REVIEWS: ABT at City Center, Nov. 8–13, 2011
Posted 10 November 2011 - 06:10 AM
Posted 10 November 2011 - 06:48 AM
These rep programs by American Modern Dance Company must be a "must-not-see" among Ballet Talkers since no one has written about them yet.
I was thinking the same thing. Isn't this a hoot? Is there ANY ballet going on in NYC this weekend? I think that NY Theater Ballet is presenting a Cinderella that is real ballet.
Posted 10 November 2011 - 07:18 AM
Posted 10 November 2011 - 09:39 AM
No kidding. I was there on Tuesday night. I can't say what the status was in the high-rent district downstairs, but lots of empties in the balcony. I fail to understand why ABT so rarely offers discount tickets on TDF. They did so for very few perfs at the Met last summer, and there's nothing on TDF right now. They're shooting themselves in the foot (nothing new).
By the way, is "Jackie" Xiomara's nickname? Cute!
Posted 10 November 2011 - 09:47 AM
I'm curious. How is the view from the balcony?
Posted 10 November 2011 - 11:30 AM
Posted 10 November 2011 - 12:48 PM
Garden of Villandry with Kent, Bragado-Young, and Zhurbin is a whole different experience than with the Reyes cast. Now I wish I could see it tonight with Veronika for more comparison, but I don't think anyone can portray the bespectacled suitor better than Bragado-Young. The chemistry between him and Kent was electric - best seen from a seat close enough to catch the nuances. I couldn't take my eyes off them - major wow factor.
Zhurbin was interchangeable (Grant Delong the day before was the requisite tall blond), but Bragado-Young had an implicit steaminess that Alexei Agoudine, the one-in-glasses in the Reyes cast, lacked. I was seated really close and saw every slight contortion of his face, which, keeping in character, he tried to keep hidden. I saw longing, lust, brooding, simmering jealousy in Bragado-Young's face which I didn't in Alexei Agoudine's the night before (although Agoudine did a fine job). B-Y brought the character to another level. On Friday night with Reyes--Delong--Agoudine I was waiting for the ballet to end. On Saturday afternoon, with Kent--Zhurbin--Bragado-Young, when it did, I wanted more.
Curiously, as we left the theatre Saturday afternoon, I overheard one woman walking behind us telling her friend, "That Garden of Villandry was SO boring!" I wanted to turn around and rebut her observation; how could she say that after seeing it with Julie Kent and Julio Bragado-Young?! It was anything BUT boring - it was exciting, provocative and stimulating! If she thought that cast was boring, it's a good thing she didn't see it the day before.
Volpi's Private Light was brilliant. I know that some reviewers may not think so, but I see genius in that young choreographer. He's feeling his way into something big. He was able to invent some new movements for the ballet lexicon using heads and toes that I haven't seen before. I thought his manipulation of lined-up dancers near the beginning was a clever twist on a teacher going down the assemblage of dancers at the barre, making corrections.
It'll be interesting to see if Volpi finds his style and then his niche. My only quibble is that for the bulk of the ballet, the lighting was too dark for my taste. Oh - let me not forget to mention the music...Christian Kiss right on stage with his guitar playing pieces from Bluegrass to Villa-Lobos, was a definite highlight and a great asset to the choreography. The choice of music, with Kiss's arrangements, was perfect. I'm sure the bluegrass ending was as uplifting for the dancers as it was for us watching.
Natch, Isabella (Boylston) was fantastic in it and so was Joey (Gorak), whom Volpi used for his foot and line in a tricky solo. Tricky in that Joey had to stand alone in the center of the stage and do a slow developpe (showcasing the arch of his foot and the height of his passe) to begin his section. That was followed by slow rondes de jambe, tendus (again the foot), arabesques (line) and a lovely soundless leap or two.
Junk Duet (Known by Heart) was sheer perfection as danced by Maria Riccetto and Marcelo Gomes. I was so happy to see Maria up close and alone (with Marcelo) onstage. She has gotten really good! Her dagger-sharp technique and real ballerina quality had me thinking she was truly a principal in the making. I'd love to see her Giselle again now, nearly three years after I saw her dance it in Ottawa. Maria's positions were pristine, with luscious line. She reminded me of porcelain, but instead of delicate, her porcelain-perfection was strong and unbreakable.
