American Ballet Theatre
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Guillaume Graffin, Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Georgina Parkinson, Kirk Peterson
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 22, 2005, Matinee
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Les Sylphides (1909): Choreography by Michel Fokine, Music by Frederic Chopin, orchestrated by Roy Douglas, Staged by Kirk Peterson, Scenery by Andre Benois, Lighting by David K. H. Elliott, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Stella Abrera, Yuriko Kajiya, Zhong-Jing Fang, Marcelo Gomes, and the Company. Les Sylphides was presented at a charity performance in St. Petersburg. Les Sylphides entered ABT repertory in 1940. (ABT Notes).
Nothing much could be more divine than a quartet of Fokine choreographed ballets with misty Sylphides, surreal puppets, a dancing rose, and leaping warriors. The first of this matinee's Fokine celebration works was the all too rarely seen Les Sylphides, set to Chopin's Waltzes, Mazurkas, and Preludes. In a deep, dark green forest, the shining, long, white tutus and sprightly movement of dancers with outstretched arms is almost hypnotizing. Stella Abrera is a soloist to watch, with her graceful demeanor and balanced posture. Equally well cast were Yuriko Kajiya and Zhong-Jing Fang in the ensemble Nocturne and Waltz, as well as the solo Waltz, Mazurka, and Prelude.
Jennifer Alexander and Marian Butler, leading the ensemble, gave a sterling and alluring performance. And, Marcelo Gomes, as the lone male dancer among nineteen female soloists and corps, was dashing and riveting, as he shifted partners in the Nocturne, Pas de Deux, and Waltz and leaped through his solo Mazurka. David LaMarche kept the orchestra as light and airy as the divine score.
Petrouchka (1911): Choreography by Michel Fokine, Music by Igor Stravinsky, Staged by Gary Chryst, Sets and Costumes by Alexandre Benois, Lighting by Natasha Katz, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Xiomara Reyes as The Ballerina, Herman Cornejo as Petrouchka, Isaac Stappas as The Moor, Kirk Peterson as The Charlatan, Jennifer Alexander The chief Nursemaid, Roman Zhurbin as The Chief Coachman, Tobin Eason and Jeffrey Golladay as Grooms, Jesus Pastor as The Spirited Merchant, Carmen Corella and Simone Messmer as Gypsies, Carlos Lopez as The Devil, Maria Riccetto and Adrienne Schulte as Street Dancers, and The Company as The Nursemaids, Coachmen, Drunkards, and Celebrants at the Fair.
Petrouchka was la crème of Ballet Russes, a collaboration of Fokine, Stravinsky, and Benois. The four scenes tell a story of a Charlatan in a Carnival celebration in St. Petersburg, who has three puppets, a ballerina, a rich Moor, and the sad clown, Petrouchka. These three puppets alternately are loved, despised, or killed, resulting in a surreal, final scene. (ABT Notes).
ABT outdid itself in the re-creation of this jewel, with authentic carnival motifs, such as a moving carousel, large, stand-alone theaters, deep blue walls, furry Russian costumes, light snowfall, witches, and goblins. Xiomara Reyes, as The Ballerina, exuded the requisite remoteness of a puppet with the fetching frailty of an adored young woman. Herman Cornejo, as the sad, victimized, but vengeful puppet, Petrouchka, had little bravura dancing, but thick theatricality and mesmerizing mime. Isaac Stappas, The Moor, was completely in character, as he bounced a coconut and walked with accented anger.
Kirk Peterson, an ABT Ballet Master, who staged two of these four works, was The Charlatan, who callously raises the limp stuffing of the murdered Petrouchka to the raucous crowd, just before Petrouchka re-appears as a laughing ghost. Carmen Corella and Simone Messmer were splendidly sharp in the Gypsy dance. The soloists and corps as Nursemaids, Coachmen, Grooms, Gypsies, Merchant, Drunkards, Streetdancers, Devil, and Celebrants were always in character, mostly walking and whispering, not en pointe, and, in the case of the Spirited Merchant and the Devil, added daring dynamics with ominous elements of noir.
Gary Chryst, an original Petrouchka from the Joffrey, staged an exceptionally authentic version (I own a video of Paris Opera's early Petrouchka, among other Fokine works), and Charles Barker kept the orchestra tight, with Stravinsky's dissonant, avant-garde score. During the final two ballets, the light, Russian snow continued to flutter down from the rafters.
Le Spectre de la Rose (1911): Choreography by Michel Fokine, Music by Carl Maria von Weber (Invitation to the Dance), Staged by Kirk Peterson, Set and Costumes by Robert Perdziola, after the original by Leon Bakst, Lighting by Brad Fields, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Amanda McKerrow as The Young Girl and Carlos Acosta as The Rose.
It was good to see Amanda McKerrow, so elusive for so long, and she danced this sleepwalking ballet with tenderness and vulnerability. She remains in fluid form and sensual style, and Carlos Acosta was aerodynamic, but a bit loose in his presentation of the Rose, all male, all bravado. Herman Cornejo seemed to have recently danced more detailed choreography in his numerous appearances in this role, but it was exciting, nevertheless, to witness a new Rose, one so macho, so muscular. This was no Nijinsky. Perhaps Kirk Peterson had instructed his dancers to seize the moment and take the summer night in this spectacular, onstage living room by storm. Kudos to the solo cellist in the opening of von Weber's Invitation to the Dance.
Polovtsian Dances (From Prince Igor) (1909): Choreography by Michel Fokine, Music by Alexander Borodin, Staged by Frederic Franklin CBE, Sets and Costumes by Elizabeth Dalton, after Nicholas Roerich, Lighting by Natasha Katz, Conductor: Charles Barker, Mezzo-Soprano Soloist: September Bigelow, Performed by Gennadi Saveliev as Warrior Chieftain, Stella Abrera as Polovtsian Princess, Laura Hidalgo as lead Polovtsian Girl, and the Company as Maidens, Warriors, Polovtsian Girls, and Young Boys. These dances were first choreographed by Lev Ivanov in 1890. Prince Igor, a leader of Russian Christians, was captures by a tartar tribe led by Khan Konchak. The ballet is about the nomadic existence of the Tartar tribes. (ABT Notes).
Frederic Franklin, 91, a former dancer with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, staged this folkloric work in boots and slippers, set at a wild camp of warriors in Russian wilderness. With an earthy Mezzo-Soprano (September Bigelow) enhancing Borodin's score, Gennadi Saveliev, as Warrior Chieftain, leaped feverishly in the historic style of his native homeland. Stella Abrera, so innocent and incandescent in the earlier Les Sylphides, re-appeared as a Polovtsian Princess, with proud, percussive flourishes. Laura Hidalgo was confident in a lead role, and the corps, as Maidens, Warriors, Polovtsian Girls, and Young Boys was in very Ballet Russe posture, almost a folk-motif.
This was quite a dynamic finish to quite a dynamic matinee. Charles Barker, Conductor of the final three of four works, deserves a multitude of accolades for keeping these rarely presented scores so exciting and resilient. Kudos to Kevin McKenzie for creating this concept, a Fokine Celebration.