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American Ballet Theatre - Raymonda - Ballet in Two Acts
-Onstage with the Dancers

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Review by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
June 5, 2004
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Raymonda (Premiere): Choreography by Anna-Marie Holmes after Marius Petipa, conceived and directed by Anna-Marie Holmes and Kevin McKenzie, Music by Alexander Glazounov, adapted by Ormsby Wilkins, Scenery, Costumes, and Set Design by Zack Brown, Lighting by Steen Bjarke, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Paloma Herrera, Marcelo Gomes, Julio Bocca, Misty Copeland, Erica Cornejo, Herman Cornejo, Danny Tidwell, Monique Meunier, Veronica Part, Ethan Brown, Laura Hidalgo, Craig Salstein, Karin Ellis-Wentz, Gennadi Saveliev, and the Company as Maids of Honor, Troubadours, Assistant to Abderakhman, Saracen Children, Waltz Couples, Vision Dancers, Saracen Dancers, Spanish Dancers, Grand Pas Hongrois Dancers, Grand Pas Classique Dancers, Variation Dancers, Pas de Quatre Dancers, and Finale/Grand Finale Dancers.

This production of Raymonda was given its preview at City Center in the 2004 Fall Season. A previous production, in 1975, choreographed by Petipa and restaged by Nureyev was also premiered at ABT, with lead dancers Rudolf Nureyev as Jean de Brienne, Cynthia Gregory as Raymonda, and Eric Bruhn as Abderakhman. (ABT Notes).

The plot of this almost plotless ballet concerns Raymonda's birthday, planned by the seneschal, and the guests play music, dance, and fence to celebrate. Countess Sybelle arrives with Jean de Brienne, a suitor of Raymonda, and she warns the guests to think of the statue of the White Lady, who can cast a spell on those who do not abide by traditions. Abderakhman also arrives, a Saracen knight, who tries to win Raymonda with precious jewels. The two suitors begin to compete, and Raymonda falls asleep.

In the Dream Vision, the White Lady appears and leads Raymonda to a misty garden and then Jean de Brienne. When they stop dancing, Abderakhman appears and dances with Raymonda. Raymonda eventually faints from exhaustion, and, on awakening, she is confused between the two suitors and whom to wed. At the Palace again, Abderakhman offers a Spanish dance to woo Raymonda and then Raymonda dances with both. She chooses Jean de Brienne, who is then foolishly challenged to a duel by Abderakhman, who becomes wounded and quickly flees. And, then a "happy" ending with a happy reunion. (ABT Notes).

It would be hard to imagine a less than dynamic ballet that features none other than Julio Bocca, Paloma Herrera, Marcelo Gomes, and Herman Cornejo, along with Erica Cornejo and Craig Salstein. However, this overly frilly and fanciful, new production of the Petipa classic, Raymonda, re-created by Anna Marie Holmes, is just over-choreographed for ensembles and under-choreographed for solos and pas de deux. In fact, this production was evocative of a Dance Festival, in which groups of dancers file out sequentially to dance to similar music in similar style. However, the music here was differentiated, the dances somewhat different, and the plot almost bland: More or less, "Does Raymonda really love Jean de Brienne or Abderakhman?" And, "Does Countess Sybelle approve?"

There's a predictable ending, in this light, frothy dessert of a ballet, and the main frustration is waiting for Mr. Bocca's signature, bravura performance. Thankfully, Ms. Holmes has added such an event, a Spanish Dance, and the audience was momentarily satiated. Mr. Gomes, as well, had his limelight event, and both Principals were, as always, in rare form. The ethnic dances, Spanish, Hongrois, Vienna Waltz, and Saracen (with Ms. Hidalgo and Mr. Salstein in a devilish dervish of twirling energy) were entertaining and glimmering, as the colors and lighting in this production almost required sunglasses.

Ms. Herrera, as Raymonda, seemed thrilled to be showcased in such adornment and glitter, and the Vision scene, replete with Veronika Part as the religiously celebrated White Lady (now a living character), was one of those renowned ballets within a ballet, a la Nutcracker and La Bayadere. The Glazounov score was rapturously presented with David LaMarche leading the ABT Orchestra. This ballet seems better represented in excerpted form, i.e., Raymonda Variations, found in some Company Repertoires, as the exquisite choreography of the Grand Pas Classique, here meticulously and virtuosically performed by Ms. Herrera and Mr. Gomes, deserves focused attention for its unusual footwork and partnered figures. It might be worth excerpting this Raymonda production, even a few of the ethnic ensemble dances, for future ABT Repertoires.

Kudos to Ms. Herrera, Mr. Gomes, Mr. Bocca, and Alexander Glazounov.
 

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net