Saturday, May 30, 2015

Balletomania: Sleeping Beauty

Alexei Ratmansky's new staging of The Sleeping Beauty was a big deal and cost six million dollars to make.  Was it worth it?  My report from opening night in list form.

The Good

-The Sets.  La Scala co-funded this production with ABT, and the sets were made in their workshop.  Absolutely gorgeous hand painted scrims and wonderful design in general.  Love.

-The Costumes.  Influenced by the 1921 Ballet Russes production, the costumes had beautiful textures and colors.  They were ridiculously opulent, but it's nice to have some razzle dazzle.  I am apparently one of the few people who liked Florine's contrasting blue and orange costume, but I thought it was very painterly looking.  The Prince's bizarre George Washington getup and the Lilac Fairy's sparkly mullet dress were kind of ugly, but most of the costumes worked.

-The Choreography.  Ratmansky sought to reconstruct the original Petipa choreography as closely as possible.  This meant lower arabesques and attitudes, no high passé positions, and things done on demi-pointe instead of pointe.  Some of this was quite beautiful, especially as the longer skirts nicely framed the feet, ankles and calves.  Nice change of pace to not get a bunch of crotch shots with high extensions in pancake tutus!  Some of this style was distracting though, like the chaine turns on demi.

-The Cast.  Overall a very solid cast.  Lots and lots of roles, so I won't go into so much detail.  Gillian Murphy was a lovely Aurora.  The Rose Adagio balances had a few bobbles, but lots of gorgeous moments in general, including the final balance in the Rose Adagio and an amazing backbend balance in the Wedding Grand Pas de Deux.  (As an aside, I feel like she would make a fantastic Odile and now want to see her in Swan Lake.)  Stella Abrera took very well to Ratmansky's style as the Lilac Fairy, but the role didn't have any dancing after the prologue!  Daniil Simkin and  Cassandra Trenary were absolutely wonderful as Bluebird and Florine.  Skylar Brandt was delightful as the Canary.  Marcelo Gomes was fine as the prince...but the role is quite stupid, with only dancing in the last act.

The Bad

-The Narrative.  This story is quite silly!  There is no tension or climax.  The Prince has no obstacles in getting to Aurora.  They should take a note from the Disney version and throw a dragon in or something.

-The Wigs.  Almost everyone had a wig, and almost all of them were bad.

-Audience Behavior.  My fault for buying late and winding up in the Family Circle, but OMG it was a circus.  It is not appropriate to text on your cell phone during the show, ruining my experience of The Vision scene.  When an usher tells you to put your cell phone away, it is not appropriate to get up and crawl over a whole row of people to be able to continue your texting.  It is even MORE inappropriate to crawl back over to your seat!  If you're not watching anyway, you could have waited until intermission.

The Ugly

-The Garland Dance.  Absolutely hideous.  Horrible colors, way too many people and things on stage, boring choreography.

ETA: If you want to read more about the history and inspiration for the production, the NYT had a pretty good article here.

Balletomania: Giselle (Part II)

Part I here.

My second Giselle of the week was Paloma Herrera's Wednesday matinee retirement performance.  Herrera's portrayal of the character was very different but lovely to watch nonetheless.  Her technique was on full display, and she was completely secure and effortless in her jumps, balances and turns.  Her hops on pointe were on point indeed (haha!).

In the first act, she was more coquettish than shy.  She reminded me a bit of a high school prom queen...but I guess Giselle is the Harvest Queen!  The acting was slightly less naturalistic, but she communicated the narrative effectively.  In the second act, she was more earthly than ethereal, flesh and blood than ghostly, but there were still many moments of great beauty.  Herrera was partnered by Roberto Bolle.  I found his portrayal of Albrecht more standard, but his partnering was lovely.  He showcased all of Herrera's gifts, and the second act lifts were absolutely gorgeous.  His entrechat were also audience member counted 38.

Myrtha was portrayed by Devon Teuscher, who is a lovely dancer but was not particularly Myrtha-ish.  She was not regal, or cold, or intimidating, or anything really. Skylar Brandt was wonderful in the Peasant Pas de Deux, gracefully skillful.  It was a nice reminder that this PDD is not just a chore to endure, like Copeland's Saturday performance was.