With technique so solid, she made all she did look natural and effortless - the mark of an accomplished ballerina - showing that she is reaching a degree of eminence in the heirarchy. Marcelo was his completely perfect self - such a joy to watch - bonding with his partner through many comedic bits, both subtle and showy, and displaying the sheer charisma for which he is beloved. Both were uber-bravo worthy, with faces, bodies, and limbs so expressive, isolations rhythmically sharp and pronounced, their gorgeous, sculpted bodies adding a whole other dimension to the pleasure of watching them.
I don't feel I'm missing anything by not seeing Gillian Murphy and Blaine Hoven dance this (as they are tonight) - I've seen the best and love returning to their performance in my mind. Thanks go to fate this time, in giving us this particular duo on the day we were there. When I ordered tickets months ago I had no idea if I'd even catch Isabella, much less any of the others I really go to ABT to see.
In the Upper Room - what can I say? It WAS a religious experience by the end. Its consistent development to the final frenzy was every step a thrilling journey. All the dancers were on their game, contributing to a fast-flowing buildup of a stage-full of passion. Seamless transitions between sections and Tharp's incredible facility with creative choreography made for a piece you need to see at least twice in order to catch everything that's going on. I need to see it more, because whenever Isabella is dancing, she's the only one I watch, and so it was with Upper Room. She was a standout, of course, and others who particularly drew the eye were Misty (as in Copeland) and Sascha (Radetsky), Kristi (Boone) - who opened the ballet with Gillian, and new-to-ABT Luciana Voltolini who captures your attention with her height, beauty, and gorgeous line.
Black Tuesday heads up: Misty, Gemma, and Herman! Each soloed in the last three songs in the cast I saw and each was terrific! Misty was phenomenal in "Black Tuesday". She danced as part of a group - standing out above the others in it - but in her own solo, ("The Boulevard of Broken Dreams") she let it all hang out, to my delight. That girl can just stand there and you feel like you've seen a great performance! Gemma Bond became a new favourite as she cavorted in "(I Went Hunting) and the Big Bad Wolf was Dead". What power in a tiny body! Reminded me both of South Pacific's 'Honey Bun' and Ray Henderson's 'Five Foot Two Eyes of Blue' as Ms. Bond flung herself around in clothes too big, but with spirit and pluck to fill the entire stage. Herman's solo at the end ("Brother, Can You Spare a Dime"?) was dynamic, danced with some of the same mood he brought to his solo ("One for My Baby") in Sinatra Suite, tempered with the pathos necessary to interpret the iconic song.
Memorable lighting moment: at the very end, Cornejo advances to the edge of the stage and brings up his outstretched hand, joined by the rest of the male corps who line up both sides of him, stretching out their own hands, palms upturned. This is where the lighting guy has his/her moment: Each hand - and only the hands - is illuminated by a glowing light to emphasize the poignancy of the scene. I've never seen this Paul Taylor piece and was nearly brought to tears by feelings of empathy.
Before I go, I must hold up the ever-astounding talent of Isabella Boylston. She's a friend, so I'm biased, but she's an utterly riveting dancer who is deservedly getting acclaim from many who know good dancing when they see it. She is every inch the material for future principal, and when that happens I will be proud to call her ballerina. I'm sorry I didn't get to see her Duets. That was Saturday night, and we left after the matinee. I read that she was superb in it.
This is all I have time for - sorry! I hope everyone enjoys the fall season as much as I did.
Posted 10 November 2011 - 03:06 PM
I tend to forget just how good Xiomara Reyes is sometimes, because she flies a bit under the radar and never seems to get the publicity or fan devotion most of the other principals do. She was terrific in Seven Sonatas, really fluid. Julie Kent kept up with her well. I thought that Yuriko, though still fine, was noticeably the soloist in with two experienced principals. She may get there yet and I'm glad she's being given the chance to grow. I do always enjoy her dancing. Yuriko also was dancing with the NYCB paddle hands, where the fingers are splayed wide instead of gracefully arranged. Most likely that doesn't bother anyone but me, but I think the look isn't appealing. I find myself noticing the flat hands anew every time I attend a NYCB performance & thought maybe I'm just getting testy. But I recently watched the Dance in America recording with Merrill Ashley and Suzanne Farrell, and that hand styling really wasn't in evidence back then.
Paloma and Veronika looked amazing in the Cunningham number, and comfortable in the choreography. However, I didn't truly see all of Part's efforts. The women weren't on pointe and I'd never seen Part's feet out of toeshoes before. I was so mesmerized by her gorgeous, articulated feet I'm ashamed to say I missed much of her dancing because I was just watching her roll her toes into a point. Beautiful.
