American Ballet Theatre: Symphonie Concertante and The Dream
- Onstage with the Dancers
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|American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Wes Chapman, Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Georgina Parkinson, Clinton Luckett
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate
by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
May 26, 2007
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Symphonie Concertante (1947): Choreography by George Balanchine, Staged by Susan Jones, Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Sinfonia Concertante in E Flat Major for Violin and Viola K. 364), Costumes by Theoni V. Aldredge, Lighting by David K. H. Elliott, Conductor: Charles Barker, Violinist: Ronald Oakland, Violist: Ronald Carbone, Performed by Stella Abrera, Gillian Murphy, Maxim Beloserkovsky, and the Company. The three movements of Mozart's score relate to the three sections of this ballet. In 1947, at City Center, Maria Tallchief, Tanaquil LeClerq, and Todd Bolender danced the principal roles for the performing Ballet Society. In 1983, Cynthia Gregory, Martine van Hamel, and Patrick Bissell danced the leads for ABT. (ABT Notes).
Tonight the audience was buzzing with ABT alumni, over 300 former dancers and artists from the ABT family, since its founding in 1940. Cynthia Gregory, Susan Jaffe, and Gage Bush were onstage for a welcome presentation, and they lauded each other with professional praise. They also lauded the Company and audience, and this was a special touch for a Holiday weekend. The first work, Balanchine's Symphonie Concertante, set to Mozart's "Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major for Violin and Viola", danced with Theoni Aldredge's ravishing costumes, featured Stella Abrera, Gillian Murphy, and Maxim Beloserkovsky, who was busy as the sole male dancer to 24 females. Mr. Beloserkovsky led the dancers under his arms in classical fashion and leaped about with elegant elevation and buoyant charm.
Of the two female leads, Ms. Murphy was radiant, while Ms. Abrera was reserved, two personalities, and two stringed instrumental leads as well, one violin and one viola. This is a thought-provoking rather than emotionally riveting ballet, so Balanchine, so structured, symmetrical, and scintillating. Ms. Murphy looked down at her feet, head turning back and forth, in Balanchine style, unlike that which she is used to portraying, and the effect was fresh and lovely. Ms. Abrera did the same, but with more control and seriousness in demeanor. The footwork was quick, well-timed, and different from the usual ABT genre. In fact, the corps, unlike their City Ballet counterparts, who are entrenched in Balanchine choreography, allowed for differences in interpretation, a bit of uniqueness that was more apparent here, than would be in scenes of Shades or Swans.
Of the six corps leads, Misty Copeland and Marian Butler seemed the most interesting, as they internalized the classicism and lyricism of Balanchine's intentions. Ronald Oakland and Ronald Carbone were off-stage stars on solo violin and solo viola. Their reading of the Mozart added zest and vivacity to a very vibrant score. Charles Barker and the ABT Orchestra made the Mozart, alone, an enjoyable musical experience.
The Dream (2002): Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Staged by Anthony Dowell with Christopher Carr, Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Arranged by John Lanchbery, Sets and costumes by David Walker, Lighting Design by John B. Read, Performed by Julie Kent as Titania, Marcelo Gomes as Oberon, Herman Cornejo as Puck, Isaac Stappas as Bottom, Karin Ellis-Wentz as Helena, Jennifer Alexander as Hermia, Gennadi Saveliev as Demetrius, Roman Zhurbin as Lysander, and the Company as Rustics, Cobweb, Peaseblossom, Moth, Mustardseed, Changeling Boy, and Fairies, Chorus: The Young People's Chorus of NYC, Directed by Francisco J. Nuñez, and Elizabeth Nuñez and Anne Ingram, Conductor: Charles Barker.
Oberon and Titania are fighting for the changeling boy, so Oberon sends Puck for a magic flower, which will cause the sleeping person touched by the flower to fall in love with the first person he/she sees on awakening. But, Puck touches the wrong men and women with the magical flower, causing havoc to two couples, Lysander and Hermia, Helena and Demetrius, plus a donkey-headed rustic, called Bottom. It takes a fog to fix the matches. "The Dream" was premiered by ABT in May 2002, with Alessandra Ferri, Ethan Steifel, and Herman Cornejo. (ABT Notes).
A contrast to Balanchine's full-length, Shakespearean interpretation, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Ashton's one-act The Dream also retells the magical story of potent flowers and mixed matches, as well as that dreamy donkey. I had not seen this production previously, and I was pleasantly surprised, actually preferring this interpretation to the longer version, with its compact, but exquisite energy. That energy is emphasized by Puck, virtuosically danced by Herman Cornejo, in all his aerobic and theatrical power. There are few dancers that literally inhabit their roles, and Mr. Cornejo is one of those few. He was on figurative batteries, primal and persuasive, lunging from the woods with legs bent under and arms in adorable gesture, grabbing the audience moment to moment.
Another highlighted performance was that of Marcelo Gomes as Oberon, who has truly grown in bravura embellishment of his dance. His execution of the role was flawless, both in drama and dance, and it was warming to see his seduction of Titania, lyrically performed with abandon by Julie Kent. Ms. Kent and Mr. Gomes are comfortable partners, and physically well matched. They not only dance well together, they look well together and seem to revel in each other's presence. Isaac Stappas, as Bottom, won the audience with his clever coordination of the donkey's head and lips, while arms and feet were totally utilized in the costumed role. (Kudos to David Walker in advance for costumes and sets). As Bottom, Mr. Stappas used humor, personality, and skill, all to good use. This was one endearing donkey.
The other lead roles, Helena, Hermia, Demetrius, and Lysander, were in good hands respectively with Karin Ellis-Wentz, Jennifer Alexander, Gennadi Saveliev, and Roman Zhurbin. The plot unfolds with couples attracted or not attracted to each other in variations on the theme, and each dancer inhabited the role in all its dimensions with Ashton-designed camp. The female corps as Fairies, blossom, seed, cobweb, and moth, and the male corps as Rustics were mesmerizing in this movie-like setting. At times, it was a bit of Disney's Fantasia, with bright colors and wings dancing in dim woodlands. Adding to the child-like fantasy, Francisco Nuñez and The Young People's Chorus of New York City joined the ABT Orchestra in youthful choral segments. The result was enchanting.
Kudos to Charles Barker and the ABT Orchestra, plus the above Chorus, for the melodic Mendelssohn, and kudos to Frederick Ashton. You can explore the ABT Season schedule and buy tickets at www.abt.org.
For sheet music, ballet-related or for chamber ensembles, visit Patelson Music House, opposite Carnegie Hall's stage door, on West 56th Street. Tell them you saw them on ExploreDance.com.