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American Ballet Theatre Studio Company

'Continuo,' 'Revelry,' 'Tea and Temptation,' 'Heavenly Bodies'

by Kate Snedeker

April 15, 2003 -- Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College, New York, NY

The 2002-2003 American Ballet Theatre Studio Company season concluded this past week at Hunter College’s Kaye Playhouse. Tuesday night’s performance, which included a diverse selection of new choreography, as well as a more traditional Anthony Tudor ballet, provided an excellent opportunity to see how these young dancers have developed during their tenure in the Studio Company. They have made impressive progress in cohesion and refinement since they last danced on the Kaye Playhouse stage early last December.

In Anthony Tudor's "Continuo," originally choreographed for the Juilliard Dance Ensemble, the Studio Company dancers displayed their elegant classical technique. The choreography for the three couples in this ballet, set to music by Johann Pachelbel, explores the endless variations on several major choreographic themes. Frequent motifs include the use of trios, three women, three men or three couples and the women being picked up by the both legs or being supported across their partners’ outstretched arms, almost as if flying across the stage. The three men, Bo Busby, Alexandre Hammoudi and Daniel Keene were notable for their long, elegant lines and flowing movement.

Laura Hidalgo and Danny Tidwell were clearly a crowd favorite in "Revelry," a punchy, energetic pas de deux by ABT principal dancer, Robert Hill. The ballet is an inspired selection for a young company, both in its brash, cheeky choreography and in Zack Brown’s saucy purple and black costumes, especially the short, black tutu with purple-pink lining for Hidalgo. The two young dancers mixed power with solid technique, especially in the solos where Hidalgo was impressive in the multiple fouettes and Tidwell inserted a hop into his turns a la seconde. Tidwell was also notable for his ability to draw the audience into his dancing through facial expression and attention to detail. Especially effective was the sultry middle section, in which the stage is cast in a deep red light, making the dancers visible only as dark figures, dramatically outlined against the red backdrop.

Edward Gorey and “Upstairs, Downstairs” came together in Brian Reeder’s "Tea and Temptation," a story of flirtation between late 19th century servants and their upper class masters. With Dennis Ballard’s off-white, high necked costumes, and the sepia toned backdrop, the ballet felt like a faded picture or one of Edward Gorey’s drawings-placid on the surface, but harboring something more sinister underneath. The choreography, set to music by Franz Schubert, was full of delicate pointe work for the women, and included a delightful section in which the five servants danced, linked by (tea?) towels they held between eachother. The cast, especially Zhong–jing Fang, were delightful and seemed to revel in the ironic humor of the piece. Eventually, however the repetitive choreography started to make the humor wear thin, and several later scenes seemed redundant.

Youthful gods and goddess ruled the stage in "Heavenly Bodies," Daniel Baudendistel’s new ballet. The piece opens with the dancers writhing in a “sea” of mist, and then the lights come up to the sounds of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." This tune is a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek tribute to both the talent and youth of the company. A pleasant ballet, though sometimes lacking cohesion and occasionally overwhelmed by the Ernst Von Dohnanyi’s triumphant music, "Heavenly Bodies" provides great opportunity to see each dancer in choreography that shows off their strengths, in particular Tidwell’s power and stage presence and Sarah Kathryn Lane’s sleek elegance.

Also performing during the evening were Kelley Potter, Caity Seither, Guy Fletcher and Grant DeLong.

Edited by Mary Ellen Hunt.

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