Review – American Ballet Theater mixed rep program 1 (Seven Sonatas, Known By Heart (“Junk”) Duet, Duo Concertant, Everything Doesn’t Happen At Once) – Sadler’s Wells

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Clearly it’s the second rep of American Ballet Theater’s London program that’s the better of the two; but despite Mr Crisp’s damning review, it turns out to be a performance with much to like. It started with Ramatsky’s “Seven Sonatas,” which I felt to be the weakest link in the evening. Three couples in cream dance as Scarlatti piano sonatas are played on stage. Together, they danced conventionally, turned, were mannered; there were nice duets (Yuriko Kajiya, light and graceful, and Gennaidi Saveliev, restrained power; Xiomara and Cornejo, playfully doing the Mashed Potato); Julie Kent’s grace and Cornejo’s bravura (great solo!) distracted me. But all of this totally lacked any emotional content or connection. I yawned. I wondered how long I’d been sitting there. Finally, we had an interval. I’d learned more about the dancing of the six people I’d just watched, but Ramatsky had not left me impressed.

This piece was saved its killing blow by the decision to move “Duo Concertant” to the third slot. A couple, a piano and violin on stage; the setup was nearly the same. And Balanchine proceeded, after a twee start (“Aw! Lookie the cute dancers watching the cute musicians! Aren’t we just so cultured!”), to show the youth how it is done. Misty Copeland and Alexandre Hammoudi seemed to live in a world in which there was nothing but the two of them, and, while there was no tale per se, I felt there was a story being told, a narrative of the feelings of the two people. It was one similar to many Balanchine ballets; the woman seems to be aspiring toward pure beauty and the man, occasionally forgotten, lives for nothing else but her. In a “Serenade” like gesture, she leans her arm out with her hand facing her, in a motion I have read as rejecting death but accepting its inevitability; but Balanchine has the man lean forward so that his face is touching her hand, an incredible, poignant moment of human contact. I almost feel maudlin but I wanted to tell Hammoudi to dry his tears, that he would not be left alone; yet somehow, there is something in Balanchine that makes me think he will be abandoned at the last as his partner follows the muse. Hammoudi was an incredible partner, holding Copeland so tenderly that he made it look as if his entire life depended on her; I can only imagine every dancer in the troupe wishing to be paired with him. Ramatsky, watch and learn.

Before this we had a Tharp extract, a duet to Donald Knaack’s Junk Music. I enjoyed the industrial clanging and banging. Gillian Murphy and Blaine Hoven looked like they’d fallen out of a Forsythe piece and found a sense of humor and personality that had been lacking before. Millepied’s “Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once” also had that Forsythe look, with the stage fully cleared, a few musicians at the back, and dancers shoulder to shoulder in identical black outfits (male and female versions). However, after the chaos of too many moving bodies and too many steps had cleared out, we had a fantastic duet (Isabella Boylston and Marcelo Gomes?) in which the woman was lifted and moved somehow more slowly than I’d seen before – I don’t know how to say it, but this incredible tension was created, and the entire auditorium was holding its breath. This was followed, deliciously, by a series involving what looked like a 14 year old blond boy being tossed around (caught in mid air!) by the men, then tortured by the women. I thought he was just an object of comedy (and it was light), but then he was given a solo that showed off his own agility and athleticism, the flexibility that only the young have (backflips!), as if to say, “Ha ha, I cannot lift women over my head, but just you spin four times in the air, I dare you.” I had really been fearing the worst of this piece, but it left us exhilarated, curtain call after curtain call for the waves of applause. Overall, a good evening.

(This review is for the final performance of this program which took place on Friday, February 4th, 2011.)

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