Lincoln Center Festival put together a big show this week: a multinational staging of George Balanchine’s 1967 ballet Jewels, with performances by the Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, and the Bolshoi. The contrasts were fascinating, and paradoxically, had the effect of focusing attention on the ballet itself, revealing more clearly than ever why Arlene Croce described it as an “unsurpassedbBalanchine primer, incorporating in a single evening every important article of faith to which the choreographer subscribed”. My review is at DanceTabs.
“Honestly, I just can’t stand seeing productions of the classics any more, because I know how far it is from Petipa’s intentions,” Alexei Ratmansky told me a few months back, when we began discussing preparations for his new Sleeping Beauty, based largely on his interpretation of historical sources. He said many other things too. You’ll find them here, in this extensive q&a.
This time of year, it’s hard to keep up with the goings-on in the dance world (particularly ballet). Here is a round-up of recent performances and news:
1. Herman Cornejo and Evgenia Obraztsova performed a touching rendition of Romeo and Juliet at the Met. It was Obraztsova’s début with the company—here’s hoping this new partnership will blossom in coming seasons. Here is a link to my review, for DanceTabs.
2. New York Theatre Ballet, alias “the little company that could,” held its first season in the sanctuary at St. Mark’s Church, its new home. On the program were works by Frederick Ashton, Richard Alston, David Parker, Antony Tudor, and the young choreographer Gemma Bond. The space fits the company beautifully, and the inclusion of live music (piano and voice) made all the difference. Here’s a link to my review, for DanceTabs.
3. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater closed out the season with a Rennie Harris’s moving Exodus (new this season), Robert Battle’s No Longer Silent (a company première), and, of course Revelations. Here’s my review, for DanceTabs.
4. And finally, Julie Kent gave her final performance with ABT, a finely-etched portrait of Juliet in the well-loved Kenneth MacMillan production. As always with this thinking ballerina, every detail was beautifully distinct. It is difficult to imagine works like A Month in the Country without her.
When I was preparing for an article for Dance Magazine, Doug Fullington, who runs the audience education programming at Pacific Northwest ballet, and I talked about the recent renewal of interest in the use of nineteenth and early twentieth-century ballet notations. Some excerpts of that conversation are here, on DanceTabs.
After a few performances of the Romantic classic Giselle, the Mikhailovsky Ballet moved on to far more original fare: the 1932 Flames of Paris, by Vasily Vainonen. Conceived as a thinly-veiled tribute to the October Revolution, the ballet is a celebration of group action, as represented by the company. The ensembles are as important as the soloists, if not more so. Ditto with “character” (i.e. non-classical) dance. The style ranges from Auvergnat clog-dances to 18th-century court dance to Soviet heroism. The story is rip-roaring, more Scarlet Pimpernel than fairy-tale or reverie. Simply put, it’s great fun, and fascinating to see a ballet in a style we never see nowadays. (Though, in its own way, Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice is not far off.)
Here’s my review, for DanceTabs.
The Mikhailovsky Ballet had its New York début this week in Giselle. Opening night was led by a starry cast: Natalia Osipova and Leonid Sarafanov. Here’s my review of that performance, as well as the one at the following matinée, with Anastasia Soboleva and Victor Lebedev as Giselle and Albrecht. Soboleva is a find.
And some background on the company.
To conclude its Lincoln Center run, the Bolshoi performed its indefatigable Yuri Grigorovich production of Spartacus, the ultimate man-fest. In one sailing trajectory after another, Mikhail Lobukhin, our leading man, was a paragon of Bolshoi manliness and virtue. By the end, you just wanted to kiss him and make it better. Here’s my review for DanceTabs.
And a short excerpt: “It’s perfectly understandable why the company has continued to dance Spartacus over the years, especially on tour….In the absence of a compelling vision, the Bolshoi can always rely on Spartacus to whip the audience into a frenzy.”
I think it’s safe to say that no-one dances Don Quixote like the Bolshoi. The ballet is shallow, it’s showy, but, particularly in the first act, its exuberance is a kind of paean to the art form itself, the joy of the stage, the stirring effect of dozens of bodies moving with the kind of amplitude and produced by years and years of training. Here’s my review of one of the Bolshoi casts, for DanceTabs.
What is it with Swan Lake? There don’t see to be any good ones around. The Bolshoi’s version, currently being performed as part of the Lincoln Center Festival, is no exception. Here’s my review, for DanceTabs. And a short excerpt:
“What the company hasn’t brought this time around is any new choreography. It’s rather a disappointment. Instead, we get three of its most well-worn ballets – Swan Lake, Don Quixote, and Spartacus. It is even more disappointing that the troupe should open its run with a Swan Lake so lackluster that it fails to improve upon the two sub-par Swan Lakes we see here regularly, at ABT and at New York City Ballet.”
Watching four casts of Giselle is like seeing four different ballets—one of the reasons for this ballet’s enduring appeal. Here’s my review, for DanceTabs, of four parings at ABT: Polina Semionova/David Hallberg, Isabella Boylston/James Whiteside, Hee Seo/Alexandre Hammoudi, and Alina Cojocaru/David Hallberg (the latter replacing an indisposed Herman Cornejo).
It’s always exciting to see an unexpectedly gripping début. That was the case with Alexandre Hammoudi at the Saturday matinée. He has the acting chops, the allure, and the amplitude. Now he just has to work on his stamina and polish.