Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Model Critic Reviews the passion of ABT’s Swan Lake


American Ballet Theatre

Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic

A ballerina must possess many qualities, but balance, strength, and control are paramount.  Earlier this summer, Polina Semionova, guest artist with ABT, was truly flawless as Odette-Odile.  Her balance was deep-center to gravity, unfailing the entire performance; her understanding and ability to execute choreographic form and detail, and her unerring musicality, drew great moments of audience appreciation, while her shimmering arms were seemingly boneless, and otherworldly.

Take the beautiful pas de duex in Act Two with Prince Siegfried (Marcelo Gomes) and Odette, by the lake:  A study in simple passé, pirouette, arabesque en dedans, then en dehors, repeated with slight variations in all directions, creating a heroic, poetic vision of liquid smoothness between the lovers.

Siegfried finds his young, seeking soul in Odette.  He must choose a bride to become King.  As a human, Odette, transformed and trapped as a swan by the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart, awakens him. Only able to become human at night, she tells of her plight: the spell can only be broken if a virgin youth swears his undying love. When they dance, Gomes dances Siegfried with the requisite passion and abandonment of an unbounded soul.  Semionova, on the other hand, plays Odette, not withstanding her powerful technique and luminous dance ability, with an emotional remoteness, an indecipherable heart. [Was that her choice?]  Gomes combines scintillating dance with passion, and projects a more fully realized performance. He communicates deep feeling with a virile, but open sensitivity, that is remarkably rare in a dancer.

photo courtesy of The Prince and the Swan blog

Two years ago, I must mention that Gomes danced Siegfried with the great, but now retired Nina Ananiashvili. Then, perhaps because he wasn’t so sure of his role, or for whatever other reason, he too was more of a technician, and didn’t communicate subtlety.  Ananiashvili, like Gomes in this Swan Lake, was the total package.  Even though at the end of her career, her technique faltering, but still blazing, her ability to transmit the complex feelings of Odette/Odile was fully realized. In her case, she always possessed passion, combined with impeccable dance ability, first seen when she made her American debut as Kitri in Don Q, at the New York State Theatre. And even though it’s not fair to compare dancers, since all bring special, individualistic talents, nonetheless, passion and depth of character rank high in how a performance is perceived;  it’s that ineffable quality that permeates along the stage lights into the darkness of the theatre, creating a transporting magic.

Of course, this is what makes dance the most wonderful of the performing arts.  Watching a ballet competition, for example, of eight couples dancing the third act of Sleeping Beauty, you’ll witness eight individual energies, all creating something different while the music and choreography remains the same, the technique similar.  Some wonderful, unidentifiable spark differentiates the performers.  Is it experience?  Is it soul? Is it some kind of knowingness?  As a dancer grows and matures, they seem to naturally deepen their understanding of character, as Gomes realizes in this Swan Lake.

At Siegfried’s birthday party, the corps dance around the spinning maypole, weaving and unweaving the ribbons; wearing festive violets, muted lavenders, and royal blue outer skirts, with tiaras for the women; men, in handsome waistcoats that mimic the same colors.  On marbled floors, in the outside garden overlooking the lake, drinks are served in golden cups. The Queen Mother, played by former ABT’s outstanding principal dancer, Susan Jaffee, presents Siegfried with a crossbow, and all celebrate.  The very lyrical pas de trois, at the end of the party, the fading sun, and the exotic reverie dance, bring the ensemble together for a soft close; then, an unexpected, rousing and proud Czards, to dignify the proceeding, and pulse the heart, like a final kiss of departure. His young heart full, Siegfried wanders into the forests to soothe his yearning soul, alone.

What makes Swan Lake such a captivating work of Art?  One could start with the mythical proportions of the story:  the metaphor of the eternal quest for authenticity and wholeness; spiritual ascendency through heroic and unconditional love; the moral struggle and triumphant battle over the smoke and oppression of evil–all elemental forces.  Call it Swan Lake, Swanansee, Le Lac de Cygnes, what you will, staged and re-staged for the last 150 years, since Petipa and Lev Ivanov choreographed, and Tchaikovsky’s mesmerizing score; the elements of story, mood, magic, poetry, and  dazzling symphonic ideas, never ceases to enlighten, transport, and make this work a holy event.

