American Ballet Theatre
Opening Night Gala
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Georgina Parkinson, Kirk Peterson
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 19, 2005
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Afternoon of a Faun (Company Premiere): Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Staged by Jean-Pierre Frohlich, Music by Claude Debussy (Prélude a l'apres midi d'un faune), Setting and Original lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Lighting recreated by Perry Silvey, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Julie Kent and Ethan Steifel. Debussy's music, inspired by Mallarmé's poem, surrounds a faun's dream of nymphs appearing in his quiet space. The original 1912 Nijinsky ballet had references to Greek tableaux. This 1953 NYC Ballet Company version was choreographed for Tanaquil Le Clerq. (Program Notes)
Julie Kent's hair and Ethan Steifel's back sensually swept the stage in this ABT premiere of a Jerome Robbins work so frequently reviewed at NYC Ballet in this magazine. With the narcissistic flair of two youthful dancers happening on one another in the confines of a dance studio framed in boxy, sheer fabric and surreal lighting, Ms. Kent and Mr. Steifel were effective as the faun and his object of momentary desire, although neither dancer seemed to exude chemistry toward one another. The audience serves as the mirror, and the dancers stare deep into center orchestra. ABT is to be lauded for re-creating this timeless masterpiece, once the scandal of Paris in Nijinsky's original, erotic dance.
Paquita (1957): Choreography after Marius Petipa, Music by Ludwig Minkus, Orchestrated by John Lanchbery, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky. Paquita premiered in Russia at the Bolshoi Theatre in St. Petersburg in 1847. This pas de deux was first danced at ABT by Nora Kaye and Erik Bruhn. (Program Notes).
This ABT revival was danced by husband and wife, Maxim Beloserkovsky and Irina Dvorovenko, upon Ms. Dvorovenko's return from maternity leave. She is in rare form, and something about her arms and the leg lifts to skim the back of her hair reminded me immediately of the stylized Bolshoi form seen this past summer at the Met Opera House. Both dancers seemed radiant and ravishing, and Ms. Dvorovenko's spins and leaps were positioned for perfection of partnering by the attentive Mr. Beloserkovsky. Petipa's choreography shone brightly, and Ormsby Wilkins led the orchestra in this and the previous work with precision and passion.
The Howling Cat (Imaginary Tango, Excerpts, Company Premiere): Choreography by Kirk Peterson, Music by J. Gade, Gary Chang, and Astor Piazzolla (Escualo), Lighting by Brad Fields, Costume Design by Sandra Woodall, (Recorded Music), Performed by Paloma Herrera, Jose Manuel Carreño, Jesus Pastor, Jared Matthews, Grant Delong, and Luis Ribagorda. Excerpts are "Something Like a Tango", "Enragé", and "Melpomene (Black Widow)". This dance was premiered by the Richmond Ballet in 2001. (Program Notes).
This magazine has reviewed a sizeable amount of Piazzolla and the Tango genre, and tonight, this one-time only excerpted performance of The Howling Cat , with four of the six performers of Latin American origin and flaming hot dance style, did not disappoint an ardent Tanguera. With the requisite red, black, and smoky backdrop and costumes, evocative of a Buenos Aires bordello or bar, Paloma Herrera and Jose Manuel Carreño heated up City Center with lunges, lifts, leaps, and Tango-inspired, virtuosic ballet. In partnered dance, as well as in an all male quartet of Mr. Delong, Mr. Pastor, Mr. Matthews, and Mr. Ribagorda, this work sizzled and sang of love, loss, life, and luridness.
Ms. Herrera is one of the most talented and versatile dancers, with the power to transfix an audience, and, in Mr. Carreño's powerful company, as he dances to excite and engage this same audience, they rivet and revel in their obvious charismatic achievement. The Howling Cat should be in repertory in its full staging. It would be quite the storm in New York and international ballet circles.
Gong (2001): Choreography by Mark Morris, Staged by Tina Fehlandt, Music by Colin McPhee (Tabuh-Tabuhan), Costumes by Isaac Mizrahi, Lighting by Michael Chybowski, Costumes executed by Barbara Matera, Pianists: Barbara Bilach and David LaMarche, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Erica Cornejo, Gillian Murphy, Anna Liceica, Xiomara Reyes, Michele Wiles, Herman Cornejo, Grant Delong, Jared Matthews, Sascha Radetsky, Isaac Stappas, and the Company.
This revival of a work premiered by ABT in 2001 is danced partly to silence and mostly to a 1930 score with Indonesian musical intonations. The Isaac Mizrahi solid and brilliantly colored costumes, stiff, low hung tutus, matching leotards and toe shoes, captured the essence of the exotic score. Herman Cornejo and his sister, Erica Cornejo, were especially buoyant and bravura in energy and audience engagement. Pianists, David LaMarche and Barbara Bilach kept the momentum magnetic, before and after the score stopped twice for the silent dance passages. Mark Morris is always entertaining and interesting, and Gong captures the imagination and transports to a dreamlike venue resounding with gongs, bells, and chimes.
Rodeo (1950): Choreography by Agnes de Mille, Staged by Paul Sutherland, Cowgirl coached by Christine Sarry, Music by Aaron Copland, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Thomas R. Skelton, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Isaac Stappas, Craig Salstein, Erica Cornejo, Jennifer Alexander, and the Company. "Rodeo" is a ballet in two scenes and premiered at Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1942. Agnes de Mille danced then with Frederic Franklin and Casimir Kokitch. ABT (Ballet Theatre) premiered the ballet in 1950 in Germany. (Program Notes).
Galas are meant to bring out the finest in the repertoire, as ballet patrons, balletomanes, and press clamor to see what's new and what the new season will feature. An excellent choice for Fall Season 2005 was the revival of Rodeo, an Agnes De Mille diamond in the rough, that is the rough and tumble antics of a cowgirl, a ranch owner's daughter, cowhands, womenfolk, a roper, a wrangler, a square dance caller (who really calls out), and lots of womenfolk). Erica Cornejo stole the show with Christine Sarry's incredible coaching. I almost saw her horse out there, as she rode across the stage with bowlegs and bucking bronco.
Isaac Stappas was in theatrical form as wrangler and competitive suitor, Craig Salstein used drama and daring as roper and dashing dynamo, and Kenneth Easter was quite the articulate dance caller. David LaMarche conducted this rousing and resilient score with his signature style and pizzazz. The ABT orchestra rose to the occasion in all five works. It's too bad we don't get to ever see them take their bows. They always create wonderful and perfectly timed music for this virtuosic Company. Kudos to Kevin McKenzie.
Erica Cornejo in Agnes de Mille's Rodeo
Photo courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor