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American Ballet Theatre: Lander's "Études" and Tharp's "Rabbit and Rogue"
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American Ballet Theatre: Lander's "Études" and Tharp's "Rabbit and Rogue"

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American Ballet Theatre
www.abt.org

Études
And
Rabbit and Rogue
At
Metropolitan Opera House
www.lincolncenter.org

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Georgina Parkinson
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate



Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 3, 2008


(Read More ABT Reviews)

Études (1948): Ballet and choreography by Harold Lander, Music by Knudage Riisager (after Carl Czerny), Scenery and costumes by Rolf Gerard, Lighting by Nananne Porcher, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Xiomara Reyes, Sascha Radetsky, Jared Matthews, and the Company.

An “étude” is a lesson, a study, and Harold Lander’s Études is about the study of ballet, from the barre exercises to full, challenging leaps across the stage that threaten to crash into other dancers, who leap on the cross diagonal. This 1948 ballet seems surprisingly contemporary, with its all black, all white, and some pink tableaux, visions of dancers in preparations, and visions of a figure (Xiomara Reyes) from perhaps Chopiniana, long white tulle. Each of Riisager’s “Études” brings a new ensemble, or a new lighting effect and costume, or a new mood, from classical structure to wild abandon. Xiomara Reyes, always the ingénue, was perfectly cast in solo performance, with her energetic enthusiasm and ability to transform from student to sylph. Sasha Radetsky danced with severe intensity, and his compact, iron muscularity worked well with the pulsating score. Jared Matthews substituted for Angel Corella, last minute, and will grow into this role that Mr. Corella danced in the Opening Night Gala.

What works best about Lander’s Études is its momentum, the seamless force that drives the choreography from refined to ravishing, from sophisticated to scintillating. There are partial views of just legs at the barre, followed by full fireworks of corps and solo dancers, racing against the count of time. David LaMarche was Maestro here, and he conducted the Riisager score with full awareness of its changing dynamics. Rolf Gerard’s chandeliers descend one section at a time, and by the final “Études”, three levels of chandeliers match the multiple levels of volume and speed.


Rabbit and Rogue (World Premiere): Choreography by Twyla Tharp, Music by Danny Elfman, Costumes by Norma Kamali, Lighting by Brad Fields, Sound design by Dan Moses Schreier, Assistant Choreographer, Keith Roberts, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Ethan Stiefel, Herman Cornejo, Gillian Murphy, David Hallberg, Paloma Herrera, Gennadi Saveliev, Yuriko Kajiya, Maria Riccetto, Carlos Lopez, Craig Salstein, and the Company.

Twyla Tharp’s World Premiere of Rabbit and Rogue followed, and it was uncannily a superb bookend to the Lander work just performed. Dancers were costumed in black, then silver/gray, thanks to Norma Kamali, but, rather than refined energy, the Tharp work was all camp and charisma. It exuded the same level of athleticism as did Movin’ Out, Baker’s Dozen, and In the Upper Room. Yet, the motion was more exaggerated than the latter two works, both performed recently by Ballet Theatre, and more burlesque than Movin’ Out.

Ethan Stiefel was Rogue and Herman Cornejo was Rabbit, both costumed in black, with a black backdrop and very dim ambiance. Their antics were incredibly robust, lighting the stage with electric leaps, spins, jumps, dashes, somersaults, lifts, and witty gestures. Both Principal dancers are known for dare-devil, devil-may-care virtuosity, physically imbued with magnetism and quasi-magic. In fact, at times, Mr. Cornejo seems to defy gravity for endless stretches of choreography, so much so, that if he were to fly en air, we would barely be surprised. Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg were the Rag Couple, and they seemed to be always in the fray with tosses, upside down gyrations, and vaudevillian theatricality. Paloma Herrera and Gennadi Saveliev, also known for intense bravura skills, were the Gamelan Couple, and their energy was infectious and explosive.

A Quartet included Yuriko Kajiya, Maria Riccetto, Carlos Lopez, and Craig Salstein, all infusing the maelstrom with hormonal pulse. However, so much was happening in such a free-for-all, that the notion of a Couple or Quartet seemed an oxymoron. I thought a star of this show was Norma Kamali, who designed costumes with bare backs, with streaks of silver on black, with fashionable silver/gray costumes to follow. And, it was evident that Ms. Kamali’s costumes complimented those of Études with aplomb. Danny Elfman’s score, in my opinion, lacked the riveting qualities of, for example, Philip Glass or Willie “The Lion” Smith, used respectively in In the Upper Room and Baker’s Dozen. Ms. Tharp has used vocal scores of Sinatra and Billy Joel, as well, and Mr. Elfman seemed to structure the music like a film or television score, rather than a dance score, where tonal rhythm is matched with live motion. Ms. Tharp’s effusive choreography calls for more than background tunes. Ormsby Wilkins, however, conducted Ballet Theatre Orchestra with zest.



Sascha Radetsky in Etudes
Photo: Rosalie O'Connor






Herman Cornejo, Craig Salstein and Ethan Stiefel
in Rabbit and Rogue
Photo: Rosalie O'Connor






For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net