This performance was amazing, but there were to be more memorable moments after!  After taking multiple curtain calls, Herrera tried to give her first bouquet to Bolle rather than the traditional single flower.  After some back and forthing, she laid the flowers at Giselle's grave, which I thought was very symbolically touching.  She then received flowers from members of the company present and past.  It was quite cute when the corps filed in to each lay a single stem at her feet.  There was a mountain of flowers at her feet by the end of it, and confetti showering down from above!  It took about 40 minutes to get through all of it, but it was very emotional to see a great ballerina's farewell.

I really have gone ballet crazy this season.  Stayed tuned for a report on the opening night of sleeping beauty!  I promise I will return to my normally scheduled entries about doing ballet rather than seeing ballets soon.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Balletomania: Giselle (Part I)

Giselle has always had a special appeal for me.  When I was young, I had this book about ballet and horseback riding. (Masquerade at the Ballet, it's amazing and will get its own post one day!)  The main character sees Giselle as her first ballet, and it is what sets her on her hijinks filled path to becoming a dancer.  When I saw my first ballet a few years ago, Giselle was the obvious choice.  I still remember that evening with Diana Vishneva dancing the title role.  This week, in my slow descent into balletomania, I saw two very special performances of Giselle by ABT.  Here is my account of the first.

On Saturday night, Stella Abrera performed as Giselle with ABT for the first time.  Abrera, a soloist with the company, is a favorite with the balletomane crowd, who often complain about her lack of promotion.  When it was announced about a week ago that she would be replacing an injured Polina Semionova, people on the internet went nuts!  The audience on Saturday reflected this, with a warm generous excitement in the air.  There were a bunch of ABT former dancers watching as it was Alumni Night, and apparently a few NYCB dancers crossed Lincoln Center to support her as well.

Abrera danced the role beautifully.  She was so convincingly girlish and fragile in the first act and yearning and ethereal in the second.  She was gorgeously Romantic in her style and her port de bras.  While there were some things that weren't technically brilliant (the hops on pointe were only okay), her portrayal of the character and emotions was flawless.  The mad scene at the end of Act I was gripping, I felt her descent into madness so keenly.

Partnering Abrera was Maarinsky guest artist Vladimir Shklyarov, who you may remember I was not very fond of in Swan Lake earlier this year.  I must say my opinion has been completely turned around.  He was brilliant as Albrecht on Saturday.  His depiction of the character was subtle and nuanced.  Frankly, I have always thought of Albrecht as an undeserving cad.  Shklyarov's portrayal made me see him as a tragic figure, a victim of circumstance.*  Shklyarov's dancing was also technically incredible.  His entrechat in the second act were epic.

He and Abrera were completely in sync and played off of one another wonderfully.  Their jumps together in act one were perfectly matched, with lovely ballon.  Their moments together were soft and tender.  I believed in their love.  Abrera's second act slow developpé had me in tears, and the partnered third arabesques were beyond gorgeous, with her arms touchingly emotive in their reach.

Myrtha is one of my favorite ballet roles and her second act entrance bourrées across the stage in a veil is one of my favorite things in life.  Veronika Part played the part with a commanding presence, but her dancing did not particularly stand out to me.  I thought the two soloist Wilis were quite good, and the corps were noteworthy as well.

Misty Copeland in the Peasant Pas de Deux was the only miss of the night for me.  She felt very clunky (maybe because her shoes were ridiculously loud), and her port de bras did not look right.  This section really dragged and the response was less than enthusiastic.

The night clearly belonged to Abrera and Shklyarov (with numerous curtain calls to boot), and it was a magical performance that I will not soon forget.

* (As an aside, funnily enough, I usually feel sorry for Hilarion, but in this performance (Thom Forster) my friend and I realized that he is a classic Nice Guy (TM) in a bro who feels entitled to a relationship because he's nice to a girl.)

Friday, May 22, 2015


So back in the day, frappés would definitely have been on my list as a movement I don't like to do.  However, I've actually grown to become quite fond of them.  I find it fun when my teacher says to do them again while telling the pianist to go faster.  Doubles go great.  I now enjoy their precision and speed.

But!  Sometimes a teacher will throw something new into a frappé combination and it all goes haywire.  For example, one time FBT asked for one count held at the ankle.  Sounds simple enough, but most of my teachers usually have us hold in the extended position (if there is a hold), so I was fighting my muscle memory the whole time.

