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American Ballet Theatre: Spring Gala 2016
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American Ballet Theatre: Spring Gala 2016

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American Ballet Theatre

Spring Gala 2016

At the
Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Kara Medoff Barnett, Executive 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
May 16, 2016

(Read More ABT Reviews.)

(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on the Spring 2016 Season Ballet Music.)

Sylvia (Hunt Scene, 1952): Choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton, Music by Léo Delibes, Original Designs by Robin and Christopher Ironside, Additional Designs (revival) by Peter Farmer, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Maria Kotchetkova and a female ensemble of eight.

Fittingly, tonight’s Spring Gala opened with orchestral brass, with Sylvia, one of Diana’s nymphs, appearing in mythical splendor. Maria Kotchetkova substituted for the injured Gillian Murphy, as she had on May 12. In tonight’s Hunt Scene, Sylvia was joined by her eight attendants, in terrifically dynamic leaps, dashes, and twirls, many of which were mid-air. Ms. Kotchetkova was proud and confident. The orchestra, masterfully conducted by David LaMarche, brought us a reminder of what last week’s superb Ashton ballet had offered.

The Sleeping Beauty (Act II, Excerpt, 2015): Choreography by Marius Petipa, Staging and additional choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, assisted by Tatiana Ratmansky, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Scenery and Costumes by Richard Hudson, Inspired by Léon Bakst, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Hee Seo as Princess Aurora, Cory Stearns as Prince Désiré, Veronica Part as The Lilac Fairy, and the female Corps as Nymphs.

Before the Act II excerpt of Ratmansky’s new version of The Sleeping Beauty, Kevin McKenzie, Ballet Theatre’s Artistic Director, took the spotlighted stage in front of the curtains to greet the audience, thank corporate and individual donors, and talk a bit about the evening and upcoming season. Soon Hee Seo appeared, as the curtain was raised, as Aurora in a Pas de Deux with Cory Stearns as Prince Désiré. Veronika Part danced the Lilac Fairy role, and the female Corps had a stage turn as Nymphs. Although Ms. Seo’s demeanor was mainly technical, she impressively held her balance on her front toe, en pointe, endlessly. Mr. Stearns was, as always, attractive and smiling, but there was a level of distraction and internalized thought that kept the duo unconnected in the storyline. Ms. Part, in contrast, is a naturally dramatic performer, and, as the lilac Fairy, drew me in. The eighteen Nymphs were elegant. Charles Barker conducted the stunning and renowned Tchaikovsky score.

La Fille mal gardée (Act I, Scene I, Pas de Deux, 2002): Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Staged by Malin Thoors, Scenario by Jean Dauberval, Music by Ferdinand Hérold, Freely adapted and arranged by John Lanchbery (from the 1828 version), Scenery and costumes by Osbert Lancaster, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Isabella Boylston and Jeffrey Cirio.

Here was another preview, the upcoming revival of Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée, a Pas de Deux for Isabella Boylston as Lise, and Jeffrey Cirio as Colas. This was the ribbon dance, lovely to watch, flirtatious and youthful, as Colas draws Lise into his space, winding her up with the help of a long, bright ribbon. Both dancers seemed enthused and spritely. This was also a chance to get another glimpse of Mr. Cirio, a recently hired Soloist, and he seems to have grown, of late, mastering this choreography with aplomb. The Ferdinand Hérold score is not well known, but Charles Barker brought out its loveliness in his refined conducting.

Requiem (1976) (Pie Jesu): Choreography by Kenneth MacMillan, Music by Gabriel Fauré, Costumes by Yolanda Sonnabend, Soprano: Ying Fang, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Alessandra Ferri.

Alessandra Ferri, who retired from Ballet Theatre nine years ago, is enjoying a very busy life onstage. Next month, Ms. Ferri will reprise her role as Juliet, partnered by Herman Cornejo. Tonight she gave a sneak preview of her mature, refined skill, still strong and vibrant. Ms. Ferri has also been reviewed in the past several years for festival and theatrical dance appearances, also, for the most part, partnered by the younger Mr. Cornejo, who’s a Principal in the Company. The Fauré Requiem is emotionally designed, in sync with the solemn Pie Jesu passage. David LaMarche conducted the soprano aria, sung by Ying Fang, as it combined with the orchestra. The audience was vocally enthused before and after Ms. Ferri’s performance, with the nine year lapse melting into memory.

