We Are Celebrity Whores, We Are ABT Fans, and We Are Proud, Dammit!: Jock Soto, Joaquin de Luz, Bill Clinton (and Marcelo) at NYCB Opening Night Gala

I hope no one takes the above title the wrong way — I’m totally joking, and trying to make light of out that earlier tiff on this blog :) I do actually think there are different styles, aesthetics, even theater etiquette as Kristin Sloan called it (which I’ll get to soon) between the fans of American Ballet Theater and New York City Ballet, which had its opening night gala dinner tonight and the official premiere of NYCB artistic director Peter Martins’s new version of Romeo and Juliet.

Since it was a nice day out, I arrived a bit early so as to relax at the Lincoln Center fountain and perhaps take some pictures. Last year, I saw Angel Corella out front on this gala evening kind of smiling out at the crowds and looking all handsome, so I figured I might see “someone” again :)

Sure enough, red carpet was rolled, Peter Martins and ensemble arrived, paparazzi power cameras began flashing away, and anyone who happened to be anywhere on the plaza at that time promptly made a mad dash toward the State Theater entrance.

Here is Martins with a young girl, I assume his granddaughter? (Late edit: I now know this is his daughter, Talicia. Thanks to everyone who emailed me, posted a comment, and replied to my post on the Winger message board for correcting me :) Sorry about that!)

Anyway, I, apparently being one of the biggest celebrity whores, managed to make my way to the front of the railed-off section. Passersby began crowding around, whipping out cell phones, asking excitedly, “who’s that, who’s that?”

“Peter Martins.” I said. The woman next to me looked quizzical. “The New York City Ballet artistic director whose Romeo and Juliet is premiering tonight,” I said.

“Oh, I’m an ABT fan; I’m going to the opera tonight. I saw all the commotion. Are there any famous people here?”

“I don’t know, I think it’s just the gala attendees and City Ballet people,” I said.

“Leonardo, has Leonardo come yet?!” a woman shrieked, running up from behind.

“Leonardo who, diCaprio?” the first woman screamed.

“My daughter said he’d be here. I’m an ABT fan; I’m going to the opera tonight, but my daughter told me Leonardo was going to be here and to be sure to get a picture. Oooh, if I missed him, she’ll kill me,” she said dismally.

“Leonardo diCaprio?!” a guy said running over. “I have to get to the opera, when does this thing start?”

“I dunno, I’m an ABT fan; I’m going to the opera,” said yet another voice.

“The ballet starts at 7:30,” I said.

“Oh good,” they all said in unison.

“Well then, all the famous people will have to get here by about 7:20 then,” the guy said assuredly.

Cameras began flashing.

“Oooh, ooh, who is it, who is it??”

“I don’t know. It’s not Leonardo, but it’s looks like someone famous.”

And for the next half hour, it continued like this. A paparazzi camera would flash, everyone would get their cell phones or digitals ready and ask who is it, who is it, oooh, that’s someone, I don’t know who, but they look famous, or I know them from some show just can’t remember which…

Good lord. Anyway, I can’t make too much fun of these people, seeing as how I was one of them and all :), so let the celebrity fest begin:

Actress Elizabeth Berkeley. Funny everyone knew her as “that girl from Saved By the Bell,” or “that girl from, oh what was it, that TV show about the high school kids?…” No one remembered that she was in Showgirls!!!

Artist Anh Duong.


Actress Anna Paquin, in the white dress.

Two young ladies no one knew, but everyone agreed “looked famous.” Does anyone know who they are?

By far the biggest, hugest, most important celebrity of all, Kristin Sloan!!! Here operating her enormous camera, likely for her latest project…


Kristin and her boyfriend, Doug Jaeger, who caught my eye, or my camera pointed directly at him rather(!), and had Kristin turn her camera on me… I have no idea what that one’s going to look like … yikes!

This girl in the red dress — gorgeous dress by the way — was apparently an actress from young adult films … someone mentioned “Ice Princess”??? If anyone would like to clue me in, I’d be grateful!

“Well, I have to get to the opera,” the Leonardo woman said around 7:20. “Yeah, me too,” another man said. “I guess he already went in,” she said sadly. “Well, it’s still good I came to see this; I need to know what to wear if I decide to go to ABT’s gala. They’re my favorite,” she blushed.

“Me too,” I said.

“Oh really? I wonder who all will be there!” she said, excitement returning.

Anyway, 7:25 rolled around and I figured I’d better go in and get my seat — I was sitting all the way up in the 4th Ring so it’d take me a while.

Before the show began, Martins took the stage and gave a little talk mentioning that this season marked the centennial of Lincoln Kirstein‘s birth. He then pointed out an audience celebrity, Bill Clinton! It took a while before I spotted him; he occupied a center seat in the first ring, the seat, Martins noted that had belonged to Lincoln Kirstein. Martins told Clinton whenever he wished to attend the ballet, he need only phone him and he’d reserve the Kirstein seat especially for him. Everyone applauded. Martins then declared May 1st “Lincoln Kirstein and New York City Ballet Day.”

