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American Ballet Theatre - Theme and Variations, Le Grand Pas de Deux, Three Virgins and a Devil, Flames of Paris, Fancy Free
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Review by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
November 8, 2003

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 V. Aldredge, Lighting by David K. H. Elliott, Performed by Ashley Tuttle, Angel Corella and the Company, Conductor: Charles Barker.

This was the role Originally choreographed for Alicia Alons. Ashley Tuttle and Angel Corella are becoming an engaging duo with Mr. Corella gazing adoringly upon Ms. Tuttle. They seemed to build momentum and feed off each other's energy in lightning spins and en air tiny kicks. Ms. Tuttle seemed feather light, as she was swept into her partner's arms, both in romantic peach and white, with glistening rhinestones and glowing faces.

The entire Corps, including Soloist Carlos Lopez, was in perfect timing and exquisite form, as this most dazzling work, under elegant chandeliers, spun like cotton candy before our eyes. Ms. Tuttle's and Mr. Corella's solos were danced with vibrant verve and vivacious velocity. This was ABT at its finest and the first among a varied series of works suitable for today's "Family Friendly" motif.

Le Grand Pas de Deux (1999): Choreography by Christian Spuck, Music by Gioachino Rossini (Overture to The Thieving Magpie), Costumes by Nicole Siggelkow, Lighting by Brad Fields, Performed by Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo, Conductor: David LaMarche.

Today's matinee, "Family Friendly", included this bit of fluff, with Ms. Reyes in a pink frilly tutu, eyeglasses, and pink pocketbook, with Mr. Cornejo in a similar color scheme, with a stationary cow in tutu and earring, and with a series of campy, gymnastics. Mr. Cornejo dragged Ms. Reyes by the leg, arm, or feet, as she lay on her stomach or curled in the fetal position. The gravity-defying gyrations and frolicking feats were a joy for both children and adults. Both Principals possess skills of charisma and characterization. This was pure fun.

Three Virgins and a Devil (1941): Choreography by Agnes de Mille, Staged by Dennis Nahat, Assisted by Gemze de Lappe, Music by Ottorino Respighi (Ancient Airs and Dances, Suites 1 and 2), Scenario by Ramon Reed after a story by Boccaccio, Costumes by Motley, Scenery by Arne Lundborg, Scenery and Costume Supervision by John Jensen, Lighting by Nananne Porcher, Performed by Sasha Dmochowski, Maria Riccetto, Marian Butler, Craig Salstein, and Carlos Lopez, Conductor: David LaMarche.

This work was pure de Mille, on the prairie and with campy humor and very human gestures. I remember seeing Ms. de Mille, in her final years, faithfully attending performances of ABT at the Met. She was formidable and sophisticated, classy and warm. Last year I prophesized that Marian Butler was a Dancer to watch, and here she was as "The Lustful One", with pelvic gyrations and internal lunges. Let there be no doubt that this piece was part of the "Family Friendly" motif, since the sexual innuendos would travel over the heads of young ones, but thoroughly entertain older ones.

There is somewhat of a loose theme surrounding the Devil, menacingly, but lovingly performed by Craig Salstein, with protruding horns and whipping tail, who seduces and woos the Virgins into entering a hut, inhabited by a youth in devilish red (Carlos Lopez). Mr. Lopez is a rogue and apparently awaits these maidens, whose arrival is heralded by a poof of red smoke emanating from the roof of the hut. There was adorable choreography for the Virgins, and Ms. Riccetto, Ms. Butler, and Ms. Dmochowski played and pranced within this performance in true theatrical form. They were each sexy, sassy, silly, and seduced. Mr. Lopez, as the youth, used memorable mime, and Mr. Salstein, as the Devil, was crafty and conniving. David LaMarche conducted four of the five pieces today, and he had a deft touch in the orchestration, which was bright and cheerful throughout.

Flames of Paris: Pas de Deux (1972): Choreography from the original by Vasily Vainonen, Music by Boris Asafiev, Performed by Gillian Murphy and Gennadi Saveliev, Conductor: David LaMarche.

For some reason, Ms. Murphy and Mr. Saveliev each remain technically virtuosic but inhibited in external passion. They do not exude the mutual attentiveness of Ms. Tuttle and Mr. Corella, not to mention the quintessential attentiveness seen in other seasons by Nina Ananiashvili and Julio Bocca. Partnerships are critical to the feeling that is emoted to the audience. Skill in leaps and lifts is necessary to the execution of the choreography, but, after all, ballet is often a metaphor of love, and a Pas de Deux should at least create the illusion, however difficult, that there is a chemical and emotional connection between the dancers. Fantasy is fundamental.

Mr. Saveliev has generated excitement, including his bravura performance at the YAGP Gala and in many performances at ABT, in both Fall and Spring Seasons. Today he danced gravity-defying circular leaps, almost in mid-air, barely touching the stage. His dancing was magnificent. Ms. Murphy, as well, danced multiple spins and created dynamic extensions. But, rather than flaming, this work was cool.

Fancy Free (1944): Performed today by Craig Salstein, Carlos Lopez, and Marcelo Gomes as the Sailors, Paloma Herrera, Julie Kent, and Angela Snow as the Passers-By, and Julio Bragado-Young as the Bartender, Conductor: David LaMarche.

This piece has been reviewed several times in performance by ABT and New York City Ballet. The sets and costumes remain the same, but new dancers appear. Today, Marcelo Gomes and Paloma Herrera assumed their roles with perfection, presence, and personality. Mr. Gomes, as one of the three sailors, trying to snag a lass, possessed muscular bravura, as he commanded the stage and showed this audience his extreme performance skills. Ms. Herrera, as the first lass who happens by, in the yellow and black outfit, holding her very red pocketbook, uses her Argentinean persona and attitude to hold her own, against the Sailors' tricky, but playful attempts to wear her down.

Ms. Kent was radiant as the second and more vulnerable lass, and Ms. Snow exuded elegance and elusiveness in her brief, but beautiful appearance. Mr. Lopez and Mr. Salstein danced with outstanding form and creative characterization, but, clearly, Mr. Gomes is fast becoming an ABT legend. Kudos, once more, to David LaMarche for sharing with us the brilliance of Leonard Bernstein.

 

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