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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2015 at the Met
PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2015 12:23 pm 
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In the New York Times, Gia Kourlas reviews the Monday, June 22, 2015 performance of Swan Lake with Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes in the leading roles.

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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2015 at the Met
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 11:30 am 
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Apollinaire Scherr reviews Misty Copeland's performances in Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet for the Financial Times.

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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2015 at the Met
PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 11:37 am 
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The Associated Press review of Misty Copeland's Wednesday, June 24, 2015 performance in Swan Lake.

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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2015 at the Met
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:25 am 
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Pia Catton reviews the Wednesday matinee on June 24, 2015, Misty Copeland's performance in Swan Lake for the Wall Street Journal.

Wall Street Journal

Alastair Macaulay reviews the same performance for the New York Times.

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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2015 at the Met
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 3:21 pm 
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Pending editing and publication, below is a review of Misty Copeland's New York debut in Swan Lake.

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

June 24 M, 2015
Swan Lake

-- by Jerry Hochman

Aside from being perhaps the most well-known ballet to people who know nothing of ballet, Swan Lake comes with baggage. This baggage includes not just the details and location of the story, but the characterization of the Swan Queen and her evil body double, the Black Swan, and the choreography that has developed over time as part and parcel of the Petipa/Ivanov 1895 revival, which is considered the Swan Lake template. While audiences have grown accustomed to changes of venue, the characterization of Odette and Odile and the execution of the choreography must be 'just so'. Odette has to be a regal Swan Queen, but one with sadness and pathos dripping from every pore while not crossing the line and being melodramatic and pathetic. Odille must be sensuous and convincing enough to seduce a stone, and the 32 fouettes are a true test, like the Rose Adagio in The Sleeping Beauty, and must be done completely and correctly or the performance is fatally flawed.

Misty Copeland’s New York debut in Swan Lake on Wednesday afternoon didn’t show much of this performance baggage. So if you came to Copeland’s performance (at least her third time dancing the role) thinking you’d see an Odette/Odile of cosmic proportions, or one that would promise to eventually rival those of ABT’s principal ballerinas who dance the role brilliantly, you would have been at least disappointed, and wondering what the fuss was about. But if you look at Swan Lake somewhat differently, and don’t go with the usual performance expectations (and can somehow overlook Copeland’s doing just half the ‘usual’ number of fouettes, and doing those that she did not very well), it was…different, more than adequate, and completely sufficient for the audience, which largely came to see her dancing Swan Lake, not Swan Lake.

Whether Copeland’s performance was successful, therefore, depends on your point of view. Judged on whether she delivered an Odette/Odile consistent with a reasonable level of expectation in a ballet company of the highest caliber, it missed the mark. Judged on whether she delivered a performance adequate to convey the story and the characters, it was a promising performance, significant not just because Copeland danced it, but because, intentionally or not, it was different.

From the outset, you knew that one matter that negatively impacted her Juliet on June 20 would not be an issue with her Swan Queen. In the brief Prologue that Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie’s fast-paced and relatively exciting production uses to provide the predicate to the story, Alexandre Hammoudi, who portrayed the human incarnation of von Rothbart, picked Copeland up and twirled her around as if she was a toothpick.

In Act II, the first White Act (which follows seamlessly and without intermission from the Prologue and Act I in this production), Copeland did the steps. That is, she executed the choreography thoroughly and completely (no small accomplishment), but didn’t make it sing the way an optimal performance of this choreography would, or to the level one might expect from a third outing. Although she wore an appropriately mournful face throughout, and did a particularly fine job with the mime, very clearly conveying the story, there was little sense of regality or pathos. It was just a terribly sad, unfortunate situation.

Curiously though, dancing the role with little pathos and no melodrama, intentionally or not, made the story, simple, straightforward, and accessible to her audience. The absence of excessive pathos was almost refreshing, and her swan arms weren’t bad at all. And again, here and throughout the ballet, she was partnered well, and carried without incident and without changing the choreography by her Prince Siegfried, James Whiteside.

