On Nov. 18-19, the Mikhailovsky performed a triple bill, consisting of Petipa’s 1896 one-act La Halte de Cavalerie, Asaf Messerer’s Class Concert, and Nacho Duato’s Prelude. I reviewed the program for DanceTabs. Here’s a short excerpt:
“The idea behind the triptych is to show three aspects of the company’s style: the classicism and character dance of Petipa; the technical pizzazz of mid-twentieth-century Soviet dance, the eccentricities and atmospherics of contemporary movement. None of the pieces is a masterpiece. However, Petipa’s Halte de Cavalerie, made in 1896, is certainly a charmer, a brainless little farce set to forgettable but lively music by the specialist composer Ivan Ivanovich Armsheimer, with lots of pretty dancing and even more clowning around.”
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.)
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.
Last week, ABT had company at Lincoln Center, with Boston Ballet celebrating its fiftieth season across the way at the former State Theatre. Their programs could not have been more different. ABT gave a week’s worth of performances of its tired production of Swan Lake; each year it becomes more clear that it is time for this un-enlightening staging to go. Because of a last minute casting change, I saw Hee Seo and Roberto Bolle in the leads, and reviewed them here.
Meanwhile, Boston Ballet offered eclectic mixed bills—very mixed. I reviewed the second, which included works by Balanchine—a very strong Symphony in Three Movements—and Jiri Kylian (the highly theatrical Bella Figura).
As American Ballet Theatre’s fall season at the State Theatre comes to an end, I put together some thoughts for DanceTabs about some of the seasons’ high points, especially a dramatic performance of José Limon’s Moor’s Pavane (with Roman Zhurbin in the role of the Moor), a very touching Month in the Country, and the return of Piano Concerto #1 from last season.
Here’s a short excerpt: “The Nov. 7 cast of Month in the Country was particularly felicitous. Julie Kent’s portrayal of Natalia Petrovna is touching, unstinting in both her vulnerability – her heart seems to literally skip a beat as Guillaume Côté, the handsome tutor, takes her hands in his – and her histrionic, conniving nature….Gemma Bond, as young Vera, is equally multi-hued, if not quite so profound: sweet and eager in the opening scene, desperate and determined to get her way in her pas de deux with Beliaev, and furiously righteous – as only an adolescent wronged can be – when she discovers Petrovna’s dalliance with Beliaev. Côté, on loan from the National Ballet of Canada, was débuting in the role of the tutor, and yet he seemed to instinctually capture the character’s mix of innocence, heedless sensuality, and ardor.”
There were several débuts in ABT’s Swan Lake this week. I caught two: the soloist James Whiteside (dancing with Gillian Murphy) and Herman Cornejo (alongside Maria Kochetkova, of the San Francisco Ballet). Cornejo danced to the manner born–he was put on this earth to play Siegfried, it seems. The only thing that has kept him back this long is the everpresent problem of finding a partner of his size who dances with the same panache and scale. Originally he was scheduled to perform with Alina Cojocaru, who just retired from the Royal Ballet. But she pulled out at the last minute (because of an injury, they say), and was replaced by Maria Kochetkova. In many ways, Kochetkova is just right for him, though she doesn’t seem to have the same open-heartedness or warmth. But who does?
“Cornejo is in the flower of his career, and it was clear from his first steps on the stage that he was more than ready for the challenge. In fact, it was as if he had been dancing Swan Lake all his life. In the first scene, he flirted boyishly with one of courtiers (Luciana Paris), kissed her hand with budding ardor as if wondering, “could she be the one?” Just as clearly, one could read the disappointment in his eyes. His first-act meditation solo, full of aching arabesques and slow swivels with one leg curving behind him (renversés), was delivered as one long thought: “where is my true love? How will I find her?”
This ambitious new tripartite ballet, set to two symphonies and a piano concerto, all by Shostakovich, had its première at ABT over the weekend. It’s a fine work, sprawling and intense, abstract and full of stories and vivid stage pictures. An huge gift to the company, which shows itself in superb form. Here’s my review for DanceTabs.
And a short excerpt:
“What is most remarkable about the Trilogy is its range, combined with the interweaving of elements from one ballet to the next. Here is a world, Shostakovich’s world as seen by Ratmansky. Each piece has a distinct character, and yet the three clearly come from the same mind, and echo each other in various ways.”
This week, between Cranko’s “Onegin” and the rip-roaring “Don Quixote,” American Ballet Theatre performed a triple bill including Ashton’s late ballet “A Month in the Country.” I saw two casts, with Julie Kent and Roberto Bolle in one, and Hee Seo and David Hallberg in the other. Here’s a link to my review for DanceTabs .
And a short excerpt:
“In forty-five minutes and with the assistance of Chopin (and, indirectly, of Mozart), Ashton has taken the heart of the Turgenev play and turned it into a series of tender miniatures. With great skill, wit, and love, he sews them together (with ribbons) into a portrait of a sentimental married woman experiencing pangs of longing for a young man, but also of her comfortable little world and the emotions that turn it topsy turvy. Russia, by way of the Cotswolds.”
American Ballet Theatre held its spring gala at the Metropolitan Opera House on May 13, kicking off the season. It included the usual mix of excerpts, but also full performances of Balanchine’s Symphony in C and Ratmansky’s Symphony No. 9. You can read my review for DanceTabs here.
And here’s a short excerpt:
“[Students from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and members of the Studio Company] performed…a charmingly formal demonstration of classroom technique (Cortège)… Each dancer had a moment to shine. The students’ port de bras, soft and beautifully shaped, was a particular pleasure. It was funny to see the contrast between this formal demonstration and what followed: a display of just how un-classical today’s dancers can be. I wonder if the faculty shielded the young dancers’ eyes as Ivan Vasiliev tore across the stage like a panther and planted himself behind Xiomara Reyes, placing his hands on her waist with workmanlike focus….Vasiliev is no paragon of elegance, that’s for sure, but his sheer exuberance, and the power of his jumps and lifts, makes him an undeniable presence onstage. No-one does an overhead lift like Vasiliev; he seems to want to propel his ballerina into the stratosphere. If he could dislocate his shoulder to get her even higher, he would.”