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American Ballet Theater at Bard College, Oct. 17, 18, 19ABT's four fabulous contemporary works


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#1 Marga

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 11:10 AM

As the second performance of this extraordinary program is being presented to the good folks of the Hudson Valley as I write, I just wanted to say that I'll be writing the first part of my review of last night's opening later today. My friend and I traveled from Canada to New York yesterday and stopped off at Annandale-on-Hudson to catch the show. It was an evening of spirited and truly joyful dancing as ABT offered itself as an unranked company of amazing dancers where corps members and soloists were given a chance to shine and principals blended into the company so that if you didn't know their rank in the heirarchy, you wouldn't be able to tell who was who. Four works, most well-known to balletomanes, and not a pointe shoe in sight! Choreographers were Tharp, Tharp, Kylian and Taylor.

I only wish I could be there right now to see today's cast! I ran into (our own :o ) Daniil Simkin in the parking lot and he told me he was dancing in today's matinee (Company B's "Tico Tico"). Many others were missed that I would have liked to have seen last night, but many were seen whom I was wanting to see, so it's always a toss-up. Pleasant surprise was Joseph Phillips :rofl: replacing an injured Herman Cornejo :P yesterday in the long solo "Bugle Boy" in Company B. Well, I am just starting my day, so will report back in a few hours. If there are any seats left for tonight or tomorrow, you've just gotta go! Bard is only a little over two hours from New York.

#2 carbro

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 11:35 AM

Thanks, Marga, I look forward to your review.

. . . an injured Herman Cornejo :rofl: . . .

This is very distressing. As of this posting, Cornejo's name remains on cast lists on both ABT's and City Center's calendars. :o

#3 Marga

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Posted 18 October 2008 - 10:00 PM

The program and dancers:

BAKER'S DOZEN
Choreography by Twyla Tharp
Staged by Elaine Kudo
Pianist Barbara Bilach
Music by Willie "The Lion" Smith
Original costume design by Santo Loquasto
Lighting originally by Jennifer Tipton

Kristi Boone, Marian Butler, Yuriko Kajiya, Simone Messmer, Renata Pavam, Devon Teuscher, Tobin Eason, Thomas Forster, Jeffrey Golladay, Craig Salstein, Eric Tamm, Roman Zhurbin


SINATRA SUITE
Choreography by Twyla Tharp
Staged by Elaine Kudo
Songs sung by Frank Sinatra
Lighting originally by Jennifer Tipton
Original costume design by Oscar de la Renta

Luciana Paris, Jose Manuel Carreño


OVERGROWN PATH
Choreography by Jiří Kylián
Assistant to the choreographer Roslyn Anderson
Pianist David LaMarche
Music by Leoš Janáček ("On an Overgrown Path")
Scenery and costumes by Walter Nobbe
Costume supervision by Joke Visser
Lighting by Joop Caboort
Tech and light adaptation by Kees Tjebbes

Our evenings: Veronika Part, Gillian Murphy, Misty Copeland, Paloma Herrera, Marcelo Gomes, Julie Kent, Kristi Boone
A blown-away leaf: Julie Kent, Misty Copeland, Jared Matthews, Gennadi Saveliev
Come with us: Jared Matthews, Thomas Forster, Gennadi Saveliev
The Madonna of Frydek: Veronika Part, David Hallberg and ensemble
They chattered like swallows: Gillian Murphy, Julie Kent, Misty Copeland, Kristi Boone
Words fail: Paloma Herrera, David Hallberg, Marcelo Gomes, Jared Matthews, Gennadi Saveliev, Thomas Forster
Good night: Kristi Boone, Alexandre Hammoudi
Unutterable anguish: Veronika Part, Julie Kent, Misty Copeland, Paloma Herrera
In tears: Julie Kent, Gennadi Saveliev, Jared Matthews
The barn owl has not flown away: Gillian Murphy, Marcelo Gomes


