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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 8:08 pm 
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Not every dancer does Madge in heavy make-up. In Denmark, it ranges from almost no make up beyond the normal pancake, to medium-heavy coloured makeup.

Kate


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 11:29 am 
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Right. I don't recall whether it was heavy make-up or a heavy costume in the ABT version I recall (I've seen many over the years, and can't distinguish in my mind the most recent Madge I saw from older ones), but my recollection is that it was one or the other (or both).


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 Post subject: Giselle
PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2009 11:43 am 
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Location: New Jersey
American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
Lincoln Center, New York, NY
June 9, 12, 13M, 13E
Giselle

Contrary to popular rumor, I was not around to see Carlotta Grisi dance the first “Giselle” in 1841. Nor did I have an opportunity to see Anna Pavlova perform it (though we’re getting closer). But though I never saw these legendary Giselles, I have been fortunate to have seen perhaps dozens of different ballerinas dance this seminal role with many different companies. I can safely say, with few exceptions, that I loved them all.

But if I’ve seen any performances better, or that moved me more, than those I watched this week at ABT’s week-long “Giselle” marathon, even Gelsey Kirkland’s (whose Giselle to me remains the benchmark), I cannot recall it. And I’d remember.

I saw four Giselles this week: in order of viewing – Diana Vishneva; Nina Ananiashvili, Maria Riccetto, and Natalia Osipova. All were superb (as were their Albrechts, one Hilarion in particular, and each of the Myrtas). And without taking anything away from the others, two were breathtaking. Although my favorite of the current Giselles that I’ve seen remains Diana Vishneva, Natalia Osipova’s debut with ABT was extraordinary. The hype was right.

“Giselle” the story, is thin. It’s also unfair (as in – life is unfair). Nobleman-on-the-prowl Count Albrecht swears eternal love to a pretty village maiden he has become attracted to, knowing all along that nothing can come of it (or, depending on how it's played, knowing all along that all he was looking for was some extra-curricular dalliance). Giselle, beloved by the village huntsman/nice guy/bad guy (depending on how it’s played), falls head over toeshoes for the dashing new man in town. But Giselle has a weak heart, which breaks when Albrecht’s emotional treachery is revealed. The next act gives Hilarion and Albrecht the willis. Nice guy doesn’t get the girl; the two-timing cad does (although, by then, she’s dead).

But “Giselle” the ballet is infinitely richer than the libretto. It is a story of betrayal, revenge, forgiveness, redemption, and ultimately, perhaps the purest balletic expression of eternal love conquering all. That it continues to be a compelling role to perform, and to watch, and, for the usual full-house audiences to be enthralled by, is testament to the artistic, and emotional, wallop that the ballet never fails to deliver.

Ms. Osipova is, simply put, remarkable. From her first steps after she leaves her front door in Act I, she seems never to be on the ground. Ms. Osipova looks like a pixie; and dances lighter than air. Whenever she leaves the ground (literally), she rises up and never seems to come back down to earth. And her jumps are not energy explosions – she moves through air as effortlessly as the petal of a flower borne by the breeze. And it is not simply her ethereal quality – technically, I saw nothing that was not perfection. Until Ms. Osipova’s performance, I thought that the most spectacular Act II entrance I’d ever seen was that performed by Ms. Vishneva a few days earlier. Ms. Osipova equaled it, and added a back-bend during the Act II pas de deux that seemed to defy basic anatomy.

So why am I still more moved by Ms. Vishneva’s Giselle than Ms. Osipova’s? The acting.

Diana Vishneva is every bit as accomplished a technician as Ms. Osipova. Perhaps not quite as dramatically ethereal, but hardly earth-bound. But what Ms. Vishneva gives is a perfectly balanced performance; nuanced, subtle, and superb in every way.

Perhaps it reflects the difference between being nurtured by the Bolshoi as opposed to the Kirov (Ms. Vishneva), but Ms. Osipova’s characterization of Giselle was as unbound as her dancing. Ms. Osipova never failed to express an emotion facially – she showed the audience exactly what she was thinking and feeling every step – every beautiful step – of the way. While her acting was never inappropriate or over-the-top, it was, to me, more emphatic than necessary. We’re not talking about the kind of open-mouthed expressiveness that hits the viewer over the head with an anvil. This is nit-picking – to an extreme. She was wonderful to watch at all times. But even in Act II, where Giselle as a spirit traditionally shows no overt expression, Ms. Osipova moved her face to express emotion more than I’ve seen any other Giselle try, or feel the need, to do.

