American Ballet Theatre

"The Garden of Villandry," "Grand Pas Classique," "Sin and Tonic," "Fancy Free," "Symphony in C," "Sylvia Pas de Deux," "Diana & Actaeon Pas de Deux," "Within You Without You: A Tribute to George Harrison"

City Center, New York City, New York

October 20, 2002, Matinee and Evening
by: Kate Snedeker

The matinee opened with a performance of Clark, Barnett and Blaska's The Garden of Villandry , this time danced by a younger cast including Melissa Thomas, Dartanion Reed and Julio Bragado-Young. Though this cast did not have quite the seamless flow seen the previous day (with S. Brown, E. Brown and C. Molina), it was still a wonderful performance. Dartanion Reed's young man was shy, but clearly interested in Thomas's energetic young lady. Julio Bragado-Young, though just a few years older than Reed, brought an unexpected maturity to the character of the older gentleman. Bragado-Young has quietly developed into a very nice character dancer, and had obviously put a great deal of thought into the details of his performance - for instance, the gentle wiping of his eyeglasses with a handkerchief. A move that can seem banal, was infused with a gentle tenderness. It certainly made the performance come alive.

Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg (substituting again for Jose Manuel Carreno) brought down the house in Grand Pas Classique , a bravura pas de deux by Victor Gsovsky to music by D.F. Auber. Murphy imbues her dancing with a delightfully fresh sparkle, and has a wonderful crispness to her attack. She was quick, but did not blur her movements. The solo allowed her to show off her fantastic pirouettes - singles, doubles, and triples (possibly a quad, too) and demonstrated the quickness of her feet. David Hallberg has obviously caught Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie's eye and quite rightfully so. A tall, blond dancer, Hallberg has gloriously long limbs and a youthfully elegant appearance. Though just twenty years old, he also has the talent to make great use of his perfect proportions for ballet. Hallberg is reminiscent of a young Stiefel with his high, airy ballon and had little trouble with the difficult tour en l'airs, pirouettes and tour jetés that are liberally! sprinkled in Gsovsky's choreography. His partnering was excellent, though he looked very focused - age and more mileage as a partner will help him to relax and to further express himself while partnering. Hallberg is also still a little wild and unfinished (think Angel Corella in his early ABT seasons), and I'm sure that as he gains more experience and maturity, his dancing will have more polish.

The program continued with Kudelka's new ballet, Sin and Tonic , to music by Edgar Meyer. In this matinee, Joaquin de Luz was the Cupid who brought together the young lovers, Paloma Herrera and Carlos Molina. Craig Salstein and Carlos Lopez, as the title characters, Sin and Tonic, added spice to Cupid's recipe for love Scott Zelenski's lighting and Denis Lavoie's costumes gave a dramatic touch to this loosely woven story of love and the not so happily ever after. As the youthful lovers, Herrera, in a simple dress, and Molina in suit and fedora, shyly flirted until DeLuz's energetic Cupid brought them together. However, Sin and Tonic, a delightfully mischievous duo, made sure that there was no happily ever after in this story.

The lovers returned to the stage twice, each time obviously increasingly intoxicated with love and liquor. Eventually, the drunken cavorting ends in what appeared to be an assault of sorts - too much liquor making the young man too bold towards his beloved. The increasingly somber mood was introduced with the appearance of "The Wall," five men, Jamar Goodman, Jared Matthews, Alejandro Piris-Nino, Gennadi Saveliev and Eric Toto, dressed in black, who slowly proceeded hand in hand, stepping and posing on demi-pointe. When the lovers reappear, they are clearly arguing, the woman upset, the man appearing to be regretful of his actions. The Wall continues to advance, and contort into circles with the dancers rarely breaking the hand in hand chain.

The ending left me perplexed. The ballet concludes with Cupid supported by 'The Wall,' and the lovers together, but it was unclear whether they were truly at peace with the situation. Did Cupid fail? Did Sin and Tonic prevail? I also thought the choice of music was poor - there was no clear finish in the music, nor did the music or action wrap up the story and theme. It just left me wondering what I had missed.

Whatever the choreographic weaknesses, the dancing was excellent. De Luz was energetic, with high tours and twists and precise positions. Herrera's dancing was perfect for her character - sexy, but believable as the young lover with innocence shattered. However, for me, it was Molina who really stood out in this ballet. He was delightfully mysterious and mischievous in the suit and fedora, but youthful enough to make the scenes of drunken, immature love believable. Molina has a wonderfully expressive face and a slender, slinky elegant body which he knows how to use in creating a character. You could really see the progression of his character from shy young lover, to drunken immature young man, to shaken sober man realizing his drunken mistake. Molina looked much more comfortable in this ballet than later in the day in Symphony in C . Herrera is well matched with him, and I hope Molina gets more opportunities in non-traditional roles.