COMPANY B
Choreography by Paul Taylor
Reconstructed by Patrick Corbin
Songs sung by the Andrews Sisters
(The songs express typical sentiments of Americans during World War II)
Costumes by Santo Loquasto
Lighting by Jennifer Tipton
Lighting recreated by Brad Fields


Bei Mir Bist du Schon: Full cast
Pennsylvania Polka: Maria Ricetto and Tobin Eason
Tico-Tico: Arron Scott
Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!: Craig Salstein with cast women
I Can Dream, Can't I?: Nicola Curry
Joseph! Joseph!: Karin Ellis-Wentz, Mary Mills Thomas, Nicole Graniero, Isaac Stappas, Tobin Eason, Craig Salstein
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B): injured Herman Cornejo replaced by Joseph Phillips
Rum and Coca Cola: Misty Copeland with cast men
There Will Never Be Another You: Simone Messmer and Grant DeLong
Bei Mir Bist du Schon: Full cast


Overgrown Path and Company B were ABT premieres.
______________________________________________

Overheard in the washroom at intermission after Baker's Dozen:

"There weren't any principal dancers in that piece, but they were all really good!"

LOL! I'll say! Understatement of the evening. :flowers:
Divided into five pieces, Baker's Dozen (with its non-baker's, but actual dozen of loosely mated dancers), its sections titled "Relaxin'", "Echoes of Spring", "Tango a la Caprice" and "Relaxin", received its world premiere on February 15, 1979 and its ABT premiere last year during the City Center Season.

The ballet begins with a lengthy piano overture to set the mood. The dancers are dressed in white from head to toe, evoking the ambiance of elegant Long Island parties in the early part of the last century, at least as we have been encouraged to imagine them in novels such as "The Great Gatsby". With jazzy music as smooth as the dresses for their setting, a dozen dancers assemble and disassemble in various pairings, often with comical results. This is a nostalgic romp, riddled with youthful antics, for a social group of friends who are having romantic fun and are trying to outdo each other in their solo turns. Dancers get thrown around from one to another, get flipped upside down, fall unexpectedly from the wings into the arms of whoever's onstage at the moment, dance out of the wings only to be pulled back in again by the leg, slide or get propelled across the floor, and generally ham it up.

I was sitting so close to the stage that I could see the facial expressions clearly, a necessity to get the most enjoyment out of this ballet. The intimate relationship of my seat to the performance floor gave me a vantage point that was almost like an in-studio view. The choice of contemporary works for the Bard program is perfect for closeup viewing. Classical ballet with its elaborate costuming, props, and stage scenery requires an audience to be seated further back in order to support the illusion. But I just love being close! One can really identify every dancer and see their strengths and abilities. I saw incredibly arched feet on all the women (the entire cast wore white jazz shoes) which just dazzled! Speedy yet very precise movements displayed stellar technique. Gestures which might not be seen by those seated further away helped make the ballet as they showcased the acting ability of the dancers. And the energy! It came pouring out of each dancer with gushes of frenetic choreography, seamlessly sequeing into generous swaths of exquisite perfect-lined pas de deux (or trois) highlighting the gorgeous technique of each dancer. Oh the legs! The turnout! The comedy!

Standouts of this performance of Baker's Dozen: Devon Teuscher (loveliness and beauty dreamily personified), Kristi Boone (crisp, sassy, athletic), Thomas Forster (ebullient stage presence), Eric Tamm (super charisma), and number one standout: TOBIN EASON! (a smile that embraced the whole auditorium, a honed technical display of dancing, impetuous maneuvers, playful and mischievous facial expressions). Tobin was my fave of the first act, and Eric Tamm's shining performance also stayed with me.

to be continued....

#4 Marga

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 02:08 PM

Sinatra Suite gives the viewer pleasure on several levels. If you are a fan of Ol' Blue Eyes, as I am, the sexy tones of the singer of the songs sends ripples up and down your spine. You could close your eyes and enjoy the five songs on their own. Ah, but then you'd miss the sexy dancing! And the sexy Jose Manuel Carreño. And the luscious Luciana Paris tangoing and slow-dancing so senuously with him. Oh, and if fashion is your thang, then knowing that Oscar de la Renta designed the little black dress and fitted three piece suit might turn you on.

