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A quick take on ABT Monday, 20 perf.

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I don't have much time, but I thought I'd put down a few notes on Monday's All Tchiakovsky program of ABT at the Met.

Theme and Variations -- Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel. This should be a good ballet for the two, both trained in the Balanchine style. Both were very strong in their solos. The pas de deux was OK, but had all sorts of additional "romantic" tinges that I've not seen in either the ABT version or the later one done at NYCB. I had read that Igor Youskevitch used to try and be more romantic in sections and that Balanchine would say something like, "No. Don't look at her so much. Less romantic." But I had never seen the ballerina bow to her partner at the start of the pas de deux. Thankfully, the obsession with long balances that sometimes mars this ballet when done by other ballerina at ABT was not present. It was a good, low-key performance.

Tchiakovsky pas de deux was nicely done by Amanda McKerrow and Vladimir Malakhov. I was hesitante even to buy this night so I could avoid their usual cloying performance of this ballet, but I was delightfully surprised. It was gentle and musical. An interesting contrast to the high-flying, risky performances done recently at NYCB. It's odd but good for comparisons that the three Balanchine ballets being done at ABT are in the NYCB rep this season and both companies are doing versions of Midsummer Night's Dream.

The grand pas de deux from Act II of the Nutcracker was given a practically perfect performance by Julie Kent and Jose Manuel Carreno. Watching Carreno was like witnessing a 10-for-10 shooting night in basketball, or a batter who goes 5-for-5 in a baseball game. He was in the zone. The thing that kept this performance from being like a computer was the dancers' personal glamour.

Sleeping Beauty -- Rose Adagio, Act III.

Paloma Herrera appears to be having a resurgence and had a strong showing in the Rose Adagio -- more musical, more aware of the dancers around her. She only had a little blip during the last set of balances as she appeared lothe to take her hand away from the first suitor and the others had to catch up, with the orchestra slowing down the last turn, so Ethan Brown could get Herrera all the way around in time for the dancers and music to end together. However, I'm not sure I like this bit taken out of context in a program such as this...at a demonstration, or a highlights gala or introduction to the arts type thing, fine, but not at the Met. I'd rather ABT find another pas de deux or short ballet.

I almost feel the same way about Act III or Aurora's Wedding. The sets are awful, the costumes laden with glitter and the McMillian staging/choreography ponderous. ABT needs a new Sleeping Beauty, or an old one, but not this one. Still, the dancers coped well. Marcelo Gomes and Stella Abrera were gold and diamond, Xiomara Reyes and Joaquin De Lux did the bluebird pas de deux (OK, but he was muscling his steps), and Jaffe and Acosta the Grand Pas de Deux. Jaffe performed as we have come to expect and should go out in style this season. It was my second look at Acosta and it's a pleasure to watch him. The biggest thing I noticed about him this time was physical strength in partnering. I'm sure his ballerinas feel very secure.

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I agree with Dale about the Nutcracker excerpt. As someone very used to the Balanchine choreography, I was very pleasantly suprised to find how much I enjoyed it and attributed that to the seamlessness and grandeur of the performances which both Kent and Carreno exhibited. A real treat.

One other thing I remember as having enjoyed were the light landings in all his variations from Malakhov. As a matter of fact, that was something I missed from the new kid on the block (Acosta) in the evening's last excerpt. For me, it's not how many turns a male dancer does but how he lands.

I also agree with Dale about doing the Rose Adagio as an excerpt. It really loses something standing alone like that.

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