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American Ballet Theatre

New Choreographies & A Revival

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,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 24, 2011

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Dumbarton (World Premiere): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Igor Stravinsky (“Dumbarton Oaks”), Costumes by Richard Hudson, Lighting by Brad Fields, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Isabella Boylston, Joseph Gorak, Misty Copeland, Eric Tamm, Yuriko Kajiya, Luis Ribagorda, Veronika Part, Roddy Doble, Michele Wiles, Thomas Forster.

Tonight’s three new choreographies began with the World Premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Dumbarton, set to Stravinsky’s “Dumbarton Oaks”, conducted by Charles Barker. This is a colorless but ebullient ballet, that seemed to feature, among its ten dancers, Misty Copland, a Soloist, who was energetically carried offstage by an ensemble of men. Ms. Copeland showed charisma and spirit, although she seemed the only dancer uniquely featured, partnered by Eric Tamm. The sequences for solo, duo, and ensemble dancing were flowing and interconnected. Much of the short ballet is somber and eerie, with men in white shirts and khakis, and women in short dresses, all designed by Richard Hudson. The choreography includes uplifted arms, expansive, open turns, and a sense of leisure relationships. In fact, there was some similarity to Ratmansky’s 2006 Russian Seasons, seen across the Plaza, although this work is darkly shaded.

Of the other couples, Isabella Boylston and Joseph Gorak, both in the Corps, were gripping, with intense persona and impressive focus. In the three remaining couples, the females, Yuriko Kajiya, Veronica Part, and Michele Wiles, a Soloist and two Principals, seemed under-partnered by three Corps dancers, respectively Luis Ribagorda, Roddy Doble, and Thomas Forster. The quality of the partnering was thus uneven. I hope to see this work again in future seasons, as the vantage of my view didn’t allow me to focus closely on unfamiliar choreography on this wide stage.

Troika (US Premiere): Choreography by Benjamin Millepied, Music by Johann Sebastian Bach (Selections from “Suite for Solo Cello, No.’s 2 and 3”), Costumes by Paul Cox, Lighting by Brad Fields, Cello: Jonathan Spitz, Performed by Alexandre Hammoudi, Daniil Simkin, Sascha Radetsky.

As this was opening night of the four-night run of three new works and one revival, the three living chorographers were in the House. Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied received quite some attention, before and after unveiling Mr. Millepied’s US Premiere of Troika. Three lively and vigorous male dancers, Soloists, Sascha Radetsky and Daniil Simkin, and Corps dancer, Alexandre Hammoudi, danced to Bach’s solo cello pieces, performed by onstage cellist, Jonathan Spitz. This ballet evoked some of the Paul Taylor modern genre, with casual gestures and sequential, athletic antics. Two men would carry or lift a third, usually Mr. Simkin, in Paul Cox’ casual costumes of grey pants and tee shirts, with the ultimate effect of Mr. Simkin twisting his way out. Body contortions abound, as well as shifting moods, but this light-hearted work was smooth and entertaining.

Shadowplay (1967): Choreography by Antony Tudor, Staged by Christopher Newton, Music by Charles Koechlin (“Les Bandar-Log” and excerpts from “La Course de Printemps” from “Le Livre de la jungle”), Scenery and Costumes by Michael Annals, Lighting by Nananne Porcher, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Craig Salstein, as Boy with Matted Hair, Cory Stearns, as Terrestrial, Xiomara Reyes, Roddy Doble, Patrick Ogle, as Celestials, and the Company as Arboreals.

I had never seen this Tudor ballet before, and I have no compelling need to see it again soon. Visually it’s sumptuous and engaging, with Michael Annals’ giant tree, trapeze-like twines, and fantasy fairytale costumes. But, like most fairytales, the pictures are beautiful and the story has dark connotations. There’s a Boy with Matted Hair (Craig Salstein), a predatory Terrestrial, who finds him in the forest (Cory Stearns), Celestials (Xiomara Reyes, Roddy Doble, Patrick Ogle) and Arboreals and Aerials (Corps Dancers) climbing and swinging and often serving as a Greek Chorus of creatures. The Boy is pursued by Mr. Stearns, the Terrestrial, but overpowers him, then The Boy is pursued by a Celestial, Xiomara Reyes, and she overpowers him. When her conquest is celebrated, as she’s carried about and held high, The Boy finds his manhood.

This was hardly Ashton’s The Dream, with clever, campy entertainment, rather it was more like Hitchcock, with uncomfortable, unsettling moments. Yet, on a choreographic and staging level, Shadowplay is quite satisfying, with gnome-like creatures in pointed hats, squatting and prowling and climbing about. At one point Mr. Salstein hits his head (part of the action), visibly shows pain, and the music plays on. The storyline seems to have lapses and fragmented pauses. Ormsby Wilkins conducted the rare, Charles Koechlin score. Nananne Porcher’s nuanced lighting is significant to the visual effect, and Mr. Annals’ scenery is evocative of French landscape artists like Corot and the Pointillist, Seurat. In this cast, Mr. Salstein and Ms. Reyes deserve kudos for adding interest and intensity to what could be a dry, confusing ballet.

Thirteen Diversions (World Premiere): Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Music by Benjamin Britten (“Diversions for Piano and Orchestra”), Costumes by Bob Crowley, Lighting by Brad Fields, Piano: Josu De Solaun, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Gillian Murphy, David Hallberg, Isabella Boylston, Marcelo Gomes, Maria Riccetto, Sascha Radetsky, Simone Messmer, Alexandre Hammoudi, and the Company.

It’s no accident that Christopher Wheeldon’s Thirteen Diversions appeared last in the program. This was by far the most energized, exciting, and electrically charged of the four, and a World Premiere to boot. This ballet should be seen often and up close. Brad Fields’ lighting is critical to the experience, shifting in the backdrop, forming shapes, hues, and designs. Bob Crowley’s costumes are in shades of gray, never clashing with the backdrop. The dancers create their own propulsive, moving shape, somewhat like a speeding train of motion, in precise rhythms, combinations, and superb partnering. In fact, three crème de la crème Principals are onstage, Gillian Murphy, David Hallberg, and Marcelo Gomes, plus the scintillating Simone Messmer and Isabella Boylston, both Soloists. Completing the leads, Maria Riccetto, Sascha Radetsky, and Alexandre Hammoudi enhance the experience greatly.

Benjamin Britten’s eleven Variations, following the Theme, form the musical outline of this masterpiece. Josu De Solaun is the pianist, with Ormsby Wilkins conducting. The audience literally gasped as the action unfolded, with each partnered duo, backed by a Corps ensemble of sixteen, employing gestures and character to exemplify romantic comforts or complexities. The storyline is abstract, but the effect is irresistible. Kudos to Mr. Wheeldon.

Michele Wiles and Thomas Forster
in Ratmansky's "Dumbarton"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Isabella Boylston and Marcelo Gomes
in Wheeldon's "Thirteen Diversions"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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