For those used to a bare-chested Carreño or a Carreño in bold-colored tights which show off his leg musculature, or those hoping for a glimpse of his beautiful strong neck, well.....too bad. You're getting instead the suave, self-assured, 40 year old Carreño who knows his way around a (ballroom-)dance floor and around a beautiful lady. In glossy black dress shoes and sleeves down to his wrists, Jose gives us a Frank Sinatra-styled terpsichorean smoothie with just a hint of Hispanic flair. No Fred Astaire here. This is a Carreño original! By the time he gets to his closing solo ("One for My Baby ....and One More for the Road)", his tie is undone and he's lost a cufflink on the stage, but he hardly looks disheveled. No, not our "Frank". His shirt is still neatly tucked into his trousers, his hair is still neatly coiffed, his shoes are still shiny, and his vest still buttoned up. A class act into the wee hours of the morning is our guy. Alone and wistful, but his own man, lady or no. But what about the dancing? Oh baby, there was dancing, exquisite and intimate, transporting the onlooker to her own memories of dances danced. Accomplished and sometimes balletic, with multiple dress-shoe pirouettes spun out by Carreño during his solo. When things got hot, the jacket came off, the first time with Luciana Paris's help in tossing it into the wings (it reappeared later, airborne, from the opposite wing, thrown in to be donned for the next song).

So, let me tell you about Luciana Paris. I'll start by talking a little about Elaine Kudo. I don't think there are many dancers today who can do what Kudo did in and for Sinatra Suite. She had the right combination of slightly dangerous, untouchable woman, forbidding yet striking in appearance, a woman who was in control, not only of herself but of her partner (even when it was Baryshnikov), and her partner knew it. Elaine Kudo instinctively knew how to make you like her because you could identify with her sense of jaded longing, despite being in awe and a little fear of her! This characterization worked so well in Sinatra Suite, where the dancing goes from glamourous tenderness to eristic scrappiness to been-there-done-that-but-I'll-do-it-again-if-only-for-the-memories arousal and momentary euphoria. So that's what Luciana Paris had to live up to!

She didn't make it, of course, but what she did make, was wonderful, taken for itself. Paris's seductive, submissive response to "Strangers in the Night" and "All the Way" was haunting in its beauty. She had the opportunity to use her ballet-perfected technique to great advantage in the pas de deux filled with lifts, supported arabesques and penches, turning attitudes and pirouettes. In character pumps (with the pink elastic which blends into the tights holding the shoe on), Paris has a beautiful foot, and her draped black dress floats enticingly in harmony with her leg extensions. Paris' "That's Life" was a quirky, almost quaint, response to Carreño's harsh treatment. Harsh is almost too strong a word, for I never felt threatened by Carreño. This strange pas de deux, in the hands of these two dancers is more zany than abusive, but carefully so. There was little letting loose, more a controlled couple's quarrel. It made the head bobbing and yanking movements comical instead of hateful, the pushing and pulling playful rather than menacing. I would have liked to have seen more sharpness in angles and head throws, more sustenance and holding back until a last minute-release in those push-pull sequences.

Instead of cynical indifference during "My Way", Paris presented an unused soul to her partner and was left a bit bewildered in the lurch, as if this was a first-time emotional hardening. I give her kudos ( :flowers: ) for undertaking this difficult pentathlon of dances (she doesn't appear at all in the fifth one, Carreño's solo, but is definitely a part of it in retrospect). I'd love to see her dance it again. I'd also like to see it attempted by a number of other ABT women from all echelons of the company. The Suite ends with the solo "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)", a real chance for Jose Manuel Carreño to step out of the box of classical ballet and show us a completely new side of himself. He did not come through. While the dancing is extraordinary in its seeming simplicity, which Carreño can easily pull off because of his body of work in ballet, there was more opportunity to show us something unexpected and memorable. I, at least, did not get that. Maybe others did. It was utterly fabulous, from the sheer dancing aspect, and the nuances were there, but, I have to say, when I saw Carreño's name in the program, I was very excited. Maybe I shouldn't have had any preconceived expectations. But I did. I wanted an unbelievable, amazing, transformative rendition of these pieces. I wanted people who didn't know Carreño from Adam to sit up and take notice and walk away with "I just saw the best thing since Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly". I suppose we will still be in wait for someone to take up that mantle. I don't think Marcelo Gomes can uproot their hold, either, but I would like to see him try!

