Thursday, November 29, 2012

Apparently all it takes to be a principal at ABT is a twitter account and a trampoline

So Daniil Simkin was promoted to principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre today.  I know many of you out there simply love him (and you may not want to continue reading this post), but for me, he borders on unwatchable in anything other than a gala solo, and even then I wouldn't pay just to see it.

I'm not surprised, but still extremely disheartened that the powers that be felt it fitting to promote to principal a dancer who is arguably the weakest partner in the entire company.  I hold my breath every time he goes into a lift or assisted turn, as I'm sure do his battle-weary partners. (Poor Sarah Lane).  Of all the things to be weak at, it's incomprehensible to me that Simkin does not take the initiative to improve his skills and learn directly from two of the world's strongest partners, Marcelo Gomes and Roberto Bolle (and I've heard this to be the case from sources who would know).  He's clearly self-motivated enough to be the leading ballet dancer tweeter and media master, so why not this?

He frustrates me more for his bravado and lack of respect for his ballerinas than for his dancing itself, though to quote a knowledgeable balletomane friend of mine, this promotion is "really rather disgusting.  Especially after City Center, where he killed Stars & Stripes, and not in a good way."    Changing choreography to add more gasp-inducing jumps is one thing, but doing it when the lifts are shaky and the assisted turns painful to watch is just unforgivable. In one performance of The Leaves are Fading, I even saw Mr. Simkin fail to lift Stella Abrera the mere 6 - 9 inches off the ground in an easy lift.  Her feet didn't seem to leave the floor.  Get the basics right and THEN add your flare. For example, I don't personally love watching Ivan Vasiliev either, but that is because of his arms mostly, and I have a good deal of respect for him as he seems to be a devoted and attentive partner and willing to learn.   And did anyone complain that Ethan Stiefel's jumps as Ali in Le Corsaire were ever too low or unexciting?  Based on his farewell performance I can't imagine that would be the case.  However, Stiefel had control and exceptional partnering in his bag of tricks as well. Make the jumps mean something.  Ballet isn't the trampoline competition at the Olympics.

Ironically, this promotion was announced minutes after ABT called me to request my annual donation. Luckily, I had put them off for now, and unless something drastically wonderful happens with the empty casting spots for Met season, they won't be getting any money out of me this donation season.  And by wonderful I mean meaty principal casting for Stella Abrera, Yuriko Kajiya, Misty Copeland, Jared Matthews and Joey Gorak.

What I love about ballet is the artistry, the emotion and the human achievement.  Herman Cornejo's entrechats in Symphony #9 at City Center were artistic, gasp inducing, and still didn't break the spell of the wall between the stage and the audience.  Until Mr. Simkin learns that kind of control and commitment, I will continue to be reluctant to ever pay to watch him dance.  And if ABT remains on this course, I worry that they will just rename it "Ardani's Bouncing Tiggers" and forgo subtlety, coaching and artistry all together.

My only hope at the moment is the scheduled Hammoudi/Seo Swan Lake this summer.  And the rest of Ratmansky's Shostakovitch tribute.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Some sights that caught my eye

Finally uploaded a few recent photos to my portfolio - thought I'd share a handful.  Hope you like them!

more after the jump....

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The best and worst of ABT at City Center (October 2012)

So I was absolutely intending to blog about all seven performances of ABT at City Center last week, but I've worked 80+ hours this week and haven't yet had the time to organize all the many thoughts into prose.  So, I thought I'd share some "awards" (most of which were run by and agreed to by my friend and comrade-in-madness for my ballet marathon week).  So here goes (after the jump):

Monday, September 10, 2012

Don't let Aspen Santa Fe get lost in your October plans

There are a lot of great dance and classical music events happening the week of October 16th-21st in New York City, including the pitifully short ABT fall "season" at City Center.  

Nevertheless, please don't let that week go by without catching Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at the Joyce Theater.  The last time they were in town, they knocked me out with their athletic grace, strong technique and confidence - and presented some of the most interesting contemporary ballet choreography and clean execution I had seen in quite a while.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Some overdue (sigh) and under-elaborated applause

So I totally fell down on the job blogging during ABT Met season...and pretty much about everything fun I've done since.  Lots of notes, thoughts, floating around in my brain that still need to get put down on "paper"...hopefully I'll be struck with some inspiration soon.  Sometimes I have a nagging feeling that blogging about life takes the life out of my experiences, and I just don't want to share.  I'll be seeing every ABT performance at City Center in October (I got a little swept up in the moment when my friend suggested that insanity) - so I'm hoping to be back up and running before then.

