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ABT's Saturday Matinee at City Center

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ABT?s Saturday Matinee at City Center, New York. This was the most enjoyable performance at ABT that I have seen in the past two years.

Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 is a lively piece with many athletic leaps and turns. Unfortunately, on two occasions there were falls at approximately the same location on the stage. Probably a slippery spot. But recoveries were fast and the action went on capably as before. Gillian Murphy, Ashley Tuttle, Marcelo Gomes, Sandra Brown and Herman Cornejo danced leading parts. Tuttle looking especially lively and precise.

Anthony Tudor?s Dim Lustre was second on the bill with chief parts danced by Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel. Some posts on this board have complained that there is too much Kent in ABT?s repertoire, and her performances should be avoided. I can?t see it, specifically, what?s not to like? She looked very stylish and able to me. It is true she seems to be cast much more than any other principal in the company, and on this Saturday she worked the kid?s matinee at 11:30, the regular matinee at 2, and was slated for a major role at 8. A long day?s work.

Agnes De Mille?s Rodeo featured Erica Cornejo as the cowgirl, and it?s great to see a corps member do such a splendid job in a leading role. She danced with great verve, was funny, and really made the ballet her own.

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Thanks very much for posting that, Bobsey. I was beginning to wonder if anyone went to ABT -- it's been going for nearly a week!

More, please smile.gif

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I went Opening Night and two other times and will post something tonight. Thanks Bobsey for getting us started.

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ABT's opening night was billed as "A Tribute to the American Spirit" and I have admit that the experience was uplifting to me just to get away from the TV news, out of the house and into a theater.

The evening started with an except of the new ballet Amazed in Burning Dreams by Kirk Peterson. Set to Philip Glass, it was a big war-like in its movements with Herman Cornejo doing a lot of turns and jumps.

More spirit-filled was Ashley Tuttle's performance of Prayer from Coppelia. It was very beautiful, controlled, and simple.

Reverie, choeographed by Robert Hill to Schubert songs, brought old-timers Georgina Parkinson, Martine Van Hamel, and Frederic Franklin. Most of this was elaborate arm movements and walking steps. While it was a joy to see favorites from the past (although I never saw Franklin, only read about him), the effort -- for me -- wasn't very satisfying. However, all three dancers, along with Hill, Lar Lubovitch, Zack Brown, Nacho Duato, and Eliot Feld donated their salaries from the evening to the World Trade Center Fund.

Angel Corella and Erica Cornejo were pert in Feld's Variations on America. It's interesting to compare this with Stars and Stripes. Feld never really developes the idea of patriotism through choreography past a lot of salutes and the occasional mimic of firing a rifle. However, it serves as a good ballet for a gala. Watching it though, I noticed a lot of Baryshnikovisms (it was made on him, no?), much like his work with Tharp.

Lubovitch's My Funny Valentine to the Richard Rodgers' tune was a lot of clutching and grabbing, with some cutsie stuff thrown in. Sandra Brown and Marcelo Gomes did their best.

Watching Irina Dvorovenko, with husband Maxim Belotserkovsky, in Sylvia Pas de Deux by Balanchine, I decided that she'd be really great in it if she'd just trust the choreography and her own musicality without resorting to her bag of tricks. She has such great personal charm that I think she needs to resist adding in momements of mannerisms. Still, she and Belotserkovsky were very entertaining.

Susan Jaffe's performance in the Act II pas de deux from Swan Lake was one of the highlights of the night. The last few New York seasons she has had to battle through injuries, so we haven't seen her at her best as she was Tuesday night. Carlos Molina looked a bit scared at the beginning but supported Jaffe well.

Julie Kent and Vladimir Malakhov turned up in Duato's Without Words, before a disappointing Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 Third Movement. Xiomara Reyes was frisky as the 3rd mvt. soloist but I just didn't think Joaquin de Luz was dignified enough for the male soloist. Gillian Murphy/Ricardo Torres, Elizabeth Gaither/Gennadi Saveliev, Jaffe/Guillaume Graffin came on from the earlier movements. Gaither just didn't seem with it.

After an intermission, ABT premiered its version of Balanchine's Symphony in C, staged by Victoria Simon and rights holder John Taras. The company happily imported proper white costumes from National Ballet of Canada. On opening night, they were white but did not have to satin bows along with tutu until the next night.

I think Paloma Herrera has the right sort of attack and demeanor for the 1st movement, but some of her foot work was a little sloppy. Ethan Stiefel was perfect as her co-hort. A few of the lifts appeared effortful, but his solos and ensemble work were musical and finely etched.

Nina Ananiashvili has been beautiful in the adagio before and the movement brings out her best qualities -- lovely line, stateliness, perfect technique. Jose Manuel Carreno partnered her strongly.

