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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Mon Jun 13, 2011 1:30 pm 
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Alastair Macaulay reviews "The Bright Stream" in the New York Times.

NY Times

Apollinaire Scherr reviews "The Bright Stream" for the Financial Times.

Financial Times


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2011 4:46 am 
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And finally some mention of 'Veronika!!'

From Tom Phillips at "danceviewtimes."

"The Bright Stream"

"I wanted to see this particular performance because of the cast -- the only one with a Soviet-born ballerina in the lead role. ABT is loaded with Soviet natives, but for some reason only Veronika Part is among those dancing the heroine, Zina. Comrade, she was perfect."

"But it was Veronika Part and another Soviet native, Gennadi Savaliev as the foot-stomping, leering accordionist, who gave the piece its most authentic Russian earthiness."

This last remark relates to what I sensed when watching the Bolshoi perform Alexei Ratmansky's "Russian Seasons" in London. I had seen one of the original NYCB performances as well. The Bolshoi cast seemed to really capture something special in this work.

http://www.danceviewtimes.com/2011/06/b ... -ussr.html

One thing more that I would like to say in my ongoing 'Veronika!!' chronicles. When she finishes a performance she has the most unassuming 'Hey, did I really do well? Thank you!' attitude. Coming from 'A Mind Boggling Genius' (in my opinion, anyway) this is a pleasure to see !


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2011 10:31 am 
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Location: New Jersey
American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
Lincoln Center
New York, New York
June 9, June 11(M). June 15(E)

“The Bright Stream”

-- by Jerry Hochman


Alexei Ratmansky’s “The Bright Stream” is a puzzlement. It’s a comic story ballet, where the story is more silly than funny, and unlike many other comic story ballets, it has no classical pedigree, no hidden message, and not a serious bone it its body. But it also has some wonderful choreography, beautifully executed by each of the casts that I’ve seen to date, that reflects Mr. Ratmanksy’s singular ability to make his characters human, even where, as in “The Bright Stream,” they’re only cardboard. So if you enjoy exceptional dancing and a belly laugh or two or ten, and can handle a ballet that you may forget the day after you see it, see it you must.

“The Bright Stream” also carries with it Russian historical baggage that cannot be ignored. As silly a story as it is, the Soviet authorities didn’t get the humor – or perhaps they recognized that humor can be subversive. Although there isn’t a hint of sarcasm, mockery, or mean-spiritedness to it, and although it reportedly was hugely popular following its 1935 premiere, a year later “The Bright Stream” was condemned by Pravda as being “formalistic.” Translation: the party line was that the collective farm workers were engaging in a noble and heroic pursuit, and to depict them as dancing fools undermined the message.

“The Bright Stream” was banned shortly thereafter by the Soviet establishment, and its creative team was denounced. Shostakovich, who had already been criticized in Pravda for his opera “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District,” suffered another blow to his reputation, for a time was officially disfavored, and thereafter endured repeated cycles of condemnation and rehabilitation. The ballet’s original choreographer, Fyodor Lopukhov (a highly regarded character dancer and choreographer, and purportedly a protégé of Michael Fokine), was stripped of his title as director of what was to become the Mariinsky Ballet, and although he regained some respectability and acclaim as a teacher (Yuri Grigorovich, who was to become artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, was one of his students), Mr. Lopukhov never again created any choreographic work of significance. And its co-librettist (with Lopukhov), Adrian Pietrovsky, reportedly was condemned to the gulag and disappeared. “The Bright Stream” was not performed again until Mr. Ratmansky rescued and re-choreographed it in 2003, and he has succeeded not only in lovingly re-creating a long-lost ballet (based on Lopukhov’s notes) – he has given back to the Russian people a piece of their heritage.

But although attention must be paid to its historical context and its cultural significance acknowledged, Mr. Ratmansky’s recreation of “The Bright Stream” must be evaluated on its own merits. The result, for this viewer, is a decidedly mixed impression – although, as was the case with Mr. Ratmansky’s “The Nutcracker,” after repeated viewings “The Bright Stream” grows on you.