A few under-elaborated thoughts to tide you over - 10+ positive things that have stayed with me now almost 8 weeks removed from ABT Met season 2012:

Friday, July 6, 2012

It's about damn time.

Curtain Call for Seo/Hammoudi
Romeo and Juliet, June 2012
American Ballet Theatre has FINALLY promoted Alex Hammoudi to soloist, and as long-expected, Hee Seo to principal.

Congratulations to both!

Here's the link to the official announcement.

Hammoudi's Romeo debut earlier this season was really touching - he'll need to clean up a few of the steps, but his acting far exceeded expectations and was one of the most honest and romantic performances I've seen in a long time.  So proud of him!

I'll keep my thoughts on ABT's chronic highway robbery of Stella Abrera (mostly) to myself.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Way to bury the lead....

Yes, I have been quite delinquent in blogging about the American Ballet Theatre performances I've seen the past few weeks.  I'll get there - still forming my thoughts a bit.  

HOWEVER, in case anyone missed it buried at the end of the exciting Ratmansky/ShostakovichABT news item today (3 new 1-act ballets), ABT's NY City Center "season" has been reduced from the shameful six days last fall to now only FIVE days this year (October 16th-20th).  And, it's the same week the wonderful Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is coming to the Joyce Theater.

How I miss the 2-3 week fall seasons that ABT used to do when I first moved to NYC not that long ago.  That's where so many of ABT's non-principal, non-guest artists have their chance to shine - and where ABT gets to show off its contemporary strengths.  Is Kevin McKenzie just not a fan of this genre of ballet?  Because without it, in my opinion ABT's relevance is greatly weakened, and so many of its dancers wasted.

City Center is where I first came to love dancers like Stella Abrera, Marian Butler, Alex Hammoudi, Nicole Graniero, Skylar Brandt, Kristi Boone, and so many more.  City Center is where I fully appreciate the talents of Gillian Murphy, and further fall in love with Marcelo Gomes, Julie Kent, Simone Messmer, Misty Copeland and Herman Cornejo.  

I understand that City Center is an expensive theater for ABT - but there have to be better solutions than limiting the run to 5 days.  

Well, just another reason ABT is making me sad in 2012, I guess.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What Fools These Mortals Be (ABT La Bayadere, May 26, 2012 Matinee)

No matter how many times I see American Ballet Theatre's production of La Bayadere, I still don't love it (more on that below) as a whole even though there are perennially wonderful and unique elements.  Also on the plus side, each performance seems to have different highlights, each dancer brings something different to each of the lead roles. And, like in this performance, when someone brings something special to one the non-dancing character roles - it can become a more balanced, slightly more credible story.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The End of the World as We Know It: Cedar Lake at the Joyce (Saturday, May 19, 2012 evening)

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet is one of my favorite companies out there, with some of the most athletic-yet-graceful dancers I have ever seen and a multicultural ensemble that always strikes me as a microcosm of humanity. Usually boundary-pushing, neither of the two programs presented at the Joyce this May offered the same exceptional alternating savagery, solemnity and whimsy of the past programs I've seen from Cedar Lake, but the wonderful Cedar Lake dancers, and the always stellar Cedar Lake artistic design team, still managed to deliver some moments not soon to be forgotten.  Program A, which I saw the evening of Saturday, May 19th, skipped the whimsy entirely and went straight for the solemnity.  It seemed as though someone wanted to warn the audience of something - but I wasn't sure what.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bridesmaids (ABT La Bayadere, May 23, 2012)

Thanks to a stroke of luck and no will to resist the desire to see Stella Abrera's only Gamzatti this season (and Jeff Golladay's last soloist role on the Met stage), I impulsively raced up to Lincoln Center, hit the box office with 7 minutes to spare and settled myself into a fabulous center orchestra seat for American Ballet Theatre's La Bayadere.  Never one of my favorites, La Bayadere is lighter on plot than most and doesn't boast the richest of scores.  As a result, I've never seen a full principal cast bring it entirely to life, and this viewing was no exception.  It did, however, have its moments.  And most of those were delivered by Stella Abrera.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A little love letter to the ballet.

For those of use who love ballet, it can be so hard to understand why the rest of the world doesn't see what we see, can't feel what we feel.   How do most people not experience the same overpowering physical exhilaration we feel when merely sitting and watching, yes watching, a ballet dancer living their dream on stage?  The freedom when technique meets ability meets passion in just one human being on the stage ripples out into the audience and fills every muscle, every cell in my body with energy and implausible possibility.  

