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PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2005 8:22 am 
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Yippie-Yi-Ouch!
by HANNA RUBIN for the New York Times

"I want to see your heads bobble," she instructed four ballerinas at a recent rehearsal in the company's studios. The Cowgirl's spastic entrance in boots and a Stetson, head bobbling as she mimes riding horseback, requires split-second timing and a movement unfamiliar to classically trained dancers.

published: October 16, 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 17, 2005 1:28 pm 
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Boy Meets Girl Meets Faun
by TOBI TOBIAS for the New York Times

On opening night at American Ballet Theater, it will be danced by Ethan Stiefel and Julie Kent, who is celebrating 20 years with the company.

published: October 16, 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 21, 2005 9:03 am 
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Tomboy in the Yellow Dress
by JOHN ROCKWELL for the New York Times

The star turn was Erica Cornejo's assumption of the Cowgirl part in Agnes de Mille's "Rodeo," a role first danced by the choreographer at the ballet's premiere in 1942. Among others who subsequently danced it was Christine Sarry, who received a special and deserved credit for coaching Ms. Cornejo.

published: October 20, 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 21, 2005 9:04 am 
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Fancy Duds and de Mille's Cowgirl, Bowlegs and All
by JOHN ROCKWELL for the New York Times

This was a revival of a Ballet Theater revival, first seen in St. Louis in 1989, when Oliver Smith's sets were refurbished and Santo Loquasto provided new costumes: the Head Wrangler's popinjay duds are something to behold. In this version, the Cowgirl becomes the original girl in the yellow dress. When she finally capitulates and puts on that dress to win her wrangler's heart - and winds up with the Champion Roper instead - her joy is complete.

published: October 21, 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 21, 2005 11:59 pm 
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I caught Thursday night’s performance at City Center - an evening of mixed rep of Les Sylphides, Afternoon of a Faun, Paquita PdD, and the world premiere of Peter Quanz’s Kaleidoscope.

Les Sylphides, with Abrera, Hallberg, Cornejo and Riccetto, was pure essence. Not to discount Hallberg’s contribution, but these three ladies captured Fokine’s concept beautifully. Masterful strokes of dancing impressions from one and all. A moving Monet. The ballet fits easily on the City Center stage, but I prefer it on the larger Met Opera stage where the corps work is framed with more space and light. Closer to the stage, one sees details more than formations.

Afternoon of a Faun with Kent and Stiefel was okay. What can you say - it’s ten minutes long, and mostly standing around. The other Kent - Allegra - was in the front of the Grand Tier thoroughly enjoying herself - and still beautiful. I also saw a very handsome Gary Chryst in the crowd. I’m looking forward to the Saturday debuts of Abrera and Hallberg. I suspect Abrera, an accomplished actor, will give us a fuller interpretation. A picture of Abrera and Hallberg in Faun now graces the ABT home page.

The Paquita PdD with Herrera and Carreno was a superbly danced hor’ dourve.

The new Quanz piece, Kaleidoscope, was not too good. It had its nice moments within the PdDs, but the steppy, frenetic corps work was an imitation of you-know-who. Steppy, frenetic corps work on the City Center stage to mostly piano music results in noisy, steppy, frenetic corps work. The whole piece was somewhat disorganized. Instead of beginning with a framework, it looked like Quanz built from the inside out - a piece here, a piece there. There was no underlying choreographic theme (that I could see), and there was no relationship between what the corps did and what the principals did. Stiefel and Murphy were one pair, and danced fast. Part and Beloserkovsky were the other pair, and danced meaningfully. Part was gorgeous, just gorgeous. No one had done these steps before her, and she just made sure that her version would be unforgettable. There is such amplitude, musicality and spirituality in her movement. Only seven months until the spring season at The Met. What will we see her do?

