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:

1. Alex Hammoudi's Romeo debut.  Alex really stepped up his acting in every role this year - but none so clearly as Romeo, which for me was the most honest and really believable characterization of this role I have seen to date (including performances by Bolle, Hallberg and Gomes).  While Alex may still need to clean up a couple of fawn-like, long-legged stumblings and put a little more height into his lifts, I really look forward to seeing him repeat this role next year.  Now if only ABT would cast Yuriko Kajiya as his Juliet, my happiness would be complete.  (It would be a perfect next step from her fantastic Giselle debut, which only Chicago and Korean audiences have yet been privileged to witness).

2. Arron Scott, doing pretty much everything.  His Mercutio is for me now second only to the brilliant Herman Cornejo.  He's not quite as threatening as Cornejo but the dagger-like, clean lines of his legs and his masculine swagger are perfection.  Arron's performance, together with Hammoudi's Romeo and Joey Gorak's Benvolio, is a delightful and 100% believable trio of friends and contemporaries.  As Birbanto in Le Corsaire, Scott was a charming villain and again his legs and execution left me giddy.  His Bronze Idol in La Bayadere was twice the most powerfully statute-like I've ever seen (in a good way) and completely averted my tendency to yawn or roll my eyes at that point in the ballet.  Why Arron hasn't been promoted to fill the soloist vacancy left by Carlos Lopez last year is incomprehensible - especially since he is dancing most of the same roles, and better. 

3. Julie Kent is still a damn fine actress and a beautiful, strong ballerina.  Her portrayal of Tatiana in Onegin was my favorite (Vishneva's, while technically brilliant, was too downright morose from start to finish) and Kent is still one of the best I've ever seen at successfully embodying characters of different ages.  And her young Tatiana was completely distinct from her Act I Giselle and her Juliette.  (Ok, the pas de deux with Bolle were nowhere near as gasp-inspiring as that of Vishneva and Gomes, but I still enjoyed the entire Kent/Bolle performance as a whole more than the joyless, unsympathetic portrayals by Gomes and Vishneva).

4. Gillian Murphy still hasn't mastered subtlety, but her Medora in Le Corsaire is a force of nature worthy of raucous applause. I'm sure it didn't hurt that she was dancing opposite the unparalleled Marcelo Gomes and her retiring-fiance Ethan Stiefel (two of my three favorite male dancers of all time), but if only she could dance every role as well as the July 7th performance of Medora I'd be much much more of a fan.  I will say I also enjoyed her Titania in The Dream more than I could have hoped - she's quite believable in a way that I suspect has to do with her old-Hollywood looks and style matching quite well with Ashton's 1964 choreography and Britishness.

5/6. Skylar Brandt and Devon Teuscher seem to be still swiftly on the rise.  I wish Skylar would have some pas de deux/trois opportunities so we can really see her solid brilliance shine, and all Devon needs at this point is to find her smile - her technique (her long arms in particular) suggest to me that she just maybe could be ABT's next great American ballerina, if she can just find a way to let some joy and vulnerable emotion through on stage.
7. Similarly, Gray Davis caught my attention all season - although young, he has a powerful masculinity on stage without any of the clunkiness or bulkiness that often accompany that description.  Fingers crossed we get to see more of Gray in larger roles, and SOON.  I suspect he has a world-class Conrad in him when the time comes.

8. Sarah Smith stepping out as a lovely, solid leader from within the corps.  Sarah has always been a pleasant dancer to watch, but this season I noticed her strength, sharpness and overall confidence take a big leap forward.  Well done, Sarah!
9/10. Herman Cornejo and Maria Riccetto were a delightful storybook pair in Ratmansky's new Firebird, and about the only thing worth watching in the whole ballet.  I'm glad Maria went out on a strong note - and hoping her fans in Uruguay send us some youtube clips of her overdue principal performances over the years to come.  I really never get to see enough of Herman, since he is too often cast opposite the one-or-two-note Xiomara Reyes and lately also the over-performing Natalia Osipova, but when I do, I'm always so impressed at his grace and internal fire.  For me he has a particular talent for having the angle of his gaze always in the right place for both the choreography and the character.  At least at City Center I imagine we'll get a repeat of the Cornejo-Sarah Lane lead bombers in In The Upper Room - which was my favorite pairing in any ballet last fall.

A few other memorable standout moments - Courtney Lavine as the most believably birdlike of the firebird flock; Jeff Golladay's start-to-finish strong farewell season, especially as the Head Fakir in La Bayadere; the full-force return to the Met stage of Adrienne Schulte; Roman Zhurbin's coming of age as Prince Gremin in Onegin; Stella Abrera's show-stealing Gamzatti in La Bayadere; and the happy return of the much missed Renata Pavam.


  1. I think you mean Hee Seo, not Yuriko Kajiya.

  2. No, thanks for asking though - I saw Alex dance with Hee Seo. I WANT him to dance with Yuriko Kajiya.