Ms. Vishneva, on the other hand, conveys the same emotions with a fraction of the apparent effort. A turn of the head; a glance of the eye, a simple smile or raise of the eyebrow, tells the same story in a simpler, purer way. Where, in Act I, Ms. Osipova was Giselle as a 16 year old little girl overwhelmed by her first love (which made her Albrecht look like he was robbing the cradle), Ms. Vishneva was the lovely ballerina-next-door who knew exactly how precious love was and that her Albrecht was it. Ms. Vishneva’s Giselle was even better than the performance she gave with ABT in New York a couple of years ago, although that hardly seems possible.

Perhaps I preferred Ms. Vishneva’s Giselle somewhat more just because I like her stage persona more. Objectivity is the goal, but the kinetic energy of dance works best, at least for me (and I suspect for others as well), when the transference of emotion is individualized – subjective and idiosyncratic as that may be: Whenever Ms. Vishneva is on stage (or any other dancer I like), I’m there too. Regardless, both Ms. Vishneva’s and Ms. Osipova’s performances were what make legendary ballerinas truly legendary, and it is a privilege to have been able to see them both.

Ms. Ananiashvili’s was a comfortable Giselle, which is not to say it was any less memorable than those of Ms. Osipova and Ms. Vishneva; just not quite as exciting. Her Giselle wears its experience on its sleeve; every step taken, every gesture and glance, has been honed to perfection. If she weren’t a seamstress, Ms. Ananashvili’s Giselle would have been an elementary school teacher – the type who everyone in town loved, and who no one in town could understand why she hadn’t found the right man yet. Her Giselle was more than innocent – she was genuinely a nice person – much as I suspect Ms. Ananiashvili herself is. That her technical prowess, extraordinarily fine as it still is, is slightly less than awe-inspiring makes not a bit of difference.

This overall performance, which was Ms. Ananiashvili’s final Giselle with ABT (her farewell performance, in Swan Lake, is scheduled for June 27), was also the most theatrically balanced of all four. Her Albrecht, Jose Carreno, was a nobleman in the truest sense of the word. His performance combined a refined and quiet dignity with unusual gravitas, free of upper-class gloss (no need to point when ordering Wilfred to go away – a simple, powerful glance was sufficient). Every bit his match was Gennadi Saveliev’s Hilarion. This character is frequently acted as a dolt, a bully or a wimp, or some combination of the three, but Mr. Saveliev’s portrayal conveyed not merely brute strength, but strength of character. His was the strongest Hilarion I can recall seeing in any “Giselle” performance. Gillian Murphy’s Myrta was as powerfully drawn as ever (all of the Myrtas – Ms. Murphy, Veronika Part, Stella Abrera (Myrta as dragon lady), and Michelle Wiles were flawless, but Ms. Murphy owns this role much as Marine van Hamel did in a previously generation). And Sarah Lane and Daniil Simkin were the strongest pair in the Peasant Pas.

The fourth of the Giselle’s I saw was Maria Riccetto. Since I first saw her perform with ABT, it was obvious to me that Ms. Riccetto was a natural Giselle. In my mind’s eye, she even looks like a Giselle should look (perhaps if Giselle had been painted by El Greco). In Saturday’s matinee (she replaced an injured Xiomara Reyes), she danced as Giselle should be danced - with strength, fragility, and warmth. It would be grossly unfair to compare Ms. Riccetto’s Giselle with the “Russian” Giselles (ok – two Russians and a Georgian), but it was a very good portrayal. The spectacular may take a little longer, but the potential is there.


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 Post subject: Veronika Part Has Been Promoted To Principal Dancer
PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:53 am 
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Veronika Part has finally been promoted to Principal Dancer of ABT. This long, and past due appointment was made last month. Congratulations to you Nika Part :D :!:

http://www.abt.org/dancers/detail.asp?Dancer_ID=43

Note: There's a correction that should be made in her bio. ABT's bio gives the impression that she left the Maryinsky in 1998 and came to ABT in a lower rank. She was appointed a Maryinsky Soloist in 1998. In 2002, she joined ABT as a Soloist.


Last edited by Cygne on Mon Jun 15, 2009 12:09 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:21 am 
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While I personally would not have used “facing fears” in the headline, which immediately offers a negative and immature image of the artist in question, and therefore downplays her long-awaited achievement before it is even discussed, I am thrilled for Veronika that she has, at long long last, finally received what she deserved long ago. Especially given all the changes at the Mariinsky of late, it seems finally she is on her own, right path.

Congratulations to Ms. Part and may she enjoy continued success!


