Category Archives: Ballet

No Magic at the Mariinsky for Cinderella

by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic

Mariinsky Ballet, Cinderella

I imagined I was eight years old. I’m at Disneyland and it starts to rain. All the rides are closed except It’s A Small World. No Haunted House, no Pirates of the Caribbean, no Frontier Land, or Tomorrowland.  Mickey and Minnie are running around drenched looking for cover.

That’s about as much fun as I had with Alex Ratmansky’s Cinderella, Act 1. From great anticipation to this chilly interpretation of Cinderella.  No fun, no magic, no humor I could recognize. In this production, the evil stepsisters are actually attractive, well dressed, and are mostly graceful, except for when the dance teachers arrive, and they indicate akwardness here and there; however subtle the distinctions. Cinderella’s father is a drunk who stumbles home and asks Cinderella for money. I never knew young Cinderella, being a slave to her sisters, had a stash of money in a cookie jar. Then there is the problem of the indefinite gender of the four magical fairies representing the seasons; four men dressed in colorful cutout leotards with midriffs and various bandeau tops. Where the evil stepsisters are usually portrayed by men, and are funny, Ratmansky chooses to make the fairies cross-dressing creatures without humor. Tepid applause.

But the Mariinsky is one of the most famous, as well as oldest ballet companies in the world, and after 250 years they know a thing or two on how to put on a production. This Cinderella must be an exception, however, as it apparently comes under the heading of “perspectivism.”

Gratefully, they begin to redeem themselves in Act 11 as Ratmansky dazzles with the highlight of the evening–an exquisite pas de deux between the Prince and Cinderella at the Ball, danced with liquid energy by Nadezhda Batoeva and Vladimir Shklyarov. I at once thought of Fredrick Ashton’s balcony scene from Romeo and Julliet, with the similar evocative and soaring romantic music, and passionate choreography. It was splendidly done. Then once again later, the couple dance in the final act, reunited at last, as choreography, dancers, and music become an exceptional and glorious unity.

Ratmansky’s greatest ability is how he fluidly moves his dancers through space with surprising ideas, and musicality. The movements evenly connect and reconnect in brilliant patterns that are full of substance and delight.

But overall, the problem with this Cinderella is not in the choreography, the steps, the surprising and flowing transitions nor especially, the scintilating dancers with their always remarkablable beauty and technique–we’ve grown to expect this high quality. Rather, the  problem lies in the artistic direction. Being a narrative ballet, you’d expect a good story. Here, Act 1 is awful, Act 11 soars, and Act 111 is very mixed.  You get the impression that the story was an afterthought to the choreography, that humor was barely considered, that the acts don’t link up.

For all the world class talent onstage and in the pit, the overall affect was unevenness. For instance, when the Prince searches the world for a foot to fit the glass slipper, we have the dullest section immaginable. This is a blarring artistic opportunity to display fun, wonder, and lightness, to take the audience on a wondrous journey. But what we get again is another deflating transvaluaton. We are shown the Prince finding a group of women–who knows from where or representing what–oblique, probably hookers. Not much chance for a proper fitting here. Next stop, we encounter seven guys dressed in blue and black. They pummell the Prince and clearly don’t fit the slipper, or care–are they nasty gay thugs from Marseille with a shoe fetish? Or, are they merely emblematic of life’s negative forces? This part of the story was very strange and incomplete.

Sadly, these two meager stops represent the Prince’s entire search.  Dramatically, it should be a fun interlude for the audience before his final ecstatic discovery. Like Candide, what the Prince finds in his brief travel is bleak and cold. I guess this could be someone’s  joyless intepretation, but this sober, obscure, and disspirited meaning seems totally inappropriate in dance, perhaps not in literature–it leaches out any form of revelation or elevation to the fairy tale that occurs only moments later,  and lessens the joy of his return and final union.

Not until, that is, the last pas de deux that salvages the performance with its abundant life force; again magnificently performed by the two exceptional principals. This was the fireworks, this was the glory.

But as for the Prince, at that point, he could’ve have settled for a stepsister.

