American Ballet Theatre
Tribute to Kevin McKenzie’s 20th Anniversary:
Film, Triptych, Cruel World Pas de Deux,
Film, Thirteen Diversions, Firebird
Metropolitan Opera House
Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Susan Jaffe, Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan, Manager of Press and Online Media
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 12, 2012
(Read More ABT Reviews)
Film: “Kevin McKenzie – A Retrospective” To celebrate Kevin McKenzie’s 20th anniversary as Artistic Director of American Ballet Theatre, tonight’s program was introduced with film clips of Mr. McKenzie’s performances, collaboration in rehearsals, choreographic debuts, and interviews. The entire evening was a loving and moving tribute, and the audience showed appreciation.
Triptych (World Premiere): Choreography by Marcelo Gomes, Music by Handel-Halvorsen (“Passacaglia for violin and Cello”), Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Brad Fields, Violin: Charles Yang, Cello: Dane Johansen, Costumes by Cygnet Studios, Performed by Xiomara Reyes, Paloma Herrera, Veronica Part.
Ms. Gomes’ choreographic debuts have featured mime and live music, and tonight was no exception. Triptych brings out Charles Yang on violin and Dane Johansen on cello, to perform the Handel-Halvorsen score. Xiomara Reyes, Paloma Herrera, and Veronika Part, three virtuosic principals with the company, created leaps, repetitive phrases, and numerous hand gestures. Their hair was pulled back, and they wore shades of purple and mauve unitards, with figures of hands on hips, one leg straight forward. This was a brief, abstract, atonal work.
Cruel World (Pas de Deux, Second Movement, 1994): Choreography by James Kudelka, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (“Souvenir de Florence for String Orchestra, 2nd movement”), Costumes by Carmen Alie and Denis Lavoie, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes.
Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes appeared next, on the heels of Mr. Gomes’ choreographic premiere, in an excerpt of a pas de deux from Kudelka’s Cruel World. Ballet Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Charles Barker, featured strings in a work by Tchaikovsky. Marcelo Gomes partnered Julie Kent in this mournful and languorous lament, with both dancers seeming to be self-absorbed. Ms. Kent seemed pale and feather-light in Mr. Gomes’ arms.
Film: “Heartfelt Wishes” This casually organized film brought greetings from Artistic Directors and former principals from around the globe, including one from the head of the company across the Plaza. This was such a lovely interlude, that I wished Ballet Theatre would create more informative films to draw choreographers and visiting artists closer to the ABT audiences.
Thirteen Diversions (World Premiere): Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Music by Benjamin Britten (“Diversions for Piano and Orchestra”), Costumes by Bob Crowley, Lighting by Brad Fields, Piano: Barbara Bilach, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Sarah Lane, Craig Salstein, Hee Seo, Gray Davis, Gillian Murphy, David Hallberg, Devon Teuscher, Daniel Mantei, and the Company.
Wheeldon’s Thirteen Diversions is energized, exciting, and electrically charged. . Brad Fields’ lighting is critical to the experience, shifting in the backdrop, forming shapes, hues, and designs. Bob Crowley’s costumes are in shades of gray, never clashing with the black backdrop. With the atonal Britten score, dancers create their own propulsive, moving shape, somewhat like a speeding train of motion, in precise rhythms, combinations, and superb partnering. In fact, three Principals are onstage, Gillian Murphy, David Hallberg, and Hee Seo, plus the spritely Soloists, Craig Salstein and Sarah Lane.
Benjamin Britten’s eleven Variations, following the Theme, form the musical outline of this vibrant piece. Barbara Bilach is the pianist, with Charles Barker conducting. One could sense the audience’s pulse rise, as the action unfolded, with each partnered duo, backed by a Corps ensemble of sixteen, employing gestures and character to exemplify romantic comforts or complexities. The storyline is abstract, but the effect is irresistible.
Firebird (2012): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Igor Stravinsky (“L’Oiseau de Feu”), Scenery by Simon Pastukh, Costumes by Galina Solovyeva, Costume Consultant: Holly Hynes, Lighting by Brad Fields, Projections designed by Wendell Harrington, Conductor: David La Marche, Performed by Misty Copeland as Firebird, Herman Cornejo as Ivan, Maria Riccetto as Maiden, Roman Zhurbin as Kaschei, and the Company as Firebirds, Maidens, and Men.
One highpoint of Ratmansky’s new Firebird is the listening experience of the complete Stravinsky score. Another highpoint is Simon Pastukh’s larger than life, constantly shifting scenery, with heavy tree trunks that morph and reshape. But, Mr. Ratmansky’s cackling and cloying maidens, in feathery emerald green, helpless in Kaschei’s power, like campy swans flapping wings when von Rothbart appears, were over the top. The story centers on Ivan, who, lost in a dark forest, encircles a swarm of Firebirds, holding one in his grasp. She offers him one magic feather for her freedom, which Ivan can use to notify the Firebird to return. When wandering further, Ivan meets the maidens, falling in love with one, who catches his eye. Kaschei arrives, Ivan hides, and Kaschei proceeds to abuse the maidens. With his magical feather, Ivan calls the Firebird, who forces the ensemble to dance endlessly, before Kaschei seduces the maiden in her haze. Ivan, with the Firebird’s help, finally destroys Kaschei. The maidens, now in virginal white, reunite with past lovers.
While Balanchine’s Firebird is popular for family matinees, Ratmansky’s has erotic, camp, and macabre flair. It’s a lengthier production and could have been more satisfying without the sadistic, predatory add-ons for Kaschei, the wizard. Additionally, as mentioned above, the strange, surreal traits, created for the maidens in green, were bizarre and annoyingly eccentric. Misty Copeland was superb as Firebird, magnifying her readiness for more frequent lead roles. She is a riveting dancer, with personality and persuasion. Roman Zhurbin seemed out of character as the brutal and maniacal Kaschei, although his characterization was fascinating. Herman Cornejo, as the determined and destined Ivan, was urgent and compelling. Maria Riccetto was the featured Maiden, and she seemed to maximize the opportunity for lively ostentation. Kudos to David LaMarche, for his extraordinary conducting, making the most of Stravinsky’s sensational score. And, kudos to Kevin McKenzie.
Xiomara Reyes, Paloma Herrera,
Veronika Part in "Triptych"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor
Hee Seo and Gray Davis
in "Thirteen Diversions"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor
Misty Copeland in "Firebird"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone.