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American Ballet Theatre: Souvenir d’un lieu cher, I Feel the Earth Move, Daphnis and Chloe
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American Ballet Theatre: Souvenir d’un lieu cher, I Feel the Earth Move, Daphnis and Chloe

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American Ballet Theatre

Souvenir d’un lieu cher
I Feel the Earth Move
Daphnis and Chloe

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 25, 2017

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Souvenir d’un lieu cher (2017): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Orchestrated by Alexander Glazunov, Costume Design by Keso Dekker, Lighting by Brad Fields, Violin Soloist: Eric Wyrick, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Stella Abrera, Thomas Forster, Sarah Lane, and Tyler Maloney. “Souvenir d'un lieu cher”, which translates to "memory of a dear place" was written for violin and piano by Tchaikovsky between March and May 1878. It consists of three movements, Meditation, Scherzo, and Melodie. The Dutch National Ballet premiered this piece in their 2011-2012 season, as a part of the anniversary programme “Present/s”. (ABT Notes)

On second viewing this season, I found more gestural details in Ratmansky’s Souvenir d’un lieu cher, scored to a Tchaikovsky work orchestrated by Glazunov. This ballet, choreographed for two couples, weaves together two distinct pas de deux. Stella Abrera was partnered by Thomas Forster, and Sarah Lane by Tyler Maloney. Eric Wyrick was violin soloist with the orchestra, conducted by Ormsby Wilkins. The couples once again reminded me of Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering, interacting and moving in and out of mutual spaces. Two men and two women break off from a partner, loosely engage another dancer, then return later within their own casual pas de deux. There are a multitude of gestural moods. In the second segment, more upbeat and comedic, dancers arrive and depart in solo and duo form, again interacting, with echoes of the first, more introspective segment. Keso Dekker’s deeply colored costumes are exquisite and eye-catching.

I Feel the Earth Move (World Premiere): Choreography by Benjamin Millepied, Music by Philip Glass, Costumes by rag & bone, Lighting by Brad Fields, performed by Misty Copeland, David Hallberg, Devon Teuscher, Hee Seo, Herman Cornejo, Cory Stearns, and the Company. I was quite disappointed with Millepied’s I Feel the Earth Move, all steel, no silk. It’s an angry, aggressive ballet, with recorded voice, military motifs, the cast in Rag & Bone black, brief, sleeveless gym wear, no curtains, no backdrop, just house lights on and stark stage lighting, and I could go on. This choreographer is French, but he’s no romantic in ballet design. The score is from Philip Glass’ “Einstein on the Beach”, and the program quote is from Tony Kushner’s Angels in America.

This seemed to be such a waste of top ballet talent, with Misty Copeland and David Hallberg featured in the First Movement, “Tremor”, and Ms. Copeland, Devon Teuscher, and Hee Seo leading an ensemble in the Second Movement, “A Vision”. The Third Movement, “The Work Begins” (from Kushner’s quote), was led by Ms. Teuscher with Mr. Hallberg, Ms. Copeland with Herman Cornejo, and Ms. Seo with Cory Stearns, with a twelve Corps ensemble. A high point of the new production is Mr. Cornejo’s solo, although Millepied just used Mr. Cornejo’s athletic skills, as seen in Le Corsaire and Romeo and Juliet, and plugged them into this premiere ballet. We’ve seen Mr. Cornejo do these feverish, flashy moves over and over, although it’s always thrilling. The larger ensemble was seen in duets and group dance of aggressive pushing and pulling, stage floor motion with or without limbs like upright flags, and do-si-do types of symmetry. Paul Taylor’s high hormone ensemble dances came to mind, like Esplanade, but, Mr. Millepied, you’re no Paul Taylor. Mr. Taylor’s such dances are exhilarating and joyful. His angry dances have innate drama and intense magnetism (on this very stage). This new Millepied ballet had neither.

Daphnis and Chloe (2014): Choreography by Benjamin Millepied, Staged by Janie Taylor and Sébastien Marcovici, Music by Maurice Ravel, Scenery by Daniel Buren, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Brad Fields, Conductor: Charles Barker, Chorus: Cantori New York, Mark Shapiro, Director, Jason Wirth, Asst. Conductor and Chorusmaster, Performed by Stella Abrera as Chloe, Cory Stearns as Daphnis, Cassandra Trenary as Lycenion, Calvin Royal III as Dorcon, Herman Cornejo as Bryaxis, and the Company. Another Millepied ballet followed, the 2014, Daphnis and Chloe. This ballet, set to Ravel’s sumptuous, enchanting score, remains confusing and equally disappointing. Cory Stearns is Daphnis, who is supposed to be exuding the angst of a Greek drama. Stella Abrera is Chloe. Mr. Millepied, who choreographed this work for the Paris Opera Ballet, has couched the complicated, romantic plot within minimal dance under striped and solid, colorful geometric shapes, that rise and fall and overlap throughout the ballet. The very dry and opaque Program Notes are fine print, copied from a translated quote by Longus. Someone at ABT should edit and rewrite, for educational interest, these program descriptions to draw the audience in.

The ballet should be appreciated in the visual, aural gestalt, and, in that realm, it’s luxurious. One must abandon thoughts of plot conflicts, among the Greek dramatic characters, as this is no Swan Lake or Giselle, or even Ashton’s one act, The Dream, which clearly reflects its storyline. Fokine choreographed this ballet in one act with three scenes, as has Mr. Millepied. But, I would have preferred seeing an adaptation of the Fokine work, with its commissioned 1909 score by Ravel, that premiered in 1912 with the Ballets Russes.

Mr. Millepied’s version is a synthesized balletic interpretation of a Greek myth in a minimal, modern motif. Cassandra Trenary, as Lycenion, Calvin Royal III as Dorcon, Herman Cornejo as Bryaxis, plus Ms. Abrera, Mr. Stearns, and an ensemble of 18, all danced with pulsating perfection, in the moment, but not one audience member would be aware of plot theatrics within the experience. Rather, the spherical scenery by Daniel Buren and the silken gowns by Holly Hynes were ethereal and transporting. Brad Fields’ lighting added gorgeous luminosity to the rising and falling shapes. Charles Barker had his work cut out, conducting this intoxicating score, with the Cantori New York choral singers also in the pit. The music was splendid.

Stella Abrera in "Souvenir d’un lieu cher"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Scene from "I Feel The Earth Move"
Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

Stella Abrera and Cory Stearns
in "Daphnis and Chloe"
Courtesy of Rosalie O’Connor

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