Sarah Lane had a great debut on such short notice schedule change. Swan Lake is the hardest ballet for a female dancer testing both her strength and acting abilities.
Heads up: I'm premiering Odette/Odile on Thursday evening alongside @daniil with @abtofficial 😊 It is an unexpected honor to be a part of the beauty that is created every show by the amazing #dancers of #abt ❤️ #odette #corpsdeballet #swanlake Photo by @daniil
A post shared by Sarah Lane (@sarahlaneps103) on
Sarah Lane had a great debut on such short notice schedule change. Swan Lake is the hardest ballet for a female dancer testing both her strength and acting abilities.
This Afternoon’s performance of ABT’s Swan Lake contained an exciting debut by Devon Teuscher as Odette. There was plenty of good notice from her debut a few months ago in DC.
A post shared by Sarah Lane (@sarahlaneps103) on
FIRST TIME EVER // ✨Tonight @skylarbrandt made an extraordinary last minute debut as "Medora" in Le Corsaire alongside incredible "Conrad" @hermancornejo ✨ Fun Fact: Sky was asked to learn the role on Friday! 😳#BRAVI | photo: @patrickfrenette
A post shared by American Ballet Theatre (@abtofficial) on
Last week, when I learned that Skylar Brandt would substitute for an injured Maria Kochetkova in Le Corsaire, I had to buy a ticket. This news generated a lot of excitement in ballet fan circles that I haven’t seen in regards to ABT in quite some time. The production cast was top rate and all performed fabulously.
It was an exciting afternoon performance of Giselle today. There were three major debuts: Sarah Lane as Giselle, Daniil Simkin as Albrecht and Christine Shevchenko as Myrta.
I honestly hesitated about buying a ticket for this ballet even with all the good notices for its opening a few months back in California. Finally I broke down and purchased a last minute ticket to the Gala Premiere. Yes, I was out of place but I wasn’t the only one. The two good things about Gala performances are that you are present for world premieres of new ballets AND it starts early (ending early). Tonight, the first thing was the ballet. However the second thing didn’t work out. There were so many speeches. So many Grandmaster Brahmin PooBahs patting themselves on the back for giving to the Art. Meanwhile the Board is busy filling up the dance roster with the also rans and the reason why they really donate money is because it gives them fancy Gala dinner parties where they can show off their fancy wear. Not to mention seeing their own names in various places in the playbill as donators, board members and dancer patrons. Sigh. Whatever. I suppose I should be a bit grateful because it does keep the company running, there are still good dancers in the ranks and the tickets (even to the Gala) are relatively cheap. Definitely cheaper than the average Broadway ticket. So count the small blessings.
Whipped Cream is filled with whimsical costumes and scenery courtesy of Mark Ryden. It was very easy on the eyes even though the storyline was a bit twisted and nightmarish. But I loved it, from the children dancers dressed as petit fours to the big yak. Most of the female dancer costumes were truly the most gorgeous tutus I’ve ever seen in a ballet. But then there was a big corps number where all seemed concerned that they didn’t want to mimic the Nutcracker snowflake scene. So the costumes were just white unitards with a tulle sheet thrown over the Corps heads. Those costumes were a total washout. But the rest were fabulous.
Ratmansky is hit or miss in terms of choreography. I do like the risks he takes. I do like that he is a great choreographer for men. This is rare because so much of ballet is geared toward female dancers. But Ratmansky has very uneven female choreography. Sometimes it seems that unless he really admires a particular female dancer, he just uses the same kind of choreography that he uses for men. Figuring one size fits all. But one size definitely does not fit all when it comes to male and female bodies. Fast petit allegro interspersed with elongated jumps, looks perfect on male bodies. It shows off their powerful long leg muscles beautifully and the ballon they can generate (higher than females) in their jumps. The same choreography on women looks very “My Pretty Prancing Pony”. Women don’t have powerful looking muscles. Most female dancers have long spindly legs topped off with little pointe shoes and the prancing makes them look cutsey tootsy, There was a lot of kewpie doll madness from the females in this ballet. But I must say, the ballet is a zany, hallucinatory adventure perhaps that was just the style the female choreography needed. That didn’t stop it from being a bit maddening at times. The movement was incessant, there was always something going on like a circus show. Sometimes it was exhausting to keep up with it all.
Stella Abrera looked beautiful and bright. Her choreography was a bit too busy. I wished there were moments of rest to lengthen her line. However her male partners all danced fabulously. David Hallberg as her chosen suitor was fantastic. Joseph Gorak (maturing very nicely style wise) and Blane Hoven as her admirers were also very personable. The story of the ballet was rather thin. The main character was a boy who gets sick at cake shop and hallucinates about being King of Candy land. However Abrera, Hallberg, Gorak and Hoven’s dance section really didn’t relate that much to the main story. It was closer to divertissement than pushing dramatic content. The Corps dancer that stood out was Katherine Williams as one of Princess Tea flower’s (Abrera) attendants. She had a bright smile and a petite spritely form. She made much of the petit allegro and it looked good on her.