Intermission


#5 Renata

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 05:51 PM

Thank you Marga for sharing your experience. I felt as though I was watching with you.

#6 glowstop

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 09:39 PM

I had the pleasure of seeing both the first and second casts of each ballet in the program. It really is a shame that you didn't get to see Misty Copland and Marcelo in Sinatra Suite, because if you thought Carreno and Paris were as good as you let on, you would be blown away by this other cast. Marcelo's solo was especially exciting. He delivers it with a sense of ease and an enormous amount of depth the Jose wishes he could achieve. No, of course he's no Baryshnikov, but he comes close and it by far the best I have seen in person.

#7 Marga

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 05:09 PM

We arrived at Bard two hours before curtain. It was a gorgeous fall day, the colors of the Hudson Valley in full array as we approached our destination, the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center. Winding around the well-groomed lawns toward the theater, we saw two deer grazing by the roadside. The road dipped down and around to the parking lots, and, since we were early, we got a choice spot. The bigger lot further downhill requires an uphill trek from its users and Bard thoughtfully provides chauffered golf carts as taxis for its health-compromised theatergoers.

The campus's bucolic autumn atmosphere lent itself to the first ballet after intermission, Jiří Kylián's Overgrown Path.

It is in this 10-part non-storied story ballet that the ABT principals and soloists are found mingling as one entity, separated abstractly into solos and duos and more. Five principals, five soloists, two corps members, dressed in fall colors -- red, orange, yellow -- and black, all in ballet slippers, and often in a simultaneously moving mass like leaves blown in the wind, convey an atmosphere of foreboding as they seem to be inexorably rushing toward something against their wills.

This can be viewed as a "story" ballet if one is aware of its reason for being. From ABT's site we read:

"The ballet is inspired by Leoš Janáček's autobiographical piano pieces, the path is the composer's life, imbued with rich memories of his small Czech village to the untimely demise of his beloved daughter."

Seen without any background info, it's a ballet of movement, shapes, modern-dance angst and turmoil, and the experimental choreography of the next generation of modern dancemakers after Graham, Cunningham, and Taylor. Kylián dedicated the ballet to Antony Tudor and based it on Leoš Janáček's "intimate piano cycle, which gradually evolved over a number of years spanning the time before and after 1902, in the saddest period of Janáček's life." (from the program notes)

It is the sequential deaths of his two children that informed Leoš Janáček's composing ever after. The overgrown path symbolizes the memories we all have, which become a jumble of events losing or gaining impact, depending on how our experiences through the years reorder our lives. What was once monumentally important may fade alongside other, more trivial at the time, incidents which now carry greater emotional influence for us.

And so, to the performance.

David LaMarche strode to his piano in the orchestra pit, with a round of applause accompanying him. His giftedness with the 88s was apparent at the first musical passage. This is ABT's master pianist and we were so privileged to hear him. I felt a confidence with LaMarche that I did not feel with Barbara Bilach's opening notes for "Baker's Dozen", although she had to play twice as many notes, twice as fast (why does that sound like a familiar cliche in the context of her being a woman.....hmmm :clapping: ). LaMarche's overture led us into an ensemble dance where, first off, the costumes were noticed. Shapeless long dresses for the ladies, covering their balletic assets, reducing them to vehicles for molding, assembly and disassembly. The men fared no better with indistinct drab garb, homogenizing them all into, what? ... tree trunks? gnarly old branches? dried-up, blackened leaves?

