CriticalDance Forum

American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met
Page 3 of 4

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

Alastair Macaulay reviews multiple casts of "Cinderella" for the New York Times.

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Jun 18, 2014 6:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

In the New York Times, Brian Seibert reviews the Monday, June 16, 2014 performance of "Giselle" with Diana Vishneva, Marcelo Gomes and Gillian Murphy in the lead roles.

NY Times

Author:  balletomaniac [ Tue Jun 24, 2014 10:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

June 16, 18 (M & E), 19, 21 (M & E)

-- by Jerry Hochman

A classic is a classic for a reason. “Giselle” is every bit as visually interesting, choreographically challenging, and emotionally compelling as favorable reviews indicate it was when the original, with choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, premiered in Paris in 1841. Its theme of the enduring power of love, even in death, is told so simply and clearly, yet so powerfully, that it never fails to deliver a jolt to the heart.

I saw six of American Ballet Theatre’s eight performance run of “Giselle” at the Met this year. That I not only survived the marathon, but enjoyed each of the performances, is testament to the strength of the ABT dancers and the quality of this particular production, which was staged by Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie after Coralli, Perrot, and Marius Petipa.

Although the story of the village maiden with a weak heart and the nobleman who breaks it is the same regardless of who performs the roles, there are clear differences from dancer to dancer which make each performance unique in both execution and characterization, and which makes a fair comparison difficult. Ultimately, what really matters to me in evaluating a performance is less whether a performance is done ‘correctly’ (assuming there is only one ‘correct’ performance standard), than whether it moves an audience, and an undue focus on orthodox ‘correctness’ may lose the forest for the trees. That being said, there are performance values that are relatively independent of personal preferences or individual subjective evaluation and that, placed in a context, make one performance more complete than another. In this sense, experience (with the accompanying ability to provide nuance and texture to a role) coupled with continuing technical prowess dominates, and the performances of Giselle this week by Diana Vishneva, and Xiomara Reyes, and of Albrecht by Marcelo Gomes and Roberto Bolle, were so superior that comparing them to others is unfair. And the performance of Alina Cojocaru, though somewhat diminished in technical brilliance, still provided a credible and moving Giselle, aided by the strong effort by her partner, David Hallberg (a late replacement for Herman Cornejo). To me, however, the most interesting performances were the ones that are still budding: Hee Seo’s Giselle and Jared Matthews’s Albrecht.

At the outset, however, and unapologetically (the maxim is that one reviews the performance one sees, not the performances one expected to see or hoped to see), I must note that certain potentially significant portrayals of Giselle were, once again, never allowed to happen: those of Gillian Murphy, Yuriko Kajiya, and particularly Sarah Lane, who, based on her appearance, her stage persona, and most importantly her body of work, would be an ideal Giselle. Whether these ballerinas would have executed as well as those who were cast is unknowable, but each merited the opportunity. (A similar fate was avoided with respect to one of the week’s highlight performances, Mr. Matthews’s Albrecht, which New York audiences would not have seen but for the withdrawal of a previously-announced guest artist.) The failure to cast Ms. Murphy, Ms. Kajiya, and Ms. Lane are missed opportunities that continue to fester, and that color the opinions of many who would rather have seen Ms. Lane’s Giselle, for example, than one or more of those that were presented.

The Giselles, the Albrechts, and the Myrtas

Monday’s opening night “Giselle” had all the earmarks of a performance for the ages. And it was. In the first instance, and as I’ve previously emphasized, every performance in which Diana Vishneva is partnered by Marcelo Gomes is a potential treasure not to be missed, and the sold out house was not disappointed. (Of those performances I’ve seen, it was the first legitimate sell-out of the year.) Moreover, the performance included ABT’s top of the line cast, and it showed: Ms. Murphy danced Myrta (one of her increasingly rare performances in that role), Mr. Matthews was Hilarion, and the peasant pas de deux was performed by Ms. Lane and Joseph Gorak. (More on Ms. Lane’s and Mr. Gorak’s extraordinarily fine pas de deux later.)

