(photo of Angel Corella taken from here)
So Angel quite nicely bookended my trip to Blackpool, which I’ll be writing more about — I’m doing a fuller report of the festival for Explore Dance and will definitely link to it when it’s up. This is ballet month in NY and I just don’t want to get behind on my ballet writing!
I haven’t seen much of Angel and I realize how much I’m missing. He danced Prince Siegfried in ABT‘s Swan Lake last night opposite the legendary Nina Ananiashvili as Odette / Odile. I was really looking forward to Nina’s Swan — and she was very beautiful; had lovely liquid arms which looked like she was moving through water, and at one point when she did a series of turns, fluttering about all the while, she really looked like she was about to fly away. Her beautiful feathery expressiveness made for one of the best Odettes I’ve ever seen. She was also very dramatic and acted the role well. I could see her trying to tell the prince of her plight and I felt her misery.
But as usual with the men of ABT, they stole the show. First Angel, who was the perfect boyish prince at the start not wanting to choose a wife and grow up, then turning into the mature, tragic hero who falls in love with Odette but allows himself to be seduced by her evil counterpart. Angel is one of the most charismatic dancers; he has these enormous powers of projection, he’s able to reach everyone sitting everywhere in that massive opera house. I don’t know how but he does it. And his dancing was, as always, spectacular. He did a series of fouettes / pirouettes and went so fast he was a blur. I’ve never seen that before from anyone. Those turns elicited the only, I felt, genuine moment of applause from the audience, which I’ll get to in a moment…
(in above photo by Andrea Mohin from NYTimes, Blaine is on the left, Marcelo Gomes on right).
And then, OMG, BLAINE! Blaine blew me right away! He danced the prince’s friend, who initially gives him the bow and arrow to go swan-hunting, and who has a few solos and pas de trois with the town women. He had such height on his jumps, and his form was sheer perfection. I couldn’t believe it was him. I’ve seen him excel at the more modern work the company does in the fall season, but never really at classical. But last night made me think he’s ready for larger roles. His acting was decent, I still think he needs to work on it a bit more, but his dancing is nothing short of superb.
I sat next to a man who writes for that website Ballet Co. He was really nice, introduced me to the press room and its free beverage service! (Apollinare would never go in there!) Said they used to have wine but now only sodas. Anyway, we were talking about the best dancers in each role and he said he found Veronika Part to be the best Odette / Odile, which made me all the sadder I had to miss her because of Blackpool. Anyway, I mentioned that I was really sad she was leaving ABT and the writer told me knew about that interview she gave in which she said she was leaving but he was told by ABT people she’s still on, at least for the foreseeable future. I hope hope hope he’s right. Please let him be right, please Veronika, don’t leave!!
So, the dancing last night was excellent, but the production … hmm. I don’t have much to compare these productions to, to be honest. Most of the classical ballets I’ve been introduced to through ABT, so those are the only productions I know and have nothing to compare them to. They seem fine to me — I care much more about breathtaking dancing and moving portrayals than sets and costumes, etc., but I know critics think too many story elements are taken out, which I kind of agree with, but don’t know what needs to be put back in exactly. Sir Alastair in his review of David and Michelle’s Swan kind of mentioned in passing that, though the dancing was stunning, this production lacked the necessary pathos and tragedy. But he didn’t really go into detail as to why.
At Blackpool I was talking with my friend who’s a ballet fan as well, and who is half Viennese, half Japanese, and she said there’s just something lacking in the American ballet. She couldn’t really say what but just that in Europe the productions are so much more grandiose, so much more thrilling, and celebratory of dance. As I was sitting there last night I began to wonder if it’s not the audience interaction with the production — or lack thereof in the case of the US — that she’s reacting to. Sometimes it’s just the noises made by your neighbors that makes you sit up and take notice of something and I feel like oftentimes American audiences are just dead, like they’re just there to be “cultured” and aren’t really engaged. Last night, all throughout Blaine’s breathtaking jumps not one word, not one clap. When the solo or pdd was finished and the dancers stood and bowed before the audience, people politely clapped, but not during the dancing, with the exception of Angel’s vision-blurring turns. And I feel like Angel’s such a star, people clap because he’s Angel and they know whatever he does is deemed “great”; when it’s someone unexpected people are too sleepy to take notice.
I remember when I was in St. Petersburg 10 years ago now, I went to a Swan Lake at the Maryinsky. There wasn’t a moment of silence throughout the entire thing. People were cheering, clapping, literally screaming throughout — even when a dancer wasn’t doing anything particularly spectactular, people were going completely nuts. I remember being just as entertained by the crazed audience as the actual dancing. And in that Born to Be Wild video of Jose Carreno dancing in Cuba, it’s the same thing.
(By the way, happy belated birthday, Jose! — it was May 25th and it was a big one :D; photo by Rosalie O’Connor)
What is it about these formerly Communist countries where people value art so highly? Is it because they’ve been so deprived? I know ticket prices are significantly, significantly cheaper, and there’s inexpensive sparkling wine in the lobby — the ballet is just more of a celebration there.
I don’t know — what do people think: half asleep audiences who don’t know how to appreciate art, or lacking productions, or both? I just know it’s not the dancing.