ABT Marks 75 years

Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes in Pillar of Fire. Photo by Marty Sohl.
Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes in Pillar of Fire. Photo by Marty Sohl.

In its first week, the company performs works from its first decade. See my review of two programs here.

Twyla’s Bach Partita Returns

Sterling Baca, Christine Shevchenko, Devon Teuscher, and Blaine Hoven in Twyla Tharp's "Bach Partita". Photo by Gene Schiavone.
Sterling Baca, Christine Shevchenko, Devon Teuscher, and Blaine Hoven in Twyla Tharp’s “Bach Partita”. Photo by Gene Schiavone.

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.”

Susan Jones, or, the Art of the Ballet Mistress

Susan Jones cooaching "Paquita."
Susan Jones cooaching “Paquita.”

Here’s my interview with Susan Jones, a ballet mistress at American Ballet Theatre in charge of the corps de ballet. Jones joined ABT in 1970 and stayed for nine years. In that time, she danced every corps role in the rep, plus Lizzie in Fall River Legend, Cowgirl in Rodeo, and a few other choice parts that suited her dramatic side. She quickly showed a skill for remembering steps, which became handy when working with Twyla Tharp on Push Comes to Shove. Baryshnikov made her a ballet mistress, and she never left. This fall, she is re-staging Tharp’s Bach Partita, which hasn’t been done for almost thirty years.

Of Princes and Swans

Herman Cornejo's curtain call on June 21. Photo by Leena Hassan.
Herman Cornejo’s curtain call on June 21. Photo by Leena Hassan.

There were several débuts in ABT’s Swan Lake this week. I caught two: the soloist James Whiteside (dancing with Gillian Murphy) and Herman Cornejo (alongside Maria Kochetkova, of the San Francisco Ballet). Cornejo danced to the manner born–he was put on this earth to play Siegfried, it seems. The only thing that has kept him back this long is the everpresent problem of finding a partner of his size who dances with the same panache and scale. Originally he was scheduled to perform with Alina Cojocaru, who just retired from the Royal Ballet. But she pulled out at the last minute (because of an injury, they say), and was replaced by Maria Kochetkova. In many ways, Kochetkova is just right for him, though she doesn’t seem to have the same open-heartedness or warmth. But who does?

Here is my review of both casts, for DanceTabs. 

And a short excerpt:

“Cornejo is in the flower of his career, and it was clear from his first steps on the stage that he was more than ready for the challenge. In fact, it was as if he had been dancing Swan Lake all his life. In the first scene, he flirted boyishly with one of courtiers (Luciana Paris), kissed her hand with budding ardor as if wondering, “could she be the one?” Just as clearly, one could read the disappointment in his eyes. His first-act meditation solo, full of aching arabesques and slow swivels with one leg curving behind him (renversés), was delivered as one long thought: “where is my true love? How will I find her?”

Maria Kochetkova and Herman Cornejo at their curtain call. Photo by Leena Hassan.
Maria Kochetkova and Herman Cornejo at their curtain call. Photo by Leena Hassan.

A gallery of images of Herman Cornejo and Luciana Paris in “Sinatra Suite”

After my interview with Herman Cornejo appeared in DanceTabs, the photographer Lucas Chilczuk contacted me. Turns out he took a series of photographs of Cornejo and Luciana Paris during rehearsals of Twyla Tharp’s “Sinatra Suite,” for Fall For Dance. When I spoke to the dancer he told me: “I talked to…Twyla about it, and I told [her] that in order for it to work for me I had to make it my own, I had to express something about myself. With Baryshnikov, the ballet was really about him, but to me, it’s about the man and the woman, the relationship between them….That last pas de deux with Luciana [My Way], for me, it’s about having to part with someone you love, even though the passion is still there, and that’s something I can understand. When I do that final solo I have a lot of memories, not precise images, but moments and sensations of things I’ve experienced. It leaves me feeling very empty.” I think these photos by Lucas Chilczuk capture that feeling well. (You can see more of Chilczuk’s dance photographs at http://www.lucasch.com. )

Luciana Paris and Herman Cornejo in a rehearsal of Twyla Tharp’s “Sinatra Suite.” All photos by Lucas Chilczuk.

Cornejo and Paris are old friends, a fact which I think shines through their performance…

A tender moment from “My Way,” in “Sinatra Suite.”
Ironing out the details…

Chilczuk also took this nice cover shot of Luciana Paris, for the Argentine magazine Balletin:

An Interview with Herman Cornejo (for DanceTabs)

I recently sat down with Herman Cornejo at a café downtown. We discussed everything from the cruelty of the artform, to the excitement of working with Alexei Ratmansky, to his love of drawing. Here is a link to the interview.

And a short excerpt:

“Well you know, it took a long time for Kevin [McKenzie, artistic director of ABT] to give me the principal roles in the classical ballets, even when I was already a principal. And yes, sometimes it was frustrating, but you know, now that I think about it, I feel like things happen when they are supposed to happen. I’m ready, I feel different about them now. Also, coming back to the Met after having been injured for almost four months I felt very different. Maybe it was because I was so happy to be back there, but I had rested, I’d had time to think about things.”