But far far FAR more important than the former president, in the house was also

:) :) :)
He sat in the very first row, sixth seat in from the right aisle — almost the exact same seat where I sit to see him perform :)

Anyway, the performance:

Well, I’m extremely tired and groggy and I’ll probably have more thoughts later, and I know people will feel differently and I’m not saying I’m right and anyone else is wrong, but my first reaction is: it was pretty and sweet and cute and overall a lovely little ballet. It didn’t take my breath away, it didn’t make me cry, it didn’t move me, it got long in parts, I got bored, with the exception of one scene I was nowhere near the edge of my seat, and with the exception of two dancers — one of whom had a non-dancing part my heart didn’t stutter. I don’t know why people in general go to the ballet — it likely varies for different ballets (full-length story or abstract one-act) and different companies — but the aforesaid reasons are the reasons why I go to see a full-length story ballet, and this didn’t do it for me. The balcony scene, which ended the first act (there were only two; one intermission), was very pretty. Juliet’s dress was lovely, much shorter and sweeter than the gown worn by ABT ballerinas — ABT should trim that gown; this one was far more beautiful! The choreography was sweet and lovely with several pretty lifts of the kind I’ve seem umpteenth times before — nothing out of the ordinary, nothing original, nothing striking. No MacMillan’s ‘let me run toward you at maximum speed, dear, and hurl myself at you whilst turning and you catch me and throw me up over your head feet first’ lifts that to me is what makes the balcony pas de deux so thrilling, so magnificent, so emotionally compelling, and by far my favorite pdd of all.

The only scene that had me on the edge of my seat was the beginning of the second act, the sword fight in which Tybalt slays Mercutio, then Romeo slays Tybalt and the reason for that is that the dancers were top quality. When I first sat down in my seat, I have to admit I pulled out my binoculars and began searching the floor for Marcelo since I’d just seen him in the lobby (sorry no pictures — I’m too shy to approach and didn’t want to be a bad fan and take pics of him unaware), and when I found him I began fixating :) So, when the lights went down and the curtain up, I hadn’t yet looked at my program. When I first saw Tybalt I was mesmerized — I loved Daniel Ulbright‘s Mercutio too most definitely, but there was something about Tybalt that just blew me away. I couldn’t figure out who he was. Joaquin de Luz happens to be my favorite dancer in the company but he was wearing facial hair and his hair was shorter or gelled back and I didn’t recognize him, and didn’t know it was Joaquin until I later looked at the program. So, I WAS NOT sitting there thinking “where’s Joaquin, oh I can’t wait to see Joaquin;” he captivated me nonetheless.

I was also blown away by Jock Soto, one of the most illustrious NYCB dancers of the past who recently retired, who played the non-dancing part of Lord Capulet. I already knew he was going to play that part and when he and Darci Kistler, as Lady Capulet, emerged onstage, I went to clap then realized no one else was and if my hands met I’d make an enormous commotion. What’s wrong with people, I thought, do they not know who he is? I ran into Kristin during intermission and mentioned it to her, and she laughed and said, “No people don’t do that here, that’s ABT. It’s a different audience etiquette.” Even if I wouldn’t have known Jock was Jock, he had so much physical presence and power, he commanded your attention so, I just couldn’t take my eyes off him.

Anyway, I do think Kristin’s “different audience etiquette” was a great way of putting it. Generally, I do think there’s a totally different aesthetic between the two big NY ballet companies, which I guess are sort of rivals in that it seems not that people love one and hate the other (anyone who’s a real ballet fan is going to go to both) but that people really really love one and just like the other. For me this is why. Martins deliberately chose to cast the two main roles with young, relatively inexperienced dancers. He said he didn’t want the dancers to “act”; rather he wanted them to just be themselves — young. It takes artistry, though, and perhaps “star quality” — whatever exactly that is — to make the characters live and breath and move the audience to the edge of their seats, and you just can’t do that, no matter how hard you try if you’re too inexperienced. Robert Fairchild (who played Romeo) is really really cute and it was clear that he put his heart into it and tried with all his might, and I think he, and Sterling Hyltin (Juliet) both have bright futures ahead, but I really think it was a mistake to cast young, inexperienced people in these major roles. It’s as if Martins is saying Romeo and Juliet don’t really matter; it’s Tybalt and Mercutio and Lord Capulet who are the important characters here. They are important but certainly not more so than the leads. I feel like I’m saying the obvious and I can’t believe he hasn’t got more criticism for this…

Anyway, I hope I’m not offending anyone; I do think I have a certain thing I go to the ballet to see and part of it is acting and artistry that will blow me away and I didn’t get that here, although I did think the choreography was very pretty and the dancers were all very good-looking, and it was generally that — a good-looking ballet that, to me, lacked substance with the exception of Joaquin and Daniel and Jock — all of whom had relatively minor roles and couldn’t pull the whole no matter how much they wanted to. It would be interesting to see more experienced dancers dance the leads and perhaps I’ll see it again if they do, but only if they do.