Friday evening’s performance was Apollo, Gong, and The Green Table. The most captivating Death from the old Joffrey’s production, Christian Holder, was in the Grand Tier along with former Joffrey dancers Margo Sappington and Gary Chryst. Tonight’s performance was very good . The masks, hideous as ever, now favor Karl Rove and Dick Cheney--maybe I just imagined that. David Hallberg as Death was quite frightening, especially his final glance at us as he leers over the final, but obviously not his last, victim. It is a haunting memory from every performance I’ve ever seen. Jennifer Alexander turned out a first rate performance of the young girl as did Carmen Corella as the old woman. Carlos Lopez as the Profiteer would have made any Halliburton executive proud. Sleezy, aggressive, opportunistic, but he finally got what was due. The diplomats looked a bit too carefully orchestrated. Perhaps that will vanish after a few performances.

Apollo was danced by Carreno, Kent, Abrera and Dvorovenko. It included the usually cut birth scene, which I thought was quite inventive and purposeful. Carreno’s interpretation was far more physical than what we see at the NYCB. As a god, one has certain responsibilities including being extremely handsome, cut, and charming. He qualifies. Of the three muses, Abrera was the best in her solo as Caliope. She could dance anywhere right now and fit in perfectly - NYCB, Graham, Ailey, Nederlands or the Royal Ballet.

All in all, Friday night surpassed Thursday night with the highlight, so far, being The Green Table.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2005 10:34 am 
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Thoughts from the gala...

Overall a good night, but I was rather apalled by the vast number of people who arrived late (though kudos to the City Center ushers who were firm about only seating people between ballets) or who got up during a pause and then returned to their seat ina loud, late scramble when - surprise - the next ballet started. Admittedly the performance did start at 7pm, but I don't think it's too much to ask that people make sure they arrive at the correct time, take there seats more than thirty seconds prior to curtain and take a few moments to read their program so that they know a pause from an intermission. Money does not excuse bad manners!

American Ballet Theatre
City Center Gala
October 19, 2005
New York City Center

In a gala evening mercifully short on speeches and rich with ballet, the American Ballet Theatre opened its three-week long City Center season on a high note. Showcasing the stylistic and choreographic diversity of the City Center repertory, the evening was a bit scattered, but nonetheless very satisfying. Ballets by Jerome Robbins, Agnes DeMille, Kirk Peterson, Mark Morris and Marius Petipa showcased the talents of this company and its stunning dancers.

Kicking off the night was no less than the company premiere of “Afternoon of a Faun”, Jerome Robbins’ re-conception of Nijinsky’s famous ballet to Claude Debussy’s ‘Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune”. The bubbling eroticism now finds a home in a mirrored ballet studio with two young ballet students practicing their craft. Coached by Jean-Pierre Frolich, company veterans Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel gave a mesmerizing and intense performance as the two dedicated but naïve students, more intent on their own reflections in the mirror than in each other. With decades of dancing between them Stiefel and Kent seem to have drawn from their experiences to recreate the near-erotic intensity of the studio. And yet though a superb performance, one can’t be help be reminded by appearance and memory that the pair are veteran dancers and thus the naivety a bit un-natural. Other scheduled casts involve much younger dancers, who will hopefully imbue this ballet with a charming youth.

The pas de deux from “Paquita” was a charming interlude, providing a glimpse of Irina Dvorovenko, just returned from maternity leave, and her husband, Maxim Beloserkovsky. It’s a shame that Dvorovenko and Beloserkovsky don’t get more opportunities to perform together because the pair are beautifully matched and look utterly secure in even the trickiest partnering. Though not generally though of as a bravura dancer, Beloserkosky was impressive in the brief solos, pulling of flashy splits and double tours down to the knee. It was, however, unfortunate that the tempo set by the American Ballet Theatre orchestra, here under Ormsby Wilkins, seemed to be at odds with dancers onstage.

Several excerpts from Kirk Peterson’s “The Howling Cat” gave a taste of the full company premiere to come later on in the season. Set to a medley of edgy tango music of Jacob Gade, Gary Chang and Astor Piazzolla, and framed by the clouds of swirling smoke behind a scrim, the piece was a masterpiece of casting. Paloma Herrera and Jose Manuel Carreño couldn’t have looked more at home in the playful, but sultry “Melpomene”. And in “Enragé”, the two blond Americans, Grant DeLong and Jared Matthews had the same sultry electricity as the two Spaniards, Luis Ribagorda and Jesus Pastor.