Tuttle and Corella turned up in the high-bounding third movement. I think she was a bit miscast as she doesn't have the huge jump that I'm accustomed to in this role. She would be better off in the fourth. Corella has a exquisite light jump and turns that never seem to end. I only had wished that he would have coordinated his effects with Tuttle. It looked awkward in unison passages for him to do triples and her to do singles. It would have worked much better if they did less but were together. I sometimes think that Corella, a dancer I like and respect very much, misinterprets the daring required by Balanchine to mean doing more turns, big jumps etc... Certainly Mr. B wanted that, but I think the daring comes in the musicality and risk.

Sascha Radetsky was very good in the fourth movement, but Sandra Brown seemed completely undone by the choreography. One review put it down to being tired, but she performed the same on Wednesday.

The finale was, as usual, a joy, with all the dancers coming out on stage. The dancers found the quick ending a little hard to keep up with but they should grow into the ballet.

I saw Symphony in C the next night as well. Malakhov replaced Stiefel in the 1st movement and was just as good. Jaffe and Molina did the 2nd and duplicated their feat of the Swan Lake a night earlier. She was so still in her center and appeared to be floating on some mist. My only complaint in the movement was one of the corps girls (the second from the left) had just a huge gring on her face during a part of the ballet that is supposed to be moon-lit and mysterious.

Wednesday started with Black Tuesday. Not seeing so much Taylor in my lifetime, I have no qualms that this might be "re-cylcled" Taylor and really like it. The whole cast was wonderful and I can't really single out a particular dancer. However, the title does mean something very different to me nowadays.

Dvorovenko and Belotserkovsky did the full Sylvia Pas de Deux and appeared more comfortable in it. The adagio still had more arm flips, cloying smiles and hand flicks than I like, but the variations built fabulously. He performed all the turn combinations to perfection and seemed to have springs in his feat (yet always landing in a nice fifth) while she dazzled in the hops on point and turns, getting increasingly fast until the end. I only wish they would really do the big jump at the end, when she charges into his arms. You would think, as a married couple, that trust would not be a problem.

Nina A and Carreno did Esmeralda Pas de Deux, choreographed by Ben Stevenson. I asssume this is a piece picked up by NA during one of her stints at the Houston Ballet. If I have seen this pas de deux before, I don't remember it and don't know how well it stays with the original. It was pretty cutesy but Carreno was masterful in his solos and Nina was in her gala mode.

I had tickets for Thursday's performance but had to miss it due to personal reasons. I came back Friday. Black Tuesday featured the same cast B that performed it at the Met, with Murphy taking on "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and De Luz in "Brother, Can you Spare a Dime." A few people laughed during Murphy's solo. I didn't understand why, but she was very physical, really throwing herself about.

Afterwards, ABT showed off its new production of Antony Tudor's Dim Lustre. Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel were the lovers who with a "whiff of perfume, the touch of a hand, a stolen kiss release whirls of memories which take the remembers back briefly to other moments and leave them not exactly as they were before."

While I think it traveled some of the same road as Lilac Garden, this Tudor ballet was worlds better than Peter Martins' treatment of the same score by Richard Strauss -- also a ballroom ballet. The premise here is that one movement or gesture triggers a memory of a former love, the lights go out and then in a darker hue, a mirror image comes on before the remembered old flame enters for an episode. I thought it worked well and look forward to seeing the ballet again.

Sym. in C again, with Reyes and de luz in the third movement. Michele Wiles and Ricardo Torres did the fourth and again the female solist had trouble. Could the fourth movement be harder than it appears? NYCB has had some of its more technically capable dancers (Ringer, Somogy, Samantha Allen) in the part.

[ October 29, 2001: Message edited by: Dale ]

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Wow! Thanks for taking the time to give us so much detail, Dale! I hope you'll inspire others smile.gif

I came back in to add:

I had to rush out and didn't have the time to write more fully. Dale, I think you made many interesting points, especially about "Dim Lustre" and "Variations on America." "Dim Lustre" is one of those ballets that strikes many people as old-fashioned and perhaps superficial, but I agree, there is depth there. (And "Variations on America" has little depth, but was a wonderful romp for Baryshnikov who, I swear, would lie down, completely parallel to the ground, in the air in this piece.)

I also thought your comments on Symphony in C's fourth movement interesting. It is usually strongly cast at City Ballet, and always looks "easy." One always learns something about a ballet when a company new to it and/or outside of the ballet's home style dances it.

[ October 29, 2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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Re: Fourth Movement -

It's short, and does not get a repeated coda, but you have to be a very solid turner to do it. The Fourth movement ballerina is the one who introduces a turn motif for the finale, a pirouette where the leg snaps out to the side and then the ballerina finishes by kneeling. It's very tricky, (and annoying because it doesn't look like all that much if you do it correctly unless the viewer knows what to look for, but looks awful if you do it wrong to just about any uninformed observer!)

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Thank you for the info A and L. The same move is done at the end of the coda by all four principal women.

Syphony in C was much improved at the end of the run. Kent was beautiful in the 2nd movement, Dvorovenko (sharp in the pointe work) and Beletserkovsky glittered in the 1st, and Murphy/Stiefel and Anna Liceica and Sean Stewart looked Balanchinian in the third and fourth movements.

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