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Flash Review 2, 11-2: Trading in
Brocade for Wicker
In the Attic with ABT
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2001 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- It seemed fitting to
watch American Ballet Theatre's program on Halloween. Here was one of the leading
companies in its country cottage, so to speak, airing out repertory that might
be lost in its gold mansion. Having the opportunity to try on costumes and masks
from the trunk in the attic, to play-act different roles. Some fit, and some not
as well, but that didn't matter -- in the end, it was a liberating experience.
"Jabula" (1994), choreographed by
Australian Natalie Weir to music by Hans Zimmer, is a piece of exotica for ABT.
The movement and music have African undertones, though the ballet doesn't seem
to have any pretensions of authenticity. Lit from behind and led by Herman Cornejo,
a wedge of bare-torsoed men advanced downstage, arms cutting sharply into strong
shapes. They wore the same clay-colored, palazzo wrap culottes as the women, who
wore like-shaded leotards (all by Weir). Stella Abrera displayed an elegant line
in her solo sections, moving as stealthily as a panther, alternating between silky
smooth and ferociously aggressive.
Weir blended bold ballet shapes with
a softened African style, which at moments looked awkward on this company which
is so entrenched in traditional ballet vocabulary. The upbeat tone created by
the jangly, beat-driven score, sunlit lighting, movement and costumes reminded
me of "The Lion King" on Broadway, but that was likely a coincidence.
The company premiered its production
of Kirk Peterson's "Amazed in Burning Dreams" (1993), a plotless dance in eight
sections to Philip Glass's music for "Mishima." Peterson, now a ballet master
at ABT after an illustrious and varied career in dance, showed a keen sensibility
in casting the company to its strengths. Cornejo demanded to be watched, with
his jewel-movement precision which betrayed not a shadow of conceit. It was not
just the big jetes and the multiple turns (okay, how about that fiver where he
moved his arms from low fifth to high, ending in an arabesque!) that he executed
well that distinguished him. It was also his perfectly still lunge in fourth position
after a turn, and his exact 90-degree arm angle, among other details. Cornejo
richly deserved this evening's program, which seemed to be a showcase for his
remarkable talent. Kristi Boone and Marcelo Gomes made a fine pairing, both showing
great strength and flexibility. David Hallberg, with his gifted feet, gave a tricky
solo a velvety smoothing-down, knocking the edges off of quick sautes in opposite
The strength of "Amazed" is that
Peterson managed to, as they say, stay within himself. While the Glass music begs
for rapid, embellished movement, Peterson keyed off of major rhythms and melodies.
There never seemed to be too many people onstage, a temptation which is quicksand
for certain choreographers endowed with so many talented bodies. Movement patterns
were legible, and he refrained from using the old reliable canon excessively,
which is a foible that would seem to be particularly ripe when accompanying Glass's
slippery musical structure. Peterson let the smaller dancers whirl their arms
grandly while the larger ones made small, fighting fish circles with their hands.
It levelled the marley for everyone, relieving the big-men-on-campus of their
princely sables and letting the equally talented sprites try them on for a spell.
(In actuality, the dancers wore sleek pewter unitards with red, one-eyed masks
and red wristbands, designed by Peterson and Larae Hascall. Lighting was designed
by Randall Chiarelli.)
The program included three pas de
deux. Speaking of BMOCs, respective homecoming king and queen Gomes and Paloma
Herrera performed Balanchine's "Sylvia" pas. Gomes tweaked the prevailing ultra-classicism
of this pas, and showed just how comfortable he is at City Center, by pushing
off of the proscenium when he had overshot his phrase, which ended in a big arabesque.
Herrera shone, and had a chance to show off the strength of her shapely feet.
Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Belotserkovsky were radiant in Mr. B's "Tchaikovsky"
pas, in which Dvorovenko displayed a gregarious sweetness to compliment her avian
light- and quickness. Belotserkovsky's sissonnes were surprisingly open and soft,
showing off his great extension and pliable feet. Susan Jaffe and Carlos Molina
paired in a pas from the Kevin McKenzie/Ivanov-Petipa "Swan Lake," Jaffe showing
an appealing world-weariness to Molina's wide-eyed youth.
A couple of production problems marred
the evening. The orchestra was miked especially heavily during "Amazed," amplifying
the ambient noise in the pit. And the lucky stagehand encharged with pulling back
the curtain for individual bows made untimely early entrances several times, in
full view of the right side of the audience. At least he could be costumed in
something other than a white t-shirt.
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