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American Ballet Theatre: 70th Anniversary Spring Gala 2010
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American Ballet Theatre: 70th Anniversary Spring Gala 2010

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American Ballet Theatre

70th Anniversary Spring Gala 2010

Metropolitan Opera House

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,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 17, 2010

(Read More ABT Reviews).

Gala Lighting by Brad Fields.

Birthday Offering, Excerpt: Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Staged by Christopher Carr, Music by Alexander Glazunov, Arranged by Robert Irving, Costumes by Andre Levasseur, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Irina Dvorovenko, Maxim Beloserkovsky, and the Company. For tonight’s 70th Anniversary of American Ballet Theatre, we were treated to the sight of renowned retired Principals: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova, Frederic Franklin, Nina Ananiashvili, Martine van Hamel, Alessandra Ferri, and Lupe Serrano. The multiple pas de deux and excerpts were thrilling, especially for all the balletomanes who waited many months to see this magnificent company again in bravura performance.

Frederick Ashton’s Birthday Offering was a great opening choice for this celebratory event. With striped costumes, frills and frivolity, Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky led an ensemble of twelve in spinning, joyful, vivacity.

Ballo Per Sei, Excerpt: Choreography by Edwaard Liang, Music by Antonio Vivaldi, Arranged by F. Zobeley, Costume Design by Holly Hynes, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Cellist: Jonathan Spitz, Performed by Meaghan Hinkis and Irlan Silva, Kathryn Boren and Calvin Royal III, Brittany Degrofft and Brian Waldrep. Edwaard Liang, a former Soloist with City Ballet, has been busy with choreographic commissions, and his Ballo Per Sei was designed with casual style. One ABT II couple remained on the stage floor, at one point, while the other ABT II couples danced about. ABT II, the second Company of American Ballet Theatre, was represented by six seasoned members, all of whom have bright futures. Meaghan Hinkis and Irlan Silva especially caught my eye.

The Sleeping Beauty, Act I – Rose Adagio: Choreography after Marius Petipa, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Costumes by Willa Kim, Additional Costume Design by Holly Hynes, Assistant Costume Designer: Richard Schurkamp, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Michele Wiles, Sascha Radetsky, Craig Salstein, Gennadi Saveliev, and Roman Zhurbin.

The Act I Rose Adagio, from Ballet Theatre’s own Sleeping Beauty, was ebulliently danced by Michele Wiles, who remained en pointe for seemingly endless moments, in the iconic virtuosic balancing challenge, as she’s passed from one Prince to another. Before lowering her pointed toe, each tim Ms. Wiles raised one arm on high, with dramatic effect. Her flair and talent were on display with mature command of the requisite technique. This was an excellent showcase to draw new enthusiasts to the upcoming full-length production.

Giselle, Act II Excerpt: Choreography after Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa, Libretto by Theophile Gautier, on a theme by Heinrich Heine, Orchestrated by John Lanchbery, Music by Adolphe Adam, Costumes by Anna Anni, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg.

I had missed last season’s Giselle, with Natalia Osipova in the lead, so tonight was my first experience seeing this incredible prima ballerina floating en air, defying gravity, seeming to never land. This role brought out her ethereal qualities far more than had La Sylphide, which I had seen her dance last season. When Ms. Osipova kicked both legs back, as the Willy sprung about with David Hallberg, as Albrecht, in pursuit, she seemed to not have any joints, like a puppet on strings. These moments in ballet are never forgotten.

Swan Lake, Act III Pas de Deux & Coda: Choreography after Marius Petipa, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Costumes by Zack Brown, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Veronika Part and Marcelo Gomes.

It was hard to see Veronika Part as Odile, in the bravura Black Swan Pas de Deux, after seeing the recently retired Nina Ananiashvili on stage earlier tonight. Ms. Part is an entirely different dancer, long-limbed, tall, sweeping arms. Her drama exudes from a different kind of Russian confidence, and, to me, the requisite 32 fouettés and dramatic back and forth were rushed, a blitz of pizzazz, too much to absorb. Marcelo Gomes, as Siegfried, is always gallant and generous, and he helped dramatize Ms. Part’s strengths of personality and vitality. Perhaps the evening’s directions had required more speed, because this was a fourteen-presentation Gala.

Thaïs Pas de Deux (Company Premiere): Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Staged by Grant Coyle, Music by Jules Massenet, Costumes by Anthony Dowell, Conductor: David LaMarche, Violinist: Ronald Oakland, Performed by Diana Vishneva and Jared Matthews. A Company premiere is very exciting. And, Diana Vishneva was an incomparable sight, arriving with the shimmering scarf over her head, then dancing her exquisite solo. Unfortunately Jared Matthews is a dancer with little charisma. In fact, it seems that a dancer has or does not have charisma from the first moment he/she is seen as apprentice or corps. It’s present or absent. I would have preferred Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg, or Jose Manuel Carreño, three exciting, charismatic virtuosos, for this Premiere. Ms. Vishneva, however, was uniquely mysterious and dynamic. Ronald Oakland’s violin solos were sumptuous.

The Brahms-Haydn Variations, in memory of Peter T. Joseph, Finale: Choreography by Twyla Tharp, Staged by Stacy Caddell, Music by Johannes Brahms, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Stella Abrera and Alexandre Hammoudi, Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo, Leann Underwood and Cory Stearns, Hee Seo and Gennadi Saveliev, Maria Riccetto and Daniil Simkin, Yuriko Kajiya and Craig Salstein, Luciana Paris and Roman Zhurbin, and the Company.

