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September 17, 2001 in American Ballet Theatre
Not too long ago, I saw Kevin McKenzie driving down from Kaatsbaan!
What's that? Oh, the OTHER Orange County! Never mind.
Actually, ABT was in San Diego not Orange County. This was the first time in 15 years that ABT has been here, and since I've made my home in San Diego for the last 4 years this was an exciting event for me. Usually, I have to make the 75 minute drive up to Costa Mesa to see any major company.
I had feared that the terrible events of the past week would put a damper on the performances, but the opposite happened; after four days of immersion in the horror of the attacks in NYC and Arlington, the audience was immensely relieved to have the chance to turn away for a moment and revel in the beauty of ballet. The three performances were for enthusiastic and joyous crowds.
Due to the company's late arrival and the lack of a conductor, Friday night's performance was to recorded music. The program was Clark Tippet's "Bruch Violin Concerto," Paul Taylor's "Black Tuesday," and Natalie Weir's "Jabula." "Bruch" is a pleasant enough piece and was nicely danced, especially considering what the dancers went through to get here. "Black Tuesday" was appropriate, since it depicted New Yorkers making the most of a bad situation. While it has darker overtones, these were lost in the mood of the crowd (and perhaps the dancers) and it came off as a fun piece. "Jabula" received an energetic performance, and although it's just a piece of faux-tribal claptrap IMO, the crowd seemed to enjoy its propulsive momentum.
The glories of the visit were the two performances of "Giselle." Much appreciation is owed to PNB's Stewart Kershaw for driving down from Seattle to conduct.
Both performances were absolutely gorgeous, with the corps performing remarkably together and with a convincing romantic softness.
Saturday night's cast was led by Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel, with Ethan Brown as Hilarion, Gillian Murphy as Myrta and Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo in the Peasant Pas de Deux.
Sunday afternoon's performance starred Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Belotserkovsky, with Ethan Brown again, Carmen Corella as Myrta and Anna Liceica and Marcelo Gomes in the Peasant Pas de Deux.
I'm far too lazy to go into a comparison of the two casts and really didn't make note of the details while watching, preferring to just watch and let the performances carry me along. Both casts, in their different ways, completely transported me into "Giselle's" world, and made their characters live for me and move me.
By Sunday evening, the dark mood of mingled sadness, horror, anger and hate that had taken hold of me on Tuesday morning had finally been washed away. Humanity is capable of ugliness and beauty, but in time the ugly deeds become something to read about in history books and shake our heads over; remote events. The beauty remains a living part of us and those who survive us.
[ 09-18-2001: Message edited by: Steve Keeley ]
Wow. Thank you, Steve -- that was really beautiful. Thank you for capturing not only the performance, but a moment and what it meant.
(Sorry for misplacing the performances. I didn't correct the subject line, so that Steve's first paragraph would be clear.)
[ 09-17-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]
I really hope there is someone in the Seattle area who will post a review of ABT's Giselle being performed this week. There's only been one review on this site so far from their tour on the West Coast. Is no one going, (I know prices were expensive) or do all members live in the East?
ABT's performance in San Diego was fabulous. I attended on Friday and Sunday. Having never seen Julie Kent dance live before, I was delighted that she replaced another dancer in the Bruch piece. Even my father leaned over during the performance and asked, "Do you know who she is?" "Yes, Dad. That's Julie Kent." "Wow, she's really good." I guess I've trained him over the years...
I actually really enjoyed "Jabula." There was definite Alvin Ailey influence but I like that. The main girl (I don't have the program with me) had fantastic stage presence and was a gorgeous dancer. The group choreography wasn't terribly complicated, not that it needed to be, however, the choreography between couples was quite interesting.
I also enjoy Giselle. I do have a problem with sky-high extensions in a Romantic ballet but that is my only complaint. Irina really made a transformation between the girl in red for the Bruch piece on Friday and Acts I and II of Giselle. I wasn't impressed with Carmen Corella as Myrta now that I think about it.
I am so glad that ABT didn't cancel these performances. They so easily could have. I felt the audience was trying to forget Tuesday as hard as the dancers were using that energy in their dancing. Thanks again, ABT, for performing for us!