On Saturday night, Misty Copeland had her New York début as the Cowgirl in Agnes de Mille’s “Rodeo.” She was fantastic: funny, relaxed, charming, touching. A natural comedienne. It was a side of her dancing I’d never seen, a brilliant bit of casting against type. (Copeland is usually cast in either more contemporary work, or classical variations, or parts that highlight her natural glamour.) But last Saturday she threw herself into De Mille’s dopey character heart and soul, and brought the audience along for the ride.
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.”
Alexei Ratmansky’s new Tempest premièred at American Ballet Theatre’s fall gala, held at the old State Theatre. Because of the departure (and now closure) of New York City Opera, the theatre is now becoming a magnet for dance companies. ABT is appearing there for the first time since the seventies, and it looks quite at home on its stage. It’s a great space for dance, with excellent site lines.
Anyway, the program consisted of of three works: Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, The Tempest, and a trifle by Marcelo Gomes. Here’s my review for DanceTabs.
And a short excerpt: “As the note in the program points out, ‘the ballet is at once a fragmented narrative as well as a meditation on some of the themes of Shakespeare’s play.’ It is both those things, but even more, it is a series of psychological portraits of its central characters. Each (Miranda, Ariel, Caliban, Ferdinand) dances a kind of aria. Most also have a duet with Prospero; he is the hub of the play’s network of relationships.”
This one is from Ratmansky’s version at ABT. Last night, Hee Seo and Cory Stearns danced the roles of “Clara, the Princess” and “Nutcracker, the Prince,” i.e. the adult avatars of Clara and her Nutcracker doll. I must say, each time I see this version, I like it more. Last night (Dec. 13) it looked tighter than ever, which is important in a production with so much detail. I still feel the stage of the Howard Gilman Opera House is a bit small and can look over-crowded at times (as in the party scene), but as the company settles into the intricate choreography (and relaxes into the acting, of which there is quite a lot), the ballet just gets richer and its intentions become more clear. The children’s individual personalities begin to shine through, and one notices all sorts of goings-on: last night I was amused by a little scene of flirtation going on by the staircase while the children opened their presents, as Vitali Krauchenka chatted up Katherine Williams, who kept bashfully looking down at her lap. I’m always amused by the fact that after the men get up from dinner, they are a little drunk, their hair disheveled. Last night, the snowflakes were right on the music, producing that special thrill when music and steps seem to come from the same impulse. The same goes for the three Russians (Mikhail Ilyin, Arron Scott, and Craig Salstein), who have honed their comical Russian Dance to a perfect “bit,” cutting their antics short just in time to take off into a series of repeated jumps that seem to say, “ta-da!” just as the music does. And talking about about timing, Roman Zhurbin’s is a thing of beauty; he can tell you everything you need to know about Drosselmeyer by the extra time he takes to embrace Clara, but also by the pacing of his entrance. Nothing is rushed or overly theatrical. And it helps that he moves like a dancer; his acting has elegance of shape and stillness when it is needed.
I’ve fallen completely in love with the dance for the Polichinelles; the kids do a kind of rocking saunter, then drop to the ground and crawl back through each other’s legs; then they hop from side to side with one leg in attitude. It’s so simple, but it works. The Waltz of the Flowers is still hopeless; the flowers do so little dancing, and the four bees prancing on the melody are simply not funny, nor does the whole “funny” concept fit the mood. Maybe one day Ratmansky will change it?
But all is forgotten once the final pas de deux begins. The two children face their adult manifestations but they don’t see each other. Each couple holds hands. The children slowly walk into an opening at the back of the stage, and the adults dance an emotional pas de deux; the heart catches. It’s also and extremely hard pas de deux, requiring lots of strength, enormous endurance, and some bravery (as when the man swings the ballerina around with her leg out to the side and just hopes that she’ll stay up). Last night, Seo and Stearns had a few flubs, but the feeling was right. A joy laced with awe and even a touch of sadness. Seo was luminous; Stearns looked at her with a love-smitten smile, as if assuring her that even if things did not go seamlessly, he would be there. And he was. It wasn’t perfect, but it was moving.