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American Ballet Theatre Stage Door Fans: Fifth Annual Reunion
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The American Ballet Theatre Stage Door Fans
Fifth Annual Reunion

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 8, 2007
Originally Published on

July 8, 2007 at Jack's, 147 West 40th Street, between 7th Ave. and Bdwy., 212.869.8300, over shrimp-avocado omelets, cod and chowder, tiramisu, sorbets, and cappuccinos, again a big step up from former ABT Stage Door interviews, huddled within the sweltering stage door garage area. I was once again joined by Marianne Stegeland, Lois Kirschenbaum, Tommy Ng, and Adam Jagusiak.

REZ: It's so good to see you all again. I know you'll love Jack's. Well, I have something to show you. Here are news articles, programs, and magazine covers, all from (Rudolf) Nureyev's last few years. And, here are photos me in front of the shrine I made in my apartment in 1993, when Nureyev died: two tables with candles, books, signed photo, other photos of him, playbills from his performances and galas.

Group: Oh, you look so sad. We'll never forget that day. (Marianne showed us a neatly bookmarked diary of current ABT dancers, photos, signatures).

REZ: OK, let's jump right to Ferri's (Alessandra) Farewell in Romeo and Juliet. It was so great to see Julio (Bocca) there. And Tommy's photos were fantastic. Congratulations on going to the party and getting such wonderful shots. And, let's jump at the same time to Roberto Bolle, and what did you think?

Group: It was something to see her there, sitting on the bed, as Juliet, while the music is so uplifting. Then, suddenly her cape flies and she runs to the Friar. Angel (Corella) was more virtuosic, but Roberto (Bolle) has the best stage presence, elegance.

REZ: Yes, I thought his lines were like a colt, muscular, strong, and always in focus on Ferri. But, Angel belongs to ABT. It must have been a shock, when she brought him from Italy.

Group: Well, that was her decision. It was her retirement from ABT, although not her international retirement, and she requested him.

REZ: Tell me more about Romeo and Juliet this year, different from the NYC Ballet production.

Group: It was more in keeping with the ballets we remember of Nureyev and Fonteyn (Margot), classical, sweeping. In fact, we were so impressed with Gillian (Murphy) and David Hallberg. She became so theatrical by her last performance, so different from last season. Paloma (Herrera) has also grown into this role.

REZ: Yes, I saw Alessandra and Paloma, and this year Paloma used much more dramatic interpretation and let herself go. Let's go back to Bayadère.

Group: Then, we need to remember Nina's (Ananiashvili) hand movement, Ethan's (Stiefel) powerful performance. Nina made her full-length comeback that night (She appeared in the Opening Night Gala), after Helena was born on Valentine's Day, 2006. It was so great just to see here there.

REZ: I loved her dance as Nikiya, so sensual, and she was front center when the snakebite happened. Now, The Dream, and that night when 300 ABT Alumni were onstage.

Group: And they kept coming and coming, and when they closed the curtain, they were still walking onstage. Cynthia Gregory was there, Susan Jaffe, Gage Bush, Cynthia Harvey, Ethan Brown, and many more that we didn't recognize.

REZ: And I heard someone in the audience say she was surprised ABT presented a Balanchine work that night, Symphonie Concertante. But, she also said, what a great job they did. I also heard someone say that it was amazing to see the ABT corps add individual personalities to the ensembles. What about The Dream?

Group: We fell in love with this ballet this season. It's more compact and romantic than the full-length Midsummer Night's Dream. Herman (Cornejo) as Puck is so exciting; he's such a whirlwind. Angel and Gillian did a wonderful job, really carried this ballet.

REZ: I saw Julie (Kent) and Marcelo (Gomes), and they captivated my imagination all night. They're such great partners. Now, the new Sleeping Beauty.

Group: This seemed to be created as a spectacle for family audiences. The kids stood up, mesmerized. The colors, the costumes, the sets, like a fantasy. It wasn't as much about dance as about the characters.

REZ: In some ways, it reminded me of Disney's Fantasia. But, I loved the mustard-aqua village costumes, the deep red hunt forest scene, and the Rose Adagio was pretty much intact. I loved the way Paloma and Angel kept coming out dramatically, and they engaged the fans. The second viewing was better for me. It takes time for a new ballet to grow on you, especially new choreography on a familiar classic. Next was Manon.