This week, I skipped out on Other Movement on Wednesday to take ballet because this teacher was subbing and I wanted to take the class.  For frappé, he had us doing them from WRAPPED sur le cou-de-pied for avant.  Wrapped!  We normally do flexed.  How the heck are you supposed to get around your ankle from wrapped to strike the floor?  I did not really figure it out.

Interestingly enough, I once read that sur le cou-de-pied and frappé are the things that vary most from school to school.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dance Parade!

I did a little performance with Other Movement studio for an event in conjunction with NYC Dance Parade.  It was a really wonderful experience for a lot of reasons.  But it was especially amazing to see people of all ages, sizes and abilities dancing!  Sometimes it is really easy to get caught up in a lot of stress and anxiety about being good enough...this was a good reminder that dance is FUN.

Hoping to remember that and take some of that joy with me to class this week.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Blame Game

My pirouettes sucking this week was totally because of the humidity making the floor sticky, right?


("Yeah right" is more like it.)

Monday, May 11, 2015


New beginner girl comes into ballet class at Other Movement studio.

No movement background, can't do a tendu, etc.

But when the teacher gets her to actually point her foot...BAM, gorgeous arch and instep.

I tell her after class that I hate her because I'm jealous.

Joking...mostly.  ;)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Movements I Like / Movements I Don't Like (To Do)


Movements I Like To Do

-Anything adagio.  I have decent extensions.

-Grand battement.  I like the release in the hips (now that I don't grip!).

-Balancing in sous-sus.  So pulled up, so aligned!

-Tendu.  Is there anything better than a really well articulated tendu?  So basic and perfect.

-Big grand allegro jumps .  It is like flying!  I like the reach of them.

-Bourrées en pointe.  Like being a revenge spirit in Giselle.

Movements I Don't Like To Do

-Anything petite allegro.  Fast and precise is hard.  My foot brain connection is slowwwww.

-Especially little jumps.  Stupid fast little jumps. :-|

-Turns.  Boo, hiss.  Some people are natural turners.  I am jealous if you are one.

-Balancing on one leg.  Probably why pirouettes are hard.  My weight doesn't stay forward enough.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mark Morris at BAM

Life is getting a bit intense, but here is something about a performance I saw last week...

I don't know a lot about modern dance, but I've always liked Mark Morris's style from what I've seen.  So when there were still decent tickets to the Sunday matinee on Saturday night, I snatched them up for me and the boyfriend.

Program B began with "Crosswalk."  This piece was humorous and felt very natural and easy.  Maybe because of the beautiful spring day, the boyfriend said the dancers were like flowers blowing in the wind.  I very much saw why Morris is often praised for his musicality.  The movements really did embody the music.  Like, there were points where I thought, "Of course you have to move that way to that music.  It is the only thing that makes sense!"

The second piece, "Jenn and Spencer"was more somber, illustrating a couple's fluctuating relationship.  It was impressive how the movements reflected the music and a deeper emotional content so well.  There was a gorgeous moment where one dancer was on the floor, and the other did a slow promenade over her.  And then the roles in this movement were reversed later on.

The final and longest work was "Spring, Spring, Spring," Morris's take on "The Rite of Spring."  Instead of the traditional music, the score was interpreted by a jazz trio, the Bad Plus.  I have always loved the Stravinsky score, and I quite liked this version of it.  As for the dancing, I have to agree with other reviews that say it was a bit too contained and pretty.  Morris apparently didn't want to do a ""Rite" in the tradition of all the violent ones, which I guess just feels sort of weird to me as that is my primary association with the music (having seen bits of the Pina Bausch and Martha Graham ones on video).

 I also did not like the costumes for the male dancers in "Spring, Spring, Spring."  They had on these tight colorful pants on with no shirts (very American Apparel).  Combined with the women dressed in tie dye dresses and everyone wearing flower garlands in their hair, it felt a bit like a scene out of Coachella!

There were several moments that were very beautiful though.  My favorite was when they stood in three lines holding hands, and interweaved themselves moving forwards and back.  I also liked this motion they did, crossing their arms over their heads.  I felt that was ominous and was more in line with a "Rite."

Overall a lovely afternoon.