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 12:16 pm 
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I thought that Veronika Part's overdue promotion was common knowledge - I would have mentioned it in reviewing "Dnieper" had I thought otherwise.
But although hers was definitely overdue, it's not unusual. Promotions from within at ABT are more likely than not overdue whenever they're finally made. For whatever reason, the lag time at ABT seems to depend more on an available opening at the top than on merit, and some dancers who deserve better seem to be stuck in the corps forever (Renata Pavam comes to mind - she did a delightful Nutcracker in DC a couple of years ago, but company recognition never followed). And it seemed to take ages for Kristi Boone to achieve the recognition she's long deserved.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 3:19 pm 
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Alastair Macaulay reviews Natalia Osipova's Giselle in The New York Times:

NY Times

James Wolcott writes about Osipova's Giselle in his Vanity Fair blog:

James Wolcott blog


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2009 1:21 pm 
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balletomaniac, thank you very much for your very fine review. I have just finished reading it for the second time. I was looking for several of your quotes to highlight and decided that I should probably highlight the entire review. It is sensitive, perceptive and very fair.

I am so glad that you enjoyed all the "Giselle" performances as much as you did.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 21, 2009 12:30 pm 
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Thanks, Buddy. I was beginning to wonder whether anyone ever reads this anymore.
I saw Veronika's Sylphide last night. Wonderful, which was expected, but in a different way (which was also expected - a mature sylph, but no less a sylph). And Cory Stearns is beginning to remind me a little of Fernando Bujones - if Bujones had been from Long Island and if I'd seen him before he became a principal. I'll post something in greater detail as soon as I have an opportunity.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 6:46 pm 
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As a note, I don't think this will be Xiomara Reyes' NY debut as Juliet - I'm almost positive I saw her opposite Corella back in 2002 or 2003.



AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE
Metropolitan Opera House - Spring, 2009


SEVENTH WEEK

Mon. Eve., June 29, 7:30 P.M. SYLVIA – Murphy, Beloserkovsky, Lopez, Saveliev

Tues. Eve., June 30, 7:30 P.M. SYLVIA – Herrera, Gomes, Scott, Hammoudi*

Wed. Mat., July 1, 2 P.M. SYLVIA – Vishneva*, Stiefel, Salstein, Matthews*

Wed. Eve., July 1, 7:30 P.M. SYLVIA – Wiles, Bolle**, Simkin*, Stearns*

Thurs. Eve., July 2, 7:30 P.M. SYLVIA – Murphy, Beloserkovsky, Lopez, Saveliev

Fri. Eve., July 3. 8 P.M. SYLVIA – Vishneva, Stiefel, Salstein, Matthews

Sat. Mat., July 4, 2 P.M. SYLVIA – Herrera, Gomes, Scott, Hammoudi

Sat. Eve., July 4, 8 P.M. NO PERFORMAMCE


EIGHTH WEEK

Mon. Eve., July 6, 7:30 P.M. ROMEO AND JULIET – Vishneva, Gomes, Cornejo

Tues. Eve., July 7, 7:30 P.M. ROMEO AND JULIET – Dvorovenko, Bolle, Salstein

Wed. Mat., July 8, 2 P.M. ROMEO AND JULIET – Murphy, Hallberg, Matthews

Wed. Eve., July 8, 7:30 P.M. ROMEO AND JULIET – Herrera, Gomes, Lopez

Thurs. Eve., July 9, 7:30 P.M. ROMEO AND JULIET – Seo+, Stearns+, Salstein

Fri. Eve., July 10, 8 P.M. ROMEO AND JULIET – Reyes+, Cornejo+, Lopez

(more)









EIGHTH WEEK (cont.)

Sat. Mat., July 11, 2 P.M. ROMEO AND JULIET – Murphy, Hallberg, Matthews

Sat. Eve., July 11, 8 P.M. ROMEO AND JULIET – Dvorovenko, Bolle, Salstein

-30-

Monday, June 22, 2009


*Editors please note first time in a role:
Tues. Eve., 6/30 – Hammoudi (Orion) in Sylvia
Wed. Mat., 7/1 – Vishneva (Sylvia), Matthews (Orion) in Sylvia
Wed. Eve., 7/1 – Simkin (Eros), Stearns (Orion) in Sylvia

**Editors please note first time in a role with ABT
Wed. Eve., 7/1 – Bolle (Aminta) in Sylvia

+Editors please note first time in a role in New York:
Thurs., 7/10 – Seo (Juliet), Stearns (Romeo) in Romeo and Juliet
Fri., 7/11 – Reyes (Juliet), Cornejo (Romeo) in Romeo and Juliet


