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American Ballet Theatre

'Pretty Good Year,' 'VIII,' 'Sinfonietta'

by Lori Ibay

October 30, 2004 -- City Center, New York City

In my second look at Trey McIntyre’s world premiere, David Hallberg and Gillian Murphy set a slightly different tone to their “Year” than did Abrera and Cornejo. The pair showed more lightness and playfulness, with high energy (especially from the radiant Murphy) even in the opening slow, deliberate movements.

Misty Copeland stood out in the pas de trois – whether she was gliding across the floor or in a full lift, she created the illusion of smoothness and ease while still keeping up the intensity set by Hallberg and Murphy. Laura Hidalgo danced a wonderfully sharp and thrashy solo with reckless abandon in contrast to Hallberg’s exquisite control over his every movement. Though Hallberg was graceful, passionate, and energetic, even in his frenzied leaps he never seemed to let loose or to fully “let go” – a moment I was waiting for, but which never came to happen.

The ensemble of seven (with Julio Bragado-Young, Grant DeLong, and Blaine Hoven) showed the audience their passion and emotion from intense melancholy to exuberant joy, but looked their best in the quicker, livelier segments.

Christopher Wheeldon’s “VIII,” based on Henry VIII’s search for a wife who would bear him a son, had its world premiere in Hamburg by the Hamburg Ballet in 2001, but Wheeldon created a new version for ABT this season. Wheeldon added new choreography, and, as he relates in the program notes, “by reducing the scenic element, reducing the number of dancers and redesigning the costumes, we have developed a production of sharper focus and intimacy.”

The opening scene set an eerie tone, with six shadowy figures (the ghosts, Lara Bossen, Amanda Cobb, Melanie Hamrick, Jennifer Lee, Caity Seither, and Sarah Smith) hovering in the background and six couples intertwined on the foreground slowly unwinding as they rose from the ground.

As Henry, Marcelo Gomes was deliciously insane -- his thrashy, accelerating motions contrasting with his intense, creepy gaze. Carmen Corella was appropriately spooky as the jilted Katherine -- her graceful, deliberate solo made her seem even more ghostly than the six figures representing Henry’s six wives. In the role of Anne, Xiomara Reyes was tantalizingly flirtatious and provocative. The Masks -- Misty Copeland, Danny Tidwell, Arron Scott, and Craig Salstein -- provided lively color and entertainment for the Court as well as the audience.

Wheeldon moves the ensemble around the principal characters beautifully and dramatically, always adding to the wonderful theatricality of the ballet; however, it was the captivating performances from Gomes, Corella, and Reyes in the three principal roles that made “VIII” so effectively dramatic.

“VIII” was staged by Jane Burn, with music by Benjamin Britten, set and costumes by Jean-Marc Puissant, and lighting by Natasha Katz.

The evening ended with Jiri Kylian’s “Sinfonietta” staged by Rosyln Anderson (Assistant to the Choreographer), with music by Leos Janacek, scenery and costumes by Walter Nobbe, and lighting by Joop Caboort. With brass musicians flanking either side of the stage, the first movement showcased some of the company’s high-flying men -- Grant DeLong, Herman Cornejo, Gennadi Saveliev, Sascha Radetsky, David Hallberg, Danny Tidwell, and Carlos Lopez.

Showing off their muscle and powerful aerobatics in the first movement, the men demonstrated their strength and partnering skills in the second movement, joined by Stella Abrera, Anne Milewski, Erica Cornejo, and Marian Butler. The third movement brought out more ABT star power with pas de deux couples Julie Kent and Danny Tidwell, Kristi Boone and Sascha Radetsky, and Paloma Herrera with David Hallberg.

The energy continued to escalate with Carlos Lopez and Marian Butler, along with brother and sister pair Herman and Erica Cornejo, dancing triumphantly in the fourth movement. In the last movement of a ballet that is "a celebration of the sheer exhilaration of living" (noted by Christian Harvey in program notes from the Netherlands Dance Theater), the dancers moved with an ease and smoothness that made them seem as if they were gliding an inch above the stage, riding the wave of joyous music provided by the orchestra.

American Ballet Theatre tours Washington, D.C., Columbus, Cleveland, Kansas City, Chicago, Los Angeles February through April before returning to the Metropolitan Opera House for their spring season.

Edited by Jeff.

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