After the lackluster opening night, I was left confused about what was going on with this company. Everyone seemed off in the distance, doing their own thing then were thrown into a theater to dance together.
But tonight with the exception of one miscast, ABT gave a great evening of ballet.
I caught another performance of Mark Morris' After you. It seems that the jitters and stiffness in the cast were gone. It was quite a different ballet. The dancing was bigger, the smiles wider and the mood more playful. I thought the ballet seemed choppy and rushed on opening night. But tonight there was a cohesiveness that stopped my impression of people running on and off the stage willy nilly. There was a through line between the groups and their steps that turned the piece into one continuous whole.
I was quite happy to watch it. Even the costumes didn't bother me. Tonight everyone stood out. The whole group was great.
The next piece was La Spectre de la Rose. This is a ballet that has turned into one of Herman Cornejo's signature roles. I could see why. He rises above the memory of Nijinsky. His dancing is nothing less than spectacular with large leaps that seem to float forever. His acting also manages to capture the essence of a young girl's romantic dream but with a hint of something more. His partner, Sarah Lane, was lovely and humble. She seemed to know that this was Cornejo's ballet and stayed out of his way. But her acting was great, representing a time when this female character is in between girlhood and adulthood. My only disappointment is that these two will not have more opportunities to dance together in the coming spring season aside from Sleeping Beauty.
Balanchine's Valse Fantasie was a noble failure. And I suspected it would be when the schedule was announced. It baffles me why the company would attempt Balanchine on NYCB's home turf. It would only point out their shortcomings. And it did.
NYCB dances this piece hell for leather. ABT looked as if they were dancing underwater, it was very slow. I notice the Corps luxuriate in the opening side battements that NYCB just throws away. This is the main reason why many companies hit failure with Balanchine pieces. He never thought of his choreography as a way for dancers to make pretty poses in pretty tableaus. He was interested in fast, pure movement. The movement was the shape not individual steps.
Hee Seo was woefully miscast. She is an adagio ballerina. She is the exact opposite of a Balanchine soubrette. I'm scratching my head as to why she was cast in this ballet. Even more so since she simply does not have the stamina to dance it. She started out close to the tempo everyone else was using (slower than NYCB). But as the ballet progressed she became noticeably slower, her petit allegro lost its lift, the sharp footwork that Balanchine choreography demands was muddled. By the end of the ballet she used the female corps to hide quick breaks for herself as she exhaustedly shuffled along. Her partner Whiteside kept up his energy but Balanchine didn't fit well on him either. This ballet needed boundless, fearless energy and that wasn't Seo/Whiteside. The only dancers who came out on top were the Corps consisting of Brittany DeGrofft, Melanie Hamrick, Lauren Post and Paulina Waski.
The showstopper of the evening was Jooss' The Green Table.
I was amazed at all the wonderful acting and dancing. Everyone was great. There was a unity that I haven't seen since Ashton's Music Hall infused Cinderella. This company WANTS to act. Why are they thrown plotless ballets that don't show off their company talent?
Roman Zhurbin was a terrifying Death. He took to the sharp, quick angular movements naturally. Skylar Brandt really stood out as The Young Girl. As did Zhong-Jing Fang as The Old Mother. I was surprised at the burst of personality from Daniil Simkin as The Profiteer. Especially since he seemed so stiff in the Tharp piece on opening night.
If anyone is paying attention in company management, THIS kind of ballet is what ABT should be concentrating upon.
Labels: american ballet theater, art, ballet, commentary, culture, dance, Herman Cornejo, reviews, Sarah Lane, theater