveliev and they were wonderful as well. Paloma Herrera, in contrast to the dynamic Gillian Murphy, was beautifully, gently lyrical. She floated like silk and her moves were clean with dreamlike grace. In the Act II pas de deux she and the corps de ballet of swans seemed to be weaving the air with their wonderfully patterned dancing.

In Act II I believe, Paloma Herrera, during a backwards hopping sequence with the back leg extended out, would balance on point after each few hops. Gillian Murphy had done the same thing. Paloma Herrera also held a beautiful long balance on point elsewhere in the performance.

One nice highlight I remember is when Paloma Herrera was leaving the stage at the end of Act II and the tension she expressed in trying to stay with Siegfried, resisting the force dragging her off stage, was very compelling. She had some other very nice physical nuances as well.

Gennadi Saveliev as Siegfried had wonderful aerial moves and a general gracefulness. His jumps seemed to stand still in mid-air at times. His jump spin landings were in fairly good fifth position.

The dancing generally seemed more graceful and unified tonight, but the drama of the first night dancing and the emotional commitment to character portrayals, perhaps reflecting the lead of Gillian Murphy, remains a vivid highlight of what I have seen so far.

Both Rothbarts were very impressive tonight. Rothbart I, the 'handsome', danced with wonderful airy lightness and Rothbart II, the 'not handsome', performed very emotionally and poetically at the end of the ballet. I actually felt sorry for him. I think Rothbart I was the same both nights. R II I'm not sure about because there was a change of cast announcement that I didn't hear completely.

All in all another wonderful evening.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 12:28 am 
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" Like A Wonderful Dream ! "

Michele Wiles

Sometimes words might not be adequate. I made a deal with myself. "Try to express exactly what you felt at the time." In order to do this I make one request. "If anything I now say is not in total agreement with my opening statement above--ignore it ! "

Michel Wiles was simply, absolutely wonderful !

I knew nothing about her. How to describe her ? In appearance and in her dancing highlights, she might be said to resemble a beautiful porcelain statuette, arms and legs and head reaching out in the loveliest poses that a sculptor could want to recreate.

Her dancing style might be somewhere between that of Paloma Herrera and Gillian Murphy. How she dances with that style is where descriptive words for me can't relate what I saw.

She dances with a crisp linearity that is simply--Lovely, Lovely, Lovely !

Her facial expression is simply--Lovely, Lovely, Lovely !

Her stage presence is simply--Lovely, Lovely, Lovely !

To try and describe a few of the wonderful things that she did, if it really has any meaning, I could mention how clear and expressive was her miming. How wonderfully dramatic was her final departure from Siegfried in Act II. (All the ballerinas must be schooled to do this at ABT, because they all have done it so beautifully.) An attitude of 'noblility' throughout. Her facial expression as Odile showed complete control of Siegfried. Her balances on point were sustained and elegant. (All the other ballerinas I've seen this week have also done this extremely well.) Total commitment to her charismatic character portrayal--and on and on.

Go see her ! She is something very special !

David Hallberg danced wonderfully with great elevation and noblility. His stage presence--noble. He was a very supportive partner.

In this performance "everything' just flowed along beautifully. The Act I dancing was the best so far. Yurika Kajiya was especially fine in the pas de trois. Sarah Lane did very well here also.

The Rothbarts--fine. Several of the character dancers like the Polish lead maiden or the Spanish princess just glowed. They resembled one of my references for sunshine dancing, Ekaterina Osmolkina at the Kirov-Mariinsky. The lead Polish male dancer has consistantly stayed in convincing character, which I really appreciate.

The Corps de Ballet of Swans just mesmerized throughout.

I could go on for pages.

It Was Wonderful !!


In The Evening Gillian Murphy Did It Again !!

Please see my review of her first spectacular performance. There's not much I can add to that.

I might say just one or two things more. Wes Chapman, an ABT 'ballet master', told some of us that she is an excellent spinner. She is ! I didn't mention her fouette spins in my first review. They were possibly the best that I have seen ! Total control, doubles all over the place and her arms often beautifully reaching above her head.

