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ABT @City Center, Fall 2005

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On Wednesday night, ABT put on a varied program of early 20th century works --- Les Sylphides, Apollo, and The Green Table. Apollo is the only one of the three that came off as a timeless masterpiece, but the other two had their moments

I was impressed by Maria Riccetto, with back-to-back solos in Sylphides and Apollo. She has plenty of passion but in both cases it was more contained and precise than the other female principals. In Sylphide she and Beloserkovsky matched their beats in the air as if they were moved by the same spirit. As Calliope in Apollo she was the most modest of the muses, but held her own in the company of Murphy and Herrera. Apollo was the highlight of the evening for me -- all three muses seemed to pull something out of the engagingly boyish god, danced by Ethan Steifel. He and Herrera struggled to set up the lift where she swims on his shoulders-- but once they got it, the moment was there.

I hadn't seen Green Table since the Joffrey did it in the 60s, and it seemed to me to have aged a bit. The dramatic imagery is very much from the idealistic, let's-put-an-end-to-war period that the world gave up on some time ago. But there are some images that still strike home, mainly the opening and closing tableaux of the foppish diplomats posturing around their table. ABT uses women as well as men in these parts, and it works extremely well. David Hallberg's Death was also more than a hackneyed symbol. he gave it an oddly effective combination of stiffness and power, and just a hint of compassion as he performed his grim reaper duties.

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Stiefel was a great Apollo. Compact, muscular, raw, on the edge of parody even, a huge jump with clear articulation and attack, engaged and intense dramatically. Last night you could see that Stanley Williams trained him. And that Apollo really is demi character. Best I've ever seen Ethan.

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I saw Z--J Fang in Kaleidoscope on Sunday. Both she and Yuriko Kajiya were wonderful together. I loved Kajiya (and everyone else) in Upper Room despite my intense loathing of the "music" of Philip Glass. Her joy in dance was so evident. Irina D was also outstanding. As this marathon of a piece was completed- so was the NYC marathon- and we were met by the exhausted runners packed into Columbus Circle.

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I went on Saturday evening, 11/5 for my second performance. The evening started out with "Apollo" with Maxim and Veronika. Maxim was very fine as Apollo, the cool and controlled qualities of his dancing creating an intellectual god interested in form and harmony. A couple of sharp turns and twisting leaps needed more definition but that goes against his naturally long and graceful line.

Veronika Part was in wonderful form as Terpsichore. She began her solo with a gorgeous high developee that grazed her ear, Sylvie Guillem style. Veronika also has a strong jump. I noticed that when she danced with the other two muses, her arms were so much more with the music than the other two - she has a lot of musicality. Maxim is a very fine partner and the pas de deux went well with effects that landed successfully. Melanie Hamrick as Calliope showed me for the first time why people think she is a comer. She still is a little soft and tentative in her attack but grace and line were present. She needs to mature though and I think that slow and steady is the best path for her. Michele Wiles is a strong turner and this helped her Polyhymnia start off her solo on the right note. Richard Tanner's staging is quite effective and stylish.

The middle portion was two razzle dazzle pas de deux. Angel Corella and Xiomara Reyes did "Tchaikovsky PDD" with a youthful spring and buoyant elan that was very natural to them and perfect for this piece. Xiomara accidently ran into a side leg on exiting stage right and took a spill - the audience applauded when she re-entered uninjured for her next entree. Angel added little jumps on the supporting leg in his turns a la seconde to wild audience enthusiasm (lots of students up in the gallery). Irina and Jose Manuel Carreno did the "Paquita PDD" superbly. As I said, Irina was in top technical form - she has come back from some very severe injuries to both feet, getting back in shape after a pregnancy perhaps was not so arduous for so resilient and determined a performer. She did a solo that I was totally unfamiliar with. I have the "Kirov Classics" DVD with Makhalina and Zelensky and that solo and music are not present in the standard Maryinsky "Paquita Grand Pas". I don't know what ballet it was interpolated from. Jose was in grand form doing his patented pirouettes that slow down and speed up. He and Irina made a fine couple, their extroverted styles meshing well together.

The evening ended with the second cast of "The Green Table" - kudos to Anna Markard for setting the ballet so superbly on this company. The audience really was appreciative and receptive to the anti-war message of the piece with innocent civilians dying while the politicians and munition makers play their games and make their money. Isaac Stappas was good as Death but I would have been fascinated to see Hallberg in the role. Strong work by Kenneth Easter as the Young Soldier and Julio Bragado-Young as the Profiteer. Melissa Thomas was moving as the Old Woman. The work is very much of its time (Weimar Republic German Expressionist) in style yet it doesn't seem dated at all. Magnificent images remained with one long after the evening ended. Of course, Kevin McKenzie was a Joffrey dancer before he joined ABT and may have danced in this ballet. Robert Joffrey was very interested in ballet history and reviving lost masterpieces. This cultivating and restoring and reviving landmark 20th century ballets to the contemporary repertory is something that he has taken from the Joffrey of the 1970's and transferred to ABT in the 21st century. I think that this spirit is what has enlivened the City Center season with "Dark Elegies", "The Green Table" and "In the Upper Room" energizing the company and the audiences this month. Audiences were excited not so much by the premieres or even the talented dancers but also by the repertory.

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Did anyone see Kent and Hallberg together in Kaleidescope? I wanted so much to make it, but couldn't. Could someone please report? Thanks.