Other thoughts: the sets are very minimalist, which is normally neither here nor there with me — I care more about the dancing, though here, perhaps it’s just that I’m used to the fuller stage apparatus of ABT because I just felt like there wasn’t enough for me to feel I was really “in” the world he was re-creating. He said he wanted “more dancing, less crowd action” — I felt like there was less of both though I guess he did cut down on those long, drawn-out sword-fight scenes and ball-dancing scenes at the beginning that I could do without in the MacMillan. I guess I just felt like most of the dancing wasn’t compelling enough to me, so it didn’t matter. I did like his balcony scene, pretty but plain though it was, better than the Lavery.

Anyway, I am falling asleep. Just wanted to get my thoughts down and I hope people aren’t angry! I’m sure everyone who sees this will have their own thoughts and feelings about it!

To end, here are a couple more pics, taken from inside:

Yum! Dinner for the gala guests, from above.

And, a side pic of the gala guests. Sorry so dark – -I need a new camera badly!

38 Comments

  1. Wow, that sounds like such an awesome night! I too will admit to falling for MacMillan’s Romeo everytime, and always find myself comparing different versions to that one. So your comparisons let me visualize things in my head. The difference between “audience etiquettes” is always amusing… in England for example they don’t clap much for pyrotechnics and tricks, but here in the States, do a pirouette over three and the audience makes lots and lots of of appreciative noise. Interesting to hear that there are differences just across the plaza at Lincoln Center!

  2. so glad the supporting cast is excellent. veyette is cast as mercutio on sat matinee, would love to see him…but can’t :( looks like i may miss r&j this year…

    i actually didn’t even really like the mcmillan version of R&J because there was too much sword fighting, and not a lot of dance, except for the pdds (the balcony & bedroom)…so I guess the criticism still stands for the Martins’ verison.

    thanks so much for the review, tonya. what is up with the blue tights on romeo?

  3. Thank you for your vivid account of opening night – sorry I missed it! I’m happy to hear that Bill Clinton was there. Maybe he’ll become a regular. Since I haven’t officially seen the ballet yet (I did see a dress rehearsal last Friday, with Sterling and Rob in the leads but that doesn’t count for revew purposes, right?), I’ll wait until I see ti tomorrow night (with Kathryn Morgan and Seth Orza as J & R) to comment on your review (I’m seeing it again on May 13, with STerling & Rob doing the final performance). I do have to say, however, that you did a marvelous job of describing the differences between ABT fans and NYCB fans – your comments should be reprinted somewhere because they are so accurate. Kristin also helped with her comment about a “different audience aesthetic”. That is is so true. Having started out as a (primarily) ABT person, I remember when I converted to being a (primarily) NYCB person what an adjustment it
    was relating to the typically much more reserved NYCB audience. I recall people being amazed by the young Darci Kistler getting as many as three curtain calls (as opposed to the standard NYCB one or two) when I was used to everyone at ABT (at least in those days) getting at least twice as many. In any event, this has all proved so interesting that I think that some of us should get together and offer a seminar (but who would come?) on the differences between the two companies and their fans. For example, even if I didn’t know who you were and just happened to stumble on your review, I would have immediately known that you were a (primarily) ABT person. Not that your comments lacked individuality – they very much did – my point is that some of the factors you emphasized in your review – the acting factor, sets etc. – are so characteristic of the ABT mindset (as will my review, when it comes, be very characteristic of the NYCB mindset). Even the fact that Joaquin de Luz is your favorite dancer in the company is very revealing, since he came to NYCB by way of ABT. But hey, I think he’s great too. And tomorrow night, just for you, Tonya, and because he SO deserves it, I will make sure that I applaud for Jock Soto when he comes onstage for the first time (and maybe some of my fellow NYCB audience members will get the message).

    Oh yes, that little girl with Peter Martins? That’s his (and Darci’s) daughter, Talicia.

  4. cool pics!

    the girl in “ice princess” is michelle trachtenberg, who was the lead in that movie. i love ice skating and kim cattrall, but that movie was pretty cringeworthy.

  5. Have you read the reviews on ballettalk?

    What a contrast!
    one I loved it!! it was fabulous. And one that is so unmitigatedly negative it was amazing–bob if you think i criticized Martins, you should read it…(or not)…OUCH!

  6. No, I’m definitely going to check out BalletTalk – I sometimes forget about them; thanks for reminding me, Delirium!

    Haha, thanks Jolene!