Ms. Vishneva may have lost a step or two since I last saw her dance the role three years ago, but that is noticeable only by those who have committed her prior Giselles to memory. Hers was the complete Giselle: she danced the part, acted the part and naturally looked the part – still (and those Romantic arms are still there, and still glorious). Although her performance was more emotionally expressive than I’ve seen from her previously, this was not problematic: on the contrary, there was just a little more of it than usual. Ms. Vishneva is an expressive dancer who always brings an audience into her performances not just by her empathetic appeal in the role, but by reaching across the proscenium and demanding that one watch every move she makes.

Mr. Gomes’s superlative partnering skills and passionate execution have been emphasized so frequently that repetition here is unnecessary also. His performance was another triumph, and his chosen characterization of Albrecht makes the triumph all the sweeter. Mr. Gomes’s Albrecht is a cad – he’s obviously out to take advantage of the poor little village girl he’s been seducing, and he’s proud of himself for his imminent conquest. But making Albrecht appear so callous carries a consequence: unless one accepts that love is hopelessly and eternally blind, this Albrecht must be transformed into someone for whom Giselle’s undying love can be rationally understandable. This Mr. Gomes did, convincingly. In the end, his Albrecht loved her as much as she loved him.

At the other end of the week, and the other end of the portrayal spectrum, Saturday night was Ms. Cojocaru’s Giselle. Her portrayal is still endearing and true, but where Ms. Vishneva’s Giselle emotes effectively, Ms. Cojocaru’s Giselle is reserved and somewhat shy – but no less effective. She may not be as youthful-looking as she was when I last saw her dance Giselle three years ago, but she registers as such a sweet, innocent person that her acting looks unforced and completely natural. The texture that she brings to the role is as engaging as everything else about her performance. For example, I noticed that on two occasions she pulled one side of her skirt closer to her so as not to intrude on others’ space. No one else could make that simple gesture look so charming. And her ‘mad scene’ -- essentially the same as what I saw her do three years ago – is not only believable, but shocking. She races back and forth through the crowd of villagers, and in the process briefly and wildly cradles the faces of many of the men as if she were trying to find the love she’s lost. And although her choreographic execution is different from others, it’s consistent with her previous Giselle, which I and others raved about. For example, her opening steps are more measured – she doesn’t jump and kick forward full out until she dances with Albrecht. But this isn’t a failing; it’s a different and valid variant. And her entrechats in Act II are done differently from most others. In her entrechat quatre/passe she executes the passe with a jump rather than a releve. The difference makes the step sequence appear slower – and it is, but it isn’t wrong. And the Act II lifts with Mr. Hallberg are not your ‘standard’ ABT lifts in which Albrecht lifts Giselle over his head, parallel to his body, and slowly lowers her to the floor. Here, she was lifted overhead such that her body was held perpendicular to her partner’s body, and then slowly descended to the floor in a horizontal position. The lift doesn’t appear as dramatic, or as perilous, but it’s more graceful looking, and it eliminates the need for the ballerina to steady herself by holding onto Albrecht’s shoulder during the descent. And it’s also the lift that Mr. Hallberg executed when he danced the role in recorded Bolshoi performances that I’ve seen.

That having been said, however (and in contrast to her recent appearance as Nikiya in “La Bayadere”), some diminution in technical ability is discernible. As was the case three years ago, there was no elaboration to her diagonal hops en pointe in Act I, but these hops are now more limited in space and duration than they were previously. Further, she’s now clearly is unable to slowly ascend and descend from pointe. But overall, these technical limitations are noticeable only to purists, and have not affected her portrayal: she’s just as engaging in Act I and ethereal in Act II as she was when I last saw her dance the role, and the enthusiastic response by the full house was for a ballerina whose performance touched their hearts.

Mr. Hallberg’s Albrecht was executed well, and he was an attentive and supremely confident partner, particularly since he was recruited for this performance on relatively short notice. His Albrecht was not so much the aristocrat on the make as he was a well-bred suitor who danced with an air of unforced and innate nobility that never came across as either regal or condescending. Although to my eye his execution of the ‘Baryshnikov’ brises was much too stiff, and his response to being ‘found out’ by his fiancée insufficiently focused (essentially he just shrugged), it was a strong performance overall.