Choreographed to a Shostakovich composition of the same name, “The Bright Stream” (also translatable from the Russian as “The Limpid Stream”) takes place in a collective farm in the former Soviet Union. There isn’t a “stream” in the piece, bright, limpid or otherwise – the title is the name of the fictitious collective farm (like ‘Happy Hills’ or “Hidden Lake’ might be the name of a summer camp), and the ballet’s specific connections to a collective farm in the Soviet Union seem to be pasted on (the occasional slogan-bearing banner carried across the stage, the decorative molding that spans the top of the house curtain, the parade of stereotypical collective farm workers during the coda, for example). Indeed, except for these superimposed effects and the names and descriptions of some of the characters, the story could just as easily have taken place in a rural town in the American West.

The characters? The piece opens to Zina (“a local amusement organizer”) with her head buried in a book, dancing as she reads. Her husband, Pyotr (“an agricultural student”) pokes fun at her for being so studious. There’s Galya (“The Schoolgirl”), Gavrilich (“An Inspector of Quality”), and a nameless potpourri of cartoonish villagers: an “Accordion Player,” “A Milkmaid,” a “Tractor Driver,” an old man (“Old Dacha Dweller”) and his wife (“Anxious-To-Be-Younger-Than-She-Is Dacha Dweller”) (that’s the character’s name – we’ll just call her ‘ADD’ for short), and an assortment of highlanders and fieldworkers (some of whom look like refugees from the Moiseyev) and collective farm folk. The only non-villagers are a “Ballerina” and a male ballet dancer (“Ballet Dancer”).

The story? The Ballerina and the Ballet Dancer arrive at the Bright Stream train station to entertain the villagers during their harvest celebration. Zina and the Ballerina discovery that they’re old friends from ballet school, and after a two-second refresher course from the Ballerina, Zina instantly regains her ballet technique (she obviously had sacrificed her ballet career for the good of society). As if some invisible Puck had worked overtime, Pyotr, Gavrilich, and the Old Dacha Dweller immediately develop a crush on the Ballerina, the ADD is similarly smitten with the Ballet Dancer, and the Accordion Player hits on Galya. Although the Ballerina insists that she has no romantic interest in him, Pyotr’s infatuation with the Ballerina makes Zina jealous. Galya the schoolgirl, who also happens to be a really good dancer (who knew?) is a little nervous at all the attention she’s getting from the Accordion Player, who fancies himself a mini-Casanova. Zina and the Ballerina decide to play a joke on the others, which Galya and the Tractor Driver join. The Ballerina dresses up as the Ballet Dancer to fool the ADD. The Ballet Dancer dresses up as the Ballerina costumed as a sylph to fool the Old Dacha Dweller. The Tractor Driver dresses up as a dog (who more closely resembles a Russian Bear) to bark the Accordion Player back to reality. And Zina dresses up as the Ballerina to fool Pyotr. The embarrassed Old Dacha Dweller and ADD forget their fantasies, the Accordion Player abandons his efforts to seduce Galya, and Pyotr decides that Zina is the ballerina for him. The harvest revelry continues, the villagers celebrate the joy of life on the collective farm, and they all wave goodbye to the assembled audience as if posing for a photograph to be titled: ‘the way we were’. It’s all good clean fun – including the set, which looks bright and golden, with the sunflowers as high as an elephant’s eye.

But if you forget the inane story, and the fact that it all seems to be on the same high-energy level (except for Pyotor’s duet with Zina dressed as the Ballerina, which is a welcome change of pace), you see that “The Bright Stream” is filled with non-stop action and some great choreography and dancing. Although much of it may have been taken from notes describing Lopukhov’s original choreography (Lopukhov was recognized for his avant-garde integration of folk references and acrobatics into his choreography), the movement quality is recognizable Ratmansky-style – that is, classical ballet vocabulary presented in an accessible form, and that includes unusual choreographic ideas that work in the context of the piece, including idiosyncratic hand movements, cartwheels, and a constantly changing kaleidoscope of corps patterning. He also choreographs a barking dog, the milkmaid milking a cow and a dancing train engine. At times it all looks like a one-ring circus or high-class vaudeville with a touch of commedia dell’arte, studded with choreography that is as memorable in the context of a comedy as it would be in a drama. And the entire cast seemed to be having as much fun dancing the piece as the audience clearly has watching them.

