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American Ballet Theatre

'The Garden of Villandy', 'Sinatra Suite, 'Seven Sonatas', 'Company B'

by Colleen Boresta

November 10(m), 2011 --New York City Center, New York, NY

For the first time in three years, American Ballet Theatre is back at New York City Center for a one week Fall season. ABT’s City Center seasons give the company a chance to dance works beyond the full length classics they perform at the Metropolitan Opera House every Spring. The younger dancers also get a chance to shine, as many of ABT’s renowned principals only appear during the Spring season at the Met.

Thursday’s afternoon program begins with The Garden of Villandry, a very forgettable work choreographed by Martha Clarke, Robby Barnett and Felix Blaska. It is about a woman
(Xiomara Reyes) who can’t decide between two suitors (Grant DeLong and Alex Agoudine). Very little happens during the ballet. When it ends – an interminable ten or so minutes later – the woman still has not made up her mind.

I was really looking forward to Sinatra Suite, a Twyla Tharp piece danced to five Frank Sinatra songs. I saw it performed in 2006, with Luciana Paris and Marcelo Gomes as the lead couple, and I really enjoyed it. On Thursday afternoon, with Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes performing the leading roles, it is a major disappointment.

The partnering is really off, especially during the first two songs “Strangers in the Night” and “All the Way”. During the first song Gomes attempts to lift Herrera, but cannot manage it. I was really afraid he was going to drop her. (Fortunately he didn’t.) I have rarely seen such clumsy partnering from professional dancers. It was as though they were dancing two different ballets, going in completely opposite directions.

This muddled Sinatra Suite is especially surprising as Marcelo Gomes is renowned for his partnering skills. I’ve seen Gomes dance with ballerinas considerably taller than Herrera (Michele Wiles, Veronika Part, Polina Semionova) and perform much more complicated lifts. Didn’t Herrera and Gomes rehearse Sinatra Suite before Thursday afternoon’s performance? Unfortunately, it sure didn’t look like they had.


Gomes finally comes into his own during the final number “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road). This is fittingly a solo. Gomes not only dances it flawlessly, he channels the world-weary Frank Sinatra spirit perfectly. It doesn’t make up for the rest of the ballet, but at
least Sinatra Suite ends on a high note.

The next work was Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas, set to the piano music of Domenico Scarlatti. Everything in this ballet – the music, the choreography, the dancing – flows seamlessly together. The piece is not narrative, but still manages to tell the stories of three very different couples.

The first twosome’s pas de deux, beautifully danced by Maria Riccetto and Blaine Hoven, is full of loss and yearning. Have they suffered some shattering tragedy? Are they trying to say goodbye? Sarah Lane and Joseph Phillips are a young, playful duo. Phillips’ air turns are gorgeous, with plush, soft landings. Lane stands out for her sparkling footwork. The final pas de deux of the piece is danced by Christine Shevchenko and Jared Matthews as a pair in a comfortable, teasing relationship. Schevchenko is an elegantly lyrical dancer, with an exquisite flow of movement.

Seven Sonatas is a rapturous gem of a ballet. I’m looking forward to seeing it again with a different cast on Sunday, November 13th.

The program ends with Paul Taylor’s Company B, set to the music of The Andrews Sisters. This work shows the lighthearted innocence of wartime America juxtaposed against shadowy figures of young boys going off to fight and die in World War II.

All the young company members perform with energy, speed, wit and charm. Aaron Scott’s timing and rhythmic movement is spot on in the syncopated “Tico-Tico”. Craig Salstein shows off his flair for comedy as the nerdy guy chased by seven women in “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh”. Sascha Radetsky stands out for his dynamic high spirits in “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B). Simone Messmer is heartbreaking as a girl sending her young love (Grant DeLong) off to war in “There Will Never Be Another You.”

It is good to see ABT at a more intimate theater like City Center. It is even better to see the talented ABT soloists and corps members get a chance to shine.





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