(photo of Gillian Murphy and Roman Zhurbin in Le Corsaire, by Gene Schiavone, taken from ABT website)
Ethan Stiefel was supposed to dance Ali last night at ABT, but he was out with injury. I was disappointed of course, but it wasn’t like it was such a horrible thing having to see Angel Corella in that role again! He jeted out from behind the curtain during curtain calls last night (as did Gillian!– so I was happy)
Anyway, the male cast was mainly the same as opening night: David Hallberg as Conrad, Carlos Lopez as Birbanto, Daniil Simkin as Lankendem. The main differences were the two female leads: the spectacular Gillian Murphy as Medora, and the small, lovely Maria Riccetto as Gulnare — and, as it turned out Roman Zhurbin as Seyd, the goofy pot-bellied pasha. See my earlier post if you don’t know the characters and story.
Gillian and Roman made my night. Gillian has definitely got to be athletically the strongest ballerina in the company, maybe in the world. During her fouette sequence she did so many multiple pirouettes between each fouette I couldn’t even count; she was a blur. I don’t even see how that’s physically possible. She is truly a marvel, to make a massive understatement. And she goes so fast during the chaines and those traveling pirouettes around the stage’s perimeter. But not only that, she has such soft, beautiful liquid lines. And she and David I think are so used to each other now, they dance so well together in the romantic scenes. The bedroom scene was really really beautiful. She threw herself into those lifts like Nina did with Marcelo, except David isn’t Marcelo and so he didn’t do such flamboyant dives that it looked like he’d practically shoot her to the sky But it was a really beautiful scene and she really floated in his arms.
And David is so good at those romantic scenes because of the kind of romantic dancer he is. I think he’s aware that those looks can at points be limiting and so he tries overly hard to be a hardass in those pirate-y bravado scenes. He was really kicking at and pushing around some of his fellow pirates! But I think maybe he doesn’t really need to do that. He doesn’t need to be a kick-ass aggressive warrior Conrad; he can always go for the more brooding Romantic pirate and let his hard-ass buddies help him along with getting the girl and fending off Lankendem and his crew, etc. And then the scene where he realizes Birbanto has betrayed him and he has to kill him to protect himself and Medora is all the more compelling since it may not be his nature to do that.
Anyway, Roman stole the show as well. Good lord! They usually have retired dancers who still teach and coach at the company do these character parts — the role of Seyd has been played by Victor Barbee at the last two performances I saw. But sometimes they give Roman these parts because he’s such a good actor. He was so giggle-out-loud hilarious as he rolled around the stage patting his big old pot belly and goofily lusting after all those slave girls. He was too much! It reminded me of this short film I saw a few years ago about a couple of movie extras. One of them just could not fulfill the requirements of “extra” work, and at one point there’s this scene where the two principal actors are having an important dinner conversation and you see the guy in the background open-jawed, smacking his hands on the table, laughing hysterically about something and it’s so funny because your attention is completely drawn to him and away from the main characters’ all-important conversation. (The film was mainly a comedy but had a little of the tragic about it, focusing as it did on the minor people who work hard and never get any recognition but who are essential in making a big film happen — kind of like Jerome Bel’s film about Swan Lake from the perspective of a corps dancer). Anyway, Roman was very lively, to put it mildly. Absolutely hilarious.
(headshot from ABT site)
Also, happily, the Lincoln Center fountain is operational again!
Unfortunately, it was such crap weather last night, no one was able to enjoy it.
So then I came home and, since I remembered to record SYTYCD for once, was able to watch the last day of auditions, which I was thoroughly disappointed with. I wish I would have seen Alex Wong’s audition Wednesday night because I feel like they only have the bad people on at this phase– like that blonde contemporary dancer whose father has multiple sclerosis (sorry, I can’t remember names this early on!) She was pretty — and all three judges kept remarking on that ad nauseam. She did a pretty pirouette at one point, but she seemed totally off-balance, like she was on the verge of falling every time she lifted one leg off the ground. The judges didn’t seem to notice that at all and advanced her straight to Vegas seemingly on the basis of her looks (since they kept going on about how gorgeous she was).
I did really like the pop & locker guy though – the one with the charming smile. He was amazing — not only what he was doing with his facial muscles, which Nigel recognized as well, but those ticks (I guess that’s what they’re called). His didn’t seem to be as robotic as they normally look (which are cool anyway), but his seemed more fluid, and it looked like he was moving in slow motion. Amazing. I’m glad he passed choreography and advanced. And I also thought the female tap dancer from last season was very impressive and am glad to see she made it.
What were they going on with that Asian Latin couple about? Nigel telling her to make sure and be sexy and then all of them remarking how much she stole the show with her sex appeal. I honestly thought he was technically better than she. Do the judges care about the art of dance or about sex appeal? And, when the female of the couple said when you think ballroom you usually think Russian or South American dancers, not Asian: anyone who’s ever been to a ballroom competition knows that’s untrue. Russian yes — ballroom is dominated these days by Eastern Europeans, Western Europeans (mainly the Italians, Germans, and English), and by Asians — Asians are a huge presence in ballroom competitions these days. Japan often has a team at Blackpool for the world competition and the Chinese always have Latin formation teams there (which are a blast, by the way – the Chinese Latin formation teams!) And the world pro demos take place in Japan. And Asians often take the top individual awards. So Asians are everywhere in serious ballroom competitions right now; South Americans nowhere. South Americans dominate ballet these days, but they don’t dance serious ballroom; Latin dance is social dance for them, not competitive.
Anyway, sorry for the rant — it just upsets me when something really wrong and misleading to the public is said on these television shows!
Maybe we just didn’t see enough of the other dancers, but none of the others seemed very good at all. Except for the ballerina who didn’t advance because she couldn’t pass choreography. That really made me upset because her solo was beautiful and technically very solid. I can’t imagine David Hallberg — or many of the current ballet greats — excelling at hip hop either. So then I got upset all over again just like I did last year during the auditions wondering what this show is about and why everyone can’t be valued for what they’ve worked on their entire lives to be brilliant at.
Anyway, I’m glad the auditions are over and we can advance on to the real show so I don’t have to get so pissed off anymore