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2009 9:34 am 
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Kate - You're right. It's definitely not Xiomara's debut as Juliet. She did dance the role before in NYC -- and I reviewed it [I remember writing that her scream could be heard all the way to Havana]. It should be in the archives.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2009 8:36 pm 
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American Ballet Theatre
Lincoln Center, New York
June 20M; 20E
La Sylphide; Airs


“La Sylphide,” considered the oldest surviving ballet, was first performed in Paris in 1832. Choreographed by Filippo Taglioni, it was famously performed by his daughter, Marie. Soon thereafter, the ballet was remounted in a production choreographed by August Bournonville for the Royal Danish Ballet, and danced by Lucille Grahn. It is the Bournonville version that has survived.

Known for being the first ballet in which the ballerina danced extensively en pointe, and also for being the first romantic ballet, “La Sylphide” probably has survived as much for its story as for its style. Light, airy, humorous, and beautiful to watch (particularly in this wonderfully staged production), it is also a surprising and ultimately devastating morality tale. The fact that the ballet ends unhappily is not the point – it is an unexpectedly ignoble unhappy ending, a how-could-you-have-let-that-happen ending. Delightful as it is, it ends with a sock to the gut. Notably, "La Sylphide" was first presented in a time when fairy tales were being memorialized as scary cautionary lectures, and the story is one that could have been created by the Brothers Grimm - who published their collection of fairy tales in multiple volumes that span the time period in which "La Sylphide" was created.

The two performances of “La Sylphide” that ABT presented on June 20 were well danced by both sylphs – Hee Seo in the matinee, and Veronika Part in the evening. But while both performances were beautifully executed, it is Ms. Part’s portrayal – her acting as well as her dancing -- that will be etched in my memory. There’s nothing wrong with being cute, but Ms. Part’s sylph was more than that.

When ABT announced its casting for this week’s performances, one could envision the sylphs to be danced by each of the leads – except for Ms. Part. In all the productions I’ve seen, the sylph is a sylph – that is, as airy and light on her feet as a fairy ought to be. Gelsey Kirkland’s sylph is an example, and I’ve seen Lis Jeppesen dance it many times – even if, given the passage of time, I’m not sure I really did. But Ms. Part is not a sprite. That she became one for this performance was not just a triumph of impeccable technique (which, of course, it was), but a tribute to her ability to transcend technique and become her character.

Effervescent as Ms. Part’s sylph was (and she was delightfully bubbly), hers was a mature person who happened to be born a sylph. The consequence for the piece is considerable. James’s infatuation with a cute little girl/sprite is no longer an issue: he and this sylph are on the same level – although, of course, they come from different worlds. So, with the elimination of that variable, one aspect of the morality play (look what happens when you mess with “others”) becomes more focused. The difference, though seemingly minor, was, for me, seismic.

Ms. Part's performance was ably complemented by Cory Stearns's portrayal of James, Craig Salstein's Gurn, and Kelley Boyd's Effie.

It's becoming repetitive to observe that Mr. Stearns is having a break-out season, but it's true. He continues to surprise in whatever I've seen him do. While purists may complain that he didn't sufficiently execute the Bournonville technique, he was appropriately exuberant (rather than just explosive) and demonstrated the pure dancing joy that to me both reflects and projects the Bournonville style. He's enjoying himself, and his enthusiasm is infectious. And although the impeccable technique isn't there yet, he has begun to remind me a little of Fernando Bujones (if Bujones had been from Long Island).

Ms. Seo’s afternoon performance, her first lead in a full-length (well, close to full length) in New York, was delightful. She danced with surprising lightness, and was deliciously appealing. While nuances and subtlety will develop over time, her performance was more than simply promising.

The witch Madge was danced by Victor Barbee in the matinee, and Martine Van Hamel in the evening. Both were barely recognizable. Mr. Barbee's characterization, though never inapproriate, was so strong that it overwhelmed everyhing and everyone else who happened to share the stage at the same time. To me, he was the epitome of evil. Ms. Van Hamel's was a kinder, gentler Madge, making her ultimate triumph less a triumph of bad over good than the inevitable outcome of James's lapse of judgment.

