Posts Tagged ‘American Ballet Theater’

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

February 5, 2011

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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Review – American Ballet Theater mixed rep program 2 (Theme and Variations, Jardin aux Lilas, Tchai Pas, Company B) – Sadler’s Wells

February 3, 2011

The big star of Sadler’s Wells winter/spring season is American Ballet Theater’s two mixed reps taking place from Tuesday February 1st through Sunday February 6th. It’s importance could be seen in the pricing structure alone: at £70 for stalls seats, it’s the single most expensive event in the season. Fortunately, a late-arriving two-fer Metro offer reduced the pain of top priced seats, and with my own members discounted seats clutched in my hot little hands, I eagerly made my way to Islington last night to see what joys the second rep would bring.

The curtain raised on a very dusty-looking Balanchine: “Theme and Variations.” Gah, his “let’s do homage to the Russian Imperial Style” ballets tend to make me yawn, and I’ve seen this one before to boot, and it just all looked so … bleah, so “grandma’s bedroom circa 1950” with its moribund color scheme. The corps dancers were sloppy, too, suffering to reach unison, looking drab in grey and purple tutus, and generally giving the impression that they were City Ballet castoffs who hadn’t managed to capture the Balanchine style. Was this somehow supposed to be acceptable? Our male lead, David Hallberg, appeared, and he looked like a steer stunned for slaughter. Was everyone suffering from jet lag? I had a bad feeling about the evening to come.

Then a woman in a pink tutu, our prima for this piece, started to bubble up through the smotheringly poor corps work and make herself noticed. With her gorgeous red hair, she would have been hard to miss; she looked like Moira Shearer redone as a California girl, with gorgeous, strong arms, high cheekbones, and stage presence to die for. This miracle, Gillian Murphy, proceeded to give a performance that kept my skin going in goosebumps for the rest of the evening. Everything was perfect: the way she held or tilted her head, the arch of her back, the smiles she gave at the right time, the eye contact with her partner … it was like watching a movie, a recording of “and this is how you should execute this perfectly, as it was meant to be.” The way she ran her foot up her (standing) leg before making a great extension was like she was praying; I lost all sense of time during the pas de deux. I stopped looking at the corps altogether (making it easier to not notice their shortcomings); Murphy glowed like a gold nugget and I couldn’t be bothered to waste our precious time together staring at sand.

After a break to catch our breath, we returned to “Jardin Aux Lilas,” a remount of a 1936 ballet created by Anthony Tudor for Ballet Rambert (and taken by ABT in 1940). It had a dreamy, Southern feel, like Kate Chopin’s “Awakening” or some Tennessee Williams play, all stoppered passion and disappointment and duty under moon-lit, moss-covered trees. While I can say I enjoyed the scenery and atmosphere, I found the dancing itself not very interesting and wholly narrative: man and woman are to be married, his mistress wants him back, her true love wants a last kiss. They all end frustrated. Ah well, it was enjoyable as a historical frippery but not really very exciting.

That was delivered almost immediately following in the “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux,” in which we had Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo running through an eight minute long “missing duet” from Swan Lake that Balanchine created in 1960. It started out slow and pleasant, giving us time to examine our principals; Xiomara had a strange build, very short waisted with a round face; Cornejo with a comical mop of curls. Once he was left to dance solo, I forgot all about his hair; his leaps had a height and “air” that seemed unreal coming out of his small body, and his solid spins … it was the embodiment of “con brio.” Xiomara was light enough but not really airy in her solos; I was contaminated by having seen Ashley Bouder do the same piece in October, and Reyes simply couldn’t match her. This was most painfully obvious in the big finale, in which the ballerina leaps into the arms of her partner and is caught and swept to the ground so her chin nearly brushes the stage. Bouder did this with such enthusiasm my hair stood on end; I thought for sure she would hit her head. Perhaps it was Cornejo’s fault, as he clearly caught her while she was still upright and then swept her down; but somehow before it looked just like a dive to the floor arrested at the last minute before, and there was none of that tension (and excitement) here. Still, this was very enjoyable.

