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American Ballet Theatre Fall Season: Two by Tharp
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American Ballet Theatre Fall Season: Two by Tharp

- Onstage with the Dancers

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American Ballet Theatre

Fall Repertory
Two by Twyla Tharp
Baker’s Dozen
Sinatra Suite

At City Center

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Clinton Luckett
Georgina Parkinson, Nancy Raffa

Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 5, 2007

(See More ABT Reviews and Candids)
(See an Interview with ABT Conductor, David LaMarche)

Baker’s Dozen (1979): Choreography by Twyla Tharp, Staged by Elaine Kudo, Music by Willie “The Lion” Smith, transcribed by Dick Hyman, Original Costume Design by Santo Loquasto, Lighting Originally by Jennifer Tipton.

November 2, 2007: Pianist: Barbara Bilach, Performed by Kristi Boone, Marian Butler, Yuriko Kajiya, Simone Messmer, Sarawanee Tanatanit, Michele Wiles, Tobin Eason, Julio Bragado-Young, Craig Salstein, Thomas Forster, Roman Zhurbin, and Jeffrey Golladay.

November 3, 2007 Matinee: Pianist: Barbara Bilach, Performed by Stella Abrera, Marian Butler, Yuriko Kajiya, Simone Messmer, Sarawanee Tanatanit, Michele Wiles, Blaine Hoven, Julio Bragado-Young, Craig Salstein, Thomas Forster, Isaac Stappas, and Jeffrey Golladay.

What a brilliant idea to stage Twyla Tharp’s Baker’s Dozen, set for twelve dancers in doughy white, bouncing, leaping, jumping, catching, tumbling, rippling, cart-wheeling, smiling, joking, spinning, and entertaining the audience in grand, ebullient style. Tharp infuses her ballets (this in dance shoes and half-skirts, plus tights for women and billowy shirts and pants for men, courtesy of Santo Loquasto) with the element of surprise in camp extravagance, and this ballet is no exception. Willie “The Lion” Smith’s piano rolls were enthusiastically performed by Barbara Bilach in split-timing and sensational rhythms. Elaine Kudo did the staging, and Dick Hyman transcribed the music. Jennifer Tipton’s lighting shone brightly, no shadows here.

For me, the star of these two almost same-cast performances was Craig Salstein, who builds charisma and charm each season, with warmth, humor, and adorable gestures. He is a character actor, so he adds character to each new dance. Michele Wiles added personality, with long-legged lifts and wide-spread arms, and seemed to enjoy the work as much as the audience. Roman Zhurbin, on November 2, was also memorable for facial and body language in cute, camp motion. Yuriko Kajiya and Marian Butler threw their limbs to the wind in this athletic device.

Sinatra Suite (1983): (See October 21, 2006 Review) Choreography by Twyla Tharp, Staged by Elaine Kudo, Music: Songs sung by Frank Sinatra ("Strangers in the Night", "All the Way", "That's Life", "My Way", "One for My Baby"), Original Costume Designs by Oscar de la Renta, Original Lighting by Jennifer Tipton.

November 2, 2007: Performed by Misty Copeland and Jose Manuel Carreño.

November 3, 2007 Matinee: Performed by Misty Copeland and Herman Cornejo.

Sinatra Suite is one of my favorite dances in ABT’s Fall Repertory, and Misty Copeland is fast growing into an interpreter of Twyla Tharp’s passion-infused genre. On two successive performances, Ms. Copeland danced with two different partners, Herman Cornejo and Jose Manuel Carreño. These were two distinctly different takes on Sinatra and Tharp, the classy, luscious lyrics and vocals, plus the swing-foxtrot-ballroom motif of Tharp’s classy ballet. Ms. Copeland lifted her legs about each dancer, lunged onto their chests, was dragged through the floor, and spun en air, against their torsos.

With Mr. Cornejo, Ms. Copeland was more athletic and daring. With Mr. Carreño, Ms. Copeland was more sexy and ingénue. In the male solos, such as Arlen and Mercer’s “One More for My Baby”, Mr. Cornejo was more sprightly, more rapidly wound, more bravura, and Mr. Cornejo was more mature, more in line with the lyrics, more persuasively alone. These torch songs are renowned standards, and, in most any format, audiences love to hear them. In Sinatra Suite (drawn from Ms. Tharp’s larger work for nine Sinatra songs), the five songs resonate with visual angst and ardor, with emotional lightning and lush sultriness. Oscar De La Renta conceived the formal black suit and black cocktail dress with pizzazz and detail. Elaine Kudo (in the original cast with Mikhail Baryshnikov) did the powerful staging, and Jennifer Tipton kept the lighting moody and melancholy. Kudos to Twyla Tharp.

Craig Salstein, Simone Messmer, Isaac Stappas and Misty Copeland in Baker’s Dozen
Photo Courtesy of MIRA

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