For me, the surprise performance of the week was Thursday’s, with Ms. Reyes and Mr. Matthews in his long overdue New York debut in the role. Ms. Reyes was, in a word, amazing – every bit as extraordinary, technically, as Ms. Vishneva (although no one I’ve seen can match Ms. Vishneva’s weightless arms). Though a more mature-looking Giselle than is my preference, her portrayal was balanced and compelling and so superior that it overwhelmed my initial prejudice against her being an appropriate ‘fit’ for the role. Abetted by strong conducting by Music Director Ormsby Wilkins, who set an uncharacteristically vibrant tempo that led her appropriately (compared to the conducting in other performances this week), hers was the fastest Giselle (in Act II, her entrechats quatre/passes sequence was nonpareil). But the success of her performance was more than a product of her speed. As all great Giselles do, she added differences that made her Giselle her own. (For example, in Act I, when Hilarion interrupts the reverie between Giselle and Albrecht and mimes: ‘what’s going on; I love you’, all the Giselles I’ve seen previously respond with ‘But I don’t love you.’ Ms. Reyes’s response was ‘But I love him (pointing to Albrecht)’ – a significant qualitative difference.) In every respect, it was an impeccable performance.

Mr. Matthews’s performance was not as impeccable, but was highly impressive. Technically, he delivered a credible performance, including super ‘Baryshnikov’ brises rather than endless entrechats during Albrecht’s critical Act II solo as he begs for his life. – much more dynamic than those assayed by Alexandre Hammoudi and Mr. Hallberg on Saturday afternoon and evening. (The reason Mr. Matthews’s brises were superior was because he bent his upper torso down toward his feet – and toward Myrta, while Mr. Hallberg and Mr. Hammoudi kept theirs upright – which, in fairness, may have been a consequence of their height. While Mr. Matthews’s were not quite at the Baryshnikov level – there was no sense that he was being pulled forward by an invisible string – they were executed very well.

But at this point technical brilliance is secondary to his ability to create a character, and this Mr. Matthews did brlliantly. From the outset, his was an Albrecht who truly loved his Giselle. The two of them played kids in love: not only she with him (which all the Giselles to one extent or another do), but he with her – ‘for real’. For example, this wasn’t just Giselle telling her friends she was going to play ‘finger tag’ with Albrecht; Mr. Matthews’s Albrecht took the initiative first, which he enthusiastically announced he would do to watching villagers. Mr. Matthews’s guilt at being ‘found out’ was palpable – it was obvious that he preferred to be with Giselle than Bathilde, the daughter of royalty and the woman he must marry. And he converted his concluding scene, after the ghost of Giselle departs, into his own mini-mad scene: eyes wide with a combination of fear and awe (and not a little extra make-up), and then overcome by the enormity of this event and his loss of Giselle, he threw himself over her grave in grief. It sounds overly melodramatic, but it wasn’t: it was different, and it was dynamite. His performance wasn’t perfect – as a friend observed, he needs to learn to walk less like Hilarion, but it was a very fine performance.

But Mr. Matthews’s performance was more than impressive. It was significant in light of ABT’s failure to cast him in this role at the Met previously (although he did dance the role with ABT out of New York, with Ms. Kajiya as Giselle), and his decision (with Ms. Kajiya) to leave the company at the end of this season. The opportunity for him to evolve in this role over time is one he will not have, at least not with ABT, and one that New York audiences will be unable to see – unless he returns as a ‘guest artist’.

In Saturday’s matinee performance, Hee Seo was partnered with Alexandre Hammoudi, in his New York debut in the role. Ms. Seo was new to the role of Giselle when I reviewed her performance three years ago. At that time, I found her performance to be promising. It’s much more than that now. Her youthful innocence and radiant ethereality made her Giselle the most engaging and endearing of all those I saw this week. But more than that, her performance was marked by clarity and nuance, and the superior acting ability that she so effectively demonstrated in her “Onegin” performances. Her ‘mad’ scene at the end of Act I, for instance, showed considerable improvement. Here she played off her sometimes blank expression and turned it to her advantage – her madness was less a loss of control than a loss of the ability to feel. She’s not yet on the level of Ms. Vishneva, Ms. Cojocaru, or Ms. Reyes, but she has the potential to become a first rate Giselle.