Daniil Simkin and Sarah Lane were the true main leads. Simkin was great both dancewise and actingwise. But in the past I’ve suspected that he likes to add character work in whatever ballet he dances in. Which is why I suspect he wasn’t happy about that Tharp ballet he moped around in a few seasons back. I was surprised to discover how much chemistry he has with Sarah Lane. They looked good together both were simpatico with the slightly off balance humor of the second act. I think Lane is one of the dancers that Ratmansky genuinely likes. Her choreography was not as manic as the rest of the female cast. There was some breathing room here and there for her. I hope both Simkin and Lane get the kudos they deserve for being the original cast in this ballet. Also the momentum they have created is sure to carry over into their combined Giselle debuts this coming weekend. I really, really hope the company lets this partnership grow. So many times when Lane begins to get a vibe going with one of her partners, she is ripped away from that partner and shoved into the arms of someone new. Another standout in the ballet was Skylar Brandt as one of Lane’s attendants. I wish I could see her interpretation of the lead role. But alas there is no time.
This ballet is very enjoyable and while it isn’t a heavyweight drama, it is a lighthearted story ballet. And there are so few new story ballets being created today.
Of course, I had to give in to the hype and watch the renewed Twin Peaks.
I am glad to say that I was not disappointed. The show still had the roots of the story but Lynch has expanded his story universe. In fact, it seems now that little Twin Peaks was just the genesis of something altogether different. Lynch won a score by turning his seminal TV show into a Prequel!
We follow action around the U.S., apparently Evil Cooper has been very busy. The real Cooper is still stuck in the other world having nonsensical conversations with spirits, demons and angels. That was the key story line, everything else? I really couldn’t say. Lynch style was in abundance but it lacked the gonzo humor that he once had as a younger man. I’m not saying he has lost his sense of the absurd, what I am saying is that he now has a tighter control over it. He releases it carefully. In fact this new version of Twin Peaks harks back to Eraserhead more than it does Wild at Heart or even the original show. We do get some funny moments but these are not really bizarre. They are in fact entirely real life reactions and actions. This is good because when Lynch does show the supernatural it is all the more shocking and frightening. I also think this restraint was imposed because everyone in Hollywood has cribbed the man’s notes in the intervening years. Everything from True Detective to Stranger Things has that old Lynchian look and vibe. He probably decided, rightly, to switch up his game and throw curve balls.
Since the show was very controlled in tone humor wise, this led to a refined sense of dread that hung over the first two new episodes. Even when there was nothing frightening to behold. The camera angles were awkward, some shots were held too long or too short, character reactions were a bit too slow or too fast, there was a strange, almost industrial ambient whine in the background of many scenes. All of this added to a extreme sense of discomfort. That the whole of the world inside this story is askew and just plain wrong because of evil Cooper’s presence.
In terms of actors, it seems Lynch has cast (in addition to his originals) almost every Indie scene actor that he has admired over the years from Jennifer Jason Leigh to Matthew Lillard. Matthew Lillard! If anyone was perfect for a Lynch film, he was it. It is amazing that it has taken this long for them to work together. Most of the main characters were in their mid-30s and up. I can’t say what a joy it was to watch adults carrying the story. Yes, Lynch did cave to the “younger demographic” that the entertainment suits love so much. But in true twisted humor, they get taken care of very early in the series. It felt as if Lynch was given a list from the powers that be, he checked them off within the first 45 minutes of the show, then threw it away. As if to say, “DONE! Now lets get out back to the adults!”
All in all, I’m intrigued and I can’t wait for the next episodes to unfold. The premiere promises drollness and dread in enormous amounts.
So as the few people who read my blog know by now, I’m a horror fan. So, naturally, I’ve been a fan of Richard Strauss’ Salome since I was a teenage music student. There is nothing like it in the opera world, seriously creepy, gorgeous, lush, and rotten. It is a production sure to invoke discussion. Mainly on how far Opera houses will wade into the muck and emphasize the Grand Guignol. Will the opera diva playing Salome dance the “Dance of the 7 Veils” herself or will they pull in a body double?
Despite being a lifelong fan of the work, I never saw it on stage until today. Did I like it? Yes! It appealed to my inner teenager very much. However, this production did suffer from small voices. Now, to be fair…Strauss is a hard nut to crack. He is up there with Wagner pushing huge orchestral sound. In fact many times, I couldn’t help thinking that the orchestral score was the main attraction and the singers were there as superfluous sweetness sprinkled on top of an already too rich ice cream sundae. Still, it struck me as a sad that the MET couldn’t pull in Wagner level vocalists to perform this opera justly.