    Wow, that’s his daughter, Bob! I am interested in hearing your thoughts on it after you’ve seen it all put together, as well as Philip’s since he’s such a big NYCB fan — where has he been anyway?! I know, that’s so funny about Joaquin — I swear I didn’t know he came from ABT until AFTER I liked him! It figures though! Regarding the sets though, I do have to say, I look at ABT’s City Center season totally differently, where they have no sets and most of the pieces are abstract — there it’s completely about connecting with the dancers to me, and nothing else, which it mostly is at the Met too, this is just one thing I noticed when viewing it in the State Theater. It’s also so hard to refrain from comparing when it’s your favorite ballet and you’ve seen a certain version umpteenth times! I definitely liked Martins’ balcony pdd version better than the Lavery though.

    Funny too as Art says about fan differences — I remember seeing the Kirov in St. Petersberg a few years ago and the Russians were the wildest bunch of audience members EVER — they screamed throughout, not just at fancy things, not just when someone “big” entered — they were just crazy clapping and hooting and hollering throughout — I don’t know how those dancers stayed focused! It does make you think though how the dancers may feel when touring in another country, though — like do they think American audiences hate them when we don’t act crazy throughout, or we just like big athletic feats or big name people if we only clap at those times?… The audience aesthetic / etiquette thing is very interesting indeed! And, Bob, no, you don’t have to do that, re. Jock — everyone will think you’re nuts, don’t do it!!! :)

    Jennifer — I don’t know about those tights; it was interesting they chose blue now that you point it out. I forgot to mention the costumes were really marvelous. Tybalt’s is this shock bright yellow, and Lady Capulet’s gown is just brilliant — her cape is a true work of art!

  7. Delirium, thank you for alerting me to that one very negative review on ballettalk because it serves to prove the point I was making in our previous dialogues. While i’m not seeing the ballet until tomorrow, I did go to a dress rehearsal and I know enough from that to be able to say that you can come away from this ballet loving it (as I no doubt will) or saying it’s OK not not great (as Tonya did) but to state what that particular person on BAllettalk did is yet another example of an absolute, died in the wool Martins hater who is responding in a totally irrational, biased, meanspirited way. As I believe you said, it is perfectly normal to love one company and just like the other, but all too often I have experienced the phenomenon of people who love one company while hating the other. And I unfortunately have to say that more often than not (in my admittedly limited
    experience, at least), it’s been the ABT people who are more inclined to do that. But I know that’s not you and it’s not Tonya and on my side of the fence, it’s not me. By the way, the few reviewers on ballettalk did at least seem to agree that Sterling and Rob were pretty terrific.

  8. from what i hear, the audience in Cuba is wild as well…alicia alonso says it’s like a bullfight, and the audience is waiting for “the kill”.

  9. I was thinking of Cuba too — I remember seeing “Born to Be Wild” and when they accompanied Jose Carreno to his hometown and he danced I think it was either Swan Lake or Don Q with his cousin who’s in the national ballet company there, I remember the crowd going nuts! I didn’t know if it was just because he was performing or not… Anyway, I wanna go to Cuba soooo badly!

  10. I won’t be seeing the ROMEO til next week as I’m in my end-of-the-opera-season mode. I was at the Met on Tuesday but saw all the festivities outside NYC Ballet. ROMEO is my least favorite of the major full-length ballets so I’m not really keen on seeing it but I do love my NYCB dancers and if the production is bearable I’ll see it a couple of times.

  11. Yay, Philip, the other NYCB fan :) (I mean, I know there are many, just the other one I know!) I definitely want to hear what you think — I know we will on your blog! I’m just getting some 4th Ring tickets for a co-worker and her husband and I’m looking over the cast with her in choosing a date and am thinking some of those other casts look enticing as well … maybe I will have to go see it again…

  12. I like the Jacques D’Amboise said in Born to Be Wild – The Leading Men of American Ballet Theatre (2002), “I can’t say what makes a great male dancer, each person will find that. And, the more you see, the higher maybe your expectations are, and the more greater the [next] dancer has to be to erase what you just saw before and supersede it kind of. So all I can say is see all the dance you can, don’t listen to anybody tell you anything and just let when it happens happen to you, ha ha.”

    Each person will find for themselves what they like in any given dancer, performance or company. I can definitely understand Bob’s stance on NYCB or Martin bashing, but I think as long as there are humans on the planet, nothing will change. I can already predict that I would probably still be an avid ABT fan versus NYCB, but here in Chi town, the Joffrey rules over any other ballet company just b/c at one point I saw four African-Americans on stage dancing in “Cinderella” while a black conductor led very ethnically diverse orchestra. I never thought I would see that in my life time but that is the baggage that I bring with me to the ballet.