During the initial encounter scene with Rothbart, she is somehow flipped around his head in an amazing display of control and commitment of her part. In the Act II overhead lifts with Siegfried, she was almost upside down.

Jose Manuel Carreno, like all the Siefrieds so far, displayed wonderful jumping ability.

Once again all the dancing just moved along beautifully--the same or better with each performance.


"An Absolutely Remarkable Series Of Performances !!


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 8:28 pm 
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Well here we go again !

Paloma Herrera

She totally went the distance today--maybe 100% !!

Today not only was her dancing as good as last time, which was excellent, but her character portrayal commitment was just wonderful as well.

Her graceful dancing as Odette couldn't have been more flowing and delicately graceful than it was. She was possibly the best lead ballerina in this respect, although I may as well say right now that I have never seen such a uniformity of outstanding talent before. They so resembled each other in their capabilities. The lady in our group, who was a ballerina and now teaches, concluded by saying, "They are all superstars ! ".

Paloma Herrera seemed to have absolute physical control. Whenever I thought that she might be easing up a bit, she would perform some exceptional move or arrive at a beautifully done highlight. Her vocabulary seemed limitless as to which highlight she could physically put together at any given moment. Graceful, graceful, graceful, graceful.

Her 'technical 'prowess' perhaps showed the most with her Act III Odile. She did the backward hops again, holding a sustained balance on point after each couple of hops. She did possibly the longest sustained balance on point of all the perfomances in her Odile duet. Her fouette spins were secure and smooth. She seemed to actually gain more confidence and control at the end.

As far as her portrayal was concerned, her face as Odette assumed a dreaminess that couldn't have better expressed the character. Her Odile was a commitment to seduction. She sustained all this beautifully throughout.

She received wonderful character support from her partner Gennadi Saveliev. Whatever she projected at him he totally accepted, which allowed her to attempt most any expressive statement with complete confidence. At a lecture we were also told by Victor Barbee, now an artistic director, that she could count on total physical support from Gennadi Saveliev. He had wonderful airy jumps and other excellent moves, like all the men, and also a total commitment to his character portrayal.

In many respects this could have been the best performance yet. The lead ballerinas, I would say, did about equally well in all the performances. Each had a slightly different ability, but all were wonderful. Still in respect to the totality, each day just seemed better and better.

The standard today was set almost immediately by one of the ladies in the group of peasants who performed a wonderfully sustained slow motion pirouette arabesque. The women had been doing this marvelous looking move throughout the week, but this one may have been the most successful.

The Act I dancing moved along beautifully. The Act IV character dancing was delightful as usual, with very noticeable commitment to character--almost "Russian" !

Rothbart, the handsome, was performed today only by Jared Mathews (all other times he did the pas de trois), with exceptionally convincing drama and excellent dancing. Rothbart, the not handsome (I could never figure who was doing this one), ended once again in a burst of Shakespearian emotion, an almost heartwrenching display of 'sadness and regret', that could set your mind racing as how to really react to this being. I once again felt quite sorry for him, which requires a total 180 degree change in direction for a viewer.

The corps de ballet White Swans became more unified and dramatic, building momentum and emotional commitment, culminating in the monumentally overwhelming final statement of Love Triumphant.

ABT, now the American National Ballet Company (ANBT), I guess has always been famous for it technical prowess. Well something else now seems to have happened. The element of artistry, or poetry, or however you can describe it has become noticeably more evident in my mind anyway. I believe it's status as one of the finest dance companies in the world has definitely been advanced by what it was capable of doing this week.


Beautiful, Wonderful, Beautiful, Wonderful !! ( " Water come to me eyes ! " (Harry Belafonte) )


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 9:05 pm 
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My goodness, Buddy -- what are you doing to avoid developing deep vein thrombosis, with all that sitting!? Thank you for all those reports. Just out of curiosity...

Quote:
The lead Polish male dancer has consistantly stayed in convincing character, which I really appreciate.


