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Flash Review 2, 10-25: Up Close and
ABT Celebrates Art and Life
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2001 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- American Ballet Theatre's
fall season at City Center, now in its fifth year, stepped off on a patriotic
note last night. Though the program highlight was the company premiere of Balanchine's
"Symphony in C," the gala evening's first half began with nine short works, mostly
either elegiac or patriotic in tone. It was an evening to be thankful for many
gifts of beauty and intelligence.
"Symphony in C," an energetic, black
and white tutu ballet in four parts which premiered in 1947, is danced to music
by Georges Bizet. Four pairs of soloists comprise the separate sections and last
night's cast showed off the depth of the company's upper ranks. Paloma Herrera/Ethan
Stiefel and Ashley Tuttle/Angel Corella showed off a young, athletic aspect, with
Tuttle/Corella demonstrating particular verve and gregariousness with plentiful
smiles and exchanged looks, and Corella showing off his knack for spinning. Stiefel's
clean, knifing (though skinny) legs and sissons into splits complemented Herrera's
shapely feet and archteypal attitudes, although she has a tendency to carry her
head forward of her spine a bit stiffly.
Nina Ananiashvili/Jose Manuel Carreno
represented a more traditional pairing, comporting themselves with reserved dignity
and elegant lines. Ananiashvili showed faith by dead-falling into Carreno's arms
repeatedly; and she showed a jazzy musicality in her phrasing of a simple passe,
followed by a tendu. The fourth pair -- Sandra Brown/Sascha Radetsky -- unfortunately
seemed to be handicapped by apparent fatigue or weakness on Brown's part, after
she performed so movingly with Marcelo Gomes in "My Funny Valentine," an earlier
duet by Lar Lubovitch. (Was the doubling up of this work on last week's Lubovitch
program, ironically on the same stage, perhaps part of the problem?)
The first part of the program was
a sampler of the season to come as well as (says the title), "A Tribute to the
American Spirit." Highlights included an excerpt of Kirk Peterson's "Amazed in
Burning Dreams," to Philip Glass music, with an exceptionally precise performance
by Herman Cornejo. (I look forward to seeing, and reviewing, the complete premiere
next week.) Angel Corella again shone in "Variations on America," a cheeky duet
by Eliot Feld. Corella paired off with Erica Cornejo, the duo together saluting,
and winking at, patriotic symbols.
Susan Jaffe was an eloquent swan
-- limpid wrists and supple pointe-to-flat passages -- in the act two pas from
"Swan Lake," with Carlos Molina, and Irina Dvorovenko demonstrated those stoic
Russian ballet roots with the help of Maxim Belotserkovsky in excerpts from the
"Sylvia pas de deux," staged by Marina Eglevsky after the Louis Merante 1876 original.
Partnered, Dvorovenko assumed a back attitude, switched arms three times while
in balance, and then proceeded to lift her working leg (which had not dropped
one centimeter) in an invisible show of sheer strength and determination.
The program also included an excerpt
from Robert Hill's world premiere, "Reverie." It was danced by three legends of
varying age (Frederic Franklin, Georgina Parkinson, and Martine Van Hamel) to
Schubert songs performed onstage by piano and soprano. The minimal movement, primarily
for the arms and torso, was not as compelling as the performers' collective history,
which was important to know to appreciate the piece's full meaning. Franklin staged
"Coppelia (Prayer)," danced by Ashley Tuttle, which was tender and poignant.
"Without Words," by Nacho Duato to
Schubert, featured Julie Kent and Vladimir Malakhov as supple puppets with crooked
elbows, knocked knees, and flexed feet. The stage was filled with color during
"Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 (Third Movement)," by Clark Tippet, but marred by
some wobbly performances, including a near-crash by downstage-chaine-ing soloists,
although in their defense there was literally no place to travel to.
Whether it is the more character-based,
theatrical approach of ABT versus City Ballet's cool remove, or the close proximity
of the audience to the dancers (compared to being a long Hail Mary's pass away
at the State Theater), the dancers seemed fairly amped last night. Perhaps it
was also the occasion of the season opening gala. Or was it stored energy from
some time off? In any case, the company was happy enough to be smiling throughout.
A note on the stage size: when the corps joined the soloists onstage, particularly
in "Symphony in C," they looked uncomfortably crowded. Nevertheless, it was a
celebration of art and life, crowded and busy as it may be.
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