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American Ballet Theatre: Fall Gala 2014: Rondo Capriccioso, With a Chance of Rain, Thirteen Diversions
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American Ballet Theatre: Fall Gala 2014: Rondo Capriccioso, With a Chance of Rain, Thirteen Diversions

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American Ballet Theatre

Fall Gala 2014
Rondo Capriccioso
With a Chance of Rain
Thirteen Diversions

David H. Koch Theater

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Chief Executive Officer
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters: Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa, Keith Roberts
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 22, 2014

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Rondo Capriccioso (World Premiere): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Camille Saint-Saëns (“Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso”), Lighting by Brad Fields, Violin Soloist: Benjamin Bowman, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by ABT Apprentices, ABT Studio Company, and students from ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School (Levels Pre-Primary to Level 7).

The American Ballet Theatre’s Opening Night Gala of this debut Fall Season at Koch Theater underscored the value of intimacy of stage to audience. Unlike the Met Opera House and City Center (whose sightlines are traditionally structured), Koch Theater is easily navigable, with seating that rises toward the rear orchestra. It was thrilling to see Artist in Residence, Alexei Ratmansky’s world premiere of Rondo Capriccioso. All the dancers aspiring to join Ballet Theatre and other major Companies, including those in the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School (Pre-Primary, Primary B, and Levels 2-7), the Apprentices, and the Studio Company (which falls between the School and Ballet Theatre), performed in solos, duos, ensembles, and full cast. There were hundreds of student and pre-professional dancers, of all sizes, in white (girls) and grey (boys) leotards and tights, dancing to the Saint-Saens score. Benjamin Bowman was a masterful violinist, with Ormsby Wilkins keeping the orchestra brisk and bubbly.

Ballet Theatre CEO, Rachel Moore and Artistic Director, Kevin McKenzie greeted tonight’s crowd, informing the audience that the future of ballet rests on these ebullient young dancers and on the youthful choreographers (Ratmansky, Scarlett, Wheeldon), who presented new or recent works tonight. The synchronized figures, joyful faces, courageous solos, and impressive talent say much about the quality of Ballet Theatre’s teachers, tutors, and curriculum. Kudos to all.

With a Chance of Rain (World Premiere): Choreography by Liam Scarlett, Music by Sergei Rachmaninoff (6 “Preludes” and “Elegy”), Costumes by Liam Scarlett, Lighting by Brad Fields, Piano Soloist: Emily Wong, Performed by Hee Seo, Marcelo Gomes, Misty Copeland, James Whiteside, Gemma Bond, Joseph Gorak, Devon Teuscher, Sterling Baca.

Liam Scarlett’s world premiere, With a Chance of Rain, set to an array of Rachmaninoff’s Preludes and one Elegy, featured Emily Wong on solo piano. She commanded her keyboard with breathtaking melodies, rhythmic chords, and rapturous tones. The muscular, bare-chested Marcelo Gomes, in pale blue tights, was a central figure, while attentively partnering Hee Seo, in a matching pale blue leotard. While I have lavishly praised Mr. Scarlett’s Funérailles, across the Plaza, I found this ballet annoying. A quartet of four couples connects and disconnects, faces each other or faces the audience, but with what seemed to be inappropriate choreographic gestures. I had to confirm after the finale, with a colleague, what I had actually seen, to be sure I was accurate. Mr. Scarlett had James Whiteside squeeze Misty Copeland’s breasts, and he had Ms. Copeland later wiggle her behind, all to Rachmaninoff. He also added choreography for men to toss their female partners onto the stage, and so on. The high points were the dramatic, partnered lifts, the stark raising of women’s legs to their heads, and additional dramatic effects. Mr. Scarlett also designed the tutus and leotards.

Thirteen Diversions (2011): Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Music by Benjamin Britten (“Diversions for Piano and Orchestra”), Costumes by Bob Crowley, Lighting by Brad Fields, Piano Soloist: Barbara Bilach, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Sarah Lane, Craig Salstein, Gillian Murphy, Thomas Forster, Isabella Boylston, Cory Stearns, Christine Shevchenko, Blaine Hoven, and the Company.

Christopher Wheeldon’s Thirteen Diversions was last in tonight’s Gala program, a dazzling tour de force. This 2011 ballet is always energized, exciting, and electrically charged and should be seen often and up close, as Koch Theater allows. 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 backdrop. The dancers create their own propulsive, moving shape, somewhat like a speeding train of motion, in precise rhythms, combinations, and superb partnering. Gillian Murphy is partnered by Thomas Forster, Isabella Boylston is partnered by Cory Stearns, Sarah Lane is partnered by Craig Salstein, and Christine Shevchenko is partnered by Blaine Hoven. A Corps of eight males and eight females appears, as well. Among the leads, Isabella Boylston and Cory Stearns were well matched for charisma and dynamism. Among the Corps, Luciana Paris and Calvin Royal caught my eye repeatedly.

Benjamin Britten’s eleven Variations, following the Theme, form the musical outline of this masterpiece. Barbara Bilach, solo pianist, is critical to this ballet’s astounding momentum, and Charles Barker kept the orchestra ebullient. The audience was vocally involved, enjoying the theatrical feats and follies, with dancers exuding romantic comforts or complexities. The storyline is abstract, but the effect is irresistible. Kudos to Christopher Wheeldon.

Scene from Ratmansky's "Rondo Capriccioso"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

Hee Seo and Marcelo Gomes
in Scarlett's "With a Chance of Rain"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

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