The singers who held up well were Kang Wang as Narraboth and Gerhard Siegel as Herod. Kang is still young, I think his voice has a few years to mature. But he filled the house with a good amount of voice. Siegel, being German, used his native language to great effect, shading his voice with a lot of intonation which cut through the orchestra. Everyone else was lost at sea in a huge, stormy and dramatic orchestral wave. Patricia Racette was an extremely beautiful and madly entitled Salome. It was just unfortunate that she doesn’t have the voice to power through the orchestra. She acted up a storm and made the character real not a cartoon villain. I think the part of her performance that was the most frightening was not when she was singing to John the Baptist’s head but when she kicked the hand of Narraboth from her leg as he was dying. Her dance scene was deceivingly tame until at the end it turned into a true strip tease with full nudity. The audience was silently shocked with the exception of a few nervous laughs.
The stage set was a bit odd. The time period was more “modern”, set some time in the 1930s or 1940s. The MET gave its spareness its own brand of lushness with opulent period clothing for the cast and lovely stage lighting.
The star of this performance was truly conductor Johannes Debus. He understood the score, its fallen romance, madness, bombast, and debauched evil. The Met orchestra responded wonderfully to his direction pushing itself to virtuosity and hitting all the right highs and lows in the score.
A good production all things considered, but it would have been better with bigger voices involved.
I did catch the matinee performance of ABT last Saturday and it was definitely a mixed bag.
Monotones 1 was still a bit uneven. This time the cast consisted of Daniil Simkin, Sarah Lane and Misty Copeland. To my relief, Copeland wasn’t that distracting. Although I still wish she would hammer her shoes better because she is still stomping around the stage. She definitely gave a better performance than Boylston last year. The upper body work was better all around, but there was a lot of wobble from both Copeland and Lane. Which surprised me. There seemed to be some hesitation. Simkin was very good but it seemed almost too easy for him. However it is important to note that this is Simkin’s second year performing this piece. He had an extra year to hone his performance unlike Lane or Copeland who both debuted in this ballet.
Having a year to think about choreography and transitions did a world of good for Veronika Part, Corey Stearns and Thomas Forster in Monotones II. Part is now perfect in this role, in fact a definitive version for future comparison. She has managed to hit all the notes in the steps with fluidity that was absent last year. I noticed in the opening manipulated spins, she just did a flicker of the opening pose not a full out unfolding of her limbs. This achieved the proper form and didn’t slow her down or stymy her partners. Last year I frequently saw Forster and Stearns confused as to what to do with Part’s long limbs. It was as if they were wrestling with a Daddy Long-Legs spider. This also enhanced the moments when she did stretch out and accentuated the echoing poses by Forster and Stearns. The males were more classical in their dancing this year than last and there was no pushing to make the choreography more than what it is. Forster in particular looked wonderful. I also noticed how good he looked paired with Part. He partnered her effortlessly. He is tall enough that he makes Part look petite and delicate. I kept wishing that they would be paired together in Swan Lake. What a performance that would be!
Her Notes was just ok. I didn’t think it was terrible nor was it very good. Stella Abrera was clearly the star of the ballet and she danced beautifully as always. There were enough people on the stage that I was able to ignore Isabella Boylston’s broken wrists and witch claws. Well, heck, it was Halloween season after all. Sarah Lane did the most with her own small part. She was originally paired with Luciana Paris who was replaced by Corps dancer Jamie Kopit. However Lane and Kopit didn’t make a good fit partner wise. Kopit was taller and more robust looking dancer over Lane. So when they danced together it looked a bit Mutt and Jeff. I was very impressed with another corps dancer Katherine Williams who looked beautiful onstage and dancer extremely well.
The choreography on the whole was a modern mess. It was not Classical, not Neo-Classical or even Modern dance. It was just a hodgepodge of everything. I really wish contemporary choreographers would pick a style and stick to it. If you want to choreograph free form, why use ballet dancers when modern dancers would perform better? If you are going to use ballet dancers use their dance step syllabus which they spent the greater part of their lives learning. The costumes were just drab, drab with washed out pastel colors. And of course, no tights. I wish I could understand this war against tights for women. The tights serve a purpose. They help extend the look of dancer limbs. I really just hate seeing bare legs now. It isn’t attractive on stage.
