Uh, I meant to blog about this so much earlier but had to get a brief in today so my supervisor wouldn’t murder me.
Anyway, I finished my Bayadere viewings on Saturday night. I was toying with trying to go tonight to see the legendary Nina Ananiashvili perform the lead, but I just have too many things to do in preparation for my upcoming trip to Blackpool and just couldn’t swing it. So if anyone goes tonight, please let me know how it went!
So, the casts I saw were: 1) Paloma Herrera, David Hallberg, and Gillian Murphy as, respectively, the temple dancer (Bayadere), Solor the warrior, and the princess Gamzatti, which I blogged about in my earlier post (and if you’re not familiar with the ballet, please go there for my description of the characters and story); 2) Veronika Part, Marcelo Gomes, and Michele Wiles in those same parts; and 3) — probably the most chi chi “famous people cast”: the critically acclaimed Met Goddess Diana Vishneva, “Center Stage” heartthrob Ethan Stiefel, and Stella Abrera.
So, I have a couple of thoughts that kind of border on the sacriligious 🙂 The first is that, I thought long and hard about it, and … I actually preferred Veronika over Diana as the Bayadere!!! Diana was beautiful and she made gorgeous lines and had, as Susan had commented on my last post, more of the authentic, Indian-looking styling with the more beautifully expressive wrists and exotic, sinuous arm movements and flexible back arches than the others (though Veronika I think had all that as well, but not as pronounced). She is also known for, both literally and figuratively, throwing herself into her roles with such abandon that she sometimes makes too hasty of a stage exit that she trips and falls, or to show her character’s misery, she’ll throw herself down on the floor with so much passion that she’ll come up a bit bruised and bloodied. I can see why. She was so heavily in character, that when something upset her and her bayadere needed to flee the stage, she really did fly up those back stairs or into the wings, running at full speed. I found this made for very passionate dancing fully in-character, but to me this also made her bayadere seem a bit immature.
Veronika was the opposite — a very mature bayadere sadly accepting of her fate. She brought me so fully into her world, I nearly cried for her. She was not at all melodramatic, but held her deep sorrow inside, showing it subtilely through closed eyes — to me all the more powerful than running at full speed into the wings. And she is such a tall, beautifully statuesque ballerina with such exquisitely elongated lines, as Delirium said to me, she just “devours the stage.” Perhaps because of her larger bone structure, she may not have the ability to make the same intricate poses with her hands and wrists as Diana, which, ironically, is what I was complaining about in my former Bayadere post. But she was overall such a beautiful dancer who brought me so completely into her world anyway that that styling “authenticity” didn’t matter. I will most definitely be watching for more of her. And, I’ll be seeing several more of Diana’s performances as well; I’m sure I’ll see more of what makes people so enamored of her in the weeks to come.
Regarding Paloma’s performance in the role, I love her in general but didn’t think she really inhabited this part very well. But I think she rocks as the fun, flirty Kitri in Don Quixote! Former New York Times chief dance critic John Rockwell had suggested that ABT and the other big dance companies be more “star” driven, and, like the Met Opera, alternate ballets on a daily rather than weekly basis so that one or two dancers could “star” in a certain role without getting tired. I think this is a very worthy idea, especially since, with my upcoming trip, I’m only going to have the opportunity to see one Othello, a couple of Sleeping Beauties, and am going to have to miss entirely the Dream / Symphonie Concertante mixed rep, which disappoints me because David is debuting in that. That if a person goes away for a week they miss an entire program, combined with the fact that certain dancers excel in certain roles, I think Kevin McKenzie should take seriously Rockwell’s proposal…
Now, on to the MEN OF ABT, my very favorite people 🙂
Oh, and now I am going to have to recant what I said above because, the men of ABT are so great, I just want to see ALL of them in every role… As I said in my earlier post, David can virtually do no wrong in my eyes… it’s so interesting to me because he and Marcelo perform just about all of the same roles and there couldn’t be two more different dancers; you just get a completely different character depending on which one is performing that night. David’s Solor, as all of David’s characters are naturally more sensitive, more vulnerable, more cerebral, more pensive, whereas Marcelo’s characters are warm-hearted, down-to-earth, the every-guy. Marcelo’s the guy you want as your boyfriend: fun-loving, always happy, dependable, a big fuzzy teddybear in a way (I hope that’s not offensive 🙂 ) — I know, everyone says he’s a really good bad guy, and he is, but I think that’s because he’s never really THAT evil; deep down he’s just Marcelo 🙂 And David is the male friend who you just wanna talk to all night long 🙂 I love seeing them both — it’s just when David’s up there on the stage, you’re going to get the noble, poetic, sensitive warrior / Prince Charming / Romeo; with Marcelo it’ll be the everyman, old familiar high-school boyfriend, all-American boy (even though he’s not) version of the same. Funny, beginning tomorrow night, they are both alternating as Othello, and Art had mentioned in a comment on an earlier post that when he saw that ballet Othello tended to come across as a big brutish rather brainless hulk. There’s simply no way either of these two are going to play it that way, even if they tried!