"Overgrown Path" doesn't allow identity by personality or technique to anyone. All are the same, the same but different. While there are some solo parts, some small groups, some couples, the roles could be danced interchangeably by anyone on stage, even given the natural physical and stylistic differences from one dancer to another. The star of the ballet is the music, expressionistic in that it lets you imagine your own running scenario for it, even while you are being offered a visual framework by the ballet, much like seeing the movie version of a beloved book where they've portrayed it so differently than what was pictured in your mind's eye as you read it. At first, it suggests hope and promise, with only a hint of the tragedy to come. Extremely beautiful, and perfectly fitting the season, it pulls on your soul, when it's lilting as well as when it's surreal. As it progresses from part to part, the music starts to chill as it grabs you. As listener, you are whorled in with the same insistence as it captures the dancers onstage.

By the time we arrive at "The barn owl has not flown away", after "Unutterable anguish" and being "In tears" (the sections with the death, symbolized by the removal of the black-clad Gillian Murphy (playing the daughter who died) by Marcelo Gomes-- playing the role of death? -- from the midst of the other dancers) into an upstage abyss, the music is bold, urgent, unrelenting. In the stages of grief, this is somewhere in the anger, bargaining, depression and loneliness area. It is danced by Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes, who, though known as ballet stars, deliver understated fluidity and supremely gifted movement in servitude to the music.

The eleventh, unnamed, part was danced to silence. Well, not really. It was taught to music in order to establish the phrasing and counts for the dancers, who then had the music pulled out from under them to be performed without it. But it wasn't done in silence. Finally, the dance was the star and the dancers, en masse, the star vehicles (like well-rehearsed corps members who must align themselves to each other by rote, using only the mobility of the eyes to check distances and positions). The piano stilled. What we heard, especially those who had close-to-the-stage perches, was the shuffling of a stageful of feet, vividly emphasizing the undercurrent of lives that continue for others even when life has ended for some. The rustle also reminded us of the falling leaves outside, which reminded me of the curious deer who watched the cars arriving for the ballet. There is always life. The dancers continued agitatedly soft-shoeing it -- making me think also of the frenzied action of baby birds stretching their little heads up, mouths agape, for the worm brought by the mother bird -- or, more to the point, like this was the only thing that mattered to do in life, until the curtain softly fell.

Veronika Part -- how wonderful to see her! had some phrases to dance which allowed her beautiful penche to be admired. She partnered with David Hallberg for a pas de deux before blending back into the group. Julie Kent, in vivid red, did mostly ensemble work. She and Misty Copeland, also in red, were the female halves of "A blown-away leaf" with Jared Matthews and Gennadi Saveliev their male counterparts. It was pretty much a group dance which linked into a trio of staunchly stepping males. More group work, in various combinations of dancers, and then Alexandre Hammoudi was introduced to the piece as partner to Kristi Boone in "Good night". As they melted into the group, ensemble work returned, with smaller groups falling away to form new coalitions of movement. There was forward marching, withdrawal, zombie-like, molasses-slow exiting steps, fluttering, and quiet. There was lifting, turning of dancers into sideways positions, picking up and moving of unmoving dancers, lunges, and retreats.

The fact that the choreography was performed by some of the best dancers in the world did not escape my notice, but it was such a piece that would have looked good on any fine company anywhere, major or regional. Perhaps the high level of competence at ABT permitted the dancers to suppress their personas to serve the music and choreography better than dancers of less accomplishment could manage, I don't know. Are ABT dancers so good that they can belie their training and experience while letting it intrinsically do the talking for them? Maybe they are. And it was fun to see Marcelo in the last line of the group -- in the shadows -- for a change! Or maybe I've thought too much about this ballet and what it means. When I asked my friend who saw it with me what she remembered from it, her reply was "I remember that it was my least favorite." And that remark came from a veteran balletgoer!

Second intermission


#8 Marga

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 09:16 PM

Company B

Two words: Misty Copeland!

10 more words: Misty Copeland! Misty Copeland! Misty Copeland! Misty Copeland! Misty Copeland!