Copeland’s Odile was danced similarly to her Odette: that is, without adding anything to the essential choreography beyond the steps, and consequently I found it lacking the essential sensuality that one routinely finds in performances by more experienced ballerinas. On the other hand, perhaps as a result of not adding anything, she cannot be accused of overdoing it. She played Odette very properly, and without a pasted-on smile or leer. And to her credit, she knew what she was supposed to do – including taking her instructions from von Rothbart (which many ballerinas gloss over or convert to telepathy). The repeated sequencing from one to the other, and then her choreographic changes as a result, were transparent and well done. To anyone with ballet training, her characterization was, at most, merely adequate - but it was certainly sufficient, and much more than that to her audience.

But then there were the fouettes.

Although to me, completing the fouettes is an essential component of this ballet (the critical issue being not whether they’re completed, but their quality), I don’t consider bravura execution to be the be all and end all of a performance. But Copeland’s failure here was a significant one, and didn’t have a brilliant overall performance to balance it. And it’s one thing to be unable to complete 32 fouettes; it’s another to complete maybe 16, and travel halfway downstage and to stage right in the process.

But it’s a completely different thing not to even try. It appeared to me that Copeland planned it this way – she shifted immediately after the 16th (or maybe it was 15th or 14th) to a series of turns that looked similar to fouettes, but weren’t, keeping the essential shape of the movement and keeping time with the music. (I think what she ended up doing were consecutive single pirouettes with her right leg swung higher than usual, so that the action mimicked fouettes.) The audience, her audience, didn’t see any difference. They roared their approval.

So what’s the significance of this? Her performance lacked the technical expertise or the characterization as we have come to know it. But it was sufficient to convey both the story and her character(s). And unlike Juliet, Odette and Odile are mythological creations, not ‘real’ people, so their appearance, actions, and consequently her performance does not necessarily have to be tethered to a particular vision, even though that’s the expectation, the baggage, this ballet travels with. And perhaps most importantly, the audience, which was devoted to Copeland from the first moment, understood the story Copeland was telling, and didn’t care how she got there. So hers was an exceptional Swan Lake (as in, an exception from the norm). And whether it’s given credence as a valid classical performance of the role, other soloists might have done a better job, or it marks a departure from ABT standards, are discussions for another day.

In other roles (there were other roles), Whiteside’s Siegfried was capable; his partnering was quite good, but he was relatively wooden in characterization. Hammoudi was a fine partner, but with respect to his own characterization and execution, lacked the polish and power of others who have assayed the role. The pas de trois, danced by Christine Shevchenko, Devon Teuscher, and Calvin Royal, was excellently done by all.


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2015 at the Met
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2015 11:11 am 
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Congratulations to fabulous Misty Copeland, one of ABT's newest Principals, along with Stella Abrera, Maria Kochetkova and Alban Lendorf (the last two being appointed). Misty & Stella worked their way up through the ranks. Well done!

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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2015 at the Met
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2015 11:19 am 
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Promotions were announced at a company meeting on Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

Soloists Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera were promoted to principal; Maria Kochetkova and Alban Lendorf were hired as principals. Michael Cooper reports for the New York Times.

NY Times

Pia Catton for the Wall Street Journal.

Wall Street Journal


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2015 at the Met
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 10:03 am 
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Alastair Macaulay reviews the Monday, June 29, 2015 performance of Ashton's Cinderella for the New York Times.

NY Times


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2015 at the Met
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2015 11:11 am 
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Rose Marija reviews Misty Copeland's June 24, 2015 matinee performance of Swan Lake for Broadway World.

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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2015 at the Met
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2015 5:53 pm 
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Pending editing and publication, below is a review of two ABT performances of Cinderella, and a brief season wrap-up.