At the opening performance, Paloma Herrera and Gillian Murphy were perfectly matched friends, as was the pair at the closing performance: Veronika Part and Stella Abrera. Xiomara Reyes and Natalia Osipova were somewhat less well matched (I could not believe that Ms. Reyes’s Zina and Ms. Osipova’s Ballerina were ever school friends – Ms. Osipova was a little too much the ballerina). Each of them gave a memorable performance on her own, each with a particularized emphasis (e.g., Ms. Part was more expressive; Ms. Reyes more vulnerable, and Ms. Herrara more ‘natural’), but when sharing the stage as two ballerinas dancing together either sequentially or in tandem (a recurring event during the piece), their combined artistry provided the audience with potent and unusually sophisticated visual stimulation. [Like Fred Astaire dancing with Fred Astaire….except they’re ballerinas.] And seeing Ms. Osipova, Ms. Abrera, and particularly Ms. Murphy, brilliantly execute typically ‘male dancer steps’ (when they’re disguised as the Ballet Dancer) was almost by itself worth the price of admission.

Marcelo Gomes portrayed a more mature Pyotor to Ms. Herrera’s Zina, while Alexander Hammoudi and Ivan Vasiliev, not surprisingly, were more youthful (with Ms. Part, and Ms. Reyes, respectively). Technically, Mr. Gomes struck a perfect balance between trying to prove to the Ballerina (and to Zina disguised as the Ballerina) how good a dancer he could be even though he wasn’t a dancer, but Mr. Vasiliev seemed to be trying too much to be the best dancer the audience had ever seen: as good as his ‘tricks’ were, and they were spectacular, Mr. Vasiliev should have toned them down a little – Pyotr is supposed to a dancer wannabe. [Mr. Vasiliev is an interesting dancer. He’s young (I’ve been told he’s 21), with a refreshingly engaging personality coupled with explosive power and outsized technique. Although he’s still rough around the edges, he may fill an ABT void.]

At Saturday’s performance, Daniil Simkin proved to be a wonderful and hilarious cross-dressing Ballet Dancer. But, with his small and slight physical stature and features that could not exactly be described as being carved from granite, I expected Mr. Simkin to be a natural for the role. Cory Stearns’s portrayal last night was equally funny, but his character, as could be anticipated, was more ‘masculine’; his was a Male Dancer who was compelled to dress like a sylph, and although he made his ‘performance’ for the Old Dacha Dweller look good, he knew it wasn’t a role that he was born to do. But nothing prepared me for Mr. Hallberg. It might come across as a backhand compliment to say that this is the best dancing that Mr. Hallberg has done. I’m sure it isn’t. But it’s the most unexpectedly best dancing I’ve seen him do. His comic timing was pitch-perfect, and his pointe work was super. Yes, pointe work. But the fact that he was able to pull this off while being so tall and classical-looking was miraculous. Since it appears that there’s no truth to the rumor that Mr. Hallberg will take a sabbatical to dance for a year with Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo (as “Davida Siegfrieda Hallbergskaya”?), you must see him when he next dances the role at the Met.

“The Bright Stream” is also a very well balanced production, and everyone in the cast gets a chance to shine. Misty Copeland and Simone Messmer were delightful milkmaids; and Jared Matthews and Isaac Stappas were accomplished tractor driver/dogs. Martine van Hamel and Victor Barbee, and Susan Jones and Clinton Luckett, danced the ADD and Old Dacha Dweller with comic gusto. Both Ms. van Hamel and Ms. Jones were very funny, but while Ms. van Hamel showed more of the ADD’s character (anxious to be younger than she is) – Ms. Jones, who I saw at Saturday’s performance, was more gut-bustingly funny. [The audience seemed to take it for granted when Ms. van Hamel went en pointe; they gasped when Ms. Jones did – as if they didn’t think she could do it. There may not have been many in the audience who remember seeing Ms. Jones when she was a corps dancer with ABT.] Almost stealing the Thursday and Saturday performances were Maria Riccetto and Craig Salstein, as Galya and the Accordionist. While they both were a little over-the-top, each of them was hilariously fabulous. At last night’s performance, Gemma Bond and Gennadi Saveliev assumed these roles, and both performances were more restrained. Ms. Bond’s Galya was naturally sweet, while Mr. Saveliev's Accordion Player was naturally lecherous.

The entire performance takes less than two hours – including intermission and curtain calls. Considering its length, or lack of it, it may be appropriate in the future to pair “The Bright Stream” with a complementary ballet to complete the evening’s presentation. While “La Sylphide” comes immediately to mind, perhaps something more “Russian,” and more serious, might be a good counterpoint. No, not “Spartacus.” Another piece by Mr. Ratmansky: his shattering depiction of another slice of Russian society: “On The Dnieper.”


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2011 10:55 pm 
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Leigh Witchel reviews "Coppelia" for the New York Post.

