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.
As American Ballet Theatre’s fall season at the State Theatre comes to an end, I put together some thoughts for DanceTabs about some of the seasons’ high points, especially a dramatic performance of José Limon’s Moor’s Pavane (with Roman Zhurbin in the role of the Moor), a very touching Month in the Country, and the return of Piano Concerto #1 from last season.
Here’s a short excerpt: “The Nov. 7 cast of Month in the Country was particularly felicitous. Julie Kent’s portrayal of Natalia Petrovna is touching, unstinting in both her vulnerability – her heart seems to literally skip a beat as Guillaume Côté, the handsome tutor, takes her hands in his – and her histrionic, conniving nature….Gemma Bond, as young Vera, is equally multi-hued, if not quite so profound: sweet and eager in the opening scene, desperate and determined to get her way in her pas de deux with Beliaev, and furiously righteous – as only an adolescent wronged can be – when she discovers Petrovna’s dalliance with Beliaev. Côté, on loan from the National Ballet of Canada, was débuting in the role of the tutor, and yet he seemed to instinctually capture the character’s mix of innocence, heedless sensuality, and ardor.”
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”
ABT is performing Frederick Ashton’s pseudo-classical fantasy “Sylvia” this week. It’s a marvelous ballet, taken on its own terms. Full of stylish detail, tender scenes, and ravishing music, it is also completely silly and over-the-top, with more than a whiff of the music-hall.
“The designs are intentionally old-fashioned, quaint, many-layered, full of drapery and chiaroscuri that turn the stage into a lavish popup book. The first tableau, a sylvan glade with a stony outcrop, reveals a little bridge in the background and a three-tiered fountain topped by a statue of Eros. The statue later turns out – surprise! – to be a dancer slathered in white body paint. The second act takes place in a kind of orientalist fantasy-land, Cairo by way of the the Moulin Rouge.”
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?
“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?”
This ambitious new tripartite ballet, set to two symphonies and a piano concerto, all by Shostakovich, had its première at ABT over the weekend. It’s a fine work, sprawling and intense, abstract and full of stories and vivid stage pictures. An huge gift to the company, which shows itself in superb form. Here’s my review for DanceTabs.
And a short excerpt:
“What is most remarkable about the Trilogy is its range, combined with the interweaving of elements from one ballet to the next. Here is a world, Shostakovich’s world as seen by Ratmansky. Each piece has a distinct character, and yet the three clearly come from the same mind, and echo each other in various ways.”
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.”