    BTW, I watched the Ballet Russe documentary, and what happened to that one black dancer just made me want to cry. The company couldn’t keep her on b/c they toured in the South before all the Federal laws against discrimination and Jim Crowe were in effect. Hordes of racist people kept trying to find her after the shows to do her harm and/or run her out of town. She later ended up dancing for the Netherlands Dance Theatre. So as long as no one interferes with anyone’s right to life, liberty and freedoom under the law, let them bash a ballet company with words only if they want.

  13. That’s so true, Chimene. I remember that now from Ballet Russes — that was so sad, and so ridiculous and embarrassing for our country. I remember they said the company really did want to keep her but decided in the end they couldn’t because of the public — because it was “too dangerous” for the company and for her, which sounds completely absurd, but at the time it was true. It’s really so horrible on so many different levels, one being that I think one of the purposes of great art is to broaden people’s minds, expose them to something new, make them think, and in the end even promote change. And they couldn’t do that here. Anyway, I’m glad she resumed her career abroad.

  14. Tonya, Kristin mentioned she will be appearing as a courtier in the Tiler Peck/Sean Suozzi cast so if I go a second time that will be one distinct possibility…and I am also very curious to see Erica Periera.

    Much as I hated Peter’s SWAN LAKE visually the first time I saw it, I ended up really liking it. I learned to tune out some of the design/color features which were so off-putting and just to concentrate on the dancers…this led me to appreciate the sheer amount of DANCE in the production and also, it has a GREAT ending. Talk about Tragic Love…

    If I liked the ROMEO score better I’d probably be more excited about the current offering. I saw ABT’s a few years ago when Craig danced Mercutio and I thought it was god-awful…so boring, not much real dancing despite excellent work from Tuttle, Corella, David H and Craig. I really think the score is just not inspiring in terms of steps…of emotion & drama, yes, but in sheer movement it is too leaden. I’m curious to see what Peter comes up with. Even in his worst ballets he usually at least keeps the dancers on the move. I hate to see dancers standing about and promenading.

  15. Philip, from what I saw in the dress rehearsal, there is more real dancing in this production than I recall in the ABT version and little or no evidence of dancers standing about and promenading (which is what I especially disliked in the ABT version). Also, I’m not a musicologist, but I got the impression that Peter had cut out some parts of the Prokofiev score that quite frankly, we can all live without. But more comments after I see the ballet tomorrow night.

  16. Great commentary! I really enjoyed all points of view & look forward to seeing R&J near the end of its run when I come into town. Different aesthetic for ABT & NYCB, so those who love gushing emotion at ABT will not like the toned down emotion at NYCB. As a dancer who does performance analysis for dancers, I can say that there are many things going on that regular audiences pick up on without understanding why they may react as they do. I tend to see NYCB dancers as the better technically but for pyrotechnics & the story ballets done traditionally I go to ABT. That’s not to say pyrotechnics don’t exist at NYCB; they do. And there are certain dancers that I feel so much emotion about when I see them dance, even though they may not “seem” to be exuding emotion like Wendy Whelan, Jock Soto, Nikolaj Hubbe, Daniel Ulbrecht. In my POV, NYCB is an extremely spiritual company; there’s uplift for me there; & you can have a kind of altered reality experience at a ballet there (or at least you used to be able to do so). I’ve never never been transported by a dancer or performance at ABT. That’s not to say others won’t be. We’re looking through different eyes. It’s a different aesthetic.

  17. Melanie,
    you said “Different aesthetic for ABT & NYCB, so those who love gushing emotion at ABT will not like the toned down emotion at NYCB.”

    And I totally agree on the whole. The problem (err to me, and keep in mind I have not seen R&J yet though I am looking fwd to doing so!) is that Peter Martins keeps adding Story Ballets for the company, and stories really do ask for emotion. Yes there were full lengths in the rep previously, but Nut doesnt really require much in the way of acting. R&J–well the emotion is really integral to the story. without it, its really sort of silly. I think that “just dance dont think” may work well for works that are plotless or relatively schematic in story line, but for a story about love, betrayal and death–if you aren’t going to act it as well as dance it, what is the point?

    I like dancers in both companies. I adore Bouder, she is just breathtaking. I hope to have a greater feel for the company after this season. There is a lot of talent there and a lot of great choreography and I look forward to becoming more familiar with it.

  18. Well, I did see R & J last night so let’s start with the bottom line: I really enjoyed it. Is it a great ballet? No. Tonya’s assessment of it as a “lovely little ballet” is more on the mark. The thing is, however, that I don’t think that the MacMillan version of the ballet that is done at ABT is great, either. I found that one so tedious the last time I saw it that I vowed never to see it again (however, in light of the fact that we now have the two versions, I may renounce that vow and give ABT’s another shot this season). As of this moment, however, I prefer the NYCB version because it does eliminate some of the crowd scenes, processions, overly long sword fights, and seemingly endless pantomomine that made the MacMillan version seem almost interminable to me. That plus the fact that I love the NYCB dancers so much and enjoy seeing some of the younger dancers in the company get an opportunity to demonstrate their exceptional talent.