So, I said I had two sacriligious thoughts about Bayadere. First is my preference for Veronika over Diana, and my second is that … I must confess, I just don’t get Ethan’s appeal! I just don’t — isn’t it horrible! Of course I haven’t yet seen “Center Stage.” I mean, yes, his jumps were spectacular, and I’ve never seen anyone beat his feet together as many times as he during his super-high assembles. You’d NEVER know he was just coming back from double knee surgery. As I mentioned in this post’s title, I thought he overacted, which Jennifer Dunning of the Times recognized as well, so I’m not alone on that! He does this thing where he widens his eyes when he’s freaking out over something. Well, I could see those bulging eyes from the Dress Circle (mid-priced seats about half-way up to the ceiling for people unfamiliar with the Met) sans binoculars. And the throwing the arms to the ceiling thing: can everyone stop, PLEASE!!!! Okay, Marcelo did it a bit too, but he is Marcelo and I’m so infatuated he could do cartwheels across the stage and I’d be all, “oh isn’t that the greatest!” Ethan’s jumps were truly breathtaking though, as I said. And I’m sure once I see “Center Stage” I’ll completely understand the madness 🙂
Other thoughts: I liked all three ballerinas who performed the role of Gamzatti (the princess betrothed to the bayadere’s love-interest). Stella was splendidly bitchy — she was plotting and evil and nasty and all the things that I guess a good Gamzatti should be. Michele Wiles seemed more like the snooty rich spoiled white girl, which worked as well. And Gillian was the most interesting princess to me because she has such a natural sweetness; just look at that headshot! How could this girl ever be wicked! She was like Glinda the Good Witch Gamzatti, which worked in its own way because her princess was more an unfortunate victim of circumstance than an evil, plotting shrew.
I LOVED Craig Salstein as the lead fakir (in the ballet, the fakirs are these weirdly cute loinclothed animal-like people who jump wildly back and forth over this makeshift campfire — really so much fun and one of the most entertaining parts of the first Act, IMO). Who better than Craig to do all that crazy wild jumping. Craig performed the part on Saturday night; on Friday night, equally bedazzled, I looked in my Playbill and was shocked to see it was Jared Matthews under all the wild-man hair and body paint… he’s so sweet-looking and seemingly well-behaved — who knew he was so capable 🙂 Expectedly, Herman Cornejo was an excellent Bronze Idol, another male bravura part (which, for some strange reason I keep wanting to call the Bronze God), but so were the others, such as Arron Scott (who also happens to be Matt’s new cohort in crime). I find myself always disappointed by the idol though because he’s only onstage so briefly; he leaves me wanting so much more…
One last thought: Susan’s comment in my last Bayadere post suggesting that Matthew Bourne or Mark Morris re-make an authentic Bayadere made me think … what about a male Bayadere ala Bourne’s Romeo Romeo? Not all male: a male Gamzatti would make for a completely alternate universe, but just a male bayadere would be realistically intriguingly different — I’m sure some Radjas had male temple dancers after all…