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American Ballet Theatre - 'Le Corsaire'

The  Thrill of the Male Dancer

by Cecly Placenti

June 23, 2005 -- Metropolitan Opera House, New York

Three act classical ballets like "Le Corsaire" can seem a little stale in this post-Balanchinian age of uninterrupted dancing and in the time of Tharp’s dance driven Broadway hit "Movin’ Out." Full of astonishing dancing, especially thrilling male roles, elaborate sets, and exquisite costumes, the stop and go style of "Le Corsaire" -- a beautiful variation performed superbly, immediately followed by enthusiastic applause and a few gracious bows before the next dancer begins his variation -- can be frustrating to follow. However, this nights performance was met with raucous and well deserved applause reminiscent of the kind you hear when a famous rock star takes the stage.

"Le Corsaire" showcases the extraordinary male talent at American Ballet Theatre with its proliferation of rapidly firing leaps in a circle around the stage, each one a contradiction of the laws of physics, pirouette variations that hypnotize in their length, and the almost impossible feats of turning and leaping that had the audience gasping and murmuring in awe and wonder. I actually found myself chuckling a few times during Angel Corella’s variations, daring my mind to believe what my eyes were seeing but what it wouldn’t believe otherwise.

If you came to the Metropolitan Opera House on June 23 to see virtuosity, athleticism, bravura, and impeccable technique, then you did not leave disappointed. The men and women of ABT seldom fail to provide that. Julio Bocca as the pirate Conrad was a commanding presence and a fearless dancer. Herman Cornejo as his friend Birbanto was menacing and gallant. Although Jose Manuel Carreno as Lankendem started out slightly flat in his first entrance, he soon warmed up to the role and gave an enthusiastic performance full of charm. These men of ABT- wow!

Ice skaters have ice to aid them in their fast turns.These dancers have only the floor and their immense controlled power, yet they turn as many times as those skaters spin, turning 7, 8, 9 times and then simply slowing down to stop on a dime, as if they could’ve kept on turning forever, and time and gravity did not apply to them. And somehow during those moments of technical magic, time and gravity did seem to disappear as they mesmerized the audience with their sorcery and charmed us with their mastery.

The magician extraordinaire of the evening, deemed so by the measure of the roars and applause he received each time he finished a stunning variation, was Angel Corella as Ali the Slave. He made your breath catch in your throat and then rush out of your body with a cry of pleasure. His shy attentive grace was touching, the way he drew his hands to his bare chest in concern was birdlike and beautiful, and his presence on the stage always felt in it’s potential energy. When he moved it was with the power and regality of a lion. Corella is definitely a king of the stage. During one particularly unbelievable turning variation - a series of pirouettes that began on a straight standing leg and somewhere in the middle of multiple turns melted into a plie and then straightened again, all without losing the rhythm of the turns or needing another preparation- the audience nearly jumped out of their seats with joy! Corella owned us all from that point on.

However male dominated this ballet is, let us not forget the women. Xiomara Reyes was perfect as the playful Gulnare. Her quick and impish footwork and her mischievous pixie-like expressions were as bright and crisp as her dancing. Julie Kent, always regal and lithesome, was breathtaking to watch as Medora. While the female dancing roles were more feminine and demure, they did offer technical challenges well met by these two capable principals.

The great three act ballets with their divertissements and broken plot advances may seem a bit outdated and choppy, but they have their place in the repertory of ballet companies world-wide as a vehicle for the technical and artistic displays of their dancers and as a nod to the origins of an art form. The audience on this particular evening certainly appreciated this classical performance and presentation!


Edited by Staff.

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