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American Ballet Theatre

'The Leaves are Fading', 'The Moor's Pavane', 'In the Upper Room'

by Colleen Boresta

October 19 (m), 2012 -- City Center, New York, NY

It seems almost like American Ballet Theatre is two separate companies. One ABT dances the classics at the 4,000 seat Metropolitan Opera House with a myriad of foreign guest artists. The other company performs smaller pieces at New York’s City Center and the soloists and corps members get a chance to shine. I’m glad to have the chance to see both ABTs.

On Friday afternoon, October 19th, ABT performed ‘The Leaves Are Fading’ ‘The Moor’s Pavane’ and ‘In the Upper Room’ at New York’s City Center. ‘The Leave Are Fading’ is choreographed by Antony Tudor to music by Antonin Dvorak. It is staged by Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner, two well-known interpreters of ‘Leaves’.

Tudor’s movements fit the lyrically gorgeous score perfectly. The nostalgic piece is wonderfully danced, especially by Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes, who perform the main pas de deux. Isabella Boylston and Gray Davis are romantically expressive as the leading younger couple.

My main problem with this Tudor masterpiece is that much of the choreography is repetitious.
‘Leaves’ also drags on a bit too long. It would be a stronger work (in my opinion) if it were about half the length it is now.

The second piece of the afternoon is ‘The Moor’s Pavane’. It is choreographed by Jose Limon to music by Henry Purcell. ‘The Moor’s Pavane’ is a distillation of William Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’.

This is my first time seeing the famous Limon piece and I find it very disappointing. I’m not sure if the fault lies with the choreography, the music or the performances. My best guess is that it is a combination of all three factors. All four dancers – Roman Zhurbin as The Moor, Thomas
Forster as His Friend, Simone Messmer as His Friend’s Wife and Xiomara Moor’s Reyes as The Wife – give very bland portrayals. Zhurbin’s Othello lacks majesty and there is little malevolence in Forster’s characterization of Iago. As already stated, the women also fail to impress me, but the central roles in the piece are Othello and his “best friend” Iago. I would like to see ‘The Moor’s Pavane’ with a different cast. Maybe then I could get more out of this modern dance work.

The afternoon ends on a very high note with Twyla Tharp’s ‘In the Upper Room’ with music by Philip Glass. Seeing ‘In the Upper Room’ is like observing a nonstop marathon of dance. ‘The Upper Room’ is a never-ending imaginative fusion of ballet and modern dance. There are innovative lifts, leaps and spins in abundance. The throbbing music and lightning quick pace of the dancing builds up to an electrifying conclusion.

All the performers dance full out, with total delight and ebullience. New soloist James Whiteside is a wonder to watch. The always consistent Eric Tamm dazzles the audience with his turns a la seconde. I hope ABT continues to dance ‘In the Upper Room’ for many years to come.

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