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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2011 11:03 pm 
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Marina Harss reviews "Coppelia" in The Faster Times.

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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2011 7:40 pm 
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Location: New Jersey
American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
Lincoln Center
New York, New York
June 17, 2011

“Coppelia”

-- by Jerry Hochman


A year ago, after reviewing Natalia Osipova’s debut as Juliet with American Ballet Theatre, I warned that if she returned this year, readers should purchase tickets as soon as casting was announced, or be prepared to hang from the chandeliers. No one was hanging from the chandeliers at last night’s performance of “Coppelia,” Ms. Osipova’s initial performance in that role with ABT, but every seat appeared to have been filled – and the Met found seats to sell (and desperate viewers to purchase them) that I never knew existed – boxes with views of the stage roughly equivalent to a view from the top of the Empire State Building to the street directly below. A performance by Ms. Osipova is an Event.

At this point, Ms. Osipova’s name could sell tickets to a performance of grass growing in Central Park. Is she worth the acclaim? Of course. This guest artist from the Bolshoi can do things that no other ballerina does: with her faster-than-a-speeding-bullet pique turns, her helium-filled, soaring, jet-propelled jetes, and her ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, she’s super-ballerina. [Maybe those seats hovering over the stage at the top of the house weren’t so bad after all.] And she has the magnetism that makes an audience believe that everything she does is better than what anyone else does, even if it isn’t.

I can’t say that Ms. Osipova’s Swanilda was better than anyone else’s, although I don’t doubt that many in the audience thought so. But it undoubtedly was a superb performance, and it is a natural role for her.

For any unfamiliar with it, the story is simple (some might say simple-minded). Swanilda and Franz are a couple, except Franz has this thing for a girl, named Coppelia, who sits on the balcony of this strange old geezer’s house in a village similar to the one where Giselle lived a century or two earlier, reading a book, and looking as hot to Franz as any girl reading a book while sitting on a balcony not moving a muscle can look. Franz, who isn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, tries really hard to get Coppelia’s attention, but she doesn’t react to him. Swanilda is jealous, and not a little piqued (the girl just sits there, after all), and even though Franz tries to convince Swanilda that he’s only lusted in his heart, she doesn’t believe him – which is unfortunate since the town Burgomaster announced that he’d provide a dowry to every couple who marries in the village square the next day.

The old geezer who lives in the house is the neighborhood kook named Dr. Coppelius. One evening Dr. Coppelius leaves his house to go wherever strange old geezers go, and suddenly is accosted by Franz and several of Franz’s friends. [The program describes the action as Dr. Coppelius being ‘swirled away by a boisterous band of revelers’. In New York it would have been called a mugging.] After the struggle, the key to Dr. Coppelius’s house falls out of his pocket. Swanilda finds the key, and convinces her friends to go with her into Dr. Coppelius’s house – the ‘official’ story is to see the strange goings-on in the strange old man’s house, but we all know it was really to confront Coppelia: Swanilda’s a lot more intelligent than Franz – and she’s got spunk. Swanilda and her friends go into his house, and find a very weird looking room filled with very strange looking dolls. Swanilda makes her way to the balcony, opens the curtain, only to discover that Coppelia is another of Dr. Coppelius’s dolls.

Dr. Coppelius, who had followed the girls into the house (it took awhile for him to climb the stairs), then confronts them. Swanilda’s friends escape. Then Franz, who had decided to climb a ladder to get to Juliet’s balcony while Dr. Coppelius was on his evening constitutional, enters the house through the window (adding trespassing to the assault charge), where he’s intercepted by Dr. Coppelius, who Franz hadn’t seen go back into the house. [Franz isn’t the sharpest…] Dr. Coppelius promptly pretends to be Franz’s next best geezer friend and gets Franz drunk, so he can take some life force from Franz and make the doll come to life. [Unbeknownst to Dr. Coppelius, the doll is now Swanilda, who took the doll’s place on the balcony chair when she hid from Dr. Coppelius.] Swanilda plays along with this to rescue Franz, and to provide the ballet with most of its comedy. Eventually, Dr. Coppelius discovers that the doll he brought to life wasn’t his doll, and that he didn’t bring her to life, Swanilda and Franz escape, Dr. Coppelius is humiliated, and Franz and Swanilda marry and the village celebrates.

