Sylvia in American Ballet Theatre Posted June 8, 2005 I saw Friday night's performance, and it was interesting to see ABT's "take" on a ballet I saw danced by its original company, the Royal, last November. On the whole I thought ABT did extremely well -- better, in some respects, than the Royal. (For instance, Carmen Corella managed to make Diana forceful without seeming shrewish, which neither RB Diana had, and Gillian Murphy's technique and reading of the scene in Orion's cave were much better than either Darcey Bussell's or Marianela Nunez's.) On the other hand, I preferred both RB Eroses (Martin Harvey and Joshua Tuifua) to Herman Cornejo, who never looked like a statue. (In London, I was convinced that the Eroses were props at both performances, even after they began to move -- I thought they'd sneakily replaced the prop with the dancer when I wasn't looking .) Sylvia is a role that makes unaccustomed demands on today's ballerinas. It doesn't call for acting in the sense that, say, Manon does. It doesn't need mime in the way that, for instance, Swanilda needs mime. And it's not a pure dance role. It calls for the ballerina to be herself, but that self has to be an interesting and multi-faceted woman, and that is what the present generation of ballerinas has not be raised to be. Murphy worked hard, but at this point in her career she lacks the stage experience to hold and keep the audience's attention independent of the choreography. Her best scene was the one in Orion's cave. Unlike Bussell and Nunez, she showed sorrow and grief for what had happened and a wiliness in getting the better of her captor. Murphy, for all her thinnness and straight up-and-down classicism, has a full bust and round hips, and in this scene she used them to project a sensuality and womanliness that I hope will carry over to her other roles. She showed signs here of being the fascinating creature that Sylvia ought to be. Marcelo Gomes played Orion less brutishly than his RB counterparts, with a hint of Raymonda's Abderakhman's dangerous appeal. I'm not sure how Ashton would have liked this, but it sure was more fun than a one-note, fire-breathing heavy. Unlike Michael, I didn't think the corps looked messy at all. In fact I was thinking how much better they looked than they had in Washington. Sylvia is the only Ashton ballet I know of that contains hints of homoeroticism. I'm thinking of the treatment of Eros and the scene of Endymion being worshipped by Diana -- I doubt that a straight man would have treated them in this way. Ashton brings out the best in ABT. He tames the beast in them. If only they were bringing this to Washington next year instead of yet another week of R&J.