Do you have any idea who this was? We have a young friend in the company who might be the lead Polish male, but I don't want to publish his name in case it isn't.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 10:11 pm 
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JaneH wrote:
Do you have any idea who this was? We have a young friend in the company who might be the lead Polish male, but I don't want to publish his name in case it isn't.


The program lists Julio Bragado-Young for the first two performances and Alexei Agoudine for the next two performances. The dancer all four times looked the same to me. Today's dancer did look different and he is listed as Jesus Pastor who is listed also as doing some of the 'not handsome' Rothbarts.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2007 10:24 pm 
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Buddy wrote:
JaneH wrote:
Do you have any idea who this was? We have a young friend in the company who might be the lead Polish male, but I don't want to publish his name in case it isn't.


The program lists Julio Bragado-Young for the first two performances and Alexei Agoudine for the next two performances. The dancer all four times looked the same to me. Today's dancer did look different and he is listed as Jesus Pastor who is listed also as doing some of the 'not handsome' Rothbarts.


The man that I called the Polish Dancer may actually be the Hungarian dancer. He was in the first group to appear. There is no lead dancer listed for the Mazurka (Polish) that was performed last. The group names given are Alexandre Hammoudi, Matthew Golding, Vitali Krauchenka and Patrick Ogle. There are, I believe Victor Barbee said, thirty-two nationalities represented at the ABT as dancers. One hundred twenty dancers were in Detroit.


[A few more facts and some corrections added the next day.]

[There were probably 'sixty-five' ABT dancers in Detroit. The 'one hundred twenty' is the number of different designed costumes in the production (two hundred twenty total if you include duplicate designs in different sizes). There were seventy-four "crew" members !

In my last review what I called a pirouette arabesque was probably a 'pirouette attitude' with the extended back leg bent at the knee. The character dances were in Act III.

To try and get the new name of the company correct I looked at the ABT site and it is titled "American Ballet Theater", under which is "America's National Ballet Company" in smaller print.]


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2007 9:12 am 
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Does anyone know specifically what Irina Kolpakova does at ABT these days ? A friend pointed her out to me. She was in the audience watching Paloma Herrera's performance Sunday and appparently would go backstage immediately at the intermission.

Also the dancing of the corps de ballet swans seems to be speeded up since the video was released. I find this to be very effective, but that is just my opinion. Does anyone know who might be responsible for this and also who does some of the 'acting' coaching, which also to me seemed very fine at times ?

[spelling correction made]


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 9:25 pm 
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American Ballet Theatre Swan Lake, Detroit, Mar. 16 & 18, 2007

On the 16th and 18th of March, I saw in Detroit McKenzies' production of Swan Lake. When I first viewed the production, several years ago, I had mixed feelings about it.

This time, viewing it in the context of other versions, (Mariinsky, Bolshoi, NYCB), it seemed to me much better. Since I've posted on another site a review of the performance of the 16th, in these notes I want to talk only about two things: a) McKenzie's 'take' on Swan Lake compared to some other productions, and b) the corps de ballet of ABT in the two Detroit performances.

What is the argument in the story line that serves to gird the choreography of four acts (in McKenzie's case two acts and four scenes) and tie it to its musical foundation?
What, in plain language, underpins and serves as the fulcrum for a story of enchanted humans and deceived princes and so on. What's the ballet about?

The differences are significant.

1) Grigorovich's production for the Bolshoi is structured as the inner mental life of Siegfried and what Fate does to him. (Odette is a phantasm of Siegfried's imagination)
2) Sergeyev's production for the Mariinsky, the most historically authentic, has however, the Soviet-dictated 'happy' ending, complying to a defunct socialist-realist aesthetic and to the socialist denial of any kind of other-worldliness, and at the same time avoiding bourgeois morbidity in art.
3) P Martins' production for the NYCB follows the dictum 'faster and shorter is better because people don't have time for long works', irrespective of any demands the score and the libretto may make. A kind of Reader's Digest rendition of the classics. A response to Mr Martins argument is: “OK, so don't bother. Do something short.” (Instead he's getting ready to tackle Prokofiev's R & J)
4) K. McKenzie's production opts for the double suicide of Odette and Siegfried, which leads to the demise of Rothbart, and the breaking of the spell for all the other swan/women. (The physics of this chain of events escapes me, but there it is). The lovers, redeemed by their pure love, are reunited in the afterworld. Musically, the drama of death and redemption is very aptly supported by the finale of the Tschaikovsky score.