Perhaps this what other people feel when watching athletes like Michael Phelps, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Nastia Liukin or Dara Torres.  But while I root for these athletes and love to watch them strive, the feeling I get as a spectator is so different than watching ballet.  I feel nerves and hopes for these athletes, I feel the stress of pretending my will as a spectator can help them win, but still I don't feel their work with them.  But when I watch Marcelo Gomes in an abstract contemporary piece (or almost anything really), or Alessandra Ferri as Manon, or Julie Kent's sheer strength during the endless, countless overhead lifts in Lady of the Camellias, or Ethan Stiefel as Albrecht in Giselle, or Simone Messmer in this November's Volpi pas de deux, or Stella Abrera in Meadow or as Emilia in Othello, or Ulyana Lopatkina as Giselle, or Michael Trusnovec from Paul Taylor Dance, or so many more....I can't explain how but I think I get just a little bit of what they must be feeling while flying or turning, while forcing extreme tension into their limbs to make the tiniest moves important, while living so inside the music that it appears to be emanating out of their bodies rather than the orchestra pit, while letting everything go, to make the biggest leaps soar.

Friday, February 3, 2012

More ABT Soloists Shining....but why always outside NYC!!

2012 could finally (hopefully!) be the breakout year for ABT's Jared Matthews. First we have his upcoming debut as Albrecht in Chicago to look forward to, as well as his Lensky in the opening night of Onegin at the MET in June, and now he's gotten a(nother) nice mention in the press - this time from in the Washington Post for his performance in "Black Tuesday" at the Kennedy Center. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Have love for ABT soloists....will travel.

So while time and money cruelly prevented me from traveling to New Zealand this fall to see Stella Abrera's much-praised debut season as Aurora in Sleeping Beauty with Ethan's Stiefel's Royal New Zealand Ballet...when I heard that American Ballet Theatre had scheduled soloists Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews for their first (and arguably overdue) Giselle, I knew I was going no matter where it would be.  
March 25th. Chicago.  Be there.  

In related news, when ABT came asking for my subscription renewal, I politely explained that while I absolutely love ABT, and anyone who knows me will tell you no less, I subscribe to see (and donate to support) ABT dancers - not guest artists - and so would be holding off on buying any tickets until the schedule is more set closer to the performance dates.  

I want to see Misty Copeland. I want to see Stella Abrera (who frustratingly is scheduled for large roles currently only on Wednesday matinees at Met).  I want to see Jared Matthews, Yuriko Kajiya, Herman Cornejo, Sascha Radetsky, Simone Messmer, Joseph Gorak, Arron Scott, Brittany deGrofft, Christine Shevchenko, Adrienne Schulte, Nicole Graniero, Julio-Bragado Young, Alex Hammoudi, Gray Davis, Roddy Doble, Roman Zhurbin, Eric Tamm, Sarah Lane.....and all of the other hard working, dedicated, beautiful dancers ABT has selected and trained year after year.   If the powers that be think these dancers are not ready - the powers have no one to blame but themselves.  Give these dancers the opportunities and more coaching and they will give every ounce of their determination and energy to be ready. To be more than ready.  To fly.

I want the dancers to be inspired, to have opportunities to grow and mature before our eyes.  I want to show them we support them - and for them to have their turns to inspire us. I want to see artistry and emotion, rather than flashy jumps (to the extent they are accompanied by lackluster partnering and hammy acting). I want ABT to bring back the longer fall season which highlights both the amazing contemporary power of so many of these dancers, and gives more of the company real opportunities to shine.

Dancers like Marcelo Gomes were not created in a day; he was given the chances to push himself along the way.  The younger dancers of ABT deserve no less.

So this Met season, and around the country and around the world - I encourage you all to go see and support ABT, and as many times as you can afford....but perhaps pay a little more attention to the casting this year, and try to support the company dancers rather than the guest principals.  You may be surprised at how much their fire will inspire you and win your hearts.  They will not disappoint.

For me....if Sarah Lane should finally get her full length debut during the US tour...I for one will be doing my utmost to be there.  If Misty Copeland wasn't scheduled for Firebird at Met season, you can bet I would be flying out to California to see that too.

The only thing I can really do to make my feelings heard is put my money where my mouth is.  And so, this year, and until a change is made, I will.