Mr. Hammoudi’s Albrecht is not as fully developed yet, but he is a tall, imposing dancer with a commanding stage presence. His performance doesn’t yet show the character development that Mr. Matthews’s portrayal did, but it was far more animated than some Albrechts with greater performing experience in the role. But technically he still needs work. For example, his Act II lifts were near disasters. When he hoisted Ms. Seo over his head and then was supposed to slowly brings her down, he was unable to lower her body as easily as he was able to lift it. Consequently, in each of the two lifts she descended too fast and almost, really, landed on his head. Ms. Seo had to cover for it twice by holding onto his shoulder for dear life before sliding to the stage floor.

Wednesday’s two performances were opposites of each other – the dancer with the least experience as Giselle headed the matinee, and the one with the most experience danced the evening. Isabella Boylston has always impressed as a very strong dancer with fearless attack and unwavering command, and early on, based on her explosive performance in the otherwise forgettable ballet “Desir,” I marked her as a dancer to watch. But classical Romantic roles require her to harness the very qualities that make her as powerful and as independent as she is, and her skills in this regard are not yet sufficiently strong. She gave a credible performance overall, but her portrayal of Giselle (as well as that of her Albrecht, James Whiteside) was by the numbers. By that I mean that although she executed the steps, there was little acting beyond what the story requires, and no nuance or texture beyond that. And there was little about her portrayal that was endearing. But the fact that her Act II, where she must come across as a weightless, ethereal spirit, was to me superior to her Act I, which was more cardboard, when I had anticipated that her performance would lean the opposite way, shows that there is promise: she can do what one may not expect her to be able to do. Given sufficient opportunity, which ABT management is providing to her in abundance, she’ll grow into the role. Mr. Whiteside’s performance was more wooden and passionless. Although his technique was fine (including superb entrechats six in Act II – which he did in a vacuum), there was nothing more than that, including little in the way of stage chemistry with Ms. Boylston.

In the evening, Julie Kent’s Giselle had the opposite problem. Here, everything was acting and nuance. Although she can still surprise with the purity of her execution, her technical ability was more limited at critical points, and the orchestra’s tempi had to be slowed to accommodate her. And to me, her acting – impressive as it was in terms of trying to act a young girl, was undermined by a theory of the role that emphasized her frailty at the expense of youthfulness. Indeed, this Giselle was visibly ‘dying’ from the outset – she grabbed her heart in ‘pain’ moments after she exited her cottage door. Ms. Kent deserves praise for delivering a heartfelt performance, and many in the audience appeared to be passionate about it.

Her partner, Roberto Bolle, is a magnificent and gallant stage presence, and his Albrecht was a model nobleman out on the prowl in Act I, and appropriately remorseful in Act II – and the fact that he had the opportunity to interact with and play off not only Hilarion, but his squire Wilfred (played by Luis Ribagorda) enhanced the power in his performance. (More on Mr. Ribagorda’s “Wilfred” below.) His passionate and capable partnering is second only to that of Mr. Gomes.

Of the four Myrtas I saw this week (the only one I missed was Veronika Part, whose Myrta I have seen and admired previously), Ms. Murphy delivered the most exquisitely-danced performance. Her bourrees flew across the stage as if buoyed by air alone – her feet moved so fast you couldn’t see them move, and so silently you couldn’t hear them touch the stage floor. Every once in awhile a dancer executes so perfectly that the only response is to quietly laugh in disbelief. Ms. Murphy's was one such performance. Stella Abrera’s Myrta is only slightly less phenomenal. And Devon Teuscher’s Myrta was also very strong and appropriately regal. This was the first time I’d seen Ms. Teuscher dance the role, and her performances at the two matinees were not only promising, but already quite impressive. The fourth Myrta, Amy Watson’s on Thursday, was executed well, but was not quite at the same level. Ms. Watson is a principal dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet, and her appearance was as an ‘exchange artist’. She appears to be a highly competent dramatic dancer/actress, but in this one-shot context a firmer impression is more difficult to provide.

The Supporting Roles

Of the dancers I saw perform the peasant pas de deux this week, the strongest by far was by Ms. Lane and Mr. Gorak.