Group: Some of us missed that chance to see Ferri and Corella on the Wednesday matinee when Xiomara (Reyes) was replaced last minute, but then she danced with Bolle on the Saturday night program. Bolle wasn't better, just different. There was more chemistry. Bolle is unassuming, theatrical, and…the lifts and music…

REZ: I loved both casts. Ferri was more the performer with Angel and more the lover with Roberto. The music finally swirled in my head this year. Speaking of swirling music, the Romeo and Juliet score stayed in my head, until Swan Lake pushed it out. Swan Lake is what we live for, and to wait three years for Nina to return. And, did you see the extra arm ripples across the stage toward von Rothbart and again at the curtain.

Group: We were screaming. At the stage door, we told her, THANK you for those extra arm ripples. Angel was much more connected this year, first with Nina and then with Paloma. Paloma, though, is more competitive, more self-driven. Nina is more involved with the passion, the emotion, and her whole body becomes the swan. But, this year Nina didn't do the triple fouettés, that she always did. Paloma did them, though, and her timing was tight.

REZ: Yes, she was a siren. But the chemistry seemed tense with Angel.

Group: Yes, we heard there were some happenings at rehearsal. It's hard to make every single move work exactly right, lifts, carrying her, spins. (Lois) I remember Melissa Hayden, such an emotional swan. And we remember Cynthia Gregory, standing on pointe forever, like she did in one mock show, smoking a cigarette.

REZ: So, Cinderella? For me, this ballet grew on me this year, and I loved it, but especially with Gillian and David, although Marcelo was so campy and charismatic. The problem was that Julie Kent seemed a bit detached, although elegant. I found Carmen (Corella) and Marian (Butler) the best step-sisters, and Roman (Zhurbin) the best hired escort. Roman is getting so stylized. And, this music is still with me, sometimes switching to Swan Lake.

Group: Stella (Abrera) was wonderful as Cinderella and finally mastered this role. The vaudevillian scenes grew on us this year. But, this could be Carmen's final year. There's a lot of talk about Angel's new ballet company in Spain, which might become the Royal Ballet of Spain. The royalty of Spain is behind his company. He travels a lot now, and, if this happens, he might bring many ABT and other dancers as guests or even permanent members. This is all in the planning stages now, but it's definitely the buzz. Next season could be Angel's Farewell. His website is up.

REZ: And, if Herman goes with him, as Herman is married to Carmen, Angel's sister, what's left?

Group: They might bring in Roberto Bolle. And Guillaume Coté, and maybe other people from Europe. And there are promotions, new people to watch, Isaac Stappas, Craig Salstein, Marcelo, David, and the new soloists: Kristi Boone, Misty Copeland, Sarah Lane, Yuriko Kajiya, and Jared Matthews. They had all of them in solo roles this year. None of the original soloists were promoted to principals.

REZ: I forgot Othello. I had my father in town that week.

Group: Then you didn't see Rasta Thomas. They might get him to join the company. He's a gorgeous dancer, and we first saw him in a Lar Lubovitch event. He played into Ferri's strengths, gave her a chance to show her enormous emotions.

REZ: Is Ferri totally retired. It seemed so.

Group: She has events scheduled in Europe, but then retires. She has two young daughters.

REZ: Any word on the City Center casting?

Group: Not yet. Sinatra Suite is on the list, and Herman was incredible in that role. And there's a new Jorma Elo and a Millepied (Benjamin) piece.

REZ: Yes, I saw Millepied at the Opera House this week. Must have been meeting or rehearsing. So, it's another year. Have a great summer, and see you at City Center in the fall.

Marianne Stegeland works at Social Security administration and volunteers at ABT and the cabaret scene. Lois Kirschenbaum retired from the International Rescue Committee for re-settlement and education. Tommy Ng is a cardiologist at Deborah Heart and Lung Center in NJ. Adam Jagusiak is a news journalist. All of us are balletomanes.

Roberta's 1993 photo of her Nureyev shrine

Photo courtesy of Tommy Ng

Shrimp-Tomato-Avocado Omelet with Home Fries

Photo courtesy of Tommy Ng

Tommy's New England Cod with Pan Chowder of Vegetables

Photo courtesy of Tommy Ng

Roberta's Shrimp Omelet with Broccoli

Photo courtesy of Tommy Ng

Homemade Tiramisu

Photo courtesy of Tommy Ng

Roberta's Guava and Mango Sorbets

Photo courtesy of Tommy Ng

Tommy, Roberta, Marianne, Adam, Lois

Photo courtesy of Tommy Ng

Marianne Tempts Us with Chocolates

Photo courtesy of Tommy Ng

Marianne's Chocolates and Lemon Drops

Photo courtesy of Tommy Ng


For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at