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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 11:33 pm 
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Location: St. Petersburg, Russia
Hi, balletomaniac -

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but my totally unscientific observation is that moving from one level to another takes much longer with ABT than it did before McKenzie, and much longer than it should. I don’t know what the criteria for promotion are (and I suspect there are no bright-line standards), but from an audience-member point of view, we see an increase in ability – and the company does by its casting – long before the advanced level of accomplishment is recognized as a fact by a promotion.

In that respect, it applies to other companies too (!) Definitely here at the Mariinsky we have some soloists who have already toured Europe, proved themselves in ballerina roles, but are still in demi-soloist roles and first or second soloist rank within the company. In any case, I hear you that the shift under MacKenzie has incurred perhaps more frustrating promotion practices than his predecessors supported. In the end, it’s frustrating to watch, and I can only imagine more frustrating for the dancers!

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. But I really think it’s unfair to compare a soloist to a world-class ballerina – world-class is world-class for a reason, and a dancer not yet at that level of accomplishment almost inevitably suffers by comparison.


AHA, I see what you mean now. I thought you meant not comparing Russians w/Americans. But as for the level or rank of the dancer(s), suppose I agree with you in that. I think “comparison” can often be as simple as acknowledgement of rank though… a la, “Although only a soloist, Ballerina X did a superb job in her role as Y, and shows promise” or whatever. I agree with you though, it is sticky territory for us reviewers.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2009 11:51 pm 
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Veronika Part ("Swan Lake")


!!!!! Incredible--Mind Boggling--Brilliant--and Amazing !!!!!


The audience applause after her 'Lakeside' duet with Roberto Bolle was the most supercharged and intense response that I have ever experienced at a stage performance !! Instant and long standing ovation at end of the evening !!


[several minor word changes made]


Last edited by Buddy on Sat Jun 27, 2009 10:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2009 10:01 pm 
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**** Nina's Last Evening At ABT Was Just Lovely ****


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2009 10:42 pm 
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**** Nina Ballerina ****

A Most Lovable and Most Talented Lady


She Performed Beautifully

At the end of the evening there was a standing ovation that lasted about 45 minutes--maybe more !

Each performing Corps de Ballet Swan came out and laid a white rose at her feet.

At her feet were already many flowers that had been thrown to her.

Then many of the other Principals came out one by one and handed her flowers or offered kind words.

Marcelo Gomes bowed at her feet holding his head flat to the ground for several seconds.

Irina Kolpakova, Kevin McKenzie and others were there as well.

At the end of her Odile duet (where she seemed to be having the most fun of her performance) with Angel Corella, she did a running fish dive into his arms just to let the teenagers know that she can keep up with any of them.


Earlier in the day Michele Wiles also had a fine performance with a beautifully lyrical finish.


I hope to be able to tell you more about Nina, Veronika, Michele and others. For the moment I'm on the road again for a few days.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2009 2:10 pm 
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Location: New Jersey
American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
Lincoln Center,
New York, NY
Swan Lake – Nina Ananiashvili Farewell

Unlike most of the ballet world, I was never a 'Nina-person'. Must have been some defect in my upbringing. And although I’ve seen her dance many times, I never got around to seeing her Odette/Odile before tonight. Another personality flaw. But I’m glad I waited: What a way to get introduced!

Nina Ananiashvili’s farewell performance of “Swan Lake,” the last of ABT’s week-long string of performances, was miraculous. She performed one of the best overall performances of Odette/Odile that I’ve seen, even by dancers in mid-career.

I’ve seen Ms. Ananiashvili's swan on DVD, and expected that she would still be able to draw on her experience to pull out a more than adequate Odette for her final performance. But ‘more than adequate’ hardly describes her superlative Odette. Although some steps were omitted, in the context of this performance, they were inconsequential. In every way, her portrayal of Odette had been honed to perfection. And Ms. Ananiashvili's amazingly fluid arms should be tested - they're unreal. Still.