I've been singing Ms. Lane's praise for some time - since the first time I saw her dance, in the ABT corps, about 10 years ago, when I observed in a review that she was a dancer to watch. I keep emphasizing her capability not just because I think she's been treated unfairly (as well as unwisely) in terms of role assignment, but mostly because her performances reflect exceptional clarity, precision, and delicacy, qualities that would make her ideal for certain roles, like Giselle. Her performances also demonstrate that she has the intelligence and determination not only to get the style right, but, where appropriate, to think and act through her role and the steps she dances differently (much like my observation of Sterling Hyltin, a principal dancer with New York City Ballet) – qualities that would also make her ideal for other roles, like Juliet. Sometimes the nuances and texture she adds to a role are ‘throwaways’ that few notice, but they take an 'ordinary' fine performance to another level. An example is what Ms. Lane did during her penultimate series of phrases in her final solo in the pas de deux.

The choreography for the peasant pas, at least this phrase sequence, is relatively standard: the ballerina executes two arabesques en pointe in succession (there's a third, which is usually a variant of the first two) before she concludes this segment of the solo with a diagonal. These arabesques are accompanied by ‘standard’ port de bras that expand the 'openness' of the combination, with the arms beginning in front of the body, and then expand outward, equivalently, to maintain the visual (and physical) balance while adding a sense of graciousness. (The impression is somewhat remindful of the Bournonville style.) It’s not a big deal: it's part of the solo, and every ballerina I've seen dance the role executes it that way.

But not Ms. Lane. As I watched her in this phrase, I thought she made a rare mistake. I saw her left arm expand frontward and outward as it usually does, but the right arm began moving a split second later than her left arm, and expanded outward at a slower pace than her left arm. And as she did this, she seemed to bend slightly toward the seated royals for whom she and her partner were dancing. When she did the exact same thing during the second arabesque, I realized that this was not a situation where one arm somehow was ‘off’ the music. What she was doing was recognizing the royals concurrently with executing the 'standard' choreography. It was a unique (at least to me) and very deliberate variant from the norm, and made thematic and choreographic sense. Even though it took a mere second or two to execute, the audacity and creativity of the effort, and the successful execution of it, blew me away. Coupled with a superlative performance in other respects (confident triple pirouettes and securely held extended balance en pointe), it was more than the ordinary very fine peasant pas; it was a statement.

And her ability to think independently within stylistic and thematic limitations is not limited to what Ms. Lane does on her own. Her peasant pas with Mr. Gorak was not special just because, as I’ve previously observed, they look exceptionally good as a stage couple, but because of the fine tuning they bring to the role. They didn't just dance the peasant pas - they brought a 'side story' with it. From the minute they first hit the stage there's a visibly real stage relationship between them: they both sit on the bench downstage left and act like the village sweethearts (as opposed to other pairings, in which the girl runs off almost immediately after the boy appears and attempts to sit next to her). This ‘pre-existing’ relationship continues when they appear later in the crowd of villagers, just before they begin to dance the peasant pas. Other pairings exchange mild pleasantries at this point, but not as part of a continuing romance and not with the detail that Ms. Lane and Mr. Gorak provided. (Although they do not look at all alike, the impression Ms. Lane gives reminds me of Marianna Tcherkassky, who danced the first peasant pas I can recall seeing. Ms. Tcherkassky, of course, became one of ABT's premiere Giselles.)

And Mr. Gorak’s execution complemented that of Ms. Lane. On Monday, Mr. Gorak's partnering was adequate, with a shoulder lift that was tentative and careful, but did the job. On Wednesday, the partnering and the lift were much stronger, reflecting an increase in Mr. Gorak’s level of confidence. Overall it was a significant improvement from his disastrous partnering performance with Ms. Lane in the "Nutcracker" last winter. Based on this pas de deux, it’s apparent that the deficiency in December was a product of a lack of confidence or injury, as I suspected, rather than a lack of competence. On his own, Mr. Gorak executed well (although he might want to pass on that second double tour until he can do it consistently), and there was a level of excitement to his performance that the other men who danced the pas de deux lacked.

