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American Ballet Theatre: 75th Anniversary: Fall Gala 2015
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American Ballet Theatre: 75th Anniversary: Fall Gala 2015

- Onstage with the Dancers: Special Events
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American Ballet Theatre

Fall Gala 2015
After You
Monotones I and II
The Brahms-Haydn Variations

David H. Koch Theater

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
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
Susie Morgan Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 21, 2015

(Read More ABT Reviews)

(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on the Fall Season Ballet Music.)

After You (NY Premiere): Choreography by Mark Morris, Asst. to Mr. Morris, Tina Fehlandt, Music by Johann Nepomuk Hummel (“Septet in C Major, No. 2, Op. 114, ‘Military’”), Costumes by Isaac Mizrahi, Lighting by Michael Chybowski, Barbara Bilach on Piano, Benjamin Bowman on Violin, Scott Ballantyne on Cello, Lewis Paer on Bass, Judith Mendenhall on Flute, Jon Manasse on Clarinet, Carl Albach on Trumpet, Performed by Stella Abrera, Joo Won Ahn, Sterling Baca, Lily Wisdom, Skylar Brandt, Jeffrey Cirio, Catherine Hurlin, Gillian Murphy, Calvin Royal III, Craig Salstein, Aaron Scott, Devon Teuscher.

In fluffy, nonchalant, silky jumpsuits by Isaac Mizrahi, in pastels of pink, mauve, yellow, and gold, a dozen dancers opened American Ballet Theatre’s Fall 2015 Gala with mesmerizing force. Mark Morris has created a winning ballet, After You, scored to Hummel’s “Military Septet in C major”, which is more merry than military, joyful and jubilant. What lovely imagery, with slow-turning spins, jumps that shift weight, and dashes into the wings. Gillian Murphy and Stella Abrera are Principals in the Company, but here, they are two of twelve. In fact, the Company looked like a garden of flowers, fragrant and fanciful. With six women and six men, including the introduction of Ballet Theatre’s vibrant new Soloist, Jeffrey Cirio, there are casually formed trios and solos, with eye-catching figures.

The music ensemble, replacing the standard orchestra, (all listed above) also allowed for combinations of instruments in solo and trio formation, most remarkably Carl Albach on trumpet and Jon Manasse on clarinet. The ensemble conducted itself, matching what appeared to be the impression of random partnering, as if the dancers were matching the seven, splendidly melodic instruments Mr. Morris has been favorably reviewed for years on these pages, with his upbeat, buoyant choreographies, that draw the audience in with immediacy and imagination. When the dancers casually walk offstage, after dancing several phrases, one catches the view of their backs in rhythm. Among the ensemble, I was particularly enthused by Skylar Brandt, Ms. Murphy, Joo Won Ahn, and Calvin Royal. But, the entire ensemble was bright, breezy, and breathtaking.

Monotones I and II (1965 and 1966): Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Music by Erik Satie, Orchestration by Claude Debussy, Roland Manuel, and John Lanchbery, Designs by Frederick Ashton, Lighting by Brad Fields, Staged by Lynn Wallis, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Stella Abrera, Isabella Boylston, Joseph Gorak, Veronica Part, Thomas Forster, Cory Stearns.

For a devotee of Satie, as is this writer, the Company Premiere of Ashton’s Monotones I and II, which had been previously reviewed on these pages in performance by the ABT Studio Company in 2004, was nothing short of monumental. In the 2004 production, the dancers seemed younger and smaller, on The Joyce stage, than they did tonight at The Koch. I remember originally thinking that the dancers looked like green, then yellow-white sprouts in a garden, while in the main Company production they seemed more surreal. Monotones I (1966) is scored to Satie’s “Trois Gnossiennes” and Monotones II (1965) to Satie’s “Trois Gymnopédies”.

Dancers move ever so deliberately and languorously in each section of the combined work, entwining arms and knees at angles, hands held in prayer position, standing sideways. This elegant, ethereal ballet is somber, stunning, spellbinding. In the second white-costumed section, there are muscular lifts and a trio (Isabella Boylston, Joseph Gorak, Stella Abrera) that balances with right arms and legs extended backward. The silent leaps are like those of the moon landing, seeming to bounce off the stage in weightless loss of gravity. For a Company that’s used to dancing with passion, it was striking that the dancers accomplished the required level of stark emotional restraint. Ormsby Wilkins kept the orchestra sumptuous.

The Brahms-Haydn Variations, in memory of Peter T. Joseph (2000): Choreography by Twyla Tharp, Staged by Susan Jones, Music by Johannes Brahms (“Variations on a Theme by Haydn for Orchestra, Op. 56a”), Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Isabella Boylston and Sterling Baca, Maria Kotchetkova and Herman Cornejo, Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside, Christine Shevchenko and Joseph Gorak, Sarah Lane and Daniil Simkin, Cassandra Trenary and Blaine Hoven, Luciana Paris and Roman Zhurbin, and the Company.

It seemed the entire Company was onstage, but six Principals joined a total ensemble of thirty, mostly Corps dancers, for Twyla Tharp’s The Brahms-Haydn Variations. The score is Brahms’ “Variations on a Theme by Haydn for Orchestra”. The rhythms are contagious and effervescent, and Charles Barker masterfully provided charged musicality from the pit. Santo Loquasto’s subdued, straw-toned tights, tops, and tutus kept the eye on the dancers’ muscular motion. Seven couples led Ms. Tharp’s production, which premiered in 2000. On each viewing, this work is more engaging and detailed. Dramatic symmetry merges with pyrotechnic spins and leaps, with dancers flying into each other’s torsos and arms, mirroring each other’s spiraling twists, and finishing spirited lifts with ebullience. The glowing lighting, by Jennifer Tipton, illumines the dancers from within. Isabella Boylston and Sterling Baca were electrifying, as were Sarah Lane and Daniil Simkin, both taut and vivacious. More than one choreographic phrase happens on the stage, in the moment, with one couple leaping left, another creating a lift, yet another spinning in abandon.

As tonight was the Fall 2015 Gala, Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director, greeted the crowd, consisting of sponsors, donors, subscribers, celebrities, guests, critics, and general lovers of all that is ballet. From my seated perch, above the orchestra, I could easily observe the VIP guests and watch the musicians closely. Ballet orchestras are hard-working, collaborating ensembles, led by a conductor who watches the stage and the pit.

Kudos to all.

Arron Scott, Stella Abrera and Calvin Royal III
in Morris' "After You"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Isabella Boylston, Joseph Gorak and Stella Abrera
in Ashton's "Monotones I and II"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside
in Tharp's "The Brahms-Haydn Variations"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

The David H. Koch Theater
Photo Taken the Night of the 9/15 Lunar Eclipse
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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