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American Ballet Theatre: A Balanchine - Tchaikovsky Spectacular

- Onstage with the Dancers

American Ballet Theatre

A Balanchine - Tchaikovsky Spectacular

Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Georgina Parkinson
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 19, 2009

(Read More ABT Reviews).

All of tonight’s choreographies presented by arrangement with the George Balanchine Trust.

Allegro Brillante (1956): Choreography by George Balanchine, Staged by Darla Hoover, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 75), Costumes by Karinska, Costumes Re-created by Haydée Morales, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Lighting Re-Created by Brad Fields, Conductor: David LaMarche, Pianist: Barbara Bilach, Performed by Gillian Murphy, Ethan Stiefel, and the Company. As the curtain opens, the dance has already begun. The eight Corps dancers kicking legs and turning in a circle, showcasing Karinska’s fine costumes, were: Melanie Hamrick, Simone Messmer, Luciana Paris, Hee Seo, Grant DeLong, Alexandre Hammoudi, Joseph Philips, and Eric Tamm. This work has been seen and reviewed here before, but tonight, with real-life partners cast in the leads, it was truly spectacular, to match the Balanchine - Tchaikovsky Spectacular title of the program.

Ethan Stiefel, in his athletic solos, used wit and wile, seduction and brawn, and, in partnered lifts and spins, he was the quintessential cavalier, allowing Gillian Murphy to shine. Ms. Murphy was at one impassioned, impulsive, and impressive, using her exceptional tone and speed to mesmerize her fans. I had especially chosen tonight’s cast on the Opening Night of Spring Season, the night after the Gala, to see this partnership live, and it was a memorable performance. Ms. Murphy and Mr. Stiefel do not let their eyes wander from each other for a moment, and their chemistry is palpable. The Tchaikovsky score (from the Third Piano Concerto) was led by David LaMarche with fervor, and Barbara Bilach added depth and detail on piano.

Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux: Choreography by George Balanchine, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes. It was interesting to see a new cast in this Pas de Deux (Ms. Murphy and Mr. Stiefel had just danced it last night at the Gala), as Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes are less sensual together, more propulsive, more muscular. Not better, different. The joy of comparing casts is to note these differences and absorb the fresh nuances that make ballet a fleeting, live experience. Mr. Gomes and Ms. Herrera fed off each other’s power, with knowing glances and then the full rush of the choreographic feats. Ms. Herrera leaped with speed into Mr. Gomes’ arms, and Mr. Gomes leaped about the stage like a panther. What was most striking, for this viewer, was Ms. Herrera’s energy and personality, in the hands of this partner, compared to less stunning performances with others. Mr. Gomes brings out the magic.

Mozartiana: Choreography by George Balanchine, Staged by Maria Calegari, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (Suite No. 4, Op. 61), Costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Veronica Part, Carlos Lopez, Maxim Beloserkovsky, Students from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of ABT, and the Company. Once again, Veronika Part led the Preghiera of Mozartiana, with four students of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of ABT, all onstage in fine form. Ms. Part, a new Principal, has a personal style that’s alluring and welcome. She exudes refinement, self-restraint, internalized emotion, serenity. Featured tonight with Carlos Lopez, who performed the rapid and eye-catching Gigue, they exuded reverence and spirituality. Maxim Beloserkovsky joined Ms. Part for the Theme and Variations, and his deliberate timing worked well for this cast.

Ormsby Wilkins conducted the Tchaikovsky Suite with texture and respect. At this point in the program, it was also interesting to note the detailed differences in most often seeing Balanchine across the Plaza (City Ballet) and seeing Balanchine here at the Met with ABT. Tonight, the Corps seemed less uniform, more individualized, perhaps due to the largesse of the stage. Maria Calegari’s staging created an atmospheric eloquence.

Theme and Variations: Choreography by George Balanchine, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (Theme and Variations from Suite No. 3 for Orchestra), Costumes by Theoni V. Aldredge, Lighting by David K. H. Elliott, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Michele Wiles, David Hallberg, and the Company. After being treated to the Finale of this work last night at the Gala, it was wonderful to see the entire work as a whole. David Hallberg is riveting, these days. He has a princely air, even when not enacting a prince. He dances with urgent passion, hair flying, legs extended, feet pointed, arms up, an image that requires multiple visits to his performances. Michele Wiles is technically mature, balanced and poised, but does not seem to become the role; rather, she dances the role. Mr. Hallberg becomes the role. Theme and Variations is not a story ballet, but exudes romance and rapture, wit and charm. For this purpose, Ms. Wiles was well cast, but she could have been more. Perhaps, in time.

A remarkable feature of this Balanchine ballet is a quartet of Corps dancers who move together in like manner, an echo or quote from the four Cygnettes in Swan Lake. Of the Corps leads, Hee Seo, Grant DeLong, and Craig Salstein caught my eye. Of the larger Corps, Zhong-Jing Fang, Arron Scott, and Roman Zhurbin caught my eye.

Kudos to George Balanchine, Tchaikovsky, and Maestros Wilkins and LaMarche.

Gillian Murphy in
"Allegro Brillante"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone
©The George Balanchine Trust

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