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American Ballet Theatre: Mozartiana, Swan Lake, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Aurora’s Wedding
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American Ballet Theatre: Mozartiana, Swan Lake, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Aurora’s Wedding

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American Ballet Theatre

Swan Lake
Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux
Aurora’s Wedding

David H. Koch Theater

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Kara Medoff Barnett, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Clinton Luckett, Assistant Artistic Director
Susan Jones, Principal Ballet Mistress
Ballet Masters: Irina Kolpakova,
Carlos Lopez, Nancy Raffa, Keith Roberts
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Jenny Lee, Director of Marketing
Susie Morgan Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 7, 2017

(Read More ABT Reviews)

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

Mozartiana (1933): Choreography by George Balanchine, Staged by Maria Calegari, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (Suite No. 4, Op. 61), Costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Hee Seo, Jeffrey Cirio, Cory Stearns, and an ensemble of Corps and Students from the ABT JKO School of Ballet. Presented by arrangement with the George Balanchine Trust.

On the second night in a row, I found Balanchine’s Mozartiana spellbinding, in the capable hands of Ballet Theatre. Tonight, Hee Seo led the Preghiera, with four students of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of ABT all onstage in fine form. Ms. Seo, who was recently so resplendent in Onegin, has a personal style that’s intense and internalized. She exuded refinement, self-restraint, and serenity. Featured tonight with Jeffrey Cirio, who performed the rapid and eye-catching Gigue, they exuded reverence and spirituality. Cory Stearns joined Ms. Seo for the Theme and Variations, with a bit of understated humor that was not appropriate to this ballet. Mr. Stearns needs practice in the Balanchine attitude.
Ormsby Wilkins conducted the Tchaikovsky Suite with texture and respect. Tonight, the Ballet Theatre Corps seemed less uniform than expected, more individualized, perhaps due to the largesse of the stage. Maria Calegari’s staging created an atmospheric eloquence.

Swan Lake Act II Pas de Deux (1877, Moscow; 2000, ABT): Choreography by Kevin McKenzie after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Costumes by Zack Brown, Lighting by Duane Schuler, Performed by Misty Copeland and Herman Cornejo. This is the renowned “White Swan Pas de Deux”, when Siegfried starts to hunt for swans at the lakeside, with his birthday bow and arrow, and comes across a group of swans, including Odette. She mimes the origin of her travails with von Rothbart, the evil sorcerer, when she was transformed from maiden to swan and compares the lake to her mother’s tears, as Odette must find a man to marry her and be faithful, or she will forever remain von Rothbart’s imprisoned swan. As Odette, Misty Copeland exuded drama and emotionality. Her fluttering footwork, spins against Herman Cornejo’s (Siegfried) torso, elevated lifts, and soft leaps into his arms were lovely. Her mimed story seemed abbreviated, but this was repertory, not the full-length ballet. Ms. Copeland exudes pride and self-possession, a bit more intense than Odette, as she’s better suited to the more dynamic role of Odile. Mr. Cornejo is a master at all that he performs, and he was a joy. They made the most of the moment.

Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux: Choreography by George Balanchine, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside. Presented by arrangement with the George Balanchine Trust.. Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside fed off each other’s power, with knowing glances and then the full rush of the choreographic feats. Ms. Murphy leaped with speed into Mr. Whiteside’s arms, with fearlessness and daring, and Mr. Whiteside leaped about the stage like a panther, at one point uplifting Ms. Murphy, leg extended to the ceiling, before they exit the stage. This Pas de Deux, originally intended for Act III, Swan Lake, is hardly the cruel and deceptive “Black Swan Pas de Deux” that developed from a different musical extrapolation of Tchaikovsky's score.

Aurora’s Wedding (July 5, 2017): Choreography by Marius Petipa, Choreography for the Porcelain Trio by Bronislava Nijinska, Choreography for Three Ivans by Ninette De Valois, 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, Lighting by James F. Ingalls.

Performed by Isabella Boylston as Princess Aurora, Alban Lendorf as Prince Désiré, Scout Forsythe as The Lilac Fairy, Gabrielle Perkins as Carabosse, the evil fairy, Roman Zhurbin as King Florestan XIV, Alexandra Basmagy as His Queen, Precious Stones: Devon Teuscher as Diamond Fairy, Katherine Williams as Gold Fairy, April Giangeruso as Silver Fairy, Zhong-Jing Fang as Sapphire Fairy, Isadora Loyola and Alexei Agoudine as The White Cat and Puss-in-Boots, Breanne Granlund and Rachel Richardson as Porcelain Princesses, Jonathan Klein as Mandarin, Betsy McBride and Patrick Ogle as Red Riding Hood and The Wolf, Skylar Brandt and Zhiyao Zhang as Princess Florine and The Bluebird, Patrick Frenette, Simon Wexler, Tyler Maloney as Three Ivans, and the Company as Mazurka, Bluebeard and Ariana, Scheherazade, and Shah and his brother.

The final Act of Ratmansky’s The Sleeping Beauty, which premiered in 2015, is called Aurora’s Wedding. In tonight’s revised version, Mr. Ratmansky added two new dances with small ensembles: “The Porcelain Trio”, with choreography by Bronislava Nijinska, and “Three Ivans”, with choreography by Ninette de Valois. At the Wedding, four Fairies (diamond, gold, silver, sapphire) dance before the storybook characters. And, after the Grand Pas de Deux, there are still three ensemble dances, including a long Mazurka for 24. Thankfully, in this revised version, an ensemble of seven as Hop-o’-my-Thumb and His Brothers, plus a duo, called Ogre and Ogress, seen in the full Ratmansky Sleeping Beauty, were eliminated. But, also, and unfortunately, eliminated were Cinderella and Prince Charming.

Isabella Boylston and Alban Lendorf, as Aurora and Prince Désiré, were, as always outstanding, although those heavy white powdered wigs and heavier, tapestry costumes and shoes make the visual effect slow, tedious, and too challenging for dancer and audience. The natural hair and silky costumes of old gave the ballet the ability to move with agility and appear cool and ready to dash into athletic abandon. The stage in this production is so cluttered with extraneous characters and sets that there’s little virtuosic dance, compared to previous versions of this ballet’s final act. Yet, Ms. Boylston and Mr. Lendorf are the crème de la crème of professionals, and they made the most with what they were wearing and what was onstage.

Isadora Loyola and Alexei Agoudine, as The White Cat and Puss-in-Boots, made the best of what is usually a more showcased duo dance. Skylar Brandt and Zhiyao Zhang were a charming and buoyant Princess Florine and The Bluebird, and Betsy McBride and Patrick Ogle added more camp as Red Riding Hood and The Wolf. Patrick Frenette, Simon Wexler, and Tyler Maloney were superb as three brightly colored, bouncing Ivans. The heaviness of their costumes, as well, however, made them look quite warm. When Léon Bakst created the original costumes that inspired these, by Richard Hudson, he was in icy Russia, not the Met Opera. Breanne Granlund and Rachel Richardson, as Porcelain Princesses, were evocative, as was the cast in the remaining four, yes, four, dances. David LaMarche kept Ballet Theatre Orchestra tightly tuned, and the Tchaikovsky score never sounder better.

Gillian Murphy in "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux"
© The George Balanchine Trust
Courtesy of Jack Vartoogian

Isabella Boylston and Alban Lendorf
in "Aurora’s Wedding"
Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

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