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Flash Review 2, 10-25: Up Close and Grand
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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