The other pas de deux pairings were Luciana Paris and Mr. Ribagorda Wednesday afternoon (which was fine, but not yet on the same level as Ms. Lane and Mr. Gorak); Misty Copeland and Blaine Hoven on Thursday and Saturday afternoon, and Ms. Kajiya and Craig Salstein on Saturday evening. Ms. Copeland executed the steps well, but it looked like her other roles – she showed only two facial expressions, broad smiles, and tension immediately prior to and during a more difficult combination, and she consistently jerked her head backward and out of line at the height of her jetes when she was ‘pushing’ her body forward, which made it appear as if she had hit air turbulence. Mr. Hoven executed well, but had no connection with Ms. Copeland (or she with him). Ms. Kajiya’s performance was airy and breezy and refreshing, but didn’t have the texture that Ms. Lane provided; Mr. Salstein danced as if he’d been assigned the role at the last minute. I usually appreciate Mr. Salstein’s skill and stage persona, but here he looked like a fish out of water, and had a difficult time cleanly landing his jumps.

I've often written that there are no small roles. This was proven true again, and again by Luis Ribagorda, in the role of Wilfred, Albrecht's squire. The role of Wlfred is a relatively insignificant one. He’s usually portrayed as appropriately subservient and without backbone, a wimp of a squire, and easily forgettable. Mr. Ribagorda's Wilfred, however, was a squire of a different color. He had a mind of his own, and was an active, vocal (silently), and vigorous watchdog. Ultimately, he knew his place, but he was always a presence because Mr. Ribagorda made him one. His was the without question the finest performance of Wilfred that I've seen. Ever.

I saw three Hilarions: Mr. Mathews, Patrick Ogle, and Thomas Forster. Mr. Matthews excels in creating a character; his HIlarion is no exception. And his fiendish ‘gotcha’ grin when he finds Albrecht’s sword is priceless. Mr. Ogle and Mr. Forster have less experience in the role, and consequently gave less textured performances, but for HIlarion, this does not register as a deficiency, since having a colorful personality is not one of HIlarion’s usual qualities. I also saw three portrayals of Berthe, Giselle’s Mother – a significant non-dancing role. I preferred Nancy Raffa’s more frail and gentle mother to Susan Jones’s more dominating portrayal, but each was outstanding. Kelley Boyd has less experience in the role, and understandably had less power and nuance, but she gave a credible performance as well.

All of the dancers who assayed the roles of Myrta’s sidekicks executed well. Moyna was danced by Ms. Copeland, Adrienne Schulte, Melanie Hamrick, and Christine Shevchenko; and Zulma by Ms. Kajiya, April Giangeruso, Zhong-Jing Fang, and Stephanie Williams, but Ms. Copeland was unable to convey the appearance of weightlessness required of a Willi – which was particularly apparent when she danced opposite and concurrently with Ms. Kajiya.

Finally, the corps deserves to be acknowledged for its superb execution at every performance, and in both Acts. However, I must particularly credit the more convincing acting done by Katherine Williams as one of the villagers. Where everyone else is responding with a minimum of facial gesture, all as part of the scenic ‘background noise’, Ms. Williams was demonstrating, as she always does, a ‘real’ connection to developments on stage. Although she didn’t detract attention from the lead dancers, her portrayal was significantly more complex than the norm. {I noticed that the her facial response was more limited after Monday night’s performance, which was either a consequence of her having a different position on stage, or some direction from management to ‘tone it down’. If the latter, that was an unfortunate decision.)

“Giselle” is not the oldest ‘Romantic’ ballet (“La Sylphide” is), but it’s reportedly the oldest continuously performed ballet. She wears her age well, and I’ll look forward to another “Giselle” marathon when it returns.

Edited twice to correct spelling and style errors, and to add a parenthetical sentence.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Jun 24, 2014 11:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

Brian Seibert reviews multiple casts of "Giselle" for the New York Times.

NY Times

Author:  balletomaniac [ Tue Jun 24, 2014 11:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

June 23, 2014
“Swan Lake”

-- by Jerry Hochman

This is a brief report on last night’s opening performance of ABT’s week-long run of “Swan Lake.” In summary, I saw another outstanding performance of Prince Siegfried by Marcelo Gomes; another fine portrayal of von Rothbart (the one not in the lizard suit) by Jared Matthews, and a delightfully executed pas de trois by Sarah Lane, Yuriko Kajiya, and Joseph Gorak. And I saw a wonderful Odette/Odile. Except Odette was danced by one ballerina, and Odile by another.