We finished with “Company B,” one of those ballets done to popular music that tends to send the audience home with a smile. I didn’t expect it to be deep; but it managed to be pretty and somewhat complex in its mostly illustrative movements (telling the stories the Andrews Sisters’ songs lyrics conveyed), a real improvement over something like the weak “As Time Goes By” done by Northern Ballet Theater (not too surprising given Paul Taylor’s stature). I loved Arron Scott’s body-jerking in “Tico Tico,” and the comedy of a flock of girls hovering of nerdy David Sedaris clone Craig Salstein in “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!” with his hips stuck forward about a foot gave me good laughs. I’m willing to take it light sometimes and get away from all the bravura for a little fun, and I do enjoy seeing ballet engage with the pop music vernacular (even though the 1940s isn’t particularly modern!), so I just let myself relax and watch the company present itself well (although I was creeped out by “Rum and Coca-cola,” has anyone actually listened to the lyrics of that song recently?). All in all, the evening was really good, and I can’t wait to go back on Friday and see the first rep – and see Gillian Murphy perform again.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday February 2nd, 2011.)

Two for one tickets for American Ballet Theatre at Sadlers Wells 2011

January 26, 2011

Well, after staring down the 70 pound tickets for the last two months, Sadler’s Wells has finally done the reasonable thing and cut a deal on top-priced tickets, which are now available at two for a total of seventy quid. Reasonably enough this is only possible on the shows that haven’t sold so well, so we’re looking at Thursday February 3rd, Friday the 4th, the Saturday the 5th matinee and both performances on Sunday the 6th. This allows you to see both rep one and rep two, so … well, if you’ve been hesitating, now’s the time to dive in. Hey, you could even catch both versions of program 2 (as the Saturday matinee has the pas de deux from the Nutcracker if I’m not mistaken). Their site is broken as I write but details on which is on when can be found here.

To get this deal, call 0844 412 4300 and quote “celebrate the city” or go online and use the promo code pcdcelebrate when prompted.

Reviews – Ramayana (Lyric Hammersmith) and American Ballet Theater mixed rep (La Bayadere, Drink to Me Only, Fancy Free – Sadler’s Wells)

February 15, 2007

Last night we went to see The Ramayana at the Hammersmith Lyric. J thought it was much more “on” as a high-fairy-tale show than His Dark Materials and hit the notes right. I liked its imaginative set and use of theatrical devices to convey literal impossibilities (i.e. someone jumping across an ocean). It seemed a bit dry, though; the costumes seemed a bit on the cheap or something. And, to tell the truth, in this age in which religious intolerance is running so high, I found the constant slamming of “them dirty godless (Buddhist) materialists down south” grating, and was pretty well mortified when Sita immolated herself at the end to prove to her heartless husband her love for him stayed true no matter what had happened to her body. Thinking of all the women burned on pyres in the practice of “suttee” just depressed me. That said, overall a very good show, and since first week’s tickets were £9, also a great deal if you like watching these kind of stylized stories on stage.

Tonight was what was supposed to be our Valentine’s day date, a trip to see American Ballet Theater at Sadler’s Wells. (I got the dates wrong so I wound up seeing two shows instead – naughty me, huh?) It was a three-part show, with La Bayadere (guy goes to the land of the shades to dance with his girlfriend – very 1870, pretty with white tutus), a Mark Morris piece (“Drink to me Only,” lighter with better movement) and Jerome Robbin’s classic Fancy Free, a typical end-the-show-hoot with boys in sailor suits flirting with saucy 40s girls, complete with high kicks and purse fights. We enjoyed the evening but someone’s still got some jet lag and, er, someone else can feel the long day at work and previous late night slowing her down.

(The Ramayana was seen February 14th, 2007 and the American Ballet was seen February 15th, 2007.)