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2, 5-28: Men Dancing
'Dream' Roles for ABT Guys
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2002 Susan Yung
NEW YORK --The addition to American
Ballet Theatre's repertoire of Frederick Ashton's "The Dream," seen Friday night
at the Metropolitan Opera House the night after its company premiere, is cause
for celebration. The charming story, based on Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's
Dream," has retained its freshness over the ages, with an inherent physicality
that is organic to the story of magic potions and mistaken identity. It is dancey,
humorous, and perhaps most importantly for ABT's current roster, has big meaty
roles for men. Ashton's ballet style is classical yet unaffected, its playful
quality revealing each dancer's personality.
Anthony Dowell (from the original
cast) and Christopher Carr have restaged the 1964 Royal Ballet production, with
music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy arranged by John Lanchbery and conducted
by Charles Barker, lavish sets and costumes by David Walker, and lighting by John
Read. The cast was led by Alessandra Ferri as Titania, Ethan Stiefel as Oberon,
and Herman Cornejo in a bravura performance as Puck. Ferri displayed a liquid
grace, even while shepherding a startled changeleing boy (Kevin Chun) and Bottom,
a donkey (Isaac Stappas) who tottered about in a huge mask and pointe shoes. Ferri's
finest moment came late in the ballet, when she melted out of firm arabesques
on releve into Stiefel's supportive arms; they then crossed the stage, Ferri dipping
through soft splits.
The role of Puck is a fanciful tour
de force solo. Cornejo delighted in his unfettered independence, not required
to dance in tandem with anyone else (except on rare occasion) and thereby unlimited
in jump height. His ballon seems to have a turbo boost; just when it seemed as
if he should descend, he rose another six inches. His sharply defined legs and
feet cut through space, particularly in attitude tours en l'air and pencil turns
which increased in speed, as in ice skating.
Stiefel is not exactly your average
dancer, but in comparison to Cornejo, he seemed positively phlegmatic. Then again,
his movements emphasized thoughtful, slow turns through different positions, ending
in elongated arabesques. He stepped off the final stair tread leading with a finely
pointed foot, as if testing the temperature of a pool. Finally united with Titania,
the pair moved in tandem with their hands clasped through risky mirrored penches,
pretzelling their arms one way and another. The two other couples were danced
by Marian Butler/Ethan Brown, and Stella Abrera/Marcelo Gomes, who were game in
fisticuffs and cat-fights.
ABT has cleaned up "Symphony in
C" quite a bit since I last saw the company perform it in last season's run at
City Center. In fairness, it requires a larger stage than City Center's, which
confined the dancers so that by the final ensemble scene, they needed a traffic
officer onstage just to prevent collisions. In contrast to New York City Ballet's
rendition, (reviewed on May 21), ABT's is a bit looser.
The corps was substantially together, particularly the six women leading off the
Maxim Belotserkovsky was radiant
in the first movement, his long legs unfolding like a portable umbrella, and in
a chain of solid quadruple turns. He partnered Paloma Herrera, who displayed a
bit of foot weakness in her devilish on-pointe steps and hops, and achieved relatively
low altitude in jumps. Nonetheless, as always, she cut a beautiful line. Nina
Ananiashvili danced the plummy second principal role with Jose Manuel Carreno.
Ananiashvili, a willowy, lyrical ballerina, resisted the nose-to-knee gymnastics
of City Ballet's Wendy Whelan in the difficult six o'clock penche. She breathed
poetry into the series of free falls into Carreno's arms, adding just the right
anticipatory lilt of her port de bras. Carreno partnered well, but his talents
seemed wasted in what is primarily a supportive role, and pointed up -- yet again
-- how male-strong this company has become, and why Balanchine's composition is
perhaps not the most appropriate acquisition.
Angel Corella, as he often does,
used his boyish charm, toothy smile, and bravado to display his fundamental Vaudevillean
trait of wanting the audience's love. Ashley Tuttle's preparation into each grand
jete seemed leaden, and her presence was overshadowed by Corella's eagerness.
Michele Wiles and Ricardo Torres led the fourth movement. Despite her height,
Wiles kept on pace in the allegro sections, making an equation out of each phrase,
though she needed a taller partner than Torres. David LaMarche conducted.
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