Monotones, Her Notes & Prodigal Son - ABT

I did catch the matinee performance of ABT last Saturday and it was definitely a mixed bag.

Monotones 1 was still a bit uneven.  This time the cast consisted of Daniil Simkin, Sarah Lane and Misty Copeland.  To my relief, Copeland wasn't that distracting.  Although I still wish she would hammer her shoes better because she is still stomping around the stage.  She definitely gave a better performance than Boylston last year.   The upper body work was better all around, but there was a lot of wobble from both Copeland and Lane.  Which surprised me.  There seemed to be some hesitation. Simkin was very good  but it seemed almost too easy for him.  However it is important to note that this is Simkin's second year performing this piece.  He had an extra year to hone his performance unlike Lane or Copeland who both debuted in this ballet.

Having a year to think about choreography and transitions did a world of good for Veronika Part, Corey Stearns and Thomas Forster in Monotones II.  Part is now perfect in this role, in fact a definitive version for future comparison.  She has managed to hit all the notes in the steps with fluidity that was absent last year.  I noticed in the opening manipulated spins, she just did a flicker of the opening pose not a full out unfolding of her limbs.  This achieved the proper form and didn't slow her down or stymy her partners.  Last year I frequently saw Forster and Stearns confused as to what to do with Part's long limbs.  It was as if they were wrestling with a Daddy Long-Legs spider.  This also enhanced the moments when she did stretch out and accentuated the echoing poses by Forster and Stearns.  The males were more classical in their dancing this year than last and there was no pushing to make the choreography more than what it is.  Forster in particular looked wonderful.  I also noticed how good he looked paired with Part.  He partnered her effortlessly.  He is tall enough that he makes Part look petite and delicate.  I kept wishing that they would be paired together in Swan Lake.  What a performance that would be!

Her Notes was just ok.  I didn't think it was terrible nor was it very good.  Stella Abrera was clearly the star of the ballet and she danced beautifully as always.  There were enough people on the stage that I was able to ignore Isabella Boylston's broken wrists and witch claws.  Well, heck, it was Halloween season after all.   Sarah Lane did the most with her own small part.  She was originally paired with Luciana Paris who was replaced by Corps dancer Jamie Kopit.  However Lane and Kopit didn't make a good fit partner wise.  Kopit was taller and more robust looking dancer over Lane.  So when they danced together it looked a bit Mutt and Jeff.  I was very impressed with another corps dancer Katherine Williams who looked beautiful onstage and dancer extremely well.

The choreography on the whole was a modern mess.  It was not Classical, not Neo-Classical or even Modern dance.  It was just a hodgepodge of everything.  I really wish contemporary choreographers would pick a style and stick to it.  If you want to choreograph free form, why use ballet dancers when modern dancers would perform better?  If you are going to use ballet dancers use their dance step syllabus which they spent the greater part of their lives learning.  The costumes were just drab, drab with washed out pastel colors.  And of course, no tights.  I wish I could understand this war against tights for women.  The tights serve a purpose.  They help extend the look of dancer limbs.  I really just hate seeing bare legs now.  It isn't attractive on stage.

Prodigal Son was almost good.  But I definitely preferred the PNB version earlier this year.  The PNB dancers were more into the acting part of the ballet and also emphasized the percussive dance elements.  The male corps were more unison, more alien and more frightening even demonic.  The ABT dancers just looked like young boys in Halloween costumes.  I just didn't buy them as a group of mafioso type thugs.  Jeffrey Cirio has good technique and looked beautiful.  But this role requires more rawness, more anger and self entitlement.  Cirio just comes across as the boy next door, goody two shoes who one day walks down one more block away from home.  But he definitely has room to grow as an actor.

Unfortunately Hee Seo was horrifically miscast.  She wasn't tall enough for the role nor did she have the presence for it.  The Siren requires a female dancer who can be intimidating, imperious and even frightening.   She has to look as if she could pull the Prodigal apart limb from limb on her own even without her back up thugs.  Seo just looked young and kittenish.  Like a girl playing dress up in her mother's clothing.  What was even worse is that Cirio towered over her even when she was on pointe.  This ruined many of the iconic dance moments.  I don't know who in ABT is convinced that Seo is a Balanchine dancer but they are sadly deluded.  Balanchine choreography just doesn't serve her well.  She isn't fit for it.  I wish they would move her on to things that showcase her better not push up her shortcoming.

All in all, it looks as if ABT is on a good road to promoting its own dancers.  It can only get better.  But a rough spots on the road are to be expected.  But I think they have it all going now and need to be patient to wait for their dancers to grow and develop.

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