Originally choreographed by Arthur Sainte-Leon, to music by Leo Delibes, with a libretto by Sainte-Leon and Charles Nuitter (based on two stories by E.T.A. Hoffmann – who also wrote the story on which “The Nutcracker” is based), Coppelia was reportedly an immediate hit when it debuted at the Paris Opera in 1870. The current version, the fourth mounted for ABT, was restaged and directed by Frederick Franklin (who now frequently portrays Friar Lawrence in ABT’s production of Sir Kenneth Macmillan’s “Romeo and Juliet”). It appears to be fairly standard, except I noticed in the last act that Swanilda and Franz apologize to Dr. Coppelius and ask his forgiveness, which he gives. Nice touch. The production also seems to have more expansive choreography for Prayer – either that or Hee Seo’s remarkably sensitive and delicate portrayal made it look more expansive. All in all, however, I prefer the version choreographed by George Balanchine for NYCB.

Ms. Osipova played Swanilda with a little Kitri added: she was a pixie with an attitude. Indeed, the role suits Ms. Osipova well – Swanilda is supposed to express emotion, which Mr. Osipova does appropriately and successfully, without overdoing it. And then there’s the dancing, and I must acknowledge that Ms. Osipova’s Act III pas de deux was simply fabulous, including perfectly executed brises that I don’t recall seeing performed in previous portrayals, and her Act II was the equal of any Swanilda I’ve previously seen.

The role of Franz also suits Daniil Simkin well. Since nobility isn’t necessary, Mr. Simkin can simply be a not very bright young man who dances really well, which he did to perfection. In terms of performing qualities, Mr. Simkin and Ms. Osipova match each other well – they both are outstanding dancers on their own, and they danced their pas de deux very well as outstanding dancers on their own.

In the Act III divertissement, Alexander Hammoudi and, particularly, Devon Teuscher gave solid performances as leaders of the Czardas. Ms. Teuscher, who I singled out in a review a couple of years ago for her performance in “Airs,” provided one of the most genuinely animated and warm performances in the role that I can remember. And in addition to Ms. Seo’s Prayer, Simone Messmer delivered a compelling performance as Dawn. The performance was complemented by an ebullient corps, as well as by a bevy of promising young dancers from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, a couple of whom I recognized from their portrayals of Clara in ABT’s The Nutcracker last winter.

Two additional comments: the scenery by Tony Straiges, particularly for Act II, was super, and mention must be made of the execution of the sculpture, dolls and marionettes by Costume Armour, Inc. and Nick Miller, as credited in the program. On the other hand, those flowered headpieces for the Swanilda’s friends look silly, and serve no function other than to camouflage the dancers and make them look like dancing daisies. They should be potted.

As I left the Met, while the standard Met standing ovation was in progress, I thought I spied some workers getting ready to install trapeze bars under the chandeliers. Ms. Osipova’s performance as Aurora in "The Sleeping Beauty" is scheduled for the evening of July 6. If true, then for that performance late ticket buyers will at least have something to swing from.


Last edited by balletomaniac on Tue Jun 21, 2011 7:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:06 am 
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Charmaine Patricia Warren interviews Soloist Misty Copeland in the Amsterdam News.

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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 12:29 pm 
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Alastair Macaulay reviews "Coppelia" for the New York Times.

NY Times


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 10:21 pm 
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National Ballet of Canada guest artist Guillaume Cote will replace Cory Stearns in James Kudelka's "Cinderella" at the Wednesday matinee on June 22. Marina Harss reports for The Faster Times.

The Faster Times


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 11:55 am 
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Judith Mackrell reviews "Coppelia" (with Natalia Osipova and Daniil Simkin) in The Guardian.

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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 11:10 pm 
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In the New York Observer, Robert Gottlieb reviews "The Bright Stream."

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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 11:23 pm 
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Marina Harss reviews "Coppelia" in The Faster Times. (Scroll past the Royal Danish Ballet review section.)

The Faster Times


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 11:56 am 
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Leigh Witchel reviews James Kudelka's "Cinderella" in the New York Post.

NY Post

Roslyn Sulcas reviews "Cinderella" in the New York Times.

NY Times


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Sun Jun 26, 2011 9:33 am 
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Marina Harss reviews "Cinderella" in The Faster Times.

The Faster Times


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2011 Season at the Met
PostPosted: Sun Jun 26, 2011 10:12 am 
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Hanna Oldsman reviews "Coppelia" for the California Literary Review.

California Literary Review


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