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American Ballet Theatre

'Seven Sonatas', 'Black Tuesday', 'In the Upper Room'

by Colleen Boresta

November 13(m), 2011 --New York City Center, New York, NY

American Ballet Theatre’s return to City Center ended on quite a high note. Unlike ABT’s Spring seasons at the Metropolitan Opera House, there are no stars. Principal dancers, soloists and corps members alike share the stage and dance in glorious harmony.

The afternoon begins with Alexei Ratmansky’s magnificently simple Seven Sonatas, set to the piano music of Domenico Scarlatti. It is not a narrative ballet, yet the stories of three very different couples shine through the choreography.

The first pas de deux is well danced by Yuriko Kajiya and Gennadi Saveliev. Yet I do not feel the same sense of tragic yearning as when Maria Riccetto and Blaine Hoven danced the same pas de deux on Thursday afternoon.

As wonderful as Joseph Philips was in Seven Sonatas, Herman Cornejo’s performance as the young lover is beyond compare. Very few males dancing today come close to Cornejo’s level of technical perfection. And the utter joy he brings to every movement makes me smile inside and out. As Herman Cornejo’s partner, Xiomara Reyes continues to impress – with precise, quicksilver footwork, lovely turns and exciting jumps. As well, Reyes and Cornejo’s chemistry is palatable.

As the final twosome, Julie Kent and Alexandre Hammoudi are delightful. Kent’s dancing is rich with poetry and grace. Hammoudi’s startled reaction when he realizes that Kent has left his side is priceless. Sunday’s cast in Seven Sonatas is adept at revealing the gentle humor in Ratmansky’s choreography.

The second work on the program is Paul Taylor’s Black Tuesday. Black Tuesday is very similar to Taylor’s Company B, only it is set to songs popular during the Great Depression. Many of the tunes are musically upbeat, but the lyrics are sad and bitter.

All the dancers in Black Tuesday are wonderful, but a few of them really stand out. Dancing to “(I Went Hunting) and the Big Bad Wolf was Dead”, Gemma Bond is all nonstop energy and spunky charm. In “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams” Misty Copeland is heartbreakingly sexy. Her velvety phrasing is absolutely gorgeous. Copeland’s powerful portrayal of the down but never out young streetwalker brings tears to my eyes.

Daniil Simkin is a virtuoso wonder as the World War I veteran in “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” Simkin spins on his knees and leaps ever higher in the air as Bing Crosby sings of how far the vet has fallen. At the end of the song, Simkin thrusts out his palm in a begging motion. As the ballet concludes, only his palm is lit up, as are the palms of the rest of the males in the cast who are lined up behind Simkin. It is an unforgettably poignant finish.

The afternoon ends with Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, danced to the music of Philip Glass. I have never seen this ballet before, and I absolutely love it. It is like watching an Olympic marathon of dance. The Upper Room is an endlessly inventive combination of ballet and modern dance. There are innovative lifts, jumps and turns galore. The pulsating music and breakneck pace of the dancing builds up to a rip roaring climax.

The entire company dances full out, with total joy and exuberance. Aaron Scott shines with his high leaps and beautiful line. Sascha Radetsky, so good as the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B)”, is electrifying, both with his shirt on and off. Craig Salstein is dazzling, especially his multiple turns a la seconde, performed at the speed of sound.

At the end of In the Upper Room, almost the entire audience leaps to their feet in a spontaneous (for once) standing ovation. I hope ABT returns to City Center next year and performs for at least two weeks or longer.





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