    First, the sets and the costumes. What was one of the words that Macauley used in his review – ghastly? Well, I actually had no problem with either the sets or costumes. That may be the result of having been raised on the BAlancine aesthetic that did not assign a great deal of importance to sets and costumes. It may also be due to the fact that I actually liked these sets and costumes. I did not like Kirkeby’s set for Swan Lake but his abstract set for this ballet really does work, at least for me. As for the costumes, what’s the big problem? I wasn’t even thrown by TYbalt’s yellow outfit which seems to bother some people. As for the critic who complained about the color-coded costumes for the Capulets and Montagues, excuse me, but how else is the audience supposed to distinguish the two families on the stage?

    Now for the choreography – no, Martins’ choreography is not great by any means. But to go back to my original point, neither is MacMillan’s. The basic problem, I think, lies in the Prokofiev musical score. It’s fine to listen to in a concert hall but for the most part, it is simply not what Balanchine called “musique dansante” – that is, music that is danceable, music that is suitable for dancing. Not even Balanchine, with all his genius, could have produced great choreography out of that score (perhaps that is why he never ventured to choreograph to it). Martins is clearly not a choreographic genius and so there is no way that he could have come up with an R & J ballet that could be acclaimed a great work. Nonetheless, his choreography does have some lovely moments.

    Finally, the dancing. First of all, I thought, contrary to what was said in some of the reviews, that Jock and Darci did add a lot to the ballet with their dramatic presence. Secondly, in last night’s program, I felt that the TYbalt, Mercutio, Benvolio combination of Tyler Angle, Adam Hendrickson and Adrian Danchig-Waring, while good, wasn’t quite the equal of the DeLuz, Ulbricht, and Carmena cast. That brings us to Romeo and Juliet. Seth Orza danced as well as Rob Fairchild but for me, Rob was more dramatically convincing as Romeo. Then there was Kathryn Morgan as Juliet. Ah, Kathryn Morgan. For me, she was the highlight of the evening. A beautiful dancer, yes, but she also WAS Juliet. As good a dancer as Sterling Hyltin is, I found Ms. Morgan more believable in the role. I honestly believe that she is something special. No, she is not yet Alessandra Ferri, but the significant thing for me is that I think she has Alessandra potential. If I say that her “acting” was better than Sterling’s, does that mean that I am having an ABT
    moment? Wow!

    Oh yes, just for you, Tonya, despite your warnings not to do so, I did applaud when Jock first came out on stage. Sadly, it only inspired a mild burst of applause from some segments of the audience, but the good news is that no one near me was upset and no one threw me out of the theater. And one other thing – at the end of the ballet, when it was curtain call time, Kathryn Morgan did receive a partial standing ovation. I thought for one brief moment that I was not at the New York State Theater but rather at the Met but then I immediately remembered that if this were really an ABT audience, there would have been a full standing ovation.

    Finally, kudos to Melanie on her very perceptive comments and Delirium, I am so glad that you share my adoration of Ashley Bouder. She is my very favorite ballerina in the company and I would go to see her in virtually anything she does.

  19. Wow, thanks for all that, Bob!

    Well, I guess what I am mainly talking about regarding MacMillan is the pas de deux’s between R & J — the balcony scene, the bedroom scene, and then the final scene. I feel that it’s just pure poetry in motion, that he just had some kind of uncanny connection to Shakespeare to be able to convey his poetry in words into a poetry of dance that way. I personally could live without a lot of the stuff in between, especially all the courtly scenes with the masked ball and the dueling, apart from of course the pivotal Mercutio / Tybalt duel. — The reason I’ve been hesitant to say that though is because of all the work for the corps dancers involved in those in between scenes — I feel like in my ideal version there would be five main dancers and no one else, and that’s eliminating a lot of work for those hard-working, deserving corps de ballet! Plus, I love those three pdd’s so much that I’ll kind of “suffer through” those in between parts! That’s what I felt was lacking, or was just not as moving and powerful to me as MacMillan’s — and I’ve once seen the Royal Ballet do that version too, so even though it’s the one ABT happens to do, it’s not really ABT’s official version. And, who knows, maybe the ABT’s director added some of those in-between scenes because that’s how ABT typically stages things?…

    Anyway, I agree with you, Bob, about the costumes — I actually loved them!

    I was wondering how Seth did in that role — I do like him a lot :)

    Haha, thanks for trying the “Jock” experiment! I’m glad you didn’t get kicked out of the theater :)

    Thanks again for your review!

