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American Ballet Theatre: Opening Night Gala, Fall Season

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American Ballet Theatre

Opening Night Gala
Seven Sonatas
One of Three
The Dying Swan
Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once

At Avery Fisher Hall

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Georgina Parkinson
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 7, 2009

(See More ABT Reviews, Interviews, and Candids)

Seven Sonatas (NY Premiere): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Domenico Scarlatti, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Brad Fields, Piano: Barbara Bilach, Performed by Stella Abrera, Gennadi Saveliev, Xiomara Reyes, Herman Cornejo, Julie Kent, David Hallberg. On Opening Night of ABT’s Fall Season, the Company was dramatically and effectively showcased at a totally different venue, Avery Fisher Hall, at Lincoln Center, with no wings for the dancers, no orchestra pit, and a much smaller stage than the Met Opera House or City Center, the usual fall venue. It was made all the smaller, having the piano and musicians onstage with the performers, as Fisher Hall is constructed for the orchestras to perform onstage, sans dancers. The ABT dancers warmed up in full view in leotards and leg warmers, leaping and spinning and stretching, a welcome sight after the long break since Spring Season.

Alexei Ratmansky, ABT’s new Artist in Residence, who is not new to the New York ballet community, choreographed the first work just for this brief, long weekend Season. Seven of Domenico Scarlatti’s “Keyboard Sonatas” (1739) formed Mr. Ratmansky’s score, classy music for a classically known venue. This work struck me with its innate theatricality within a spiritual and contemporary motif. Dancers gazed upon each other, almost as if conjuring a romantic story ballet. Flowing white costumes folded lovingly in elegant lifts. David Hallberg exuded depth and desire, with wide leaps, evocative of Le Spectre de la Rose, as joy burst through his torso, in spring-like motion. Brad Fields’ warm spotlights provided a glow on Holly Hynes’ clear costumes, and each dancer seemed to reverently relish dancing in this Hall.

Troubled then transported expressiveness lit Mr. Hallberg’s then Julie Kent’s faces, as one partner would disappear and then re-appear, in playful hide and seek. Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo had an athletic, buoyant passage, toppling over each other like children at play. Mr. Cornejo’s typical mid-air flight was not stifled by the size of the stage. Stella Abrera and Gennadi Saveliev had a more mature, steady passage, partnering as two seasoned lovers, perhaps on a bucolic stroll. Barbara Bilach played the Sonatas with precise and scintillating musicality, but with Fisher Hall’s acoustics, I would have preferred the piano stage front. Mr. Ratmansky’s work will certainly find its way into repeated repertoire, as it was so well received tonight.

One of Three (NY Premiere): Choreography by Aszure Barton, Music by Maurice Ravel (Violin Sonata in G), Costumes by Yannik Larivée, Lighting by Brad Fields, Violin: Ronald Oakland, Piano: David LaMarche, Performed by Misty Copeland, Grant DeLong, Paloma Herrera, Carlos Lopez, Jared Matthews, Gillian Murphy, Patrick Ogle, Joseph Phillips, Arron Scott, Cory Stearns, Eric Tamm. Ravel’s Violin Sonata in G, for violin and piano, with its eerie, urgent theme, wrapped Aszure Barton’s premiere in refined rhapsodies. Speaking of refined, the men wear formal black, and the women are in Yannik Larivée’s black or white costumes, with Misty Copeland in a short dress and halter, Paloma Herrera in black slacks and lace top, and Gillian Murphy in high-bodiced white.

The eight men receive the three women, one at a time, with intense edge and masculine bravado. Cory Stearns caught my eye, flirtatiously partnering Ms. Herrera, who seemed like a silent film star seizing the stage. Misty Copeland and Jared Matthews were well partnered for some campy Carnivale-like motion, but, all in all, this work did not seem as relevant for the repertoire as did Mr. Ratmansky’s.

The Dying Swan (1905): Choreography by Michel Fokine, Music by Camille Saint-Saens, Cello: Scott Ballantyne, Piano: David LaMarche, Performed by Veronika Part. Now that Nina Ananiashvili has retired, we crave a fluttering Swan, one who can ripple her Russian arms with wing-like undulation, and, tonight, Veronika Part came to the rescue. With Scott Ballantyne on cello and David LaMarche on piano, the audience had a momentary break from contemporary abstract premieres, with Michel Fokine’s 1905 The Dying Swan. Saint-Saens’ score from Carnival of the Animals is embedded in every balletomane’s psyche, like the call of the wild, and the audience erupted in glee to see Ms. Part so perfectly poised and magnetic, as she fell to the stage, wings almost lifeless, fluttering in whispered grace. Ms. Part has come a long way in a few Seasons, and ABT let us know not to fear, Swan Lake will be in good hands.

Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once (NY Premiere): Choreography by Benjamin Millepied, Music by David Lang, Costumes by Karen Young, Lighting by Brad Fields, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Violin: Ronald Oakland, Clarinet: John Manasse, Cello: Scott Ballantyne, Piano: Emily Wong, Piccolo: Judy Mendenhall, Percussion: Jared Soldiviero, Performed by Isabella Boylston, Marcelo Gomes, and the Company. Benjamin Millepied, as a choreographer, has also come a long way in a few Seasons, and his new Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once, to David Lang’s atonal, percussive score, was stark and stunning. The violin, clarinet, piano, cello, piccolo, and percussion were led stage rear by Ormsby Wilkins, with his back to the audience. I noted on my program that Millepied’s mesmerizing choreography would have been more satisfying with a Ligeti or Arvo Pärt score.

The three Lang works, forming the three dance segments, are called “stick figure”, “short fall”, and “cheating, lying, stealing”. Isabella Boylston and Marcelo Gomes led a full cast of 24, with Mr. Gomes the sole Principal of the 24. The expansive dance was ambitious for the stage, considering the piano, conductor, dominant percussion, and four additional musicians. The choreography is as harsh and raw as the music, in fact mimicking the score, in time with the gong. I enjoyed watching Mr. Wilkins, as the musicians came down on each beat, moments after his hand pulsed the air. The dancers, too, kept time in rhythmic images, with a frame of performers against the walls, like human ornaments rapt in a spell. Daniil Simkin, always the prankster, flew through space into the arms of the men. The sharp, Asian motif was esoteric and abrupt, but these dancers softened the mood with their impassioned personas. Marcelo Gomes, especially, engaged the crowd.

Stella Abrera, Gennadi Saveliev in
"Seven Sonatas"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Eric Tamm, Gillian Murphy, Cory Stearns in
"One of Three"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Daniil Simkin in
"Everything Doesn’t Happen At Once"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at