These performances were paired with Paul Taylor's "Airs." Airy and balletic, "Airs" was a perfect complement to "La Sylphide." And while the Taylor technique appeared to be more grafted than natural, each performance by the two different casts captured the soaring spirit in Taylor's choreography. But more than that, these performances showcased less familiar corps dancers who performed with exemplary skill, boundless energy, and endearing youthfullness. Devon Teuscher and Katherine Williams were particularly impressive, and Ms. Williams is a dancer who draws eyes. Both bear watching in the future.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 9:07 pm 
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balletomaniac wrote:
But Ms. Part is not a sprite. That she became one for this performance was not just a triumph of impeccable technique (which, of course, it was), but a tribute to her ability to transcend technique and become her character.


Thanks agains, balletomaniac.

I wish I could have seen this one. Maybe another time.

Veronika Part really does live in her own world of Exceptional Beauty. I have seen her there more than a few times and hope to see her there many times more.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 2:59 am 
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Hi balletomaniac,

I wanted to reply to your post and pose a question, but first comment that I just read your quadruple-Giselle review and this is the first I've read of your work, but as a fellow writer, I very much enjoy your writing style. Thanks for covering these key performances for the site.

Regarding Part: you noted that ABT promotions are always or most often long overdue and that this is not unusual. I think however that in Part's case, it is unusual for a number of reasons. Coming from the Mariinsky Theatre at the level of Soloist, she cannot lopped in with dancers who joined ABT as members of the corps, or those coming from American companies climbing the inner ranks. In her case I also do not believe it was a case of there being no "room" at the top. Certainly it is not at all a case of not meriting the promotion sooner.

You wrote:
Quote:
It would be grossly unfair to compare Ms. Riccetto’s Giselle with the “Russian” Giselles (ok – two Russians and a Georgian), but it was a very good portrayal.


Why would it be unfair? I think it entirely fair -- nay, even necessary -- to compare dancers in the same role, to say nothing of those in the same company and on the same stage in that very role.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:32 pm 
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Thanks for your comments, Catherine.

You’re right – I shouldn’t have lumped Part with members of the corps. But I believe that promotions of soloists to principals generally take longer than warranted - I don't think that the delay is unusual. In any event, in her case there may have been considerations other than institutional rigidity. I saw Part dance Swan Lake with the Kirov in New York, and she blew me away. By that time I’d already heard that she was joining ABT. But when I first saw her with ABT, she hardly resembled the dancer I’d seen with the Kirov. She seemed uncomfortable both emotionally and physically (as if the adjustment, for whatever reason, wasn’t going well), and for the first couple of seasons I thought that she might not survive the transition. I don’t know whether this perceived adjustment difficulty played a part in the delayed recognition, but she didn’t begin to excel with ABT until a season or two after she joined the company.

But regardless of the reason, the lag time seems to be similar between promoting a corps dancer to soloist, and elevating a soloist to principal. Of course there are exceptions (Michelle Wiles moved up rather quickly, as I recall), and I haven’t done a study of ABT roster changes over the years, but my totally unscientific observation is that moving from one level to another takes much longer with ABT than it did before McKenzie, and much longer than it should. I don’t know what the criteria for promotion are (and I suspect there are no bright-line standards), but from an audience-member point of view, we see an increase in ability – and the company does by its casting – long before the advanced level of accomplishment is recognized as a fact by a promotion.

Which segues into your comment about comparing performances. Here I disagree. I feel uncomfortable comparing one performance with another in general because it’s so often a subjective call. But (obviously) I do it anyway – it’s natural to do. But I really think it’s unfair to compare a soloist to a world-class ballerina – world-class is world-class for a reason, and a dancer not yet at that level of accomplishment almost inevitably suffers by comparison. Again, it’s natural to do, but I think it’s imperative to distinguish between, and to give value to, different levels of experience (and, in the process, to encourage an audience to have different levels of expectation). Otherwise, the only dancers an artistic director may permit an audience to see in lead roles are the ones who have already attained that advanced level of accomplishment.

I was thrilled with Peter Martins’s choices of dancers to portray the leads in his Romeo & Juliet (pardon – Romeo + Juliet). They can do it – maybe not perfectly, but they can do it. I wish that McKenzie would give New York audiences the same opportunity with his young ABT dancers. Of course, certain dancers are ageless, and successfully morph into their characters with no need for the audience to suspend disbelief. But, when I can envision a dancer doing a particular role now, I don’t want always to have to wait until a dancer has to “act” Juliet, or Aurora, or Giselle. Even if they're not yet perfect, I enjoy watching them grow. And if a reviewer like me makes unfavorable comparisons between a rising young dancer and a star, observers like me will have fewer opportunities to see these dancers before they’re expected to be perfect.

So I guess I’ll continue to make comparisons, and at the same time continue to feel guilty about doing it.


Last edited by balletomaniac on Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:13 am, edited 2 times in total.

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