Posted 05 October 2009 - 11:44 AM
I attended the evening performance on Saturday, October 3rd at Bard College. It’s difficult for me, after one viewing, to give much of a comprehensive, intelligent review of the evening, as I was taking in so many new works. I will try, instead, to give you a general impression of what I saw, highlighting some of the outstanding performances. Please excuse my writing; I’m doing this at work.
I arrived at the theater early to see Stella Abrera marking choreography on the stage. My, she is beautiful! With no stage curtains, one of the unusual pleasures of the Bard experience was watching the dancers warm-up before each piece.
Seven Sonatas, the new Ratmansky work, was danced by Abrera, Kent, and Reyes and Saveliev, Hammodi, and Cornejo. The dancers were paired respectively as listed, although Kent and Abrera seemed to switch partners frequently. There were also two pas de trois sections. This piece was the most classical of the evening, in the sense that the dancers retained turnout and what I consider “ballet arms” throughout. The music was fast, fast, fast, but the dancers all brought their allegro A-game, and even the extra long ones (Abrera and Hammoudi) kept up. Cornejo and Reyes are such joyous, buoyant dancers, and they move together beautifully. They really lit up the stage. Julie Kent showed impeccable footwork, but I found myself wishing she would open her shoulders more and lift her face (I was in the balcony). There was something a bit tentative about her performance. Ratmansky’s choreography is wonderfully musical, and I enjoy how he uses less frequently seen petit allegro steps. This piece seemed understated compared to the rest of the program, and thus, I think, received a more tepid audience reaction. There were moments that maybe lacked rehearsal, and sloppy arms from the men, but I am eager to see Seven Sonatas again.
Next up was One of Three, which featured a trio and later a slew of men in black suits, interacting first with Gillian Murphy, then Misty Copeland, and finally Paloma Herrara. Whereas Seven Sonatas exemplified subtly, lightness, and happy couplings, One of Three showed us dancers exhibiting flashy extensions, rugged male ensemble work, and sometimes jaunting confrontations. Gillian appeared in striking long white ankle-length gown with a slit down one side. The gown appeared restricting, but somehow accommodated her ear-splitting developes. Gillian exhibited great control and sexiness, and Cory Stearns partnered her well. I wish I had the words to better describe Barton’s choreography. There was definitely some hip-hop influence where the movements would abruptly halt then the flow would start again (pop ‘n lock?). Misty came out all spunk and fire, in a black, high-neck, sleeveless number. Her movements featured an abrupt flexing of the feet and falling back on the heels, which accentuated her sort of long feet and hyper-extended legs. It looked pretty crazy. She was partnered by Simkin briefly, and just as I thought “Wow, look at him handle Misty” something went awry and he either dropped her or she slipped. There were a few seconds of audience gasp and awkwardness before they got it together. Still, despite the snafu, their interaction was interesting and unexpected. Paloma was the last woman to appear and she seemed the most at ease with the contractions and flow of the choreography. Paloma is not one of my favorites, and I avoid her in the full-lengths, but she seems to really excel in more contemporary choreography.
After a brief pause came Some Assembly Required. This pas-de-deux exhibited some unusual and challenging partnering. Jared Matthews doesn’t have much bulk to him, but his strength (for example, lowering Maria to the floor slowly while lying on his back) was undeniable throughout. The couple is entwined for much of the dance. There is flirtation, conflict, sex (almost), acceptance, and forgiveness going on. Nothing looks too easy. The message? Love is work.
I sat in my seat and watched the onstage goings-on during the second intermission. Stage hands quickly appeared with long sheets of white Mylar which they flattened and taped to create a large white square covering most of the stage. When they were done Marcelo came out. Hooray! At that point I decided to scamper down to the orchestra to gawk from the edge of the stage (I wasn’t the only one). Soon the stage was full of dancers. I was amazed as Maria came out so quickly with her hair put up and a different costume. I was happy to see the regal, captivating Kristi Boone and some of my other favorites. Daniil looks like a porcelain doll, up close in his stage makeup. As I stood there I noticed Benjamin Millepied right behind me, seated in the front row, all bearded, skinny, and serious. The lights dimmed, and I scampered quickly up the aisle and up the stairs to my proper seat. Thankfully it’s a small theater!
Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once was next. Isabella Boylston was listed opposite Gomes in the casting on the website, but she was substituted (on stage and in the program) by Stella Abrera. No complaints here. This was really a great night for Stella (her picture, mid-leap, even graced the program cover), and I know her many fans on this board will be delighted to see her getting some nice opportunities. In the beginning, Blaine Hoven seemed to gather the dance as a sort of leader of the tribe. There was so much going on in this piece, solos, couple-work, and a big ensemble finale. It was high energy and fast paced, except for the slow sensuous Gomes/Abrera pas de deux, which seemed to be performed almost entirely in plie. David Lang’s minimalist music fueled the driving pace, except in this pas de deux section where it was so slow, pounding, and dissonant, it finally started to turn me off. Simkin stole the show in this one. Millepied uses the silences in the music to punctuate huge moments in the dance. At one point Simkin catapulted himself through the air only to be caught on-high by a group of men, freezing with pinpoint precision in the perfect moment of silence. He did the same thing back the other way, perfect again, the audience gasping. He began a third attempt but as he starts to jump toward the awaiting group (women this time) he shirks; the audience laughs. Simkins subsequent solo sent the audience wild again. I’ve never seen anyone turn like him. I lose count of pirouettes after 6 or 7 revolutions. And he finishes slowly, on demi pointe, with a low developé a la seconde. Simkin also performed a series of these insane tour jetés where he lays out his body, almost parallel to the floor, and elevates his legs above that, all while covering so much aerial space. It looks like he’s being propelled by strings . . . or magic. I should also mention that Simkin partnered Gemma Bond in this one, and they suited each other wonderfully, (despite an excessive level of elfin blondeness). Seriously, though, I hope to see more of them together. I’m sure if you asked the audience, they would have pegged Simkin as the featured dancer, as opposed to Gomes (whose perfectly controlled turns and strong partnering also deserve mention). The piece ends--after a crazy, criss-crossing, ensemble segment with all dancers on stage--with Simikin front and center revolving in one of his endless pirouettes as the panel of light on him dims.
I was captivated by EDHAO. (So was my partner, who remarked that football didn't cross his mind once during the last piece.) The level of movement when the entire ensemble was onstage was visceral and powerful, perhaps exacerbated by the small theater. The simple, modern black costumes against the white floor meant nothing got missed, and despite all the crossing intersections and big movements performed by 24 dancers in a small space, the formations and connections were spot-on. I appreciated the lighting, as well. Textures and patterns were occasionally projected on the white surface, (echoing the repetitive, patterned feel of the music). But these effects were not distracting, and the stage wasn’t plagued by the dimness that seems to accompany so many contemporary ballets.
I wonder if the critics will find this piece a bit gimmicky. I wonder if NYC audiences will have the same reaction as the Bard crowd (standing ovation/ lots of cheers). I wonder if Simkin will dance this role in every performance.
I do hope the Bard/ ABT relationship continues. It was a lovely day trip. We took a leisurely drive, spent the afternoon at the FDR home and presidential library, and enjoyed the foliage in the Hudson River Valley, where the reds and oranges (much like the ABT stars) pop out earlier up there than down here.