One of the virtues of the McKenzie production is that the fourth scene is compact, advances the story line efficiently, and the music and story line meld convincingly.

The first scene showed off the great dancing of the corps. In McKenzie's production the first scene is expansive, bringing together music from other acts and giving that music to the corps for group dances (such as some music for the princesses in the ballroom scene). The virtue is that we get to see the first-rate work of the ABT corps de ballet, which provides many pleasures, and, in my view, world-class artistry.

If the corps de ballet of a company with its own training academy, can be metaphorically said to be a bouquet of calla lilies, or maybe better, long stemmed roses, then, using the same metaphor, it can be said that the ABT corps de ballet is a mixed bouquet of fresh cut flowers, each lending its color and perfume to the whole.

Double tours en l'air for the group men in the first scene had a synchronicity and precision (both performances) that was amazing. Double unsupported pirouettes en pointe for the group women with their long multi-layered skirts were brilliantly secure and effortlessly executed. Technique transformed to art. Double work and partnering
of some complexity and speed was carried out flawlessly and with the appropriate nonchalance.

The group dances of the lakeside scenes were equally compelling. The tempi were somewhat faster than those maintained in traditional versions. It seemed to me that there were some corps formations that brought the group closer to the protagonists during the pas de deux, suggesting greater empathy and intimacy between the leads and the swan/women.

The scenery and costumes of Zack Brown are superb. The costumes are sumptuous and profusely decorated.

After these two performances, the charge, often heard, that ABT, at all levels of dancers, reflects the absence of a training academy to supply uniform training and focused aesthetic education seems, to me, to be unfounded. How can that be? What's left out of the equation is the great job that good ballet masters can do with a gorgeous, beautiful mixed bouquet.


Last edited by jpc on Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:34 am 
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Hi, jpc,

Thanks for your very comprehensive and thought provoking comments.

Could I talk about on one thing that you discussed, the ballet's ending, which is very interesting to me since it left some kind of tears in my eyes after almost every performance, especially after the initial impact of the first night. These were tears of happiness by the way.

If I didn't know anything about the story ahead of time I would have arrived at some rather different interpretations than the normally accepted ones.

First of all in my interpretation Odette and Siegfried jump off the face of the earth or something like that. Is this really a tragedy ? I didn't feel the intense sadness that I have felt in other productions. I did feel an uncertainty. "How is this actually going to end ?"

By the way I've wanted to mention somewhere that the leaping off the back of the stage, although perhaps totally gymnastics, was breathtakingly done. There obviously was a pretty strong safety net hidden back there some place because the men hurled themselves head first into the air like Mexican cliff divers. The women weren't much less reserved.

Okay, Odette and Siegfried have jumped off the 'face of the earth'. The swans are moving in mounting waves of agitation as the music dramatically builds. Tragedy ? I'm not sure.

Then I look at Rothbart. Do not use the video as a guide on this one. He is pretty sinister looking there. I was sitting fairly close up and I love to watch interesting faces. In his final moments he looked more like a Shakespearian tragic hero to me. He really seemed to be acting out a sympathy inducing poetic statement of personal loss. Make what you will of this, but this is what I saw.

Finally the swans settle down, positioning themselves almost face down on the stage and the music slows and then builds dramatically as a translucent curtain with a huge burst of sun on it rises to cover the back of the stage. Odette and Siegfried appear, embracing each other, in the center of the sun and the ballet ends in a dramatic statement of love triumphant.

