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American Ballet Theatre - Fall Repertory - Theme and Variations, Le Spectre de la Rose, Le Corsaire: Pas de Deux, Swan Lake: Act III Pas de Deux, Sinfonietta
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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 30, 2004

Originally Published on

Theme and Variations (1947): Choreography by George Balanchine, Staged by Kirk Peterson, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (Suite No. 3 for Orchestra, final movement), Costumes by Theoni Aldredge, Lighting by David K.H. Elliott, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Michele Wiles, David Hallberg, Kristi Boone, Carmen Corella, Anna Liceica, Maria Riccetto, Bo Busby, Carlos Lopez, Jesus Pastor, Eric Underwood, and the Company. This performance of Theme and Variations is presented with permission of The George Balanchine Trust. (Program Notes).

Today's program was outstanding, every moment, every dancer. Michele Wiles and David Hallberg are perfect partners, not just physically, but in every sense. Mr. Hallberg has been a virtuosic dancer, since he was first introduced in the Corps. Ms. Wiles has grown in the past year into a rising star, as well, and today she captured her audience with perfect poise and electric energy in the Pas de Deux, amongst the chandeliers, with endless spins, leaps, and enchanting connections with her audience. Both dancers fed off each other's charisma, seduction, and buoyancy. This is an example of a plotless ballet with magic. Of course, Tchaikovsky helps.

The entire Company, and, in particular, Carmen Corella and Carlos Lopez, were in rare form. This Balanchine diamond has never looked better.

Le Spectre de la Rose (1941): Choreography by Michel Fokine, Music by Carl Maria von Weber (Invitation to the Dance), Staged by Kirk Peterson, Sets and Costumes by Robert Perdziola, after the original by Leon Bakst, Lighting by Brad Fields, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Xiomara Reyes as the Young Girl and Herman Cornejo as The Rose. This ballet, in Serge Diaghilev's Repertory at Ballets Russes, was choreographed by Fokine for Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina in 1911, and many years later was taught by Fokine to Ballet Theatre Principals. In the story, inspired by a Gautier poem, a girl returns from a ball, falls asleep in her chair, and dreams that the rose she wears turns into a male spirit, dashing through her window, dancing with her round her living room, and soon dashing out the window again. (Program Notes).

If I could see just one ballet in my dream, this would be the one. Nureyev danced The Rose, Nijinsky danced The Rose, and today Cornejo danced The Rose, and he was splendid. The animal magnetism of this role was well on display. The Weber score, with its signature cello solo, is intoxicating. The sets and costumes, by Perdziola, deserve awards, top awards. The large panels with leafy murals, the French windows and doors, the elegant living room, with just enough room for The Rose to leap through twice, Xiomara Reyes' frilly gown, with just the right space for her luscious rose, and Mr. Cornejo's tight-fitting rose-petaled unitard and head garland were all in keeping with this rarely presented and most enchanting ballet.

Ms. Reyes was in her element, as she is a character dancer extraordinaire, and her ability to dance sideward with closed eyes, to exemplify the image of sleep-dancing, must have been a difficult feat. The Cuban Ms. Reyes and the Argentinean Mr. Cornejo were one hot couple in a baroquely decorated living room in the country. The Weber score exudes passion and trance-like emotions. When Ms. Reyes awakes, and her Rose has disappeared, her tiny shrug of the shoulders is demonstrative of a dancer at one with her character. She continues to dance and nurture her long stem rose.

Kudos to Michel Fokine, kudos to Carl Maria von Weber, kudos to Leon Bakst, and kudos to Ballet Theatre for re-creating this all too rarely performed jewel.

Le Corsaire: Pas de Deux: Choreography after Marius Petipa, Music by Adolphe Adam, Arranged by Riccardo Drigo, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Gillian Murphy and Angel Corella.

Le Corsaire Pas de Deux has some of the most virtuosic and potent choreography for the male partner that has ever been seen in traditional ballets. Angel Corella did not disappoint. He actually had a different interpretation of the most powerful passages from that of Gennadi Saveliev in his performance this week at the Dancing on Air Benefit on this same stage. Where Saveliev characteristically leaps in backward circles, defying gravity in backward motion, Corella uses the musical power to propel himself in the same spot in dizzying turns and dizzying leaps with instantaneous spins. Both performances were breathtaking, and both dancers are exceptionally talented for this role. Corella was not perfectly matched with Gillian Murphy, who does not have the same bravura capacity of her partner. To be fair, Ms. Murphy did exude presence and was en pointe in endless turns and jumps. Mr. Corella effortlessly carried her across the stage, and his purple pantaloons and head feathers added to this image of chivalry with hormones. Ms. Murphy could use more passion with her partners, more connection. Kudos to David LaMarche, who conducted most of today's program.

Swan Lake: Act III Pas de Deux: Choreography after Marius Petipa, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Costumes by Zack Brown, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes.

This Pas de Deux, much like the above, is renowned for its bravura partnering and includes equally demanding skills from both dancers. It is the penultimate seduction dance, the evil Black Swan, Odile, tricking the hapless Prince Siegfried to thwart the survival of the absent and innocent White Swan, Odette. Paloma Herrera was less dramatic than is Nina Ananiashvili in her signature role with Julio Bocca, at least once each June. Yet, her dramatic persuasion was differently presented and extremely effective. She pulled away from Marcelo Gomes, just enough to entice and energize. Mr. Gomes showed remarkable theatrical technique and superb connection to the moment. The dark features and hair of the Brazilian Mr. Gomes and the Argentinean Ms. Herrera matched their black and gold, glittering costumes.

Most importantly, the virtuosic dancing inherent in this Pas De Deux, with Tchaikovsky's score, so soulful and so scintillating, was never compromised. Mr. Gomes and Ms. Herrera outdid themselves in their electrically charged and breathtaking solos and partnering. This couple is quite well matched and should be seen together often. Kudos and gratitude to Ballet Theatre for bringing us Siegfried and Odile in the Fall.

Sinfonietta (1991): Choreography by Jirí Kylián, Assistant to the Choreographer and Staged by: Roslyn Anderson, Music by Leos Janácek, Scenery and costumes by Walter Nobbe, Lighting by Joop Caboort, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Grant DeLong, Craig Salstein, Isaac Stappas, Eric Underwood, Maxim Beloserkovsky, Danny Tidwell, Carlos Lopez, Gillian Murphy, Sarawanee Tanatanit, Renata Pavam, Maria Riccetto, Jennifer Alexander, Simone Messmer, and Monique Meunier. Sinfonietta was created by Jirí Kylián for the Nederlans Dans Theater in 1978. (Program Notes).

In today's re-visit to this work, I noticed the unique mood and manner in which Mr. Kylián designed his abstract ensemble piece. The contemporary style and high energy of the dancing give this work an esoteric quality, but not much of an entertaining one. As the last work of the matinee, especially following such bravura performances, it was hard to stay tuned to the obvious eccentricities of choreography and music. The role of the offstage brass is still a puzzle. They did not seem highlighted or celebrated in any sense.

Kudos to American Ballet Theatre for a magnificent, matinee Fall Repertoire.

Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo in Le Spectre de la Rose.
Photo courtesy of Marty Sohl

Anne Milewski and Sascha Radetsky in Sinfonietta.
Photo courtesy of Marty Sohl


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