But it was not her Odette that I found most impressive. For me, the dialectic between Odette and Odile is the primary reason “Swan Lake,” as ballet theater, works, and although I’ve seen many superb white swans, if the black swan doesn’t fully captivate me, the performance as a whole loses its edge. And I’m fussy about Odile. For me, she can’t just do the steps and paste a salacious grin on her face – she must be sexy enough, by face, gesture, and steps, to make the temptation impossible for Prince Siegfried to resist. Although I consider Natalia Makarova's overall portrayal of Odette and Odile still to be the most compelling, with respect to Odile it is Birgit Keil, when she danced the role with the Stuttgart in New York many years ago, who set the standard for me: I can’t recall seeing anyone since who danced Odile in a way that replicated her sensuality. Ms. Ananiashvili came close (which, for me, is high praise) – and carried off her portrayal not from appearance or technique (prodigious as it still clearly was), but from nuance and gesture. It was the small stuff that made Ms. Ananaiashvili’s Odile impossible to resist.

And as the Act III pas de deux ended in the crescendo following her strongly executed fouettes, she and her Siegfried, Angel Corella, and Rothbart, Marcelo Gomes, gave the sold out house yet one more reason to remember this particular performance. They concocted an ending to the coda that was so perfectly appropriate for both the ballet and this performance that I can’t believe it hasn’t been done before. Instead of ending the pas de deux with Siegfried, she danced toward Rothbart, who had maneuvered downstage. Rothbart then purposefully, and with sang froid bordering on nonchalance, tossed Odile into the air, and into the waiting arms of the enraptured Prince. The “pas d’occasion” brought the house down – and each of them stood on stage with broad grins on their faces because they had planned that it would, and knew that it would. Though the performance was not yet over, the celebration had officially begun.

This farewell performance was somewhat unlike other recent ABT farewells. There were no tears shed by the retiring ballerina. On the contrary, Ms. Ananiashvili radiated pure joy. After the requisite bows (still always in character), after each corps swan dropped a rose at her feet, after each company principal (almost) presented her with bouquets, and after the conductor, Ormsby Wilkins, presented her with the evening’s baton (after which she moved front stage center and saluted the orchestra with the baton), Ms. Ananiashvili bourreed stage right to stage left in salute of the assembled dancers, who collectively never stopped smiling or applauding. And more flowers. And her elfin daughter, cute as a button. And more flowers. And confetti.

Although this was Ms. Ananiashvili’s night, every dancer on stage was primed, from the corps to the principals. But extra attention must be paid to Mr. Corella, and particularly to Mr. Gomes. Mr. Corella brought a special passion to his performance that went beyond his usual bravura. Mr. Gomes brought…panache. It is impossible to envision anyone who could do a better Rothbart (the dancing one in Kevin McKenzie’s version, not the one in the lizard suit), than Mr. Gomes (even though other performances I saw earlier in the week were very well done). Mr. Gomes was not simply reptilian; he was in total control of his character, the stage, and the audience. And although it came perilously close to being over the top, his portrayal never went quite that far. It was an edgy, daring, and supremely confident performance by a dancer at the top of his game.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2009 11:45 am 
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I just quickly read your latest fine and comprehensive review, balletomaniac, and would like to reread it and offer a few more of my ideas about this 'Enchanted Evening' at another time. Here are some other thoughts for the moment.


Michele Wiles

Once again -- a delightful surprise !

I'd like to mention her first because she was "once again" a somewhat unexpected burst of sunshine.

My focus during my limited time in New York was Veronika Part, from whom I was hoping for something very special, and Nina Ananiashvili, who was giving her farewell performance to finish an historically beautiful career at ABT.

My expectations were rewarded.

Veronika Part was Phenomenal !!

So what was there to wish for after that? -- wonderful performances from Nina Ananiashvili and Michele Wiles. Could it possibly be the same? I will say right now that Veronika Part left an overwhelming impression and that the wonderful effects of Nina Ananiashvili's beautiful and touching evening are increasingly being felt and appreciated. Still a segment of Michele Wiles' performance slipped beyond expectations and left me feeling 'warm all over'.

Several years ago was the only other time that I had seen Michele Wiles in a lead -- another "Swan Lake". Gillian Murphy and Paloma Herrera were there and I was hoping for a lot. They did beautifully. But at one performance there was someone else -- Michele Wiles. Who was she? I was new to ABT.

She was an unexpected dream -- that's who she was ! She was a lyrical gem !

http://www.ballet-dance.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=29399

Several years passed and I recently read an interview with her. She stated that she was trying to modify her style to better express herself.