BAM and the MARIINSKY BALLET present

at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Howard Gillman Opera House

Music by Sergei Prokofiev
Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky
Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg
Musical direction by Valery Gergiev
Conducted by Valery Gergiev

Principal casting*:

Diana Vishneva/Konstantin Zverev/Yekaterina Kondaurova (Jan 17), Anastasia Matvienko/Alexander Sergeyev/Anastasia Petushkova (Jan 18),
Nadezhda Batoeva, Vladimir Shklyarov, Ekaterina Kondaurova (Jan 20)


Wendy Whelan Joins NYC Ballet Academy East Faculty


Ballet Academy Easis proud to announce that Wendy Whelan will join the Pre-Professional Division Faculty.  Ms. Whalen’s tenure will begin with Ballet Academy East’s Summer Intensive from August 18-29 and will continue through the school year, which begins on September 16, 2014.  Ms. Whalen will primarily teach the upper level students of the Pre-Professional Division.

Wendy Whelan was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, where at the age of three she began taking dance classes with Virginia Wooton, a local teacher. At age eight she performed as a mouse with the Louisville Ballet in its annual production of The Nutcracker. Joining the Louisville Ballet Academy that year, she began intense professional training.

In 1981 she received a scholarship to the summer course at the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet and a year later she moved to New York to become a full-time student there. She was invited to become a member of the New York City Ballet corps de ballet in 1986 and was promoted to principal dancer in 1991.

Whelan has performed a wide spectrum of the Balanchine repertory and worked closely with Jerome Robbins on many of his ballets. She has originated featured roles in 13 ballets for Christopher Wheeldon, as well as in the ballets of William Forsythe, Alexei Ratmansky, Wayne McGregor, Jorma Elo, Shen Wei, Jerome Robbins and Twyla Tharp. In 2007, Whelan was nominated for an Olivier Award and a Critics Circle Award for her performances with Morphoses/Wheeldon Company.

She has been a guest artist with The Royal Ballet and with the Kirov Ballet. She received the 2007 Dance Magazine Award, and in 2009 was given a Doctorate of Arts, honoris causa, from Bellarmine University. In 2011, she was honored with both The Jerome Robbins Award and a Bessie Award for her Sustained Achievement in Performance.



In 2012, Whelan began developing new collaborative projects. Her inaugural project, Restless Creature, which premiered at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in August of 2013, is a suite of four duets, created by and danced with four of todays most cutting edge contemporary dancer/choreographers, Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks and Alejandro Cerrudo. Restless Creature will travel to London and Vail in 2014 and will tour in the US starting in January 2015.  Whelan was recently appointed an Artistic Associate at New York’s City Center and for two years beginning November 1, 2014, City Center will be her home for developing future projects.  She resides in New York City with her husband, the artist David Michalek.

About Ballet Academy East

Ballet Academy East trains dancers for professional careers in ballet. The faculty is led by artistic director Darla Hoover and includes Maxim Beloserkovsky, Cynthia Birdwell, Olga Dvorovenko, Peter Frame, Jenna Lavin, Joseph Malbrough, Tara Mora, Francis Patrelle, Elizabeth Walker and Cheryl Yeager. The comprehensive syllabus was created by Darla Hoover and is designed to develop technically strong, expressive ballet dancers, who ultimately can adapt to any style. The curriculum includes technique classes, pointe, partnering, variations, stretch, men’s weight training, modern, and character. Performing opportunities include two annual productions: the Studio Showing in February and the Spring Performance in May. The director and founder of Ballet Academy East is Julia Dubno.

For more information, visit

Alessandra Ferri Stars in the U.S. Premiere of The Raven in NYC May 28-31

THE-RAVEN-Photo-by-Richard-Termine,-Photographed_Filmed-at-New-42nd-Street-Studios---RTRH4C0174A-copyGotham Chamber Opera, in collaboration with the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, presents the U.S. Premiere of The Raven as part of the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, on May 28, 2014 at 7:30pm and May 30 and 31, 2014 at 8pm, at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, 524 West 59th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues), New York City.

