In its first week, the company performs works from its first decade. See my review of two programs here.
Over the weekend, I saw a second cast in Liam Scarlett’s new “With a Chance of Rain,” plus Alexei Ratmansky’s beautiful “Seven Sonatas,” JIri Kylian’s “Sinfonietta,” and more. You can read my review here.
Watching four casts of Giselle is like seeing four different ballets—one of the reasons for this ballet’s enduring appeal. Here’s my review, for DanceTabs, of four parings at ABT: Polina Semionova/David Hallberg, Isabella Boylston/James Whiteside, Hee Seo/Alexandre Hammoudi, and Alina Cojocaru/David Hallberg (the latter replacing an indisposed Herman Cornejo).
It’s always exciting to see an unexpectedly gripping début. That was the case with Alexandre Hammoudi at the Saturday matinée. He has the acting chops, the allure, and the amplitude. Now he just has to work on his stamina and polish.
This season, ABT brought back Bach Partita, which it hasn’t performed since 1985, two years after it was created for the company. It’s a big, brilliant piece, with thirty-six dancers, who animate the stage with in constantly changing patterns for thirty minutes. The music is Bach’s second partita for solo violin, a monster of a work, played in the pit by the young violinist Charles Yang. Here’s my review for DanceTabs. (It also includes thoughts on Mark Morris’s Gong and Alexei Ratmansky’s new Tempest, which I saw again this week.)
And a short excerpt: “Throughout the ballet, Tharp’s movement is technical, precise and highly articulated. As with Balanchine, the bodies are always distinct, framed in space….It’s not unusual to have three pas de deux going on at once, independent of each other. In these cases the eye is forced to jump from one to the other, and it’s virtually impossible to catch everything.”
At the Saturday matinee, ABT presented a program consisting of Fokine’s Les Sylphides, Stanton Welch’s Clear, and Balanchine’s Theme and Variations. The most interesting aspect was seeing the contrast between Sylphides and Theme. Two sumptuous works about the nature of ballet itself. I reviewed the show here.
A short excerpt: “In many ways these two works illustrate what we think about when we think about ballet. The first is a vaporous homage to the aura of mid-nineteenth century works like La Sylphide and Giselle. The latter, a luminous affirmation of the classical style, specifically the high classicism of the Russian Silver Age and its exemplary ballet, Sleeping Beauty.”
American Ballet Theatre is bringing back Twyla Tharp’s “Bach Partita,” this week, at Lincoln Center. For this advance piece, I spoke with Susan Jones (the ballet mistress who is doing the staging), a couple of dancers, and Charles Yang (the violinist) about the revival of what Arlene Croce described as an “enormous, whirling, weightless ballet”
A little while back, I sat down with Cheryl Yeager, a former principal with ABT, along with two current soloists, Yuriko Kajiya and Isabella Boylston. We talked about how the company and the profession has changed over time, the role of the internet, the evolution of technique, and the importance of coaching. The Q&A is out in this month’s Playbill at the Metropolitan Opera House. You can check out a pdf here.
This week, between Cranko’s “Onegin” and the rip-roaring “Don Quixote,” American Ballet Theatre performed a triple bill including Ashton’s late ballet “A Month in the Country.” I saw two casts, with Julie Kent and Roberto Bolle in one, and Hee Seo and David Hallberg in the other. Here’s a link to my review for DanceTabs .
And a short excerpt:
“In forty-five minutes and with the assistance of Chopin (and, indirectly, of Mozart), Ashton has taken the heart of the Turgenev play and turned it into a series of tender miniatures. With great skill, wit, and love, he sews them together (with ribbons) into a portrait of a sentimental married woman experiencing pangs of longing for a young man, but also of her comfortable little world and the emotions that turn it topsy turvy. Russia, by way of the Cotswolds.”
American Ballet Theatre held its spring gala at the Metropolitan Opera House on May 13, kicking off the season. It included the usual mix of excerpts, but also full performances of Balanchine’s Symphony in C and Ratmansky’s Symphony No. 9. You can read my review for DanceTabs here.
And here’s a short excerpt:
“[Students from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and members of the Studio Company] performed…a charmingly formal demonstration of classroom technique (Cortège)… Each dancer had a moment to shine. The students’ port de bras, soft and beautifully shaped, was a particular pleasure. It was funny to see the contrast between this formal demonstration and what followed: a display of just how un-classical today’s dancers can be. I wonder if the faculty shielded the young dancers’ eyes as Ivan Vasiliev tore across the stage like a panther and planted himself behind Xiomara Reyes, placing his hands on her waist with workmanlike focus….Vasiliev is no paragon of elegance, that’s for sure, but his sheer exuberance, and the power of his jumps and lifts, makes him an undeniable presence onstage. No-one does an overhead lift like Vasiliev; he seems to want to propel his ballerina into the stratosphere. If he could dislocate his shoulder to get her even higher, he would.”
The New York Times has announced that American Ballet Theatre will engage in dancer exchanges with London’s Royal Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet. An intriguing prospect. Two of ABT’s most promising young dancers, Isabella Boylston and Cory Stearns, will take part. Boylston, who recently had a very auspicious début in “Swan Lake,” will perform in RDB’s Nutcracker next December, and Cory Stearns will go to the Royal Ballet, where he was once a student. (Stearns, a handsome, tall dancer—and excellent partner—has danced roles by Ashton, like Oberon in “The Dream,” with some distinction.) In return, ABT will get Steven McRae, a prized principal in London, and the very promising young Alban Lendorf from Copenhagen. McRae gave a scintillating performance at Fall For Dance in New York two years ago; from that, and several sightings at screenings from the Royal, I can say that he seems like a very exciting dancer indeed: quick, a bit cheeky, noble when he needs to be, and full of wit. (He was excellent in a screening of Ashton’s La Fille Mal Gardée last year.) He will dance the role of Lankendem in Le Corsaire at ABT next spring at the Met. Not a terribly interesting role, I should think, though it must be said that the company will be presenting a new production of Corsaire this year; I wonder if he’ll be in the same cast as Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev? Lendorf, prized for his buoyant jump and affable demeanor, will dance Prince Désiré in Sleeping Beauty, also during the Met season. It is hard not to think that such exchanges are a way to discourage defections, which seem to be on the rise within the ballet world. Keep the dancers happy, help them grow, but also offer the audience new faces and a reason to come back to see ballets they’ve seen a million times already. Something for everyone, except of course for the younger dancers who might want to get a stab at the big roles. Nothing new there.