There was for me a lot to think about in this ending, but, secured by the very end, the overall effect was one of inner joy.

One more thought. There are some very interesting choices made here. The ending of Rothbart is one and the speeding up of the corps de ballet swans is another. I like all this very much, but I am curious about it's origins. Also I sense a lot of intangible unity in the dancing. It's not in the unity of dance steps as much as in a 'feeling' of unity. Whether this is the conscious result of someone's coaching or simply a group development of some kind is another very interesting question for me.

I have to say that not only does today's ABT seem like a company that is really trying, but it also seems like a company that has succeeded !

jpc, there is a lot more to think about in what you have discussed. Thanks again for your thoughts.


[some typo corrections made the next day]


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2007 2:55 pm 
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jpc wrote:
American Ballet Theatre Swan Lake, Detroit, Mar. 16 & 18, 2007

One of the virtues of the McKenzie production is that the fourth scene is compact, advances the story line efficiently, and the music and story line meld convincingly.


The group dances of the lakeside scenes were equally compelling. The tempi were somewhat faster than those maintained in traditional versions. It seemed to me that there were some corps formations that brought the group closer to the protagonists during the pas de deux, suggesting greater empathy and intimacy between the leads and the swan/women.



jpc, I agree with what you have said about the fine dancing everywhere.

I have thought before about your comments regarding the corps' dancing in Acts II & IV. I tend to like the choreography for the corps of swans in Act IV because it seems to alternate with the lead dancers rather than occur simultaneously as it does in Act II. I tend to focus primarily on the lead dancers, so if there is other dancing going on at the same time, as in the Lakeside Act II, I tend to miss it. I do agree with you though that in Paloma Herrera's first performance the corps of swans and the lead dancers did seem to interweave beautifully at one point in Act II.

I just wanted to add one more idea about the final Act. We have discussed Odette and Siegfried's 'leaping off the stage'. I said that I didn't feel any great sadness at this point. Perhaps one reason is that this action could be viewed not as a an act of despair, but rather an act of hope--'a leap of faith'.

I agree with you completely about the success of Act IV. It moved dramatically and powerfully with the music to create a beautiful and heartwarming conclusion.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 4:25 pm 
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jpc wrote:
American Ballet Theatre Swan Lake, Detroit, Mar. 16 & 18, 2007


What's left out of the equation is the great job that good ballet masters can do with a gorgeous, beautiful mixed bouquet.



Ballet it would seem is an attempt to create an ideal.

Two interesting currents seem to run through this staging of Swan Lake.

One is the classical grace and fineness that I associate with the Russian ballet. This was most noticeable to me in the beautiful Odette dancing of Paloma Herrera and the dreamlike facial expressions of the corps de ballet swans.

The other current is what might be called the Balanchine factor. The speeding up of the corps' dancing and the more powerful momentum.

Everthing seems to be interconnected. Gillian Murphy, for one, seemed to combine both these currents wonderfully. The Russian style is based on over a hundred years of refinement of previous styles along with new invention and the Balanchine style is perhaps the transposing of this style into the more dynamic world of the 20th century, especially 20th century America.

ABT appears to have created a fine blending of these two currents and perhaps added a few more. There seems to be a literary factor, a sort of examining of thematic possibilities and nuances. There seems to be a somewhat Shakespearian look at the multidimensional nature of things. Who is Rothbart ? What is Odette really thinking about as she leaps from the stage in Act IV.

There is also an attempt at 'wholesomeness'. This is perhaps an 'American ideal', a belief in the nobility and importance of the individual and of a life of worldly happiness. Although Siegfried and Odette do leap into an 'otherworld' to find their happiness, the result is still what we all hope for--happiness. The sun rises, the swans rejoice and even Rothbart is dealt with about as gently as possible.

This production is a fine blending of elements from the numerous nationalities and characteristics of the dancers to the thematic possibilities of the production to the different approaches and ideas on how all this should be presented. It is all blended in the same way that the Russian style does not look like Russia--it looks like the World.


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