The Raven will star Fredrika Brillembourg in the role of the Narrator and will be danced by Alessandra Ferri, former prima ballerina assoluta with the Royal Ballet (1980–1984), American Ballet Theatre (1985–2007) and La Scala Theatre Ballet (1992–2007).

Tickets are $30-$175 and will be available at or 212-279-4200. For more information visit

Based on the narrative poem by Edgar Allan Poe, with music by Toshio Hosokawa, The Raven tells the story of a man visited by a raven after the death of his lover. To all the questions the man asks, the raven only answers, ‘nevermore’. After drifting through states of different emotions, the narrator, still burdened with the loss of his beloved, finally lays down in the raven’s shadow, his soul trapped and lifted ‘nevermore’.


The creative team for The Raven consists of Neal Goren, conductor; Luca Veggetti, stage director/choreographer; Clifton Taylor, scenic and lighting designer; and Peter Speliopoulos, costume designer.

The program also includes “Conte fantastique: Le Masque de la Mort rouge”(d’après une des Histoires extraordinaires d’Edgar Poë), by André Caplet.

Gotham Chamber Opera, now in its twelfth season, is the nation’s leading opera company dedicated to vibrant, fully staged productions of works intended for intimate venues. Its high quality presentations of small-scale rarities from the Baroque era to the present have earned Gotham an international reputation and unanimous critical praise. For more information, visit

NY PHIL BIENNIAL is a kaleidoscopic exploration of today’s music showcasing an array of curatorial voices through concerts presented with cultural partners throughout New York City. Modeled on the great visual art biennials, the inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL, taking place May 28–June 7, 2014, brings the public together with a diverse roster of more than 50 composers, ranging from elementary school students to icons, for concerts of symphonies, concertos, staged opera, chamber music, and solo works, many of which will be premieres. Meet-up events, lectures and panel discussions, and online interactivity are planned to encourage audience members to directly engage with composers, scholars, and artists. The 2014 NY PHIL BIENNIAL partners include 92nd Street Y, The Museum of Modern Art, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Juilliard School, Gotham Chamber Opera, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Bang on a Can, American Composers Orchestra, and Kaufman Music Center’s Special Music School High School.


Hey NYC – Dance Against Cancer on May 5th



Producers Erin Fogarty and Daniel Ulbricht have partnered with the American Cancer Society to present the fourth annual Dance Against Cancer on Monday, May, 5, 2014.

The evening’s performance, produced by New York City Ballet’s Daniel Ulbricht and Manhattan Youth Ballet’s Erin Fogarty, will feature New York City Ballet‘s Jared Angle, Tyler Angle, Robert Fairchild, Chase Finlay, Lauren King, Maria Kowroski, Tiler Peck, Amar Ramasar, Taylor Stanly and Daniel Ulbricht; American Ballet Theatre‘s Isabella Boylston, Herman Cornejo, Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside; Alvin Ailey‘s Matthew Rushing, Boston Ballet’s Misa Kuranaga, Miami City Ballet‘s Patricia Delgado; as well as Lar Lubovitch‘s Clifton Brown and Memphis Jookin’ sensation, Charles “Lil Buck Riley.” This year will also showcase young dancers from Jacques D’Amboise’s National Dance Institute.

Work by choreographers George Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon, Justin Peck, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Brian Reeder, and others will be featured.

Dance Against Cancer was conceived in 2010 by longtime friends Erin Fogarty and Daniel Ulbricht who both have close ties to the cause. The benefit brings together artists from leading dance companies for a night of performances, world premieres and great company. Since it’s inauguration, Dance Against Cancer has raised over $100,000 in support of the American Cancer Society.

Join them on Monday, May 5, 2014 for cocktails at 6pm (VIP ticket only), followed by a 7pm performance, and a post show reception at AXA Equitable Theatre, 787 Seventh Avenue (between 51st and 52nd Streets), NYC.