Did anyone else dance? Oh yes, did they ever! There was an actual baker's dozen of dancers, hot pastries fresh from the oven: German apple strudel (Maria Ricetto and Tobin Eason), puffy popovers (Arron Scott), curvy croissants (Nicola Curry), steaming muffins (Craig Salstein with his gaggle of swooning women), bittersweet chocolate mousse (Simone Messmer and Grant DeLong), spicy hot cross buns (the Joseph! Joseph! cast), all-American brownies (Joseph Phillips) and a tangy tropical tart (Misty Copeland). Paul Taylor's rousing, lively portrayal of the devil-may-care side of World World II masking the underlayer of devastation saw its premiere in 1991, first by Houston Ballet, then by the Paul Taylor company. Like "Overgrown Path", the ballet deals with mortality, but its take on death and its inevitability is totally different. Its characters begin as innocents, knowing what war does, but in their blissful youth, refusing to believe any of it will touch them -- until it does. In their innocence, they laugh, love and flirt, play-act and have wild fun. Then bodies start dropping, creating a new reality for the revelers.

The ballet is American, the America of the Europeans who peopled its cities 75 years ago and whose sons were sent to fight for it. The jubilation begins in low light to the Yiddish "Bei Mir Bist du Schon". The entire cast of 13 make the stage sizzle with their energy. With choreography based on the swing dances of the 40s -- the lindy hop, jive, boogie-woogie -- we experience pure joy and the beauty and exuberance of the young. A spirited polka follows, a good ol' German polka. If there's anything I know something about, it's the polka, so I must say that, while very well executed by Ricetto and Eason, I can tell that neither has had extensive experience with it. Still, it was very nicely done.

"Tico-Tico", a solo for a male dancer, was performed this night by Arron Scott. An ingenious piece of choreography, the dancer isolates his upper body parts into small bits that jiggle and undulate, pop and quiver as if he were in the throes of St. Vitus Dance -- or, to be current, maybe post-traumatic stress syndrome. Scott was so good that I've got to name him as my second most memorable dancer of the evening. The second part of the solo had him doing more traditional ballet steps like jetes, but I hardly remember any of that. Daniil Simkin and, from the cast list it looks like Mikhail Ilyin, alternate the part with him at City Center.

Bespectacled Craig Salstein was such a hoot in "Oh Johnny....", so much so that I watched him instead of the girls, so cannot comment on any individual female dancer. The story line: a bunch of girls hopes the nerdy boy (who didn't have to go to war) chooses one of them, but he outruns, outjumps, and outsmarts them. Nicola Curry, a lovely adagio dancer, gives the heartache of "I Can Dream, Can't I" an aesthetic, wistfully sensuous interpretation. Just beautiful!

Joseph Phillips, replacing Herman Cornejo, tackled "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy", a grueling athletic endeavor. Phillips is certainly up to the choreography and physical requirements, but he needs more time with the role to work on nuance and surprise. I wanted to see something special, at least once, but, aside from the whole dance making special demands on the dancer, Joseph was not able (yet) to give it a little more oomph here and there.

And then came Misty. If ever a role was made for a dancer, "Rum and Coca-Cola" was made for Misty Copeland. Exuding sass, magnetism, and intrigue with a calypso beat, she led her admiring soldier boys into a lustful frenzy. It helps that she, of all the women, looks best in the "Company B" costume, so sexy and fresh. Misty has a springy, high jump, an expansive way of moving, and sharp, precise technique. She performed this so utterly perfectly, that I wonder whether there is anyone at ABT who can touch her or even come close.

Simone Messmer and Grant DeLong were given the tail-end duet "There Will Never Be Another You". The story behind the dance is that of a couple who must part because of the call of war, ending with the soldier joining his unit and leaving his girlfriend in an emotional heap to suffer the torment of (perhaps permanent) separation. It was extremely well danced. The maturity that Messner gives us everytime she takes the stage graced this duet in smooth synchrony with DeLong's expressive partnering. Bravo! Poignantly danced and well-acted.