  20. And, yes — Bob and anyone– if you have the time and inclination, please do come to ABT once and pay particular attention to those pdd’s. Or, you can buy or rent any DVD of a company that does the MacMillan — the Royal or ABT — there is a video called “Great Pas De Deuxs” — which Chimene and I are always going on about :) , that contains MacMillan’s balcony pdd with Alessadra and Wayne Eagling performing. It also has an abundance of other breathtaking pdd’s from various other ballets.

    I know there’s a whole lot more to a ballet than the pdd’s, and I know I can’t judge an entire ballet on those, but I can’t help it, I guess I am just a sappy helpless romantic!

    And, again, I did think Martins’ were sweet and lyrical and very pretty; I just thought they weren’t as poetic and emotionally moving to me as MacMillan’s.

  21. OK Tonya, fair enough! If I somehow can’t make it into ABT’s R & J this season, I’ll check out the video of MacMillan’s R & J pdds.

  22. I’ve always found the balcony pas in MacMillan’s version to be one of the most beautiful pieces of classical choreography: emotional, tells the story well, beautiful shapes and some incredible musicality. Sorry this isn’t really on topic too much but just a thought that came to my mind. I always make an effort to get down to the stage to watch balcony when we are doing the ballet. On the other hand I can see how it would be difficult music to choreograph to but there is nothing to me like hearing that music live. The strings in the orchestration, even of just the first act marketplace, are soooo beautiful!

  23. Thanks, Matt — no, that’s not off point at all! I’m SO glad someone else — and a professional dancer who knows that choreography well! — agrees with me about MacMillan’s pdd! I love that you go down and watch it when it’s on!

  24. I love the pdd in the MacMillan version as well. But I find that they can look really rough when danced by people other than Ferri/Bocca.

    I saw two casts last year, vishneva/corella (err i think it was corela, my brain is asleep) and Hallberg and Paloma–and neither of them equalled ferri/bocca.

    I dont mean to say they werent good. I enjoyed both performances very much and was really happy i got to see david as romeo (i picked those tix up right before the show).

    But the wonderful thing about the pdd is the abandon with which ferri/bocca danced. the lifts, the way she throws herself at him–everyone else you can see the preparation and the difficulty of the moves.
    I don’t mean to say i think ferri is necessarily a better actress or dancer overall than say vishneva–I think a lot of it comes from the fact that the dancers had such a great working relationship and such trust for each other.

    I’m looking forward to seeing Ferri do it one last time this season. :(

    also looking forward to seeing what murphy and david make of it!

  25. I love Ferri in that role too, Delirium — I think she is the quintessential Juliet and she almost owns that role! I loved watching her with Jose Carreno last season too. I thought Julie and Marcelo did well too though. I missed Vishneva but saw David and Paloma dance it but was so far away it was hard for me to see any of the emotion. I can’t wait to see Alessandra again — I know, so sad, tragic almost, that she’s leaving…

  26. “also looking forward to seeing what murphy and david make of it!”

    Sorry, but I won’t be dancing Juliet this season 😉

  27. i missed julie. Vishneva was certainly into the part emotionally. She fled the bedroom to see friar lawrence for help with such abandon that she crashed into the wings.

    that said, the Lifts didn’t have the same abandon. I dont think many people can have THAT degree of trust with a partner…and if you’d never seen ferri/bocca, i’m sure it would look great. But seeing those leaps and lifts without any obvious preparation–well its hard to go back to anyone else,

    It is to ABTs credit that they encouraged that partnership to develop.

    *sigh*
    I miss them. And i will miss her a lot!

  28. That’s true — you do need to trust your partner completely on those crazy (but gorgeous!) lifts! Vishneva — she is KNOWN for crashing into those wings! Do you remember that Winger thread where everyone was talking about how she ended up all bloodied!

    Matt, you’re such a goof :) By the way, I just added another comment (with a link to something that bothered me) on your post with 10,000 comments (definiely, officially, the dance blog post with the most number of comments EVER!!!) . Sorry to keep adding to that post, which is now about to go off the page, that link just — urgh — it was good in a way b/c it promoted Kristin, but, well ugh — you’ll see what I mean… Actually, now that I’m thinking of it, you and David would look really interesting together … you should be in Matthew Bourne’s production!

  29. I’m also sorry, you guys, that I don’t know how to manage the comments so that people can just post a comment without me approving. I can’t just make it subject to no approval at all b/c I get about 150 spams a day (not kidding) — but I think there’s a way to make it so people who’ve commented before and have email addresses in the system aren’t subject to approval, just have to figure it out…

    Here’s that link in case you can’t find it in the 100,000-comment post on M’s blog:
    http://blog.wired.com/underwire/2007/05/nyc_ballet_open.html

  30. “I was somewhat skeptical about actually attending the ballet. After my rather lame jokes about muscely men in tights and pirouetting waifs, she suggested I put aside prejudice…”

    I don’t find it that offensive. It seems that he has acknowledged his preconceived judgements (which are unfortunately MANY people’s….perhaps that is what you are concerned about? I think I might be confused this early in the morning) and moved on to really enjoy the ballet. At least he gave it a chance, which is a lot more than many “normal” guys want to do.