For more information visit the website.  Tickets are $150 ($300 for VIP) and are available at



New York Theatre Ballet Announces The Alice-in-Wonderland Follies

Alice-in-Wonderland follies

“Imagine a totally unwired world and the impact of so much visual richness on the children in it. Then unplug a 21st century kid, and head for the Gould…”- The Village Voice

New York Theatre Ballet announces The Alice-in-Wonderland Follies choreographed by Keith Michael at New York City’s Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street, New York City.

Follow Alice’s adventures through Wonderland as she meets some of the most beloved characters in children’s literature.

Presented in a vaudeville setting (NY circa 1915) this eclectic ballet draws on many different dance forms – from Irish step dancing to African Jubba to classical ballet.  The ballet features sets by Gillian Bradshaw-Smith and costumes by Sylvia Taalshon Nolan, Resident Costume Designer of the Metropolitan opera.


Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 1pm

Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 11am, 1pm, and 3:30pm

Tickets are $39 and are available at online at, via Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787, or in-person at the Florence Gould Hall box office.

For more information, contact the Florence Gould Hall box office at (212) 355-6160.

The Alice-in-Wonderland Follies is part of NYTB’s Once Upon a Ballet series.  Other ballets in the Once Upon a Ballet series include:


March 1-2, 2014 at 11am, 1pm, and 3:30pm

Carnival of the Animals & Sleeping Beauty’s Wedding

May 3, 2014 at 1pm, May 4 at 11am, 1pm, and 3:30pm


New York Theatre Ballet (NYTB), founded in 1978 by artistic director Diana Byer, is the most widely seen chamber ballet company in the United States and has been hailed by The New York Times as “an invaluable company.” NYTB is dedicated to inspiring a love of dance in diverse audiences through performances of chamber ballet masterpieces and bold new works, as well as innovative one-hour ballets for children, all at affordable prices.

By pairing the ballets of legendary creators with those of contemporary visionaries, NYTB brings a new understanding and appreciation of dance. The approach to live performance for children is groundbreaking and unique. New York Theatre Ballet offers an annual series of hour-long ballets tailored to the attention span of young audience members, while offering high production values and clever choreography sophisticated enough for discerning parents.

NYTB is committed to reaching underserved audiences by performing in small cities throughout the U.S. Its professional school provides ballet training based on the Cecchetti syllabus. Classes are offered at affordable prices. Scholarships are awarded to talented homeless and underserved children along with support for well-rounded learning.

The Malibu Civic Ballet Presents: The Nutcracker Dec 13th-15th

MalibuCivicBalletby Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move


It’s not much of a confession, but, yes…I love The Nutcracker.  17 years of season tickets to New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, not to mention growing up with the Boston Ballet and witnessing, promoting and occasionally spending time in rehearsal space back East, with a multitude of versions, from numerous companies local or visiting, what can I say.  I’ll always be enthralled with this timeless classic.  This year, yet another local company has come on Gia’s radar.

The Malibu Civic Ballet and Performing Arts Society will be staging their 22nd annual local production next weekend on December 13TH, 14TH AND 15TH.

Billed as Malibu’s only local production, they tout themselves as the ONLY area Nutcracker that is cast with Malibu’s own young dancers and supports the local arts community.

Directed by Diane Linder, Artistic Director, whose performance career includes many years as a principal dancer with the Gene Marinaccio American Concert Ballet Company. Ms. Linder has also served as the artistic director of her own studio for 16 years. She joined the faculty at Pepperdine University and directed their dance department and has choreographed the premiere of an original ballet, “Elizabeth and The Lieutenant”, as well as “The Nutcracker” for the Malibu Civic Ballet.

In addition to Malibu’s home-­‐grown cast of dancers, The NUTCRACKER features guest Principal Dancer (formerly of the National Cuban Ballet) Raydel Caceres and guest Prima Ballerina Alihaydee Carreno.

Four Performances Only!

Friday, December 13th, 7:30PM

Saturday December 14th, 2:00PM and 7:30PM

Sunday, December 15th, 2:00PM

The Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University
24255 PCH
Malibu, CA 90265

$$$ and MORE: $35 Orchestra Center and Orchestra Pit; $25 Orchestra Left and Right; $20 for Youth 17 and under; $10 for Malibu High School and Pepperdine students with ID

For tickets please call 310.506 4522. Smothers Theatre box office is open noon to 5 Monday-­‐Friday and for two hours before every scheduled performance. Tickets can be bought in person, over the phone, or online through Ticketmaster (surcharge applies).