The evening concluded with two full pieces, the first being Mark Morris’ colorful “Gong”. Staged for this season by Tina Fehlandt, “Gong” has a very South-Asian feel, Isaac Mizrahi’s brightly hued costumes accented by gold anklets and earrings and the angular feet and arms of Morris’ choreographies reminiscent of Thai architecture and dance. Morris’ use of both traditional and more modern choreographic motifs makes the piece fascinating, particularly in one pas de deux where the ballerina and her partner alternate in flexed-foot, bent arm moves, then she suddenly ‘relaxes’ and whips into a perfect classical supported pirouette. Her partner then whips himself into a series of pirouettes. Colin McPhee’s score furthers the Asian feel, though in fact the strongest dancing was by Sascha Radetsky and Gillian Murphy in one of the two unaccompanied pas de deuxs, where the silence intensifying the power and athleticism of the dancing. The one weakness of the piece may be it’s length – the second silent pas de deux begins to feel repetitive, and the endless sections blurring the otherwise sharp focus of the dancing. The corps looked strong and confident, bolstered by an all start lead group, including Herman Cornejo, Michele Wiles, Xiomara Reyes, Anna Liceica and Erica Cornejo. Charles Barker conducted.

Erica Cornejo returned after the intermission to wrap up the gala in a delightful performance of Agnes DeMille’s “Rodeo”. Under the tutelage of Paul Sutherland and Christine Sarry, the company has returned this wonderful ballet to the ABT repertoire in good shape. Colorful – even if no real cowboy would be caught in some of Santo Loquasto’s colors, earthy and slightly wistful, “Rodeo” brings to life the heart and soul of the American west. Slight, but determined, Cornejo was a wonderful Cowgirl, in all her emotional conflict. Isaac Stappas strutted his stuff as the puffed-chest Head Wrangler. And, in a role that is the best yet match to his skills and talents, Craig Salstein was a most delightful Champion Roper – there was an endearing tenderness and gentles to his character, but with all the strutting and preening intact. Though enthusiastic and energetic, and excellent in the square-dance interlude, the corps looked in need of a few more rehearsals to get the timing down-pat. Aaron Copeland’s memorable score keeps things movin’, and the air of utter spontaneity that pervades the piece can only be achieved through much rehearsal and performance experience.
Oliver Smith designed the sets, with Thomas Skelton the lighting, and the orchestra finished on a high note under the baton of Charles Barker.

The evening was sprinkled with balletic germs – sparkling specimens of what looks to be a glittering City Center Season. Now on with the dancing!


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2005 6:02 pm 
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As expected, as hoped for, Hallberg and Abrera made the Saturday matinee performance of Afternoon of a Faun memorable. His interpretation was so private, so introspective, one felt like watching it was almost being intrusive. He was the innocent. She was the innocent one step removed. They are absolutely stunning together - his blondness against her exotic dark beauty. As the curtain closed, one heard a collective sigh from the audience. Hallberg and Abrera have one more scheduled performance of Faun next Saturday evening.

The Paquita PdD was danced by Herrera and Carreno. It was sensational, but for a near disaster at the end when Carreno came up behind Herrera’s fouettes to give her a few extra spins and knocked her off balance. She fiercely held on to that passe position even when it looked like she might go down. Carreno got control and they both finished smiling. Throughout this PdD, I was reminded that Herrera and Carreno make their own successes happen. Their pirouettes don’t often start out to be perfect, but the skillful adjustments during the rotations and balances make them work.

Rodeo with Reyes and Radesky in the leads was pure entertainment. Reyes filled the character with down-home charm and was very, very funny. Seated next to me was a couple visiting from Louisville, Kentucky. They were ready to take her home with them. The Copeland score is a treasure, and sounded beautiful today. I wasn’t planning on seeing this again, but now I just have to go back.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2005 11:53 pm 
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American Ballet Theater
Metropolitan Opera House, New York
October 23, 2005 (Evening)


Every once in awhile an ABT repertory program succeeds in every respect. The repertory program at City Center tonight, consisting of Peter Quanz’s new “Kaleidoscope,” Mark Morris’s “Gong,” and Agnes DeMille’s delightful “Rodeo,” did just that. No downsides, no dull pieces, no less than stellar performances; just pure delight.