Her nuancing this time was different. Her moves and expression were more personal, accented and dramatic. It was very interesting and often very successful.

Then came her duet in the last act. For me everything changed. This was the Michele Wiles that I remembered. Her Flow was as Smooth and Lovely as gentle currents of air. Her Poses were the Exquisite Porcelain Statuettes that I loved so much from before.

This was truly a personal voyage for me -- a dream come true ! All the gentle style and beauty that had Enchanted me the first time had reappeared. It was one act at the end of a fine overall effort and it left me once again feeling 'warm all over' -- extremely so !

I wish Michele Wiles the best of success in whatever directions she decides to go.

Thank you so much, Michele Wiles, for this -- for bringing such beautiful memories back to life !


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2009 2:05 pm 
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Just for the record, Alastair Macaulay has extensive praise for Ms. Ananiashvili's farewell performance and overall career in the New York Times:

NY Times


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2009 2:13 pm 
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Thanks, Francis



Veronika Part

"Swan Lake"

So here it is !

I believe that I heard a ballet friend after this performance say that this was....

" A Revolution in Ballet ! "

In any case I will say it myself. This is what it felt like !

What was so special about this particular performance ?


*****


*The Dancer* *Creates* The ****Essence**** of The Existing Work at The Moment of The Actual Performance


*****


** An Existing Work Is Not Just Being Performed -- Its Essential Creation Is Being Accomplished **



Some more thoughts about this hopefully to follow.


[spelling correction made]


Last edited by Buddy on Mon Jun 29, 2009 5:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2009 2:41 pm 
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Buddy -- I didn't see Michelle Wiles's performance. I'm pleased to hear she did so well. I did see Veronika Part (and Diana Vishneva). I'll have more to say about those performances when I have a chance. I was going to do all three in one review, but decided that Nina's farewell should stand on its own.

As for Macauley, even though he usually agrees with me ( :lol: ), I found his overblown evaluation of Michael Jackson to be pandering at its worst.

That ought to prompt a little controversy. 8)


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:55 am 
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Veronika Part

"Swan Lake"


In the same way that Ivanov, Petipa and Tchaikovsky probably used each other's creations to build their own, Veronika Part used their work as the brush and palette to paint her own creation. With all proper respect to their work and intentions, she made this "Swan Lake" her own. With a brilliance of ability, artistry, refinement and agility of body and mind, She Created The Final Reality, The Essential One, that could only have been done by her.

For me this was probably most noticeable in the famous White Swan duet, Act II. Here I sensed that

Her Motion and Her Expression, Her Odette-Odile Character Itself, Were Alive and Creating and What She Was Creating She Was Actually Living !

She was going deep within herself as she somehow composed her own score. It seemed as if she was creating another dimension as she reached beyond, extending the range of possibilities, of ideas and responses, that had never been imagined before.

Reaching out with both her body and her mind to some outer limits, moving from one shape and motion to another, creating new visual worlds, new dynamic realities, she moved sometimes into unknown territory with unknown consequences and brilliantly succeeded in creating her own masterpiece while staying as true as possible to what most of us perceive as the work's essential intent and identity.

For me it is always an adventure to see what ascents she will attempt, where she will most succeed and what elements of exceptional beauty she will reveal.

A quote from Ansel Adams, the famous photographer, that I have referred to before, seems so appropriate to this 'marvel' that Veronika Part presented us. -- "For me a work of art does not cry for comprehension, only for Reaction At The Level Of Art Itself." (my capital letters) ("Ansel Adams An Autobiography", pages 110 and 111, paperback version).

This is how I feel about Veronika Part's presentation. It had to be felt and what really mattered was our response, hopefully at its own level of artistic amazement. This most recent creation was something that really had to be seen to be truly appreciated.

It was Genius and Beauty to Behold !!


