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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Still Loyal to the Royal

Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae, photo by Andrea Mohin

It used to be that the Royal Ballet's tours to the U.S. were guaranteed sell-outs and their stars had rabid followings across the pond. Margot! Rudi! Sibley and Dowell! Lynn Seymour! Their versions of the "classics" were considered superior to any American company's. This was true even 10 years ago -- I remember the last time the Royal Ballet toured NYC it played at the Metropolitan to packed houses. They presented a wonderful tribute to Ashton ballets, and several ballerinas on their roster were internationally acclaimed dancers (Alina Cojocaru, Darcey Bussell, Sylvie Guillem, Tamara Rojo). I remember seeing, among others, Syvlie Guillem in Marguerite and Armand, and absolutely beautiful The Two Pigeons by the Birmingham National Ballet, and Symphonic Variations.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Romeo and JULIET

Photo by Nigel Norrington
Evgenia Obraztsova was only 19 when she performed her first Romeo and Juliet at the Mariinsky. She was an instant sensation. It's not hard to see why. She looks like the Juliet of your dreams -- the huge saucer eyes, the radiant smile, the flowing Renaissance locks. For several years she seemed to be on a path to becoming a Mariinsky prima ballerina -- she was given roles in reconstructions of Ondine, The Awakening of Flora, and Shurale. I saw her in Little Humpbacked Horse and Symphony in C when the Mariinsky toured the U.S. about four years ago. She was adorable.

But then ... the roles stopped. Why this happened, no one knows. In 2013 she finally left the Mariinsky for good and became principal at the Bolshoi Ballet. The Bolshoi Ballet doesn't currently have a Romeo and Juliet in its repertoire so chances to see Obraztsova in her signature role are big events indeed.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sleeping Beauty, Take 3

Diana Vishneva, photo by Gene Schiavone
I caught the final Sleeping Beauty in ABT's highly successful run. Alexei Ratmansky's new-old Sleeping Beauty has no doubt been the box office hit of the season -- today's performance was completely sold out (I stood). And I'm glad, because this performance was (overall) the best performance of the run. Saving the best for last, if you will.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sleeping Beauty, Take 2

Photo by Rosalie O'Connor
Last night I saw a second cast of Alexei Ratmansky's much-talked about Sleeping Beauty. And again, I was amazed at how Ratmansky demanded (and got) all the ABT dancers to drop their usual dancing instincts and to dance his way. Again, you noticed the lower free leg in passé, the chaine and pique turns in demi-pointe, the very specific, rounded, modest épaulement, the low extensions in developpé, attitude, and arabesque, and the lack of overhead lifts. The mime was all there, meticulously articulated by Carabosse (Nancy Raffa), the King and Queen (Victor Barbee and Kate Lydon), and Catalbutte (Alexei Agoudine). All this could never have happened without much rehearsal time, coaching, and a strong artistic vision. And for that, I thank Ratmansky.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Midsummer's Night Dream - Exciting Debuts

A Midsummer's Night Dream has become the traditional way to close the NYCB's spring season. Because the ballet requires so many moving parts (a huge cast of soloists, the entire corps de ballet, plus a large contingent of SAB students) sometimes casting for this ballet can be a bit stale. If it ain't broke, why fix it?

Thus, there was a bit of a shockwave when casting for MSND and cast as Titania in the final performance of the season was one Miriam Miller, who is not even a corps de ballet member yet. She's only an apprentice. The final performance of the season suddenly became a hot ticket, as everyone was curious about Miriam Miller.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

La Bayadere Brought to Life

Photo by Gene Schiavone
There are certain performances where you go in with low or no expectations. I've sort of come to accept ABT's La Bayadere as a weak-tea version of Petipa's grand ballet. The corps formations in the Kingdom of the Shades are simplified, the variations are often a mess, and sometimes even the biggest stars can't keep the flame alive. I wasn't even planning on attending last evening's performance of La Bayadere. It was a last minute decision.

Well, despite many faults, I ended up liking this performance way more than I expected. Credit goes almost completely to Alina Cojocaru, the tiny, waiflike dancer whom I saw in this role more than 10 years ago. 10 years later, Cojocaru has suffered injury after injury, and you can sometimes tell with her occasionally shaky pirouettes and balances. But it's remarkable how much Cojocaru still has to offer in this role.