I saw them, and I thought they looked perfect together. I'm not usually a huge fan of Kent's but she's winning me over a bit this season. I really liked her in Dark Elegies and then when I saw her and Hallberg together in Kaleidoscope it really struck me how much their looks & styles complimented one another. Their styles are both very elegant, their line worked together nicely and they had some great chemistry going between them, they seemed to really enjoy dancing together. When I first saw K. with Part dancing the second movement I loved her, but thought she might be over dramatizing. Not so, Kent was even more of a drama queen at the start of the movement so I guess it must have been the choreographer's intention, and it does make for a stark contrast between the 2 ballerinas. Kent really emphasized the playfulness in the role, and she & Hallberg had a very light feeling to their dancing (and I don't mean that in a bad way!).

Unfortunately I missed Z-J Fang when she danced the 2nd movement ballerina role in Kaleidoscope, to my great regret. And on another thread someone mentioned that Sarah Lane danced a principal role in In the Upper Room - geez, I'm sorry I missed that - can anyone tell me which role she danced? Was it the Hererra/Dvorovenko role?

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Some dissenting views. Cover your eyes Julie Kent fans.

1. I thought Julie Kent looked quite stiff, to the point of being seriously broken down as a dancer, throughout the season. It appears to be her right side to me. You could see it in Gong, in Fawn and Kaleidoscope. Seeing her in Kaleidoscope after Veronica Part was exposing. Where Part flowed through the slow Balancee sequence luciously, with extension and stretch, Kent turned it into a little curtsey right, slight jetee left. A polite cheerleader.

Kent's situation at ABT seems Darci-Kistler-esque to me. She's the prettiest girl in the class. Being married to Victor Barbee, she occupies a place in the company close to that which Kistler does at NYCB. Both are seriously stiff and have reduced range of motion. Both are in a company role where no one can really tell either of them that perhaps the career should be drawing to a close. Both can still look good in some things from time to time. But I thought that Kent's range of motion has seriously deteriorated since last Spring.

2. Jong Jing Fang had a pretty disastrous performance in Kaleidoscope on the Tuesday night, stumbling repeatedly and nearly falling a couple of times. Beautiful poses. But she appeared to never take a single one, all evening, without readjusting it not once, but two or three times. Of course she is miscast in this. And also Jared Mathews was no help, an extremely weak partner.

Fang is a question mark to me. She's got the most beautiful placement in the world in her shoulders arms and neck. Also tremendous rhythmic sense, I love the way she reponds to music and particularly where and when she starts to move in response to a phrase. She strikes beautiful poses ... when she gets there. On the other hand, the feet appear weak. The pas de bouree is not fluid, as one saw in the Fokine. And the allegro skills seem deficient. It's a failure of the company to develop a great talent. She needs to dance more, a lot more.

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Maxim Beloserkovsky!

Mr. Beloserkovsky is far too often overshadowed by his more well-known and publicize virtuoso fellow principal male dancers. Because while he is technically a strong dancer, his best asset is his sense of nobility and lyricism. And this season he had two ballets - three actually but I didn't see him in Les Sylphides - that gave him the opportunity to demonstrate his wonderful qualities

Apollo - I've only seen three performers dances this neo-classical masterpiece live - NYCB's Peter Boal, Nikolaj Hubbe, and Nilas Martins. Boal will always be the standard in which I will judge other Apollos, but Maxim is now second among the other three. Regal and noble, Mr. Beloserkovsky's Apollo is clearly of aristocratic birth. Very much in command of his surroundings, his presence dominated the ballet. He wasn't always sharp or crisp in his movements, but its obvious he will as he continue developing the role. he also had a air of aloofness, but seeing that he is playing an immortal god and that all royals seem to have a aloofness about themselves, for me it just added to his characterization. He partnered his marvelous muses, Veronika Part - a terrific Terpsichore, Michele Wiles - a strong Polyhymnia as expected and Melanie Hamrick - a promising Calliope, wonderfully well. Maxim and Ms. Part could develop a interesting partnership. Everytime I've seen them dance, they perform with such harmony, they seem to understand each other very well.

Afternoon of a Faun - I have to admit, I wasn't expecting much from him in this ballet, in fact I thought he was miscast. Afterall when I think of the boy I think of someone with the allure of senuality about them. Its ashame that Marcelo Gomes' injuring prevented him from performing this season, he would have made a very seductive boy. But Mr. Beloserkovsky brought an interpretation I never thought of before: He was a gentlemen! The best way I can describe what I'm talking about that is the moment after the girl arrive in the studio and she is at the bar performing her workout. So often when the looks as if he is about to leave, I've always interpreted that moment as if the boy was leaving because he resented that his privacy was being invaded. But with Mr. Beloserkovsky, I got the a sense the boy was leaving not so much his privacy was being invaded but being gentlemenly enough to give the girl her privacy. As he did with his muses in Apollo, Beloserkovsky was a attentive partner to Maria Riccetto's lyrical girl.

Speaking of Riccetto, I couldn't help notice the resemblance between Riccetto and Tanaquil LeClercq. I remember seeing a old photography of LeClercq and Francisco Moncion, the original dancers of Faun and was strike at how much Riccetto reminded me of that photograhy. Its not so much they looked the same in the face but prehaps more to do with the same length in their hair, and the slendorness of their bodies, especially their arms. Whatever the case for the first time I got a sense of how LeClercq may have danced the role. Back to Beloserkovsky. He his dancing was crisp, sharp, lyrical and very detail. Its the detail of his dancing that marks another hidden treasure of Beloserkovsky: intelligence. You got a real sense that at all time he knew exactly what he was doing. That was a knowledge working within his brain but it didn't override his performance but simply gave an much added dimension to it. This was also apparent in his Apollo.

A most revealing performance both!!

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