Completely agree with Marga that Maria Ricetto has improved tremendously. She flew through the Tharp duet with the ease that comes from technical security. She had plenty of sparkle and looked absolutely ballerina-perfect in the lovely and simple shimmering gray costume. I'd been neutral on her early on, but started coming around in the last couple of years as she stood out in smaller roles. I think her star will continue to rise.
I wish I'd been able to see Black Tuesday better. Most of the numbers, and especially the two big solos were performed with the stage covered in a high-contrast shade-and-light pattern that along with the mottled dark costuming made it really difficult to distinguish the dancers from the floor. Near as I could tell from the balcony, Misty Copeland ("Broken Dreams") and Simkin ("Spare a Dime") looked great.
My husband, who sees ballet only about once a year, happened to have only caught Cornejo on a couple of nights before this and both times they were off nights for Herman. Last night, though, Grif was blown away by Herman's charisma and famous leaps. I always appreciate Grif's feedback on dancers, because on the whole he is little concerned with technique and responds to other qualities. He noticed and liked Veronika Part in Duets, saying she had "weight and presence" Not, of course, meaning weight in physique, but in her seeming actually material. He also thought Marcelo was a little over the top in the Junk duet, a touch hammy. I answered that I thought Tharp's humorous dances fall pretty flat if they're played safe and I thought Gomez' comedy work was brilliant. (But it could be just that I'm unable to see Marcelo, a dance god, as anything less than perfect. Ever.) But I'm pretty hard on dance humor anyway, because it's so often performed by dancers with little comedy talent. I'm still getting over seeing the pratfalls in Taylor's "From Soup to Nuts" years ago. I cringed all the way through it and I've yet to find a dance critic who doesn't think it's a riotous piece of whimsy.
Posted 11 November 2011 - 02:29 PM
Thursday’s afternoon program begins with The Garden of Villandry, a very forgettable work choreographed by Martha Clarke, Robby Barnett and Felix Blaska. It is about a woman
(Xiomara Reyes) who can’t decide between two suitors (Grant DeLong and Alex Agoudine). Very little happens during the ballet. When it ends – an interminable ten or so minutes later – the woman still has not made up her mind.
I was really looking forward to Sinatra Suite, a Twyla Tharp piece danced to five Frank Sinatra songs. I saw it performed in 2006, with Luciana Paris and Marcelo Gomes as the lead couple, and I really enjoyed it. On Thursday afternoon, with Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes performing the leading roles, it is a major disappointment.
The partnering is really off, especially during the first two songs “Strangers in the Night” and “All the Way”. During the first song Gomes attempts to lift Herrera, but cannot manage it. I was really afraid he was going to drop her. (Fortunately he didn’t.) I have rarely seen such clumsy partnering from professional dancers. It was as though they were dancing two different ballets, going in completely opposite directions.
This muddled Sinatra Suite is especially surprising as Marcelo Gomes is renowned for his partnering skills. I’ve seen Gomes dance with ballerinas considerably taller than Herrera (Michele Wiles, Veronika Part, Polina Semionova) and perform much more complicated lifts. Didn’t Herrera and Gomes rehearse Sinatra Suite before Thursday afternoon’s performance? Unfortunately, it sure didn’t look like they had.
Gomes finally comes into his own during the final number “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road). This is fittingly a solo. Gomes not only dances it flawlessly, he channels the world-weary Frank Sinatra spirit perfectly. It doesn’t make up for the rest of the ballet, but at
least Sinatra Suite ends on a high note.
The next work was Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas, set to the piano music of Domenico Scarlatti. Everything in this ballet – the music, the choreography, the dancing – flows seamlessly together. The piece is not narrative, but still manages to tell the stories of three very different couples.
The first twosome’s pas de deux, beautifully danced by Maria Riccetto and Blaine Hoven, is full of loss and yearning. Have they suffered through some heartbreaking tragedy? Are they trying to say goodbye? Sarah Lane and Joseph Phillips are a young, playful duo. Phillips’ air turns are gorgeous, with plush, soft landings. Lane stands out for her sparkling footwork. The final pas de deux of the piece is danced by Christine Shevchenko and Jared Matthews as a pair in a comfortable, teasing relationship. Schevchenko is an elegantly lyrical dancer, with an exquisite flow of movement.
Seven Sonatas is a rapturous gem of a ballet. I’m looking forward to seeing it again with a different cast on Sunday, November 13th.
