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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 4, 2006
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes (1988): Choreography by Mark Morris, Staged by Tina Fehlandt, Music by Virgil Thompson (Etudes for Piano), Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Michael Chybowski, Pianist: Barbara Bilach, Performed by Maria Bystrova, Sascha Radetsky, Jeffrey Golladay, Sarawanee Tanatanit, Melanie Hamrick, David Hallberg, Paloma Herrera, Angel Corella, Gillian Murphy, Isaac Stappas, Kristi Boone, Jared Matthews. An excerpt from a work in progress, ‘Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes', was first performed at a benefit in 1987. This is Mark Morris' first work for American Ballet Theatre.

With Santo Loquasto's short cropped white tights (for women) and white pants (for men), and loose white shirts, the twelve dancers were flawless and fanciful. Virgil Thompson's Poulenc-like piano score drove a series of playful vignettes. Angel Corella deserves immediate mention for his fast-slow turns and walks. He was on one leg endlessly, and he played to the demands of his many fans. The deceptively quiet music was elegantly embedded with virtuosic solos, notably by David Hallberg and Gillian Murphy. In fact, at one point, Ms. Murphy commanded full attention in a seemingly effortless tour de force, and pianist, Barbara Bilach had excellent timing to match leaps and skips. Arms were busy, too, outstretched and uplifted. This is, in one opinion, one of Mark Morris' finest works and should be staged more often.


Dark Elegies (Revival, 1940): Choreography by Antony Tudor, Staged by Donald Mahler, Music by Gustav Mahler (Kindertotenlieder), Décor by Nadia Benois, Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Singer: Troy Cook, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Michele Wiles, Melanie Hamrick, Roman Zhurbin, Jared Matthews, Adrienne Schulte, Carlos Lopez, and the Company as The Chorus. This ballet was first performed by Ballet Rambert in London in 1937 and by ABT in 1940 in New York. (Program Notes).

This sad work, by Antony Tudor, was more interesting, second time around. However, the concept of grief remains elusive in the distant emotions internalized by the performers. Nadia Benois' backdrops, of icy sunsets and warm sunrises, set off the dancers in bland, conservative clothing, vests, long skirts, head scarves, and circular, hand-held choreography. The Mahler songs are sorrowful, but not angst-ridden, cold, but not stark. Troy Cook, once again, eloquently sang the German lyrics, and the music matched the mood.


Fancy Free (1944): Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Staged by Jean-Pierre Frohlich, Music by Leonard Bernstein, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Kermit Love, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton after original design by Nananne Porcher, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Herman Cornejo, Carlos Lopez, and Marcelo Gomes as the Sailors, Stella Abrera, Julie Kent, and Melissa Thomas as the Passers-By, and Julio Bragado-Young as the Bartender.
Here is a ballet one can hum for hours, remember with fondness, and see each season anew. Bernstein's score and Jerome Robbins' choreography are remarkable for the extreme energy and charming characterizations. Tonight, the three sailors were Herman Cornejo, Marcelo Gomes, and Carlos Lopez, all Latin and all dynamic, a new take on the 1944 World War II sailor in the bar routine. Mr. Cornejo's solos were everything he has come to epitomize, with full anticipation at every appearance. He's whirling lightning in a taut, short frame, and one wonders how he manages to muster such momentum. Mr. Gomes, a Brazilian dancer of tall, muscular frame, used his hips and backside to swivel through some samba-like music with aplomb. His elevations and humor are boundless. Mr. Lopez, a soloist, and becoming a commanding presence, riveted the audience with bravura combinations.

Stella Abrera was a feisty first Passer-By, the woman in the yellow dress and red bag, the one who fights off the guys. Julie Kent, the woman in purple, who flirts and bonds, was ingénue but self-possessed, in one of her most charming roles. Melissa Thomas, as the final Passer-By, and Julio Bragado-Young, as the quiet, non-dancing Bartender, completed the cast. Kermit Love's costumes and Oliver Smith's sets created, as always, a colorful, retro, and deco milieu. The 1940's curly hair was remarkable, on its own, for the attention to detail. This very New York City ballet, set on a hot, summer night, well warmed the November crowd at City Center.

 

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