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Review 2, 10-21: By George! by ABT
Four Choreographers Bring Sweet Harrison to City Center
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2002 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- American
Ballet Theatre premiered "Within You Without You: A Tribute to George
Harrison" to a hugely enthusiastic audience at City Center Friday.
The suite comprises six songs, two each choreographed by Natalie
Weir and Stanton Welch, and one apiece choreographed by David Parsons
and Ann Reinking. Despite moments when the dancers seemed to be
laminating casual, hip movements onto their highly-trained technique,
the tribute possesses enough pleasing variety and a generosity of
spirit to make for a winning work.
George Harrison wrote
and performed with passion. His soul-baring love songs and spiritual
quests gained urgency through his plaintive vocals and restless,
soaring guitar lines. Parsons captured this essential urgency best
in the closing number, "My Sweet Lord." Essentially a chain of stage
crossings performed by the whole cast, the flow of movement never
ceased and resembled across-the-floor exercises, a staple of dance
classes. Parsons let the dancers loose and allowed them to savor
each move, from the most elemental chassee to a soaring, simple
grand jete. They conveyed a completely unselfconscious joy through
sheer speed. Their enthusiasm spread throughout the house, and peaked
with the irrepressible Angel Corella and the soaring pair of Herman
Cornejo and Joaquin de Luz, who carved all dimensions of space in
attitude tours with slicing arms. It was a thrilling return for
Parsons after the poor reception for his recent "Pied Piper," done
De Luz, who distinguished
himself throughout the evening, blended emotion with physical clarity
in "Isn't it a Pity?," choreographed by Welch, another ensemble
dance which featured crossing the stage (albeit walking slowly)
as a repeated motif. Xiomara Reyes had a suitably relaxed attitude,
striking the right balance. I didn't care for the forced slackerisms
-- head scratching, slouched posture -- despite that they underscored
how individuals can emerge with brilliance from nowhere. Welch also
choreographed "Something," a solo for Corella. It's difficult for
this dynamo to contain his energy, which also has a great deal to
do with his appeal. He moved through a series of sharp, angular
gestures and hit them slightly in advance of the beat, enhancing
the rather desperate mood set by Welch.
Natalie Weir choreographed
"I Dig Love" and "Within You Without You." In the first, Julie Kent
paired playfully with Ethan Stiefel and later Cornejo. Weir successfully
combined jaunty, casual movements with more formal phrases of ballet,
including some clever partnering schemes with two and three dancers.
Stiefel's quiet presence commanded the stage in "Within You," in
which he paired with Gillian Murphy. He looked like a marble statue,
bathed in hot white light, passing through the various states of
lucidity which mirrored the hypnotic music. Stiefel displayed beautiful
control bordering on the gymnastic, while retaining a snaky fluidity.
The least interesting
choreography came from Reinking, who in all fairness seemed ill-suited
to the task despite her extensive achievements."While My Guitar
Gently Weeps" resisted Reinking's jazzy vocabulary, set on Sandra
Brown and Jose Manuel Carreno. Both appeared uncomfortable with
the periodic head toss or scissor kick, unable to maintain continuity
while tending to such exclamation points. Brown once again showed
her aptitude for acrobatic stuff, arching like a fish, or dropping
into a split while suspended upside-down. Carreno remained solid
through sustained lifts; despite his velvety presence, he was unable
to smooth out the bumps in Reinking's patchwork choreography. Catherine
Zuber designed the costumes, consisting primarily of rust and maroon
toned jeans and tank tops; Brad Fields designed the effective lighting
In Stanton Welch's "Clear"
Marcelo Gomes performed the role of the central figure accompanied
by an outstanding supporting male cast; they were periodically visited
by Gillian Murphy, representing the elegant -- if secondary -- female.
Gomes has developed an unshakeable, relaxed confidence to go with
his strength, noble line, and complete technique. He has a clear,
direct gaze and a surprising freedom in his torso, back, and legs.
David Hallberg substituted for Maxim Belotserkovsky, demonstrating
enviably arched feet and loose pelvic joints, which combined to
create a beautiful line.
The company's performance
of Balanchine's "Symphony in C" is tighter than in a recent viewing,
but the corps still lacks an essential snap to its steps, appearing
logy and behind the music. Paloma Herrera seemed to be going through
the moves with no emotional investment; she was seriously upstaged
by the vivacious Stella Abrera, who continues to grow more interesting,
and looked genuinely happy to be onstage. On the other hand, Irina
Dvorovenko, partnered with Gomes, infused the second movement with
an indescribable sad seriousness bordering on a spoof. She arched
one eyebrow while craning her neck around to look at the audience.
Still, she cuts an stunning line and adds a strong dash of Russian
pathos to the mix.
Xiomara Reyes danced
the third movement with Herman Cornejo, and while both are explosive
powerhouses, Reyes could not handle the saute double tours en l'air
that Cornejo tossed off with time to spare. (Though it should be
noted that it is rare to see a woman even attempt such a move.)
The final movement featured Anna Liceica, who showed quick feet
but a listless demeanor; she paired with Ricardo Torres, who would
benefit from a boost of self-confidence. Cornejo ended the evening
on an up note by jumping higher than anyone else in an ensemble
phrase, despite his relatively short height. He looked like he'd
rather be nowhere else in the world, and by George, he convinced
us of the same.
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