The audience applauds in profound appreciation, realizing what it has witnessed is not ordinary–the uplifting love expressed in the final act; Odette’s signature, joyous celebration of freedom, completing her triumphant thirty-two perfect fouettes; to the lovers final leap of faith– all epitomizes this dazzling work of Art: a strong coherence of music, choreography, and libretto; the unity of flutes, oboes, violins, and horns, the blending of stylized, ideal human movement, and finally, the depth, variety, and passion of a genius score. Clearly, Swan Lake has no equal in Ballet.

The Culture of Comfort

Why is it lately that every time I visit some people’s homes, I don’t feel comfortable?

I walk in and am wowed by all of the style – the antique mirrors, the decorations, wall hangings, wall papers, paint, moldings, furniture … and then I go to sit down.  My back immediately begins to stiffen.  Nothing of course is ergonomically sound.  And although most of the things look fluffy enough to die and go to heaven in, they’re not.  It’s all for show.  Worse, modern living has earned a place in our heads and hearts as the excuse for absence of a dinner table.  I cannot tell you how many people’s apartments and not just studio apartments have no kitchen or dinner table, desk or portable where you can sit like a human being and simply eat.  Everything is on the go or on the floor.  (Probably why I stopped eating delivered pizza)

So then, why, does anyone even need a bigger home?  And how has Martha Stewart managed to stay in business all these years?  Walk into some people’s houses and there isn’t anything homey about it.  My single friends insist on the ultimate sex pad, disco balls and colored lights included.  My married with children friends have no problem with the house disheveled by clothing, food, shoes and practically anything else that makes its way into the door, most of the time and a few of my animal lover friends have no qualms about the dogs, cats, and birds toys all over the floor for YOU to step on – gi-normous fur and dust balls included.  After all, it’s THEIR space.

Yes, I get that.  But it’s not a lot of fun.  Whatever happened to sinking into a beautiful chair that made you fall asleep.  Or a couch you could easily curl up on.  Or a kitchen chair that didn’t give me a backache and cause me to fidget all the way through coffee, tea or lunch.  A house that is dust, dirt and smell free – so clean that nauseating air refresheners have no business airing their insidious little scents around the house.

For one would think that with all of the new organic and non organic cleaning supplies that are out there in the marketplace, everyone’s house would be spotless.  I am sad to say, it is the opposite.

“Hey that dog bed is looking awfully good.  Move over!”

Good Morning Change!

Good Morning LA, New York, Munich, Paris, Milan, Banf and all of my favorite places in between!  This blog has been collecting a lot of moss as of late, with the fine exception of the ever brilliant Carlos Stafford, Model Critic.  But today is a new day and that is about to change.

Clearly change is on the menu these days for everyone.  We’ve all been unsettled somehow by this economy.  And the effects are certainly going to last a lifetime for most of us.  Yet however scary change can be, it is also a great thing.  I certainly don’t have to convince anyone.

Most of us spent so much time these days, focusing on it.  Moving into a new place; creating new ideas for our businesses to thrive; Feng Shui’ing our homes and lives for the “good” energy to come in; altering our diets for healthier living;  the list is endless.

But I wanted to share something that I read last night – a sentiment on a sign posted above a door.  It pretty much summed it all up for me personally especially regarding the last several years I’ve spent navigating my new home town:

“I believe that everything happens for a reason.  People change so that you can learn to let go.  Things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right.  You believe lies so you’ll eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and some times good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”


No I don’t mean “follow the leader.”  I’m talking social media today.  I just wrote a personal post this morning and realized that it was so much more important to add the sentiment here.  So I’ve provided a short link for anyone who cares to read.

Followers, fans, buyers, sellers, bloggers, posters, and those that follow…we are all the same.  Just a lot of human beings.  Some of whom we trust and some whose opinion we often find, “iffy.” 

At the end of the day, I think everyone wants something positive to happen in their lives, which is perhaps why we connect.  And the reasons are as immeasurable as an acurate world census count.  Read more here…


Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books written in a very foreign tongue.  Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.   And the point is to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps, you will then gradually without noticing it live along some distant day into the answer.  Perhaps you do carry within yourself the possibility of shaping and forming as a particularly happy and sure way of living.

Train yourself to it — but take whatever comes out of your being, out of your own will, out of some need of your inmost being; take it upon yourself and hate nothing.          “Rainer Maria Rilke”  from “Letters to a Young Poet”