The return of "Bei Mir Bist du Schon" provides a summarizing coda for the piece and returns us to the festive atmosphere which took us into the ballet. The dancers all return with their vigorous energy and we are again allowed to forget.

The whole cast wore white jazz shoes for the ballet and the women wore either long skirts or trousers. The unifying accessory was a thin red belt for everyone, males and females. It is completely possible that this is a symbol of more than the blood of war. The ballet came out during the years when the AIDS crisis was on the front burner of the news constantly. Paul Taylor was deeply affected by the loss of friends and dancers and used that raw emotion as inspiration for some of his choreography. "Company B" could well be one of those works that reflected the senseless destruction wrought by the disease. There are more layers to this prickly rose of a dance than meet the eye.

#9 bingham

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 03:40 AM

Company B

Two words: Misty Copeland!

10 more words: Misty Copeland! Misty Copeland! Misty Copeland! Misty Copeland! Misty Copeland!

Did anyone else dance? Oh yes, did they ever! There was an actual baker's dozen of dancers, hot pastries fresh from the oven: German apple strudel (Maria Ricetto and Tobin Eason), puffy popovers (Arron Scott), curvy croissants (Nicola Curry), steaming muffins (Craig Salstein with his gaggle of swooning women), bittersweet chocolate mousse (Simone Messmer and Grant DeLong), spicy hot cross buns (the Joseph! Joseph! cast), all-American brownies (Joseph Phillips) and a tangy tropical tart (Misty Copeland). Paul Taylor's rousing, lively portrayal of the devil-may-care side of World World II masking the underlayer of devastation saw its premiere in 1991, first by Houston Ballet, then by the Paul Taylor company. Like "Overgrown Path", the ballet deals with mortality, but its take on death and its inevitability is totally different. Its characters begin as innocents, knowing what war does, but in their blissful youth, refusing to believe any of it will touch them -- until it does. In their innocence, they laugh, love and flirt, play-act and have wild fun. Then bodies start dropping, creating a new reality for the revelers.

The ballet is American, the America of the Europeans who peopled its cities 75 years ago and whose sons were sent to fight for it. The jubilation begins in low light to the Yiddish "Bei Mir Bist du Schon". The entire cast of 13 make the stage sizzle with their energy. With choreography based on the swing dances of the 40s -- the lindy hop, jive, boogie-woogie -- we experience pure joy and the beauty and exuberance of the young. A spirited polka follows, a good ol' German polka. If there's anything I know something about, it's the polka, so I must say that, while very well executed by Ricetto and Eason, I can tell that neither has had extensive experience with it. Still, it was very nicely done.

"Tico-Tico", a solo for a male dancer, was performed this night by Arron Scott. An ingenious piece of choreography, the dancer isolates his upper body parts into small bits that jiggle and undulate, pop and quiver as if he were in the throes of St. Vitus Dance -- or, to be current, maybe post-traumatic stress syndrome. Scott was so good that I've got to name him as my second most memorable dancer of the evening. The second part of the solo had him doing more traditional ballet steps like jetes, but I hardly remember any of that. Daniil Simkin and, from the cast list it looks like Mikhail Ilyin, share the part with him at City Center.

Bespectacled Craig Salstein was such a hoot in "Oh Johnny....", so much so that I watched him instead of the girls, so cannot comment on any individual female dancer. The story line: a bunch of girls hopes the nerdy boy (who didn't have to go to war) chooses one of them, but he outruns, outjumps, and outsmarts them. Nicola Curry, a lovely adagio dancer, gives the heartache of "I Can Dream, Can't I" an aesthetic, wistfully sensuous interpretation. Just beautiful!

Joseph Phillips, replacing Herman Cornejo, tackled "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy", a grueling athletic endeavor. Phillips is certainly up to the choreography and physical requirements, but he needs more time with the role to work on nuance and surprise. I wanted to see something special, at least once, but, aside from the whole dance making special demands on the dancer, Joseph was not able (yet) to give it a little more oomph here and there.

