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American Ballet Theatre: Songs of Bukovina, Symphonic Variations, Other Dances, Serenade After Plato’s Symposium
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American Ballet Theatre: Songs of Bukovina, Symphonic Variations, Other Dances, Serenade After Plato’s Symposium

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American Ballet Theatre

Songs of Bukovina
Symphonic Variations
Other Dances
Serenade After Plato’s Symposium

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
October 21, 2017 Matinee

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Songs of Bukovina (October 18, 2017): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Leonid Desnyatnikov (Excerpts from “Bukovian Songs”, 24 Piano Preludes), Costumes by Moritz Judge, Lighting by Brad Fields, Piano Soloist: Alexey Goribol, Performed by Christine Shevchenko, Calvin Royal III, Alexandra Basmagy, Jose Sebastian, Zhong-Jing Fang, Cameron McCune, Catherine Hurlin, Gabe Stone Shayer, Lauren Post, and Tyler Maloney.

Tonight’s cast of Ratmansky’s new ballet, Songs of Bukovina, set to an excerpted version of Desyatnikov’s 24 Piano Preludes, included the luminous couple, Christine Shevchenko and Calvin Royal III. This ballet, tonight, was a totally different experience with new casting, and both Ms. Shevchenko and Mr. Royal were resplendent and mesmerizing. I could not take my eyes off them, with their lyricism, elegance, folkloric motifs, and muscular energy. Everything seemed more professional and more enticing. Their postures, especially in the silhouetted lighting, by Brad Fields, were magnetic and stunning. Their dance duet to the solo piano score, expertly rendered by Alexey Goribol, was regal and mature. Among the cast, Alexandra Basmagy, Jose Sebastian, and Zhong-Jing Fang were especially spiritually infused with the Ukrainian folk themes. Not only the lighting, but also the costumes, by Moritz Junge, seemed more gorgeously conceived tonight. Kudos especially to Ms. Shevchenko and Mr. Royal.

Symphonic Variations (1946): Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Production Directed and Supervised by Wendy Ellis Somes and Malin Thoors, Music by César Franck (“Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra”), Scenery and costumes by Sophie Fedorovitch, Lighting by Michael Somes, Piano Soloist: Barbara Bilach, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Cassandra Trenary, Cameron McCune, Devon Teuscher, James Whiteside, Betsy McBride, and Joseph Gorak.

This rarely mounted Ashton gem is sublime, sophisticated, serene, and stunning. It’s a 72 year-old ballet with a mesmerizing, poised ensemble. Three men stand rear stage, one leg crossed, facing in alternate directions. Three women stand front stage, equally still and positioned, waiting for the gorgeous César Franck score for piano and orchestra to begin. David LaMarche, Conductor, kept Barbara Bilach’s sensational piano solos and Ballet Theatre Orchestra synchronized and impassioned. This all too brief ballet presents the three women, Cassandra Trenary, Devon Teuscher, and Betsy McBride (a dancer to watch) in multiple Ashton poses, such as upside down, almost sideways, and held aloft by one of the men like a slide. Men in place spin, jump, land on one foot, and create Grecian profile imagery. Sophie Fedorovitch’s scenery and costumes have art deco infusions, dark, geometric lines on earthen colors.

Other Dances (1976): Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Staged by Isabelle Guerin, Music by Frédéric Chopin, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Original Lighting by Nananne Porcher, Piano Soloist: Emily Wong, Performed by Gillian Murphy and Cory Stearns. Other Dances swiftly changed the mood to carefree joy. Emily Wong brought forth four Chopin mazurkas and a waltz, and Gillian Murphy, in a purple dress, partnered by Cory Stearns, in tights and a flowing shirt (costumes by Santo Loquasto) made the most of these delightful piano melodies. They danced in solos and pas de deux. Ms. Murphy offered sweeping gestures, with her signature confidence and charm. Mr. Stearns offered warmth, reverence, and style, with multiple leg kicks en air. The luxurious partnered lifts of Ms. Murphy enthralled the audience.

Serenade after Plato’s Symposium (2016): 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: Kurt Nikkanen, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Thomas Forster, Joseph Gorak, Alexandre Hammoudi, Tyler Maloney, Arron Scott, Jose Sebastian, Zhiyao Zhang, and Hee Seo.

Ratmansky’s 2016, thrilling Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, scored to Leonard Bernstein’s violin concerto of the same title, once again brought out a male ensemble of seven, with Hee Seo in the lone role for a woman. Charles Barker was in the pit with Kurt Nikkanen a guest on solo violin. This is the pit in which Mr. Nikkanen performs solo violin for City Ballet, so he was right at home, and his violin was sumptuous. Today’s male ensemble included Joseph Gorak, Thomas Forster, Alexandre Hammoudi, Arron Scott, Tyler Maloney, Zhiyao Zhang, and Jose Sebastian. 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. Ratmansky’s ballet is the choreographic version of Plato’s vision, all in the aura of Bernstein’s dynamic, atonal score.

Ms. Seo, as the lone woman, seems to have a dance relationship with one man, who prefers playful abandon. Leaps, high kicks, yearning gesture, magnetic, merged figures, languor and fervor, all abound. Rapid backward steps and athletics bring out the male virtuosity with momentum and elevation. Other highlights include Arron Scott’s rapid spins and mid-air leaps, Joseph Gorak’s stunning fouettés, and the Maloney-Sebastian duo’s fervent athleticism. This is one of Mr. Ratmansky’s most entertaining new ballets.

Christine Shevchenko and Calvin Royal III
in "Songs of Bukovina"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

Scene from "Symphonic Variations"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

Gillian Murphy in "Other Dances"
Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

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