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American Ballet Theatre: Her Notes, Symphonic Variations, Elegy Pas de Deux, Thirteen Diversions
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American Ballet Theatre: Her Notes, Symphonic Variations, Elegy Pas de Deux, Thirteen Diversions

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American Ballet Theatre

Her Notes
Symphonic Variations
Elegy Pas de Deux
Thirteen Diversions

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 24, 2017

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Her Notes (2016): Choreography by Jessica Lang, Music by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (Excerpts from “Das Jahr”), Costumes by Bradon McDonald, Scenery by Jessica Lang, Lighting by Nicole Pearce, Rehearsal Assistants: Clifton Brown and Christopher Vo, Piano Soloist: Emily Wong, Performed by Gillian Murphy, Misty Copeland, Skylar Brandt, Cassandra Trenary, Devon Teuscher, Stephanie Williams, Thomas Forster, Gabe Stone Shayer, Cory Stearns, and Blaine Hoven.

On second viewing this fall season of the lush ballet, Her Notes, by Jessica Lang, the cognac-smooth choreography was even more transporting and intriguing. Gillian Murphy’s tiny backward steps make a statement that she is dancing in her prime, better than ever, each year more and more exquisite in drawing the eye to her classical, sophisticated presence. She steps in and out of the empty square space, cordoned off in minimal set design, which shifts in slanted directionality as each scene develops. Cory Stearns, Blaine Hoven, and Thomas Forster were superbly attentive, gallant, and imbued with energy. The filmy grey costumes by Bradon McDonald seemed even shiner tonight, perhaps a lighting adjustment.

Emily Wong’s piano interpretation of excerpts from Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s composition “Das Jahr” was especially impassioned and fluid as well. In the secondary roles, Devon Teuscher and Stephanie Williams, dancing the fifth part “Postlude” as they led the ensemble, were elegant and engaging, moving like flying herons in spring, arms like elongated, soft wings.

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 Misty Copeland, Arron Scott, Christine Shevchenko, Calvin Royal III, Skylar Brandt, and Joseph Gorak.

On tonight’s viewing of this 1946, magnetic Ashton ballet, the cast was spellbinding, with Christine Shevchenko and Calvin Royal III reprising their partnership, born in Songs of Bukovina a few days ago. The cross-legged profile-pose of the three men rear stage seemed more regal and refined tonight, with Mr. Royal filled with gracious ebullience in his partnering. Misty Copeland with Arron Scott and Skylar Brandt with Joseph Gorak filled out the exceptional casting. The Franck score, performed on piano by Barbara Bilach, with David LaMarche in the pit, was textured and sumptuous. This is music I’d like to hear in concert, as well. To put it into a word, tonight, Symphonic Variations was “perfumy”.

Elegy Pas de Deux (from With a Chance of Rain) (2014): Choreography by Liam Scarlett, Music by Sergei Rachmaninoff (Elegy, Op. 3, No. 1), Costumes by Liam Scarlett, Lighting by Brad Fields, Piano Soloist: Emily Wong, Performed by Hee Seo and Roman Zhurbin. And, what a gift to have this marvelous Liam Scarlett ballet follow the Ashton.

The Elegy from Liam Scarlett’s 2014, With a Chance of Rain, set to Rachmaninoff’s “Elegy Op. 3, No. 1”, featured Emily Wong on solo piano. She commanded her keyboard with breathtaking melodies, rhythmic chords, and rapturous tones. The muscular, bare-chested Roman Zhurbin, who is usually covered in story ballet tapestries or drag dresses (as Cinderella’s step-sister, for example), was tonight in pale blue tights, a central figure, attentively partnering Hee Seo in a matching pale blue leotard. Mr. Zhurbin swung her about the floor, tossed her, intertwined limbs with her, and created quite a stir in the audience with endless accolades. More high points were the dramatic, partnered lifts, the stark raising of Ms. Seo’s legs to her head, and outsized gestural drama. Mr. Scarlett also designed the leotards. I was immediately struck with a desire to see Mr. Zhurbin in more lead roles. He’s always the King, never the Prince. He’s even Widow Simone in La Fille mal gardée, never Colas, the farmer; in La Bayadère, he’s the High Brahmin, never Solor, the warrior. Finally he had a romantic lead, although a tumultuous and brief one, tonight, at that. I hope his dramatic and technical potentials can be better showcased in the next season. Ms. Seo has had many versatile, leading roles, but tonight was, by far, her finest.

Thirteen Diversions (2011): Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Music by Benjamin Britten (“Diversions for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 21”), Costumes by Bob Crowley, Lighting by Brad Fields, Piano Soloist: Barbara Bilach, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Catherine Hurlin, Jose Sebastian, Hee Seo, Cory Stearns, Stella Abrera, Thomas Forster, April Giangeruso, Zhiyao Zhang, and the Company.

Christopher Wheeldon’s 2011, Thirteen Diversions is always a dazzling tour de force. The swirling, driven choreography, set to Benjamin Britten’s “Diversions for Piano and Orchestra”, is seen against a backdrop of shapes and designs that shift in lighting and hues. The gray costumes by Bob Crowley do not overpower the gestalt of the ensemble. The pulsating rhythms take on a life of their own, making the audience see familiar dancers in outsized virtuosity and verve. In tonight’s performance, Hee Seo was partnered by Cory Stearns, Catherine Hurlin by Jose Sebastian, Stella Abrera by Thomas Forster, and April Giangeruso by Zhiyao Zhang. The Theme, followed by twelve Variations, ends in a finale, a “Tarantella”. The audience adored this ballet, once again, and Barbara Bilach, Pianist, and Ormsby Wilkins, Conductor, were greeted with vocal accolades and energized applause. Kudos to Christopher Wheeldon.

Scene from "Her Notes"
Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

Hee Seo and Roman Zhurbin
in "Elegy Pas de Deux"
from "With a Chance of Rain"
Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

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