Prodigal Son was almost good. But I definitely preferred the PNB version earlier this year. The PNB dancers were more into the acting part of the ballet and also emphasized the percussive dance elements. The male corps were more unison, more alien and more frightening even demonic. The ABT dancers just looked like young boys in Halloween costumes. I just didn’t buy them as a group of mafioso type thugs. Jeffrey Cirio has good technique and looked beautiful. But this role requires more rawness, more anger and self entitlement. Cirio just comes across as the boy next door, goody two shoes who one day walks down one more block away from home. But he definitely has room to grow as an actor.
Unfortunately Hee Seo was horrifically miscast. She wasn’t tall enough for the role nor did she have the presence for it. The Siren requires a female dancer who can be intimidating, imperious and even frightening. She has to look as if she could pull the Prodigal apart limb from limb on her own even without her back up thugs. Seo just looked young and kittenish. Like a girl playing dress up in her mother’s clothing. What was even worse is that Cirio towered over her even when she was on pointe. This ruined many of the iconic dance moments. I don’t know who in ABT is convinced that Seo is a Balanchine dancer but they are sadly deluded. Balanchine choreography just doesn’t serve her well. She isn’t fit for it. I wish they would move her on to things that showcase her better not push up her shortcoming.
All in all, it looks as if ABT is on a good road to promoting its own dancers. It can only get better. But a rough spots on the road are to be expected. But I think they have it all going now and need to be patient to wait for their dancers to grow and develop.
Well, yet another Mozart opera and yet another production showcasing middling singers.
The original Westworld film was one of my spine chilling favorites as a child. Who could forget the relentless Yul Brenner chasing down Richard Benjamin through the wild west straight back to medieval world than roman world. It was such a low, trashy, grind house,sci-fi sploitation funhouse that James Cameron decided to remake the last half hour and call it Terminator. So when I heard that it was being remade as a TV series I was disappointed. They were going to take something that never took itself seriously and turn it into a high concept SERIOUS project.
Yes, they have BUT they kept to the origin spirit. So it is a series that looks good, looks fancy but underneath it is still a trashy, eerie, grind-house sci-fi splotation. In fact they have expanded on the story even acknowledge the previous film but not top it.
Now, the series doesn’t jump into the main story line that consists of Richard Benjamin’s original character. Instead it spends some time introducing the viewer to the Westworld “Hosts” or androids and the Westworld employees. Right away we see that management are opposed to one another. The head manager just wants a glorified DisneyWorld, the narrative manager wants something as sleazy as possible, the technicians behind the magic are just fascinated with their creations. None more so than Anthony Hopkins’ Dr. Ford. Ford keeps adding odd bits of programming, pushing the self-awareness factor. Maybe he has pushed it too far. Because the hosts are starting to exhibit little ticks and ignore their narratives. We also see the main techs starting to favor some of the hosts; Ford mourns for decommissioned androids, Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard Lowe has taken a fatherly interest in genesis robot, Dolores (played by Evan Rachel Wood).
Of course, the series is part of the whole Alchemical, Singularity, MKultra story themes that are so popular in culture today. The robots are controlled by key phrases. They each have their own handler. There are motifs of mirrors and memories. The show goes crazy referencing all the most popular robot films from the 70s such as The Stepford Wives and Demon Seed.
What seems to be the theme in this iteration of Westworld is love against violence. The first robot to rebel or come into awareness is Dolores’ Father. We eventually discover some chilling background information about him. But it also adds weight to his words that everything he is at the moment, the reason for his changed personality, the reason for his whole being is Dolores. It seems that the story about his “love” for his daughter has become all too true and his foremost thought is to save his daughter from “Westworld”. It seems that the father may have discovered a key phrase that will save his child.
Dolores is a very engaging character, ever friendly and optimistic even when the worst horrors are visited upon her due to story lines or guest crimes. As each day drags out (about 6 in the first episode), we the viewers begin to get worn down from bad ends that Dolores meets even though she can’t remember. It makes you wonder how the Westworld employees deal with all the havoc the guests enact upon their characters. How do you deal with the rape, murder and other violence? We get hints from past stories/worlds that stories included cannibalism, sexual abuse, genocide and more. Even more horrific, children androids are also present in Westworld. In a world where human guests get to enact their most violent fantasies….well it is enough to make you sick that this world doesn’t even turn away those crimes. Because it is always real, my friends. The human brain does not differentiate. And allowing your most violent impulses out makes it that much easier to seek out the same in “regular’ life.
During the second episode we get further information about Westworld. It seems to consist of above and below ground levels. The guests take trains to the park. The timeline seems to be in an indeterminate future but definitely at least 100 years from now considering the advanced technology. We are not aware yet of how much of Westworld is real and how much is virtual reality. When the original Richard Benjamin character arrives we just get a quick glimpse of how guests enter the park.
On the whole, I like the series. It is a creepy delight, a perfect pastime for the Halloween season.