And then came Misty. If ever a role was made for a dancer, "Rum and Coca-Cola" was made for Misty Copeland. Exuding sass, magnetism, and intrigue with a calypso beat, she led her admiring soldier boys into a lustful frenzy. It helps that she, of all the women, looks best in the "Company B" costume, so sexy and fresh. Misty has a springy, high jump, an expansive way of moving, and sharp, precise technique. She performed this so utterly perfectly, that I wonder whether there is anyone at ABT who can touch her or even come close.

Simone Messmer and Grant DeLong were given the tail-end duet "There Will Never Be Another You". The story behind the dance is that of a couple who must part because of the call of war, ending with the soldier joining his unit and leaving his girlfriend in an emotional heap to suffer the torment of (perhaps permanent) separation. It was extremely well danced. The maturity that Messner gives us everytime she takes the stage graced this duet in smooth synchrony with DeLong's expressive partnering. Bravo! Poignantly danced and well-acted.

The return of "Bei Mir Bist du Schon" provides a summarizing coda for the piece and returns us to the festive atmosphere which took us into the ballet. The dancers all return with their vigorous energy and we are again allowed to forget.

The whole cast wore white jazz shoes for the ballet and the women wore either long skirts or trousers. The unifying accessory was a thin red belt for everyone, males and females. It is completely possible that this is a symbol of more than the blood of war. The ballet came out during the years when the AIDS crisis was on the front burner of the news constantly. Paul Taylor was deeply affected by the loss of friends and dancers and used that raw emotion as inspiration for some of his choreography. "Company B" could well be one of those works that reflected the senseless destruction wrought by the disease. There are more layers to this prickly rose of a dance than meet the eye.

Thank you for the detailed review.I don't remember reading anything as well detailed in BT( at least recently).I'm sure all the dancers will be thrilled of being appreciated.I hope you will be in Ottawa for ABT's Giselle or better still ,consider moving to NYC during the ballet season. :crying: :pinch: :dunno:

#10 Renata

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 10:38 AM

Brava Marga. And thanks for taking the time to share.

#11 Marga

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 01:28 PM

Thank you all for the kind responses. It's nice to know that after hours and hours of research and writing, my reports were read and appreciated.

bingham, I am looking forward to Ottawa in February. For us, it's only a 3 hour trip. Thanks to you, I went and bought my tickets online. I had planned to earlier, but forgot about it while traveling and writing. I was able to get 2 front row seats in the mezzanine. I know that tickets will be sold out early. Ottawa hasn't had a resident ballet company since the Ottawa Ballet folded in 1994. Frank Augustyn, as new AD back then, had tried to turn it around financially but couldn't. Whenever name-brand companies visit, they become a very hot ticket.

Move to New York during ballet season? Since I still have a teenager at home, it's not easy, but I actually did that for the first time this past summer (because of my mother's triple-bypass surgery) and was able to see 3 ABT performances -- not nearly enough, but more than I could afford. Even when I lived here (going back 4 decades) I wasn't able to see as much as I would've wanted to, being a student and earning pennies. Most of us have that problem -- the high cost of enjoying ballet. Oh, to be in certain countries in Europe, where the best seats are less than $30!

glowstop (and c. :crying: ), how I wish I could see M and M in SS! I have only one ticket for the fall season, and that's for next Sunday's matinee. Since it's my fourth child's 28th birthday, I rationalized buying a front row seat as a present to myself for giving birth to him. How's that for a reason? It would be great to see a baker's dozen of performances. :pinch:

renata, thank you!

Now I'm looking forward to everyone's reviews of the fall season!

#12 carbro

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 01:40 PM

Since it's my fourth child's 28th birthday, I rationalized buying a front row seat as a present to myself for giving birth to him. How's that for a reason?

Why not? I have often wished parents (mine and others') happy Maternity/Paternity day on their children's birthdays. They are the ones to be honored for the birth and raising of the next gen.

It's easy to see that as much care went into your extended review as went into the actual performances. Thanks so much for a beautiful job.


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