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

July 1M, 4E, 2015
Cinderella

-- by Jerry Hochman

Last year, in my review of American Ballet Theatre’s new production of Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, I described the ballet as a relic that can be appreciated for what it was, but perhaps no longer for what it is. Although there were moments when the action perked up enough to be enjoyable, most of the time I thought it was totally devoid of any excitement, with starched and overly complicated steps, and not very funny where it was supposed to be. Worse, it looked fussy and prissy, as if it had been preserved in aspic. It looked like a fairy tale within a fairy tale, and an artificial one at that.

There’s not much acting either. Cinderella is sweet and good-hearted with only two emotional faces: the Cinderella who dreams, and the Cinderella whose dream comes true. This ballet isn’t about falling in love; it’s a one-dimensional children’s story about dreams coming true grafted onto the nuts and bolts of the fairy tale. Although some of the staging in Act II’s ballroom scene is inventive, the ballet overall has little texture, and no depth.

This year, I felt the same way after seeing ABT’s Wednesday afternoon performance, my first exposure to Cinderella this season. Although I found the Christopher Wheeldon production, which San Francisco Ballet brought to New York in 2013, to be somewhat uneven, it looks better and better in hindsight - thoroughly contemporary, and undeniably magical.

But I theorized in my review last year that perhaps the reason I enjoyed the Ashton version as much as I did in a performance ten years earlier by the Royal Ballet was the lead performance then by Alina Cojocaru, which I still vividly recall, and that perhaps it might look better with a ballerina of similar capability and engaging attitude. Along comes Marianella Nunez, and voila.

I still see the Ashton production as dated, but Nunez, a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet, is such a magnetic stage presence that this almost doesn’t matter. Obviously more comfortable in the role than the ABT ballerinas I’ve seen assay it, Nunez, who debuted with ABT in the role two nights earlier, brings to it the same technical facility and engaging characterization that Cojocaru did. She’s not as youthful looking as Cojocaru was, nor as tiny, but she’s every bit as genuine. She dances with both radiance and obvious heart.

What was particularly remarkable was the nuance Nunez brought not only to the characterization, which as a veteran in the role one would expect, but also to Ashton’s choreography. This isn’t easy choreography (at all levels) – which is part of the reason the ballet looks so fussy – but Nunez played with it brilliantly, with a combination of eye-popping footwork and wonderful time-stretching that demonstrated facility from every core. And, at least with the character of Cinderella (the more limited roles she danced during the Royal Ballets engagement at the D.H. Koch Theater last week didn’t provide much insight into her stage persona), she radiates warmth – as did Cojocaru. ABT has had more than its share of guest artists in recent years, but Nunez is one I’d like to see more.

Her Prince, James Whiteside, delivered a fine performance as well. Although his characterization is still not fully developed, for this role, it doesn’t really need to be – the Prince is…princely, but that’s about it. Where Whiteside particularly excelled, however, was in his thoroughly superb partnering, which was flawless in every way.

Three night earlier, in her debut in this production (she danced Cinderella in ABT’s prior incarnation of the ballet, choreographed by James Kudelka), Stella Abrera, who obtained a long-overdue promotion to principal the previous night, did everything right, but couldn’t deliver the special sparkle and facility that Nunez did. Her Prince, Joseph Gorak, is naturally princely to the core. His execution is always smooth as silk – nothing looks forced. And unlike his partnering in Romeo and Juliet, here he had no difficulty lifting or portering Abrera.

Act I has little dancing in it – it’s considerably more focused on posing and slap-schtick comedy. What dancing it has is essentially limited to the Fairy Godmother and her four seasonal subsidiary fairies. Although I found fault with her execution last year, Veronika Part danced the Fairy Godmother (aka Sleeping Beauty’s Lilac Fairy) flawlessly on Saturday. Devon Teuscher did a fine job with the role on Wednesday, but lacked Part’s fluidity. The ballerinas who danced the secondary fairies (these roles are all technical – there’s no acting dimension to them) were the same both nights. The choreography for The Fairy Spring is particularly wicked, but, as she did last year, Sarah Lane again delivered a knock-out performance both days. The other three – a luminous Stephanie Williams as The Fairy Summer, Luciana Paris as The Fairy Autumn (who achieved a long-overdue promotion to soloist), and an appropriately icy April Giangeruso as The Fairy Winter – delivered very fine portrayals as well, but none of these roles is as viciously complex as that for The Fairy Spring.