Serenade after Plato’s Symposium (World Premiere): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Leonard Bernstein (“Serenade after Plato’s Symposium”), Scenery and costumes by Jérôme Kaplan, Lighting by Brad Fields, Violin Soloist: Benjamin Bowman, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Herman Cornejo, Marcelo Gomes, Blaine Hoven, Calvin Royal III, Gabe Stone Shayer, Daniil Simkin, James Whiteside, and Devon Teuscher.

Ratmansky’s thrilling debut, Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, scored to Leonard Bernstein’s violin concerto of the same title, brought out a male ensemble of seven, plus Devon Teuscher, with Ormsby Wilkins in the pit and Benjamin Bowman on solo violin. As always, when a premiere is about to commence, the buzzing Gala audience sat breathlessly in awe. What these premieres reveal is not just new choreography but also new ways of looking at familiar dancers, here seven dancers we’ve been watching for so many years. Four of the men are Principals, Marcelo Gomes, Herman Cornejo, Daniil Simkin, and James Whiteside, and two are Corps dancers, Calvin Royal III and Blaine Hoven. Jérôme Kaplan’s costumes are uniquely different for each of the men, contemporary, long, and loose. The men’s interaction revives the essence of Plato’s text, “The Symposium”, with each man in the philosophical work offering a treatise to variations of love, and in which the term “platonic love” was also born. Last week we saw the Greek god “Eros” in Sylvia, and this week we’re in Athens, watching the choreographic version of Plato’s vision, all in the aura of Bernstein’s dynamic, atonal score.

Ms. Teuscher, as the lone woman, seems to have a dance relationship with Mr. Gomes, yet the men lure him into playful abandon. Leaps, high kicks, impassioned gesture, magnetic, merged figures, languor and fervor, all abound. Rapid backward steps and athletics bring out the seasoned, known virtuosity in the Principals and the surprising, unknown virtuosity of the Corps dancers. In particular, Calvin Royal was irresistibly stunning, sensitive, and sensational in the solo choreographic dramatizations. Maestro Wilkins kept the orchestra bristling as well, with Mr. Bowman’s violin solo spellbinding.

Firebird (2012): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Staged by Nancy Raffa, 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: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Misty Copeland as Firebird, Marcelo Gomes as Ivan, Stella Abrera as Maiden, Cory Stearns as Kaschei, and the Company as Firebirds, Maidens, and Men.

I must say that tonight’s revival of Ratmansky’s 2012 Firebird, with Stravinsky’s ravishing score, far surpassed my memory and expectations. Misty Copeland reprised her lead role as Firebird, with chiffony feathers streaming from her leotard, darting and dashing through the forest, when the lovelorn Ivan (Marcelo Gomes, back on stage), summons her with one of her red feathers. Kaschei (Cory Stearns), the evil sorcerer, has tried to smite Ivan, in order to maintain control of his harem of abused maidens, whom he magically controls. Mr. Ratmansky has revised the more traditional Firebird ballet with elements of known story ballets, as the Firebird forces the crowd to dance themselves to fatigue, evocative of Giselle, while Kaschei is evocative of Swan Lake’s sorcerer, von Rothbart, who magically controls a bevy of female swans. Stella Abrera was the Maiden who seduces Ivan. The forest later opens to free the maidens and the sorcerer’s past prey. Here Mr. Stearns was in his element, a master of fully-costumed, solo dance, and Ms. Abrera was compelling. Mr. Gomes evoked a familiar theme of ballet story lover in distress. Yet, all eyes were on Ms. Copeland, throughout, with her frantic, muscular spins and leaps, all in bold red.

Kudos to all.

Scene from "Serenade after Plato's Symposium"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Misty Copeland and Marcelo Gomes
in "Firebird"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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