Mixed Rep, Feb. 25

New Sleeping Beauty Production for ABT in 2015

Great news for ABT. The New York Times reports the company will celebrate its 75th anniversary with a new production of Sleeping Beauty choreographed by Alexi Ratmansky. The ballet will be based on the production Léon Bakst created for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1921. The work will premier on March 3, 2015 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California and will be a part of the ABT spring Met season in New York. David Koch will underwrite the performance with a $2.5 million matching gift.

I’m not familiar with the Bakst version, but it has to be an improvement over the widely reviled current ABT production, staged by Kevin McKenzie, Gelsey Kirkland, and Michael Chernov. A few quotes from critics: ABT’s more recent production “…is less of an unmitigated disaster than it was at its premier in 2007. But it’s still a mess,” (Alistair Macaulay, New York Times). “Why can’t this company have better taste?” (Sarah Kaufman, Washington Post). “Disneyesque”, “bullhorn-loud”, “toddler tailored” were other words used to describe the ABT version.

I know that Ratmansky is a busy guy, but is he available to choreograph a Swan Lake version for ABT in 2016?

New York City Ballet À La Française: Did We See the Same Performance?

Interesting that reviews of the February 21 New York City Ballet performance by Haglund, Marina Harss, Gia Kourlas of the New York Times and me (see my review in the previous post) are all over the map and reveal the highly subjective nature of dance criticism. The program was À La Française, a tribute to ballets with French composers that featured Acheron, Afternoon of a Faun, Walpurgisnacht Ballet, and La Valse.

Marina and Haglund liked Sterling Hyltin and Craig Hall’s performance in Afternoon of a Faun while Gia though it was flat. Marina: “The revelation of the evening was Afternoon of a Faun, danced here by Sterling Hyltin and Craig Hall. Both have performed it before, but there was something bracingly fresh in their approach, a sense of surprise that peeled away at the ballet’s dewy atmosphere. “

Gia: ““Afternoon of a Faun” was missing that integral ingredient: heat. Craig Hall and Sterling Hyltin were plugged into the right socket — the uncomplicated choreography is meticulously designed — yet there was no electricity.”

There was also substantial disagreement on Walpurgisnacht Ballet; Haglund liked it while Gia did not.

Haglund: “The ballet is filled with technical wizardry including a series of fast pique turns where the working leg slides down the back of the supporting leg which Maria Kowroski so killed last night with her customary ease and calm.”

Gia: “What should have been exciting was full of tentativeness; for one, the silky speed of the crystalline footwork eluded its lead ballerina, Maria Kowroski. In anticipation of the final pose, a wild leap onto Ask la Cour’s shoulder, it was almost as if she were looking both ways before crossing the street. As ballets go, this is not a polite one; it’s like dancing out a fever.”

Also disagreement on Acheron; Haglund liked it while Marina did not.

Marina: “It’s more than a little claustrophobic – the whole ballet feels airless. It is also notably adult, a nightmare vision of co-dependency.”

Haglund: “Liam Scarlett’s Acheron is becoming more and more likable with each viewing.” “Listen, people, go see this ballet, but watch it from the rings – even the side rings are better than the orchestra level.”

On La Valse, Haglund: The performance “…included the charismatic evilness of Amar Ramasar who helped the lovely vision in white, Janie Taylor, into the long black gloves, jeweled choker, and black wrap.”

Gia: “…the more amiable Amar Ramasar needed more gravity as the death figure.”

My thoughts: I liked Acheron and want to see it again taking Haglund’s advice to observe it in the balcony seats; neutral on Sterling and Craig’s performance in Afternoon of a Faun, instead focusing on the plot; really enjoyed Maria’s performance in Walpurgisnacht Ballet; and think that La Valse is dull no matter who dances it.

Four reviewers and four different views. The only thing that we could probably agree on is that we thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

Congressman John Dingell and ABT

I hate to introduce politics into my blog, but here is an interesting political tidbit relating to ABT. In a story on Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell’s retirement:

“His critics called him overpowering and intimidating. And the head of a 500-pound wild boar looking at visitors to his Washington office only boosted that reputation, as did the story behind it: Dingell is said to have felled the animal with a pistol as it charged him during a hunting trip in Soviet Georgia.

Yet the avid hunter and sportsman, whose office was decorated with big game trophies, was hard to typecast. He also loved classical music and ballet — his first date with his wife, Debbie, a prominent Democratic activist whom he affectionately introduced as “the lovely Deborah,” was a performance of the American Ballet Theater.”