Toward the end of Act II, in the course of another sterling performance by Gillian Murphy, I noticed Ms. Murphy, who had been flawless to that point, appear to fall off pointe awkwardly. But she continued through the end of the Act (including a superlative exit), and thought that whatever it was that I saw was not important.

But at the end of the intermission, it was announced that Ms. Murphy was injured and unable to proceed. I don’t know if what I saw was the genesis of the injury, or if it was caused by some other condition (she had been insured earlier this season), but the audience appeared to be crushed when it was announced that Hee Seo would replace Ms. Murphy for the remainder of the ballet.

Ms. Seo turned the unfortunate development into a personal triumph. With only one exception that I could see (consecutive unassisted pirouettes which ended with her working leg extended to the rear, both of which ended awkwardly), her Odile was remarkable. Being partnered by perhaps the best partner in the world doesn’t hurt, but what she did on her own, and her characterization, made it clear that her success wasn’t just attributable to Mr. Gomes’s partnering (though it may have been strengthened merely by his presence). Moments after appearing, she nailed a balance and held it a la Murphy, perhaps to make a statement, but more likely because she could. And her characterization was spot on. Within the context of a stage presence that is more serene than others, she nailed the pas de deux as well, acting and dancing more seductively than I’ve seen her dance previously, and she brought the house down. (Her fouettes weren’t as strong as Ms. Murphy’s likely would have been, but none could be, and she travelled downstage somewhat, but in the overall scheme of things this was not significant.) Odette doesn’t have very much to do in Act IV compared to other versions of the ballet. Be that as it may, Ms. Seo’s Odette was very strong last year, and based on what she did in Act IV, it’s now stronger still; from my vantage point, she had several audience members weeping. And when she and Mr. Gomes leapt to their deaths, the audience erupted again from the release of built-up tension and emotional drain—even though the ballet had not yet concluded.

Mr. Gomes looked both energized, and extraordinarily relieved (obviously, they had had little, if any, time to mark their performances if for no other reason than to synchronize their timing). And during the curtain call, his bow to her was not the usual respectful courtesy and mutual admiration – he bowed low, and in obvious tribute and gratitude.

ABT’s production of “Swan Lake,” though not authentic enough for purists, moves with a contemporary sensibility and is one of the best productions I’ve seen. Performances continue through Saturday evening, when Ms. Seo is scheduled to dance the role(s) again, this time opposite Roberto Bolle. If you’re interested in watching a performance evolve and improve before your eyes, and if there are any seats still available ("Swan Lake" sells), see it.

Author:  Buddy [ Wed Jun 25, 2014 3:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

balletomaniac wrote:
Ms. Seo turned the unfortunate development into a personal triumph. With only one exception that I could see (consecutive unassisted pirouettes which ended with her working leg extended to the rear, both of which ended awkwardly), her Odile was remarkable.

I'm so glad to hear this, Jerry. At this year's Mariinsky Festival in April, Olga Esina, whom I was really looking forward to seeing as Giselle, was unable to appear and was replaced by Hee Seo. Not having ever seen Hee Seo in a lead I wasn't necessarily expecting a lot, but, as she apparently was in her replacement of Gillian Murphy, once again she was "remarkable." A most pleasant surprise. Her dancing prowess was very impressive and her characterization and dramatic expression were poetically beautiful and wonderfully enchanting.

I also wish Gillian Murphy a very speedy recovery. She has performed some of the finest Swan Lakes that I've ever seen including one at a Mariinsky Festival. In addition to her remarkable dancing prowess, she developed some of the most compelling characterization in her Odette-Odiles that I've ever seen from her or anyone else. I used to keep almost a scorecard of her's and Veronika Part's Odette-Odiles. I think that I've seen six or seven of each of them.

[spelling correction made]

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Jun 25, 2014 12:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

Siobhan Burke reviews the Monday, June 23, 2014 performance of "Swan Lake" for the New York Times.

