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American Ballet Theatre

'Le Corsaire'

by Lori Ibay

July 7, 2006 -- Metropolitan Opera House, NYC

Three days after the fourth of July, American Ballet Theatre continued to set off fireworks inside the Metropolitan Opera House with its performance of “Le Corsaire,” with choreography by Konstantin Sergeyev (after Marius Petipa) and staging by Anna Marie Holmes (after Petipa and Sergeyev).  The performance featured a spectacular cast of acrobats, high flyers, and divas with strong emphasis on the company’s talented men.  

David Hallberg’s Conrad was a commanding leader with his regal posture, athletic leaps, and excellently controlled pirouettes.  Opposite Paloma Herrera’s Medora, his long graceful lines emanated emotion and devotion.  Herrera played a playful Medora, radiant as ever, and made easy work of the intricate solos.  Together, the pair’s partnering was smooth and technically seamless.

However, the first act was emphatically stolen by Herman Cornejo in the role of Lankendem, a character that has the potential to blend into the background without much impact on the story.  Instead, Cornejo wowed the audience with jaw dropping acrobatics that seemed to defy gravity.  Rather than growing accustomed to his inventive jumps (for lack of a better word), the audience’s gasps grew louder as he repeated a series of leaps that rotated around a horizontal axis, making him appear as though he could suspend himself in the air (a la the Wachowski brothers’ “The Matrix” films).

The crowd just barely caught its breath during the fifteen minute intermission when the second act began.  This time, the role of the showstopper was taken by Angel Corella as Ali, the slave.  Corella’s leaps sailed with his signature flair, and a rare stumble after a series of super-fast pirouettes was immediately erased by even quicker, cleaner pirouettes.  While Herrera danced brilliantly between Corella’s features, it was clear that the audience eagerly awaited his return to the stage – after his feature the Opera House audience cheered as if they were at a rock concert.

In other leading roles, Sascha Radetsky’s Birbanto was clean and consistent, his mime effective in unraveling the intricate plot of intrigue and mutiny.  With Marian Butler, the lead pirate woman, the pair danced spiritedly as they led the pirate band.  Xiomara Reyes was a dainty, teasing Gulnare, and Victor Barbee a hilarious jolly Pasha.

In the third act, the focus shifted to the leading women and the women’s corps during Pasha’s lengthy dream (so lengthy that the audience nearly drifted to sleep), and while the dancers were graceful and lovely, the act simply lacked the excitement and fireworks of the first two.  The plot was resolved, but it almost didn’t matter – the audience was still reeling over the marvels of Acts I and II. 

The ballet ended with a dramatic sinking of the pirate ship (Conrad and Medora survived, proving the strength of their love); however, the audience showed their appreciation of all the dancers, especially the stars of the first two acts, as their thunderous applause hardly faded during the several curtain calls. 

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