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The Model Critic Is Back! Reviews for Ballet Inc. and San Francisco Ballet

Aaron Atkins (director/choreographer ) and Edgar L. Peterson III.     Photo by by Carolyn Brady/Lois Greenfield Workshop 2013

Aaron Atkins (director/choreographer ) and Edgar L. Peterson III. Photo by by Carolyn Brady/Lois Greenfield Workshop 2013

Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic
Ballet Inc., An Evening with Ballet Inc.
Aaron Atkins, Artistic Director
Tribeca Performing Arts Center 

Aaron Atkins first full length evening of self-produced ballets was presented on October 25, downtown Tribeca. The company founded in 2012, appears to have the right stuff and a bright future judging from the new works performed on Friday night. Atkins’ dances combine contemporary and classical elements, with a few dances en pointe, out of the seven pieces presented. Ensembles of ten dancers were choreographed effectively, with dramatic structure and surprises, as well as some passionate duets, and one particular solo from “Fallen Angels,” performed beautifully by Chloe Slade, caught my attention.

The themes were generally dark and moody, with “Untitled,” serving as a short introduction or prologue, quickly transitioning into “Examinis,”with music by Arvo Part; a soft seduction duet, lyrical and flowing, coupled with an intimate low light. From there, however, until the final dance in Act 11,  we were revisited with the same lighting scheme, with slight variations, that eventually shaded the prevailing themes with a somber mood. “Fallen Angels,” ending Act I, with an intended garbled sound track from Schubert’s Ave Maria, and dark temperament, was made even darker by the same distracting lighting, black background and dark costumes.  (Was this a technical production issue or a creative choice)? Courtney Sauls opened passionately in the first section with long and controlled movement dynamics, while in the third section Chloe Slade, in her solo, was exciting with her bright and exacting quickness. Overall, the dance conveyed a feeling of sexual repression, loneliness, and dissatisfaction, and was dramatically moving, but the message became a bit overcooked, and made remote with the audience not being able to see the dancer’s more subtle expressions.

Act 11 opened with “Waiting,” again to a moody theme, and a soundtrack from various down-cast artists; good dancing throughout though, well performed, intriguing energy, and displaying many choreographic ideas. “Meminisse” followed in the same emotional motif–forlornness, joyless couplings, loneliness, separation. If art is about exploring ideas deeply instead of broadly, this was approached. But as performance, added texture seemed to be needed.

Atkins founded the company to “challenge traditions that may inhibit a dancer due to his or her body type or ethnic background..and too merge various forms of dance into a unique and eclectic style.” He seems to accomplish this within his pieces, and has assembled an attractive group of dancers with strong backgrounds. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see how attractive they really are fully, until the final dance, “No Words”. A dance not nearly as self-consciously private, but with a more open and generous viewpoint, finally had illumination. Faces dance too, and is part of the total experience, so it was like experiencing the group for the first time. Maggie Baum, Shannon Maynor, Genene McGrath, Jesus Olivera, Lila Simmons, Courtney Sauls, Chloe Slade, Carly Topazio, Tanya Trombly, and Dana Wiley drew well deserved cheers at curtain for their fine efforts.  We wish all the performers, and Mr. Atkin’s brave new venture all the best.

Lastly, because these dances had such a close organic link, they perhaps could be knit together into one longer piece, and given a greater scope.  Otherwise, Ballet Inc. looked great and engaged the audience, and is a company that should be watched because there was so much more hinted to come.

marks_hedera, markers, characters


San Francisco Ballet Company
Helgi Tomasson, Artistic Director
 David H. Koch Theatre, Lincoln Center, New York City

The oldest ballet company in America is beginning its second week of performances in New York City with six performances of Cinderella.  The first week gave us a mixed program of some exciting dances splendidly performed by a young and talented company. However, what struck me the most about the performance Sunday October 27, and the New York Premiere of Cinderella on the previous Wednesday night, was the commitment of the dancers to delivering a high level of joy, energy, and enthusiasm. There were many tremendous individual efforts, but most of all, I walked away with a feeling that I saw a company dancing all out, giving its best on the road. It was all fresh, alive, and dynamic; like an old friend returning from an long absence bringing light and air. SFB hasn’t visited since 2008, and we’re lucky to see them return.