This excerpt of Twyla Tharp’s buoyant work, set to Brahms’ “Variation on a Theme by Haydn for Orchestra, Op. 56a”, is flowing in yellow costumes, by the genius designer, Santo Loquasto. The ambiance is golden Seven couples and Corps are onstage in busy, bubbly eloquence, with Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo a cut above. They took this dance to a realm of fascination and dynamism, again due to charisma all around. Yuriko Kajiya and Craig Salstein, as well, drew me in, with eye-catching partnering and personality plus.

La Bayadère, Act II – Kingdom of the Shades: Choreography by Natalia Makarova, after Marius Petipa, Music by Ludwig Minkus, specially arranged by John Lanchbery, production conceived and directed by Natalia Makarova, Scenery by Pierluigi Samaritani, Costumes designed by Theoni V. Aldredge, Production Coordinator, Dina Makaroff, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by the Corps.

There is no way to describe the anticipation of the Act II Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadère. As the female Corps, one by one, enters in arabesque, in shadowy, scintillating white, chiffony and surreal, with foggy moonlit ambiance, the audience remains breathless. Moments like these celebrate the Corps as a talented ensemble of dancers, in synchronized motion and attitude, creating, as a whole, an extraordinary and memorable image. Tonight was no exception, and every dancer evoked luminosity and elegance. Natalia Makarova’s choreography after Petipa never ceases to amaze.

The Awakening Pas de Deux, The Sleeping Beauty, from Act II (Company Premiere): Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Staged by Grant Coyle, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Costumes by Lila De Nobili, Conductor: David LaMarche, Violinist: Ronald Oakland, Performed by Paloma Herrera and Cory Stearns. This rarely seen Ashton work, with Paloma Herrera and Cory Stearns as Princess Aurora and Prince Desire, provided stylized partnering with gorgeous lifts and romantic drama. It was a storybook image, as Ms. Herrera awoke to not one of the four Princes in the Adagio, but to a new Prince, one that she truly “desires”. The choreography is youthful, abandoned, with sequential jumps in feverish animation.

The Sleeping Beauty, Act III – Pas de Deux & Coda: Choreography after Marius Petipa, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Costumes by Willa Kim, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo.

Returning to The Sleeping Beauty, the ABT version with which we are familiar, the Act III Pas de Deux & Coda was excitingly danced by Herman Cornejo and Xiomara Reyes. This superb duo has enough charisma to fill the Met and more. Mr. Cornejo throws every ounce of strength into his solos, driving his body mid-air, into dizzying spins, and his genuine adoration for Ms. Reyes is demonstrative. Ms. Reyes has extraordinary skills and a timeless ingénue quality to her persona.

Lady of the Camellias, a ballet by John Neumeier based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils, Act III – Pas de Deux: Choreography by John Neumeier, Staged by Kevin Haigen and Victor Hughes, Music by Frederic Chopin, Costumes by Jürgen Rose, Pianist: Soheil Nasseri, Performed by Julie Kent and Roberto Bolle. This Company Premiere of a new work for the Repertory was almost existential in some of its imagery. Every moment that Julie Kent and Roberto Bolle were onstage was ecstatically received. Ms. Kent, as Marguerite Gautier, arrives onstage in this Act III excerpt, draped in a hooded cape, with Mr. Bolle, as Armand Duval, in impassioned yearning. Soon Ms. Kent is in a flesh-colored slip, and the energized, but tender, Pas de Deux takes on swirling en air turns, over Mr. Bolle’s head and against his back. Truly, no other pas de deux could engender as much intrigue to see this gripping ballet in full-length performance, in the weeks to come. Mr. Bolle and Ms. Kent are physically and emotionally suited to one another, and they know how to maximize the magic.

Don Quixote, Act II – Pas de Deux & Coda: Choreography by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky, Staged by Kevin McKenzie and Susan Jones, Music by Ludwig Minkus, Arranged by Jack Everly, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel. After the angst of the previous work, we were treated to the amusement of the Act II Pas de Deux & Coda of Don Quixote. Gillian Murphy and her stage and real-life partner, Ethan Stiefel, always feed off each other’s electricity and gaze, and tonight’s second set of 32 fouettés was remarkably flourished, with fan and gestural ornamentations. Nobody dances Kitri and Basilio like Ms. Murphy and Mr. Stiefel, and, together, they dance as they could never do with other partners. They make the case for perpetual partnering, reminding me of Bocca and Ananiashvili, Nureyev and Fonteyn. Mr. Stiefel leaped about with unusual muscularity and pulse, with the chemistry of this duo charged and palpable.

Caught: Choreography by David Parsons, Music by Robert Fripp, Lighting Concept by David Parsons, Lighting by Howell Binkley, Performed by Angel Corella. I’ve seen David Parson’s Caught multiple times, with the Parsons Company, the Ailey Company, Ballet Theatre, and in numerous Galas. Mr. Corella has the genre mastered to perfection, and his taut torso and steel limbs propelled him about, amidst the engineered strobes and recorded score. Galas are created to spark the audience’s attention and captivate its imagination, and Caught is an all-time favorite. Mr. Corella remains in fine form and electrified endurance.

Musical Bows: Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by the Company. The Company returned for multiple accolades with orchestral accompaniment. Kudos to all of tonight Ballet Theatre Orchestra Conductors: Ormsby Wilkins, Charles Barker, and David LaMarche. Kudos to all the dancers, musicians, and designers as well, and kudos to Kevin McKenzie for such a superb 70th Anniversary Gala.

Diana Vishneva and Jared Matthews
in "Thais Pas de Deux"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel
in "Don Quixote"
Courtesy of MIRA

Julie Kent and Roberto Bolle
in "Lady of the Camellias"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg
in "Giselle"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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