The program ends with Paul Taylor’s Company B, set to the music of The Andrews Sisters. This work shows the lighthearted innocence of wartime America juxtaposed against shadowy figures of young boys going off to fight and die in World War II.
All the young company members perform with energy, speed, wit and charm. Aaron Scott’s timing and rhythmic movement is spot on in the syncopated “Tico-Tico”. Craig Salstein shows off his flair for comedy as the nerdy guy chased by seven women in “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh”. Sascha Radetsky stands out for his dynamic high spirits in “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B). Simone Messmer is heartbreaking as a girl sending her young love (Grant DeLong) off to war in “There Will Never Be Another You.”
It is good to see ABT at a more intimate theater like City Center. It is even better to see the talented ABT soloists and corps members get a chance to shine.
Posted 13 November 2011 - 12:42 PM
I struggle to find much of anything to say about Duets. Clearly it didn't engage me! I found the Cage score more interesting than the dancing.
Seven Sonatas was wonderful. I was left totally bemused as to why I hadn't been all that excited about it when I first saw it at Avery Fisher Hall two years ago (well, perhaps the awful sight lines there had something to do with that!) I recall thinking it was a pretty, accomplished ballet, but not being wowed. Last night, however, I found it to truly be something special. It's a really rich ballet, one which I'm now eager to see again. It has real emotional nuance and complexity despite being plotless; it's an abstract ballet, but you feel that something is at stake. Maria Riccetto was particularly mesmerizing: she seemed impassioned and inspired, more lyrical and compelling than I've ever seen her before.
The Garden of Villandry was disappointing to me. Watching from up in the balcony I admittedly didn't have the best vantage point for this small-scale, intimate work. Still, I imagine from any angle I would have found the piece to be choreographically undistinguished (and repetitive), as well as lacking any kind of dramatic momentum: the ballet ends in just the same place it started off, and we have learned nothing about the characters by the end of the ballet that we didn't know within the first few minutes. The suitors, as danced by Roddy Doble and Gennadi Saveliev, are utterly identical: the ballerina could save herself a lot of time spent pawing at the air in the direction of whichever suitor isn't currently partnering her and just done a coin toss! Said ballerina, Veronika Part, was lovely but in a pretty bland way. I couldn't help but wonder why ABT couldn't have given us Lilac Garden instead: it's clearly the superior "love triangle in an Edwardian garden" ballet.
The evening ended on a jubilant note with Tharp's In the Upper Room. I'd never seen it before and it was just: wow. The entire cast was great, but Luciana Paris and Simone Messmer were particular stand outs. They absolutely threw themselves into their performances, and their joy in doing so was wonderfully palpable. Their joy became my joy, and I found myself beaming by the end of the ballet.
Posted 13 November 2011 - 05:32 PM
On the positive side, how great to see Herman Cornejo again. He looks better than ever. As he gets older he is gaining in maturity and depth. No longer the ebullient youth, he carries himself with an authority and, at times world-weariness (especially effective in “Brother Can You Spare a Dime”), that I found extremely attractive.
I saw both casts of In the Upper Room. On Friday night the smoke machine malfunctioned, sending thick, billowing clouds of smoke into the auditorium. The stage was barely visible. There were shouts from the audience, and perhaps 5 minutes into the piece the curtain came down. There was an apology for the “technical difficulties,” and after a short pause the performance began over. On Saturday night, this same cast (with Simone Messmer and Luciana Paris as the two main “stompers”) delivered the best, most cohesive, and electrifying performance of the three that I saw. Today’s matinee (with Gillian Murphy and Kristi Boone as the lead stompers) was in need of more rehearsal time.
Both Luciana Voltolini and Katherine Williams were beautiful in their shared role – I don’t know what the name of the role is, but it’s where the dancer wears the red skating dress and performs classical moves with three men. Both Voltolini and Williams have a long, thin, line, and unbelievably graceful. They both left such a lovely impression that I can’t wait to see them in, well, more classical roles. Arron Scott also had some fine moments in this afternoon’s matinee, with great height and beautiful form.
The two girls in red pointe shoes. I admire both Maria Riccetto and Isabella Boylston very very much, but I felt they were so mismatched in today's performance. Boylston was over-energized, ahead of the music, and seemed out of control to the point of flailing about. For me it really ruined the whole effect of the two red pointe shoe girls. She was so jagged that it was hard to appreciate Maria’s pristine clarity. I greatly preferred the pairing of Skylar Brandt and Nicole Graniero, who danced with appealing freshness (especially Brandt).