NY Times

Author:  Buddy [ Wed Jun 25, 2014 1:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

This is the title and a quote from the New York Times article that Francis just posted.

“Waiting in the Wings, a Ballerina to Save the Day”

"If the mishap [Gillian Murphy not being able to continue because of injury] spoke to a dancer’s humanness, it also revealed just how superhuman a ballerina can be. Ms. Seo is scheduled to dance Odette-Odile on Saturday, but how did she deliver such a commanding performance on such short notice? And having danced the role with Mr. Gomes only once before?

"But on this particular night, Ms. Seo was the savior."

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Jun 26, 2014 10:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

Marjorie Liebert reviews two different casts of "Giselle" for Broadway World.

Broadway World

Author:  balletomaniac [ Thu Jun 26, 2014 6:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

For those interested, ABT has posted a change to Friday's night's "Swan Lake" cast: Hee Seo and Roberto Bolle are replacing Alina Cojocaru and Herman Cornejo. No changes have been made...yet...for Saturday. But it's difficult to believe that the casting for Saturday evening will remain as previously listed (Seo/Bolle) Two consecutive nights of Odette/Odile by any ballerina would be unlikely, much less one still relatively new to the role (and who, in the past, has been susceptible to injury). But I suppose stranger things have happened. In any event, stay tuned.

Author:  balletomaniac [ Fri Jun 27, 2014 9:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

Further to the above, ABT just posted that Cory Stearns will be replacing David Hallberg at tomorrow's "Swan Lake" matinee performance, as well as in the 'Dream' performances next Monday and Wednesday.
No word about any Saturday evening cast change, the site still lists Hee Seo/Roberto Bolle for both tonight and tomorrow night.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Jun 27, 2014 12:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

In the Epoch Times, Diana Barth reviews Paloma Herrera and James Whiteside in the Tuesday, June 24, 2014 performance of Swan Lake.

Epoch Times

Author:  Buddy [ Sun Jun 29, 2014 7:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

As I'm sure Jerry will tell us, the question of the week was answered last night when Hee Seo along with Roberto Bolle did indeed perform back to back evenings of Swan Lake. Such things, from my viewing experience, are not unusual with companies in Russia, but seem to have have generated a lot of interest here.

These are quotes from Mary Cargill in danceviewtimes that bring back memories of Heo Seo's enchanting Giselle performance at this year's Mariinsky Festival.

"Seo's opening moments were beautiful, as she jumped on with a delicate power, seeming to luxuriate in her freedom. Her mime, too, as she told her sad story and pleaded for love was potent.

"She was at her best in the final scene....I especially remember the heartfelt gesture she gave Siegfried just before she jumped, a combination of a plea and a promise that yes, they will be reunited in that rising sun." ... reach.html

Again it was her lovely dancing and beautiful sense of drama in the structuring of her expression (phrasing, highlighting, emotion, emphasis, overall imagery) that made her St. Petersburg performance so memorable.

Author:  balletomaniac [ Sun Jun 29, 2014 10:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

I will, Buddy. I don't know how they did it, but both Hee Seo and Roberto Bolle did both Friday and Saturday evenings. I didn't see Friday. But in a nutshell, you and the other reviewer are right about Saturday. I went to both performances yesterday and although Polina Semionova's performance had more technical perfection and showed astonishing strength and regality, Hee Seo's had more character and more heart (and I noticed and planned to reference her pre-jump gestures). She was a fragile, vulnerable, and touching Odette. And she did a fine, sufficiently seductive Odile -- not as strong technically as Monday, which is certainly understandable since by then her legs must have been rubbery, and a bit less vivacious (which might be hard to believe if you didn't see Monday), but still she had moments as Odile that were breathtaking, in addition to her Odette. She deserves a medal.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Jun 29, 2014 7:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2014 at the Met

In the New York Times, Siobhan Burke reviews three different casts of "Swan Lake," including the Tuesday, June 24, 2014 performance of Paloma Herrera and James Whiteside; the Friday, June 27, 2014 performance of Hee Seo and Roberto Bolle; and the Saturday matinee, June 28 performance of Polina Semionova and Cory Stearns.

NY Times

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