This new concept of Cinderella is more true to the Brothers Grimm version, says choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. In place of the Fairy Godmother in the Perrault version, Wheeldon has chosen a more primordial narrative, incorporating rain, birds, and fleecy skies that he felt were more poetic. In a splendid visual effect of design wizardry, a tree magically grows from Cinderella’s mother’s grave, and becomes a reincarnated character, a living spiritual presence guiding Cinderella throughout her journey from distressed servant at the hands of her abusive stepsisters, her struggle to go and return from the ball, to the famous triumphant fitting of her slipper, and finally to her destined transformation, and salvation into the loving arms of Prince Guillaume.

All this works to great effect in this imaginative and inspired creation; the beguiling projections onto scrims; the rich primary colors of the costumes; the breathtaking, naturalistic carriage scene; the ensemble dances at the ball;  together eerily unified by the dark and dramatic music of Prokofiev which completes Wheeldon’s clear vision. At the end, Cinderella comes across as genuine fairy tale, full of awe and fantasy with all the depth of story intact. Makes you want to see his Alice in Wonderland!

Maria Kochetkova was a dreamily youthful and naive Cinderella, that moved with elastic purring grace, while her prince, Joan Boada was strong, attentive and clean in his movements; both well suited in their final, beaming pas de deux at the ball. Marie-Claire D’Lyse was hilarious as the Stepmother Hortensia, and made the most of her over the top caricature in her “slightly” intoxicated dance scene. A fiery standout was Dores André, who sparkled in the mixed program to good advantage, and was again outstanding in her fluid, funny, and charismatic role as the Spanish Princess.

In the mixed program earlier in the week, we were presented with another New York Premiere by Alexei Ratmansky, From Foreign Lands. A choreographer, most recently creating new refreshing ideas for ABT, here graced this company with a delightful travelogue of dances– Russsian, Italian, German, Spanish, Polish, and Hungarian–my favorite being the Italian with Joan Borda, Doris André, Mathilde Froustey, and Dana Genshaft that gleamed with good fun. The German, with its evocative, poetic music and movements, reminded one of  perhaps Goethe, and German Romanticism, with Jennifer Stalh, Luke Ingham, Anthony Spaulding, and Luke Willis elegant in their group. Polish was passionate, with lively variations and proud mazurkas.

Announcements, at the beginning, to changes in the scheduled program was a bit confusing as to who was dancing, and in what order the dances were to to appear. But as luck would have it, the reshuffling seemed to work perfectly as Suite en Blanc, scheduled first originally, was last on the program, and showed to be the most beautiful of the performance. San Francisco Ballet is not strictly classical either, but rather blends in many elements of contempory ballet– to be in this company dancers must be adept in various forms. That said, Suite en Blanc, by legendary Serge Lifar of the Paris Opera Ballet, who believed dance was more important than the musical elements, and someone who had a more contemporary approach to ballet in his day, choreographed this piece in 1943 (premiered in San Francisco in Jan, 2013 at the War Memorial Opera House) nonetheless, obviously looks and feels to today’s audience as an homage to classicism. Beautifully inspired, the dancers Clara Blanco, Simone Messmer, Vanessa Zahorian, Taras Domitro, Yuan Yuan Tan, Tiit Helimets, Maria Kochetkova, and the fine corps, gave a sparkling clean and powerful picture of classical line, structure and presentation.

San Francisco Ballet, with artistic director Helgi Tomasson at its head for the last 29 seasons, formerly at City Ballet under Balanchine, is the third largest ballet company in America, and the first company in America to present Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Under Tomasson, the New York Times said SFB was one of the spectacular success stories of the arts in America.