Simone Messmer was a standout in both the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” solo from Black Tuesday, and In the Upper Room. What can I say. I’m in love. With that haircut, she looks like the most glamorous tomboy you ever saw. Her name is so apt, because I find her mesmer-izing. When she’s on the stage, I find it hard to watch anyone else.
Misty Copeland also delivered an electrifying “Boulevard of Broken Dreams." I found Black Tuesday so moving this afternoon that my mascara got all smeared up at the end, when they put their hands out for a dime! ;-(
I took a friend with me this afternoon. He liked it so much he was ready to buy more tickets, and got on my case about having taken him to the final performance of the season and why didn't I invite him sooner. Hope they can get back to two weeks at City Center next year!
Posted 14 November 2011 - 02:53 PM
I am hoping to read your take on Sunday's performances comparing casts of Seven Sonatas, the two Taylor works Company B to Black Tuesday and how you felt about that specific performance of In the Upper Room.
Seven Sonatas is a rapturous gem of a ballet. I’m looking forward to seeing it again with a different cast on Sunday, November 13th.
The program ends with Paul Taylor’s Company B, set to the music of The Andrews Sisters.
I was surprised at the similarities between Company B and Black Tuesday right down to the casting of Salstien in the almost duplicate roles of “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh” and “Are you making any money?”. I much prefer Company B and the lighting has a lot to do with it.
Posted 15 November 2011 - 01:09 PM
The afternoon begins with Alexei Ratmansky’s magnificently simple Seven Sonatas, set to the piano music of Domenico Scarlatti. It is not a narrative ballet, yet the stories of three very different couples shine through the choreography.
The first pas de deux is well danced by Yuriko Kajiya and Gennadi Saveliev. Yet I do not feel the same sense of tragic yearning as when Maria Riccetto and Blaine Hoven danced the same pas de deux on Thursday afternoon.
As wonderful as Joseph Philips was in Seven Sonatas, Herman Cornejo’s performance as the young lover is beyond compare. Very few males dancing today come close to Cornejo’s level of technical perfection. And the utter joy he brings to every movement makes me smile inside and out. As Herman Cornejo’s partner, Xiomara Reyes continues to impress – with precise, quicksilver footwork, lovely turns and exciting jumps. As well, Reyes and Cornejo’s chemistry is palatable.
As the final twosome, Julie Kent and Alexandre Hammoudi are delightful. Kent’s dancing is rich with poetry and grace. Hammoudi’s startled reaction when he realizes that Kent has left his side is priceless. Sunday’s cast in Seven Sonatas is adept at revealing the gentle humor in Ratmansky’s choreography.
The second work on the program is Paul Taylor’s Black Tuesday. Black Tuesday is very similar to Taylor’s Company B, only it is set to songs popular during the Great Depression. Many of the tunes are musically upbeat, but the lyrics are sad and bitter.
All the dancers in Black Tuesday are wonderful, but a few of them really stand out. Dancing to “(I Went Hunting) and the Big Bad Wolf was Dead”, Gemma Bond is all nonstop energy and spunky charm. In “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams” Misty Copeland is heartbreakingly sexy. Her velvety phrasing is absolutely gorgeous. Copeland’s powerful portrayal of the down but never out young streetwalker brings tears to my eyes.
Daniil Simkin is a virtuoso wonder as the World War I veteran in “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” Simkin spins on his knees and leaps ever higher in the air as Bing Crosby sings of how far the vet has fallen. At the end of the song, Simkin thrusts out his palm in a begging motion. As the ballet concludes, only his palm is lit up, as are the palms of the rest of the males in the cast who are lined up behind Simkin. It is an unforgettably poignant finish.
The afternoon ends with Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, danced to the music of Philip Glass. I have never seen this ballet before, and I absolutely love it. It is like watching an Olympic marathon of dance. The Upper Room is an endlessly inventive combination of ballet and modern dance. There are innovative lifts, jumps and turns galore. The pulsating music and breakneck pace of the dancing builds up to a rip roaring climax.
The entire company dances full out, with total joy and exuberance. Aaron Scott shines with his high leaps and beautiful line. Sascha Radetsky, so good as the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B)”, is electrifying, both with his shirt on and off. Craig Salstein is dazzling, especially his multiple turns a la seconde, performed at the speed of sound.
At the end of In the Upper Room, almost the entire audience leaps to their feet in a spontaneous (for once) standing ovation. I hope ABT returns to City Center next year and performs at least two weeks or longer.
Posted 29 February 2012 - 07:52 PM
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