[capitalizations in second paragraph and Ansel Adams quote reference added]


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:29 pm 
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I have posted a link to the Alastair Macaulay tribute to Michael Jackson in Dance Miscellany. Please continue the discussion in that thread:

Michael Jackson Tribute


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 5:13 am 
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Veronika Part


A few more quick thoughts

For me an essential to the beauty and genius of Veronika Part is


**** The Way She Moves ! ****


Some other ideas to describe her exceptional talent

agility of presence
aliveness
ability to spontaneously create
powerful inner presence and expression
heart and soul
projection of inner self
control of entire setting
beautiful motion
compelling and credible theatricality
reaching beyond
taking chances -- stretching the normal contexts of physical moves, creating fragile to sustain identities
exceptional display of physical beauty
refinement and grace
total respect for the existing context, the generally perceived intent and identity of the existing work, the established choreography, etc.
selflessness

How well and beautifully she accomplishes all this is where the genius and heart reside.

And please allow me one more superlative from my notes at the time....


" One of The Best Ever ! "


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 2:15 pm 
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Alastair Macaulay reviews the Monday, June 29, 2009 performance of Sir Frecerick Ashton's "Sylvia" for the New York Times:

NY Times


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 Post subject: Diana Vishneva
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 8:23 am 
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Location: New Jersey
American Ballet Theatre
Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Opera House
New York, NY - June 24, July 3, July 6, 2009
Diana Vishneva

What does it take to be the best ballerina in the world?

I’m not sure I know the answer (and I’m certain I haven’t had the opportunity to see every dancer who might qualify, whatever being the ‘best’ might mean). But for me the answer can be found by weighing a combination of somewhat immeasurable factors (technical and dramatic prowess; objective and subjective impression), together with a warm stage persona, incandescent presence, emotional magnetism compelling enough to make the third wall disappear, and stunning artistic versatility, which together would make me want to go anywhere to see her dance.

Had I the time and resources, I would travel the world just to see Diana Vishneva dance.

For now, though, limited as I am to New York, it is sufficient to have witnessed her consecutive dazzling performances during American Ballet Theatre’s current season at the Met. Ms. Vishneva may not be the ‘best’ at each of the diverse roles she has assayed within the past few weeks (Giselle, Odette/Odile, Sylvia, and Juliet – although to me she is the premier current Giselle), but she is undeniably the finest at all of them collectively.

Although I may take issue with Kevin McKenzie’s restrictive casting opportunities for principal roles, there is no denying that one could attend any ABT performance now and nearly always see a superb performance by an extraordinary ballerina, each more successful than the other as measured by certain snapshots in performance time, each one thoroughly meriting the inevitable standing ovations, and each one being an individual and unique triumph. I could wax eloquent, or try to, about many of them – and have. But Diana Vishneva is different. She controls the execution of the steps, the nuances necessary to make her character real, and the performing space around her. But more than that, she controls time.

If there was one role that I considered her weakest (which, of course, is relative), it was Odette/Odile. After seeing her dance the role(s) previously, I felt that she lacked appropriate weight: as good a technician and actress as she was, she still was no swan queen. [By way of comparison, I thought the same about Gelsey Kirkland’s Odette/Odile. I adored everything that Gelsey ever danced – except her Swan Lake was more like Sparrow Pond.] But one benefit of watching a dancer grow over time – even a dancer who is already world class, is to see her overcome perceived deficiencies and through sheer determination and perfectionism prove any naysayer wrong

And so she did with this season’s Odette/Odile. Ms. Vishneva’s overall performance was light years from what I had observed previously. Indeed, during her initial solo in Act II, I thought I was witness to the most amazing Odette I’d ever seen. Of course she executed perfectly, mimed with clarity, and pulled every emotional trigger that could possibly be pulled. But all Odettes at this level do that. Ms. Vishneva did “little” things (little meaning less obvious, rather than not difficult) that carried her performance to a level where superlatives are totally inadequate. A deconstruction of her performance (or any performance, for that matter) cannot sufficiently convey what essentially is an indelible impression, but as an example, Ms. Vishneva did not just lightly come down off pointe, which is what one expects great ballerinas to do: she stretched the time as she lowered her foot from pointe position to the floor so that it seemed to take emotional hours as her foot descended millimeter by millimeter – and she did it every time. Her portrayal was so moving, so exhilarating and exhausting to watch, that it prompted the most deafening hushed silence I’ve ever heard at the Met or any other theatre. The totally bewitched (and very knowledgeable) audience knew it was seeing a performance of historic proportions.