Without doubt, the night belonged to Erica Cornejo, who’s performance as The Cowgirl in the long overdue revival of “Rodeo” was simply fabulous. “Rodeo” holds a special place in my heart – it was the final piece in the very first ballet performance I ever saw (more years ago than I care to remember). And while Cornejo’s performance won’t make me forget Chris Sarry’s, Cornejo owns the role now. It may well be that anyone doing the steps and the comedy as DeMille intended will bring the house down. But Cornejo nailed everything, as if she’d been rehearsing for this role all her life. Having watched her dance at many prior performances, there was no surprise to the quality of her dancing. But her command of the comedy was astonishing, and her performance touched your heart and stole it at the same time. Watching her face alone was worth the price of admission. If you want a guaranteed good time, see Cornejo in “Rodeo”.

But Cornejo isn’t the only reason to see “Rodeo.” Craig Salstein nearly did his own thievery as The Champion Roper. Salstein doesn’t overwhelm the audience with charisma, and perhaps for that reason the quality of his dancing always seems surprising. Isaac Stappas and Jennifer Alexander did commendable work as well.

The most interesting aspect of the night’s performance was Sarah Lane’s debut in “Kaleidoscope.” As I’ve indicated in previous reviews, Lane commands attention. There is a crystalline quality to her movement, and an understated radiance to her stage persona, which make it very difficult not to be captivated by her. She has enormous potential, but the breadth of her ability was not sufficiently tested in “Kaleidoscope.” Quanz’s piece is somewhat schizophrenic – part is pure plotless movement, and part has more emoting that it needs. In the plotless section, Lane’s execution of Quanz’s quicksilver steps was virtually flawless, and in Holly Hynes’s classic blue (and shades thereof) costumes, Lane looked like a perfectly cut blue topaz. But the role was one-dimensional, and, as good (and delicious to watch) as she was, I wanted more personality than the piece, and her role in it, permitted.

Because of Lane’s size, she is a potential perfect partner for some of the shorter ABT men. Lane was partnered by Herman Cornejo, which would seem to be a good pairing (at least in size if not in temperment). But Cornejo danced with relative disinterest. Perhaps this is a consequence of Quanz’s choreography, but whatever the reason, the overall sense was that something was missing.

The other half of the Quanz piece was led by Veronica Part and Maxim Beloserkovsky. This half was predominantly adagio as compared to the Lane/Cornejo led half, which was predominantly allegro. And, particularly in contrast to Lane, Part emoted shamelessly. It may have been Quantz’s intention to demonstrate such an obvious contrast between the two female lead roles (perhaps to illustrate the contrast between the sections of the Saint-Saens music (“Piano Concerto No. 5, opus 103”), but I would have preferred to have the choreography speak the emotion, and to tone down the passion.

In any event, I found Quanz’s piece to be a wonderful opening piece. It is highly Balanchine derivative (I saw a little “Serenade,” a little “Theme,” a little “Jewels”), but that doesn’t make it inferior. It is highly enjoyable to watch, and should be seen from above to appreciate the intricate and beautifully executed patterns on stage. Much of it is indeed like watching a dancing kaleidoscope. In short, although there may not be much intellectual stimulation, the piece features quality choreography and quality dancing, and it’s a lot of serious fun for the audience, which appeared to be appropriately engaged and enthralled.

The middle piece on the program was Morris’s “Gong” Unlike “Kaleidoscope,”, “Gong” is derivative of nothing, except maybe other Morris pieces. This highly original and highly enjoyable work is a rainbow of Isaac Mizrahi color matched with Morris’s brilliantly colorful choreography. I could quibble about things I don’t like (I could have done without the men all having slicked back hair and identical earrings, and the effeminate-looking palms-up posing), but Morris takes risks and makes statements that makes this piece interesting as well as exciting to watch. Although there wasn’t a weak link in the cast, particularly stellar work was done by Misty Copeland, Maria Riccetto, David Hallberg, Carlos Lopez, Jesus Pastor, and Craig Salstein. [And one supporting corps dancer stood out, but I can’t identify her. She was in a mauve or deep rose color costume. If any reader knows who I’m referring to, please let me know.] Always on the lookout.

