Angel Gets Better Every Year

(photo by Nancy Ellison)

I don’t mean to make him sound like fine wine or something, but it’s just unbelievable how he gets better and better each time I see him perform this role. I linked to this before, but here’s a YouTube of him doing the first of Ali’s solos. During the second intermission, after the solos, two older women in the cocktail line were saying he’s no different than Baryshnikov. “He’s every bit as good; it’s just like seeing him again,” one declared. Unfortunately, I missed the era of Baryshnikov here, but I can’t possibly imagine anyone better than Angel. I love all three of the solos, but I love the jetes and the fouette sequence of the second two most. I love hearing all the screams emanating from the balcony when he bends his knee and snakes his body up and down mid-pirouette. I only wish he would have done his flying leap of a curtain call. He only came out once, not giving people enough time to pelt him with bouquets! I guess it was Wednesday and the crowd wasn’t as wild as normal, or maybe he was feeling under the weather… you can never tell it from his dancing of course. Oh, and he looks exactly the same as before — same straight charming boyish hair, no longish, wavy Julio-esque perm like in his new headshot 🙂 Anyway, he made the night, obviously!

Along with Jose of course. Jose danced Lankendem, owner of the harem. For those who don’t know this ballet, Le Corsaire, originally choreographed by Joseph Mazilier for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1856 but shortly thereafter re-choregraphed by Petipa for the Kirov / Mariinsky Ballet of St. Petersburg, is cutely corny. It’s about a pirate, Conrad, who falls in love with a slave girl, Medora, and his quest to help her escape and be with him. It’s a favorite among balletomanes because of all its bravura dancing from the two leads, Ali (Conrad’s slave), Gulnare (Medora’s friend), and Lankendem. Jose somehow manages to make his Lankendem so lovable. He’s a bad slave-driver who will stop at nothing to keep Medora in his clutches, and you just want to cry out “noooo,” when Conrad’s pirates surround him on the ground, spears in hand. Poor little Jose! He did brilliantly too with his bravura solo (which is actually my favorite because of the barrel turns 🙂 )

So, Marcelo and Paloma, who were supposed to dance Conrad and Medora, were replaced by Irina Dvorovenko and Cory Stearns, a member of the corps, who I think was dancing his first big part. I always love Irina, and I never see her much since she doesn’t often dance with Marcelo. I guess sometimes it’s good that Marcelo’s out (though I’m not sure why they were replaced last night), because it gives me a chance to see other dancers once in a while 🙂 Irina is probably the most dramatic, the best actress of all of ABT’s ballerinas and I love her for it — she projects to the entire audience, including people up in the nosebleeds, she makes it obvious through facial expressions what her character wants without relying too much on pantomime (with which many newcomers to ballet are unfamiliar), and she’s so expressive with her body, so clear in her intentions. If you’re bringing someone new who’s never seen that ballet before, you want her in the lead; she makes the most sense of everything and brings her character’s dramatic conflict most to life. Well Julie Kent does too, as does Veronika Part (who, horribly sadly, is leaving ABT at the end of this season), but people like to dump on Irina, and there’s no reason to, dammit!

So, Cory. He was good. His dancing was excellent — perfect, grand jetes, great height, great lines, very energetic (though I think he got a little tired by the end). He is a tall man with long legs, kind of David Hallberg-esque, though not as high-waisted. If this was his first time in a big role, I think he did a very good job. My only thing was that I felt his Conrad was a little too severe. He scared me at points, getting a little too aggressive in trying to get Medora away from Lankendem. At times he seemed more like a villain than a hero. But he’ll definitely grow artistically.

Oh and another thing that blew me away — one of the Odalisques was breathtaking. She did a crazy series of chaine turns and pirouettes and really blew me away (as well as my next-seat neighbor who clapped like nuts!) I’m not completely sure whether it was Simone Messmer or Renata Pavam, but one of them knocked me out.

