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ABT on Tour 2003-04

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Engagement Marks Chicago Premiere of Kevin McKenzie’s Swan Lake;

Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes to Lead Opening Night Cast

12/4/2003 - Following a nearly nine-year absence from the Chicago stage, the internationally-renowned American Ballet Theatre triumphantly returns with the romantic full-length classic, Swan Lake, in eight performances only at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, March 24-28, 2004. This engagement marks the Chicago Premiere of Swan Lake as staged by American Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie.

American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancers Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes will perform the romantic leads, Odette/Odile and Prince Siegfried, on the Opening Night program, Wednesday, March 24, 2004. Other casting includes: Ashley Tuttle and Angel Corella (March 25 matinee and March 28 evening); Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel (March 25 evening); Paloma Herrera and Jose Manuel Carreсo (March 26); Michele Wiles and David Hallberg (March 27 matinee); and Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky (March 27 evening). Casting for the March 28 matinee program is TBA. Of note, Soloists Wiles and Hallberg will make their debuts in these roles with this engagement.

“We’re delighted to once again perform for Chicago audiences,” said Kevin McKenzie, ABT Artistic Director. “Chicago was a regular tour stop for American Ballet Theatre for so many years. We especially cherish returning to the Civic Opera House, one of our country’s greatest stages.”

American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake features choreography by McKenzie, after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov (1895) and is set to the lush score by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky.

The full-length classic was given its World Premiere by ABT at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC in 2000 and received its New York Premiere later that year at the Metropolitan Opera House. ABT had previously performed David Blair’s staging of Swan Lake. Of note, the World Premiere performance of Blair’s staging was given by ABT at the Civic Opera House in February 1967.

ABT’s 80+ member company will be accompanied by a live orchestra performing the Tchaikovsky score. Scenery and costumes for Swan Lake are designed by New York-based Zack Brown with lighting by Duane Schuler.

American Ballet Theatre, the nation’s foremost classical ballet company, last appeared in Chicago at The Auditorium Theatre in October, 1995.

Performances for Swan Lake at the Civic Opera House are as follows: Wednesday, March 24 at 7:30 P.M.; Thursday, March 25 at 2 and 7:30 P.M.; Friday, March 26 at 8 P.M.; Saturday, March 27 at 2 and 8 P.M.; and Sunday, March 28 at 2 and 7:30 P.M. The Saturday matinee performance of Swan Lake will be an abridged “family-friendly” version featuring a special appearance by Angelina Ballerina in the lobby before and after the performance.

Tickets for American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake, $85.00-$15.00, go on sale Sunday, December 7 at noon and can be purchased by calling (312) 902-1500; visiting the Civic Opera House box office, or on line at www.ticketmaster.com. Groups of 15 or more can receive discount pricing by calling (312) 943-5056.

For more information on American Ballet Theatre’s presentation of Swan Lake at the Civic Opera House, March 24-28, 2004, please call (312) 902-1500 or visit www.civicoperahouse.com.

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I saw the last 2/3 of ABT's opening night here in Los Angeles tonight (I knew I wasn't going to be able to make it to the first part, since curtain was an early 7:30 and I wouldn't get out of my commitments until 7:30, then race down to the Music Center). It is the same repertory program that will be performed at the Metropolitan Opera House this spring as Rep Program I - Petite Mort, Sechs Tanze, Pillar of Fire, and Within You WIthout You. Missed Petite and Sechs Tanze, but I'll go back to see those later this week.

I thoroughly enjoyed Pillar of Fire. It's my first Tudor experience, and the Pillar is just plaintively beautiful. Everything is so simple and clearly drawn, and the choreography brilliantly captures the essence of each character. With the character of Edlest Sister, for example, she is aloof and motherish - and the choreography has her in this giant dress and she largely swishes it around like a huffy grandmother. Hagar's choreography is similarly simple in portraying her suffering with hunched over, inward poses, then opening up to a more classically ballet style with the Friend by the end of the ballet. I'm not one to judge individual performances in this ballet since its the first time I've seen it, but I did enjoy Amanda McKerrow as Hagar. Monique Meunier was particularly strong as Eldest Sister, and Xiomara Reyes was appropriately bright and perky as the Younger Sister. Marcelo Gomes was the Young Man from the House Opposite and Gennadi Saveliev was the Friend.

Now, as for Within You Without You - there were parts I liked and there were parts I really didn't like. The whole thing had the feel of a ballet school recital, even though the dancers themselves were whipping out tricks like the professionals that they are. It's a disjointed work that high voltage performances can only go so far to fix. However, isolated pieces were very fun to watch - "I Dig Love" choreographed by Natalie Weir, with Gillain Murphy the female in an athletic pas de trois; and "Isn't it a Pity" by Stanton Welch for a large portion of the company had some particularly interesting ensemble work. I felt like Anne Reinking's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was just a whole bunch of thrashing and throwing around of the two dancers, while "Within You WIthout You" by Natalie Weir was an oddity that had Ethan Steifel convulsing around on a darkened stage. The closing, "My Sweet Lord" looked more like a classroom exercise, with the dancers doing series - impressive series, I must say - of tricks while bounding across the front portion of the stage. So overall, I guess its a decently amusing work, but placed right after Pillar of Fire, you wonder what American Ballet Theatre is doing with such a trivial space filler.

I'll definetly be going back tomorrow and next Wednesday to see Gillian Murphy and Michele Wiles in Pillar of Fire - I'll be sure to write in (that'll be for you, nysusan!). And there are five cast changes for Romeo and Juliet over the next week and a half; we'll see how many of those I'm up to after my first R&J on Saturday night!

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Our family attended the closing night performance of R&J here in L.A. on Saturday Apr. 10. We really loved it. The pre-performance talk was quite good, but unfortunately, I didn't get the name of the woman who gave it, as we were a bit late (we were actually early, but we didn't realize there was a pre-performance talk). She gave lots of details on the dancers and some of their history which was very very informative and quite interesting for our daughter (who is completely enamored of ABT). Alessandra Ferri was incredible (I could hardly believe that she isn't just 20 years old). Even in person without her makeup she didn't look even close to her age. I couldn't take my eyes off her feet. My daughter, the "technician" even remarked that her favorite part of the ballet was when Juliet was laying on her bed in her room, just thinking!! (So the artistic side of my technical daughter is starting to emerge!!). Angel Corella was a fantastic Romeo. The pas de deux at the end looked so incredibly difficult, but they did it so well. Herman Cornejo was fantastic in his part -- a real technician (of course, my daughter loved that part of it). And I have to say that we all loved Mr. Franklin as the Friar (he is quite the actor). All of the "golden oldies" were absolutely outstanding in their parts. Of course, it was fun to see some of our favorites doing special parts. Gennadi Savaliev was a great fencer (and had to do a lot of it) and gave such a convincing performance as Tybalt. The Harlot girls were very good actresses (what a fun part) and they were also terrific dancers. We can't wait to see ABT the next time they return to L.A. with Giselle.

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