Overall, it was a great ABT night; not a clinker in the bunch.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2005 8:55 am 
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Balletomaniac, Sara Lane was in the Les Sylphides corps in both performances I saw this week. She is indeed lovely. She has one of those rare open faces that catches the light's attention and makes you follow her all over the stage. Another such dancer in the corps is Zhong-Jing Fang. Have you gotten a glimpse of Fang yet?


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2005 1:20 pm 
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A Young Choreographer's Chance to Shine Among His Stars
by KATHRYN SHATTUCK for the New York Times

Suddenly, Mr. Quanz leapt from his chair and with a sharp clap, stopped Veronika Part and Maxim Beloserkovsky in their tracks. He aligned his slight frame - leg extended, hip forward, shoulder back - to demonstrate a position. And then he sat again, still and expressionless.

Such composure would be admirable from a person twice his 26 years, especially one creating his first ballet for a major company.

published: October 22, 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2005 7:37 pm 
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Poohtunia -- I have seen her a few times, and I agree. She has a lovely porcelain quality; very delicate. And, from what I've seen so far (I saw her in Les Sylphides and in the corps in another piece), she's a very capable dancer as well. As Ive mentioned previously, I also like Renata Pavam a great deal. I haven't seen her in awhile, though, so either I've just missed her performances or she's been injured. If you have any news as to when she'll be dancing, please let me know. And, per the inquiry in my review, if you know who the girl in mauve/rose was in "Gong", let me know. I think I've narrowed it down to either Melanie Hamrick or Angela Snow, but I don't know which is which. Actually, a girl in lime green also stood out to me, who I didn't know either. If the casting was accurate, the one who is not the one in mauve may have been the one in lime green.
Wouldn't it be nice if ABT provided a clear indication of who danced what part? For Gong, given the differnt color costumes, this would have been easy to do.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2005 10:24 am 
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Master Class
by GIA KOURLAS for the New York Times

"It's like you've got the lightbulb and the electricity and the lamp and the beautiful shade, but if you can't plug it into the wall, nothing happens," he said. "A ballet master is the face of how the information gets transferred or initially introduced. It is the person who instills the confidence in dancers to go that extra mile. They're at the front line of any artistic direction."

published: October 23, 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2005 10:48 am 
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A Scene-Stealing Death Upstages Humans
by JOHN ROCKWELL for the New York Times

The Ballet Theater performance was very fine, fully up to fond memories of the Joffrey Ballet's famous version first seen in 1967. Anna Markard, Jooss's daughter, coached the company in the ballet as she has done with other companies around the world.

published: October 24, 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 2:15 am 
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American Ballet Theatre - City Center, New York
by HILARY OSTLERE for the Financial Times

For the one new piece, Kaleidoscope, a neo-classic tutu ballet, Canadian choreographer Peter Quanz translates the title all too literally with endlessly shifting patterns for corps and demi-soloists. This Balanchine influenced work to Saint-Saëns' tinkling Piano Concerto in F Major is what one might call old- fashioned: no angst, no grappling or outré lifts.

published: October 25, 200
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 5:36 am 
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Dreamy Faun, Daring Apollo
By ROSLYN SULCAS
The New York Times
October 25, 2005

Quote:
On Saturday afternoon, Stella Abrera and David Hallberg made their debuts in Jerome Robbins's contemporary rendition of "The Afternoon of a Faun," Nijinsky's famous 1912 ballet to music by Debussy. Mr. Hallberg, a tall, elegant dancer with beautiful arched feet and a flawless line, perfectly caught the innocent narcissism of a young man regarding himself both appraisingly and approvingly in the imaginary mirror of a ballet studio. Ms. Abrera, who has the beauty of a rare orchid, offered a more sensual, less dreamy rendition of the girl who fleetingly joins him than is usual. Together they created a shimmeringly atmospheric encounter that could, as Mr. Hallberg lay down at the end, have all been a dream.
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Hallberg and Abrera have one last scheduled performance of Faun this coming Saturday evening.


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