The fact that, in the end, the performance did not, to my objective mind (sometimes – rarely, but sometimes, I can be objective about Vishneva) ultimately achieve perfection doesn’t really matter. At the conclusion of a series of quicksilver diagonal turns at the end of the Act II pas de deux (steps that Nina Ananiashvili omitted from her farewell performance), I saw the floor reach up ever so slightly and nip Ms. Vishneva’s toe shoe, which affected her rhythm for a split second, which affected her concentration such that a second later she missed a step. A 9.9 instead of a 10. Her energy level and focus seemed to diminish a bit after that, and her Odile, improved though it was, wasn’t quite yet in the same galaxy as her Odette. But knowing that Vishneva was merely human was somehow reassuring. And her performance made me wish that Gelsey had tried the role another time in New York.

Ms. Vishneva’s Juliet was near-perfect as well. She is taller than she appears on stage, so there’s more body to move and to be moved as it hurtles through MacMillan’s choreography. But Ms. Vishneva turned this into a performance asset – step after every passion-driven step. She did everything the other great Juliets do – only stronger, more lyrical, and more powerful. At times, I felt as if I were watching a super-sized Alessandra Ferri (for me the quintessential MacMillan Juliet).

Why only near-perfect? Maybe a little too much flailing of her arms – particular before and during The Scream. But she did things I’ve never seen anyone do before. Following the usual ‘not-now-daddy-I-have-a-headache’ in the ballroom-ante-room scene, she made her body go dramatically and incredibly limp (audience laughter at the ‘headache’ turned immediately to gasps). And she executed perhaps the most famous non-movement image in ballet – when Juliet, on the edge of her bed, tries to think of a way to avoid a forced marriage to Paris – with an astonishing blend of subtlety and precision. Not only could one see the light bulb go off in her head as her mind’s eye finally sees what she needs to do (and which is essential to make the scene work), one could observe the idea as it took hold, and watch as the darkness slowly turned to light. And this breathtaking mini-performance occurs with no muscle movement, no eyebrow raising, no head cocking – just from the way her eyes gradually revealed the light emanating from within (again, her ability to stretch time). Absolutely perfect.

But perhaps the most surprising, and most accomplished, portrayal of them all (aside from her Giselle, which I’ve described previously), was her Sylvia. I have a hard time with Ashton’s “Sylvia”: I find it too fussy, too busy, too silly; too “modern” to be classic, and too old-fashioned to be modern -- nowhere near what Ashton had previously created, aided by a somewhat superior libretto, with his incomparable “The Dream.” But with Ms. Vishneva, “Sylvia” came to life.

Forget about the masterful execution of Ashton’s dizzying choreography – again, they all do that. It was her characterization, through her acting and attitude, that made “Sylvia” not only bearable, but thrilling. Ms. Vishneva was no one-dimensional Amazon – she was a vibrant and vulnerable nymph (not to be confused with a sylph). But most of all, her Sylvia enjoyed being a nymph, and Vishneva enjoyed being Sylvia. She was having (or appeared to be having) a blast, and the fun was contagious -- while her other characterizations would grab your heart and not let go, Vishneva's Sylvia tickled it.

Word of Vishneva’s extraordinary Sylvia apparently had spread: clearly it was considered a performance that had to be seen. Not only was the Met filled with balletomanes who postponed their Fourth of July weekend to witness The Event - . Vishneva’s portrayal also was monitored by several ABT ballerinas who themselves do superb Sylvias (and only one of whom might have been there just to watch Vishneva’s partner). Vishneva was that good.

Whether it be tragedy (Juliet), comedy (Kitri)(a prior season), pastiche (Sylvia), Romantic (Giselle); drama (Manon)(again, a prior season); classic (Odette/Odile) – there seems to be nothing that Ms. Vishneva cannot do. Does this make her the best ballerina in the world? I don’t know. But I do know that whenever she is on stage, I hear the siren calling ‘come watch me dance; come dance with me; the best is yet to be’. And I know that I will cherish the memories of her performances for a lifetime.

So whether Diana Vishneva is the best ballerina in the world doesn't mater. What ultimately matters is that, if I could, I would travel the world just to see Diana Vishneva dance


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 3:20 pm 
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In the New York Observer, Robert Gottlieb has very positive things to say about a number of dancers in the ABT Spring Season:

NY Observer


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