    Even though he compares it to an “action flick” (let’s face it , it IS the closest you will get to one at the ballet with all the sword fighting) I bet he would be much more willing to try something a little more classical now after this. Of course I don’t know the guy so who knows?!

  31. Yeah, the men in tights thing bothered me, because I find it mildly homophobic even if not overtly so –why is “the average guy” so scared of seeing good-looking men onstage — why? I mean, you’re a lot more used to this than I am, but it’s so aggravating sometimes getting people to go to a ballet and their reasons can be so obnoxious, argh!

    But what bothered me more was his judging a ballet on the basis of how much like an “action flick” it was. Can’t anyone go see such things at the nearest cineplex all the time? Can’t someone go the ballet for a different reason. Don’t people go to art museums and the opera for a different reason, or do they judge such things on their likeness to an action flick too? High art is not like a Schwarzenneger movie, it’s something far above that. The masses aren’t that stupid and shallow (and homophobic) are they?

    You’re right — this is the closest ballet they’re going to get to an action flick, and I hope he would be more willing to try either more classical or more contemporary ballet, but something tells me he is going to be disappointed if this is his basis for judgment.

  32. Read the NY Observer. Martins is sucking the ballet out of NYCB. There are so many worthy replacements, but can this downward spiral be reversed in time? I LOVE City Ballet, but Martins is killing it. Would Ballanchine have decided Martins over Farrell if he thought the world was ready for a woman? No way!!!! Ballanchine was bold in everything but his choice of a successor.

  33. As we all know, the dance critic for the NY Observer is Robert Gottlieb. Mr. Gottlieb’s personal feud with and animosity towards Peter Martins is well documented. At this point, he seems incapable of being even remotely objective with regards to either Mr. Martins or NYCB. You can criticize Peter Martins all you wish – surely, he is fair game – but to cite Robert Gottlieb in support of one’s critique of Peter Martins is pretty much like citing Rosie O’Donnell in support of one’s critique of Donald Trump (or vice versa).

    As for Suzanne Farrell, no one idolizes her more than I. She was the greatest ballerina I ever saw and I would love to have her back coaching some of the NYCB ballerinas. But to think that she necessarily would have done a better job than (or even as good a job as) Peter Martins in running the very complex organization which is NYCB (and maintaining the exceptionally high level of dancing which he has) for the past 24 years is, in my opinion, a somewhat dubious assumption.

  34. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLG75zU6SBk

    VOILA!
    R&J balcony pdd with Julio Bocca and Ferri.

    If anyone could ever top that, I’d be amazed

  35. Oh Delirium, that is so awesome — thanks!!! I’m going to try and post it as soon as I get home later and have some time. I’m so psyched to view it!!!

    Re. The Observer, I have to confess, I really didn’t know much about Gottlieb. I read that review, though, and thought he was pretty harsh on both NYCB and ABT versions — I mean, in a way, his last line was kind of nastily, sarcastically funny, but on the other hand, you’ve gotta like SOMETHING … right?… I also know very little, unfortunately, on why Farrell left NYCB … am definitely going to have to read up on it!

  36. Gottlieb was a member of the City Ballet Board of Directors for a number of years but then had a personal falling out with Martins and either resigned from or was pushed off the board ( it was related, I believe, to the negative reviews of Martins’s work that were published in the New Yorker magazine – by Arlene Croce – during the time that Gottlieb was editor in chief of that magazine). Since that time, Gottlieb’s reviews of Martins’s ballets and his stewardship of NYCB have been consistently venomous. I mean, it’s ok to have a personal feud with someone but if you’re in a position where you are reviewing that someone’s work, should you not excuse yourself and assign the reviewing to another critic.?

    As for Farrell, after she retired from dancing, she worked as an artistic advisor and coach at NYCB for a few years. However, differences (artistic? personal? both? who knows?) arose between her and Peter and she left or was fired (depending on which versions you hear) from the company. As I said, she was the most extraordinary ballerina I ever saw and the company would certainly benefit if she were still around and providing that special understanding of Balanchine’s choreography that is so unique to her. My only point was that a great dancer and great coach is not necessarily suited or equipped to be a great company director. And that has nothing to do with the fact that she happens to be a woman (though I acknowledge the fact that in the classical ballet world, it is still more difficult for a woman to rise to that type of postion than it is for a man). By the way, if you have never seen the video of Farrell entitled ELUSIVE MUSE, it is a must see.

Comments are closed