The matinee ended with Angel Corella, Carlos Lopez and Marcelo Gomes cavorting in Fancy Free . The three dancers were clearly enjoying every minute of this enjoyable Robbins ballet about three sailors on shore leave. It was very interesting to see this ballet, which is so classically American, performed by three non-American dancers Yet, Corella, Lopez and Gomes put their heart and soul into the characters, savoring every detail and comic moment, and are quite believable.

This is a difficult ballet to perform because it is dated, and oh so politically incorrect. The dancers and the audience must leave their late 20th century/21st century preconceptions behind and just enjoy the humor and dancing. There's a fine line in Fancy Free between being campy, and for lack of a better word, swishy. I felt that Marcelo Gomes' Rhumba, though wonderfully danced - at times it's like he has not a bone in his body just complete sinuosity, was a bit too "bump and grind." I'm not sure how to define the line, but perhaps its best explained in comparing Gomes to Damien Woetzel who has long performed the Rhumba role at NYCB. It's as if Woetzel's character is doing an American imitation of a Rhumba, while Gomes' character is actually doing the Rhumba (a case of knowing your character too well!). I think it would also be better if the costume pants were a tad less skin tight.

In the evening, the program began with Symphony in C . Again, I feel that the ballet suffers due to the small size of the City Center stage and the slightly slower tempo. Also, I felt that unlike at NYCB, the men really stand out in the ABT performance and I'm not sure that was what Balanchine intended. Its a matter of taste, but I prefer the men to be less flashy, and let the ballerinas be the main focus..

Maxim Belotserkovsky and Irina Dvorovenko were elegant in the first movement - he doesn't seem to be a natural jumper, but has very centered, fast pirouettes. In the 2nd Movement, Carlos Molina appeared overwhelmed by Veronika Part. They are well-matched in height, she just a inch or so taller when on pointe, but Part is larger than the typical American ballerina and Molina is very slender and sinewy. He was clearly concentrating on the partnering, and this took a little away from the overall appearance of the dancing. Part's balances were excellent, though some of the supporting poses looked a bit strained.

Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel were off in the in the 3rd movement - initially he was tacking on more rotations, then in the end she did a double to his single! However, the both are a pleasure to watch and he gets so much elevation in his jumps! He did a simpler series of tours with the leg in second, leaving out the pirouettes that Corella added in before each tour. It still was a beautiful interpretation. However, I feel that the dancers need to agree on the steps in rehearsals because the competitive feel of the dancing takes away from the pureness and simplicity of Balanchine's choreography. Better to leave out a rotation and keep the synchronization. Ricardo Torres and Anna Liceica did a good job in the 4th Movement. The finale loses some luster because the dancers seemed compressed in an effort to get the full cast on the small stage.

Nina Ananiashvili and Marcelo Gomes then danced the Sylvia Pas de Deux . She again chose to wear her own tutu, which did not match with Gomes' tunic I preferred the color of her tutu, but I think it's more important that the costumes match it. Gomes' technique has improved greatly over the last couple of years, and with it his confidence onstage. His solo was well danced, except for the increasing cheats in his jump rotations, and he was a solid partner for Ananiashvili, who was as amazing as ever in her seemingly endless balances.

Following Ananiashvili and Gomes, Paloma Herrera and Jose Manuel Carreno brought down the house with their performance in the Diana & Actaeon Pas de Deux . This pas de deux, staged by Rudolf Nureyev to music by Cesare Pugni, is classic Nureyev, both in the choreography and in the briefness of the male costume (Nureyev was the first in Russia to not wear shorts (bloomers) over the tights in classical ballets. I hadn't been overwhelmed by Carreno's performances this past year, but this was Carreno at his absolute best. He simply flew across the stage into the Nureyev trademark double tours, soared in the grand jetés and did a circle and a half around the stage in grand jeté en tournant. Herrera was up to the challenge and matched Carreno's bravura with a fabulous series of fouettés, ending in a supported multiple-multiple turn.

The evening ended with a new (I think this was the first performance with this particular cast) cast in Within You Without You: A Tribute to George Harrison , with choreography by David Parsons, Ann Reinking, Natalie Weir and Stanton Welch to some of Harrison's famous songs. I will need to see These ballets again before writing a full review, but here are some general comments. Stanton Welch's choreography to Something was just perfect for Angel Corella. Corella, in Catherine Zuber's costume of red top and brown jeans was let free to exhilarate in the energy of the music. This is Corella at his hyperkinetic best - allowed to show of his talent, free to do some improvisation, free to feel the music and smiling from ear to ear.

The second and third parts of the ballet, did not make such a strong impact on me, though Gomes, Murphy and De Luz were interesting in Weir's sexually charged choreography to I Dig Love . A very different Gomes from the rhumbaing sailor in Fancy Free . In My Sweet Lord , the finale, David Parsons lets the cast fully explore the music as they crisscross the stage, leaping, turning, twisting, spinning and just dancing! Interesting to see the men jumping together - here the shorter men definitely are the higher jumpers!


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Edited by Basheva .

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