As the Stepsisters, Thomas Forster (who also achieved a long overdue promotion) and Kenneth Easter have grown in their roles from last year, and were legitimately hilarious. On Wednesday, I saw Sean Stewart and Duncan Lyle in these roles for the first time. Although they executed well, they were not nearly as comically polished as Forster and Easter. Craig Salstein repeated his clean-as-a-whistle portrayal of the Jester, and Gabe Stone Shayer delivered a more child-like but promising interpretation on Wednesday, but neither equaled the complex and sophisticated Jester last year by Luis Ribagorda.

The corps dancers in Cinderella are relatively anonymous, but one consistently stood out. By her acting (in addition to her crystalline execution) Katherine Williams creates roles where none exist. When the corps is supposed to register concern, or delight, or any other emotion, her face visibly registers the emotion in a way that is unique, but that doesn’t detract from the more routine responses in the faces of others. She deserves more opportunities than she gets.

With ABT’s 2015 Met Season now completed, a brief review of its highlights is in order. In addition to Nunez’s Cinderella, these include Hee Seo’s extraordinary Juliet (her third opportunity in one week) and Lane’s second Aurora. Aside from her technical brilliance executing Ratmansky’s fiendish choreography (his recreation of the Petipa) while remaining in character as a 16 year old, she avoided disaster when her shoe caught the edge of the train of the Queen’s oversized gown in mid post-poison ‘mad scene’, causing her to ignominiously fall to the stage floor on her derriere. Instead of looking flustered, she wove it into the choreography and characterization so skillfully that few noticed.

Gillian Murphy is a superb technician, and demonstrated third throughout the year. But at the beginning of the season, her stunning Hagar in Tudor’s Pillar of Fire showed her in a different, though equally extraordinary light. While not originally scheduled, Abrera delivered a wonderful Giselle, and Steven McRae a fine Romeo in his debut with ABT. Herman Cornejo danced a glorious Solor, and Marcelo Gomes, as usual, excelled in whatever he was assigned, and remains the company’s most valuable dancer.

Following her fine debut as the Cowgirl in Rodeo, a promising Juliet, and equally promising but technically deficient Odette/Odile, Misty Copeland was rewarded with her anticipated promotion to principal dancer amid a publicity firestorm. Skylar Brandt and Cassandra Trenary continued to do outstanding work in their featured roles, and were promoted to soloist. And Natalia Osipova, in the midst of delivering another superb Giselle, lost her footing landing a huge leap, barreled into some corps dancers, and suffered a frightening-looking in-performance injury. Other dancers sidelined by injury included David Hallberg and Polina Semionova, but the replacement casting for their (and Osipova’s) performances, except for Abrera’s Giselle, represented opportunities lost.

Leaving the company this year, in addition to retiring principal dancers Julie Kent, Paloma Herrera, and Xiomara Reyes, are retiring corps dancers Grant DeLong, Marian Butler, and Leann Underwood, as well as Ribagorda and Eric Tamm, both of whom retired before the Met season began.


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2015 at the Met
PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 2:12 pm 
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Alastair Macaulay reviews Marianela Nunez in Ashton's Cinderella, Thursday, July 2, 2015 at the David H. Koch Theatre for the New York Times.

NY Times


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2015 at the Met
PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 2:24 pm 
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Alastair Macaulay reviews the Met season for the New York Times.

NY Times


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2015 at the Met
PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 3:14 pm 
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Barnett Serchuk reviews the June 30, 2015 performance of Cinderella for Broadway World.

Broadway World


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre: Spring 2015 at the Met
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 12:05 pm 
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Emil Guillermo interviews principal dancer Stella Abrera for NBC News.

NBC News


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