Oh, I’m sad; this is my only Corsaire since I’m leaving tonight. It continues through the rest of the week, the Swan Lake is next week (breaks my heart that I’m going to have to miss Veronika Part‘s Swan; I’ll still be in England — someone tell me how it is!), and the following week is the new Twyla Tharp, which I’ll be back for and about which I’m very excited. If you’re in New York, go here for more info / tickets.

Okay, gotta go finish packing! I definitely plan to mobile-blog from Blackpool, and may computer-blog as well if I can find a secure wireless connection. I’ll post all the pictures when I return!


  1. Hi Tonya,

    Regarding the substitution with Irina and Cory, I heard that Marcelo Gomes and Paloma Herrera performed on Irina’s and Max’s originally scheduled evening (to my friend’s disappointment). She also reported that Max was injured again.

    Thanks for the review.

  2. By coincidence I met Simone Messmer after the matinee on Wednesday…if it helps you identify your mystery Odalisque, she’s got light brown hair and she’s a lot prettier than her headshot on the website. The Odalisque costumes were an especially nice shade of blue.

  3. I was there and had a different take on the performance. Abt told me the substitution was because Maxim was injured so the sched got pushed around.

    Irina looked perfect but aloof and not engaged, not vulnerable, and like she didn’t really want to be there, but had to turn in a first class performance. Cory Stearns looked very nervous though he performed admirably. He needs to work on his partnering of a spinning ballerina. He has to make it look more effortless. I didn’t sense any chemistry between them at all. And frankly, seeing dancers partnering without any “heat” looks like a rehearsal class (to me) no matter how perfect they are. I was very disappointed to not see Paloma and Marcelo, I think they work well together. Cory and Irina? I’d be surprised if they pair them again – dumb move ABT. I’d rather see two newbies at work in the lead roles rather than an old timer and a rookie.

    Maria Recetto was good, but she needs to find a way not be more fluid and let the music flow through her instead of making it look at times as if she is trying (and succeeding) at keeping up or following the music. (Angel approached/used the music completely opposite from Maria – completely engaged and very musical).

    But I think the whole company needs to work on smiley faces. I am getting tired of seeing smiles plastered on dancers when there is nothing to smile about. It’s beginning to look idiotic. In acting roles the dancers don’t have to wear a smile mask, but they too often “mug”. Maria’s a bit stiff up top and needs to loosen up (to my eye). Now maybe the AD is telling them to wear those dumb smiles. I would be telling the AD it looks idiotic. Just my ignorant opinion.

    It’s very hard to do some parts/roles perfectly and appear be very fluid for ballerinas. Ferri was wonderful like that, Kent, Vishneva are great like that and Paloma never looks wooden to my eyes. Michelle Whiles and Gillian Murphy can and I haven’t seen Reyes enough to have an opinion. She looks like a perfect pixy to me.

    Now Angel did the best performance of the night and the audience called it. Bummer for ms Dvorovenko who probably expected the bravas (I gave her one) hahaha. The Spaniard was so relaxed and so in control of himself. He was super. He showed how to perform AS a musical instrument. He was completely there and engaged. Angel gets it. Good for him.. good for us.

    I think Irina should be on display inside a full size glass dome as a ballerina spinning around.

    Hey did you know that Nancy Ellison gave a million bucks to the ABT? Do you think that had anything to do with her getting to do a RIzzoli book for ABT and one for the Met Opera (probably have the Opera a $1MM too)? She’s not the best photographer around in my opinion. It’s damn hard to take a bad photo with a $5K camera of the Met Opera or the ABT. She’s the proof. I have her Met Opera book which I love. Money talk$.

    Can someone explain the u shaped bows of flowers the corps carry around? Where did this come from and so forth. I’ve seen this in several ballets and was curious if this is a ballet motif or what???

    The set look tired and it looked as if they tried to use some new bright costumes perhaps to make it look fresh. Please don’t turn every production into a sleeping beauty cartoon color palette. Are you listening Mr Martins; that applied to your R+J?

    The corps did very well, and they are getting better all the time. Watch out Kirov!

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