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American Ballet Theatre: Seven Sonatas, Duets, Known By Heart (“Junk”) Duet, Black Tuesday
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American Ballet Theatre: Seven Sonatas, Duets, Known By Heart (“Junk”) Duet, Black Tuesday

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American Ballet Theatre

Fall Repertory
Seven Sonatas
Known By Heart (“Junk”) Duet
Black Tuesday

At City Center

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jaffe, 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
November 9, 2011

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Seven Sonatas (2009): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Domenico Scarlatti, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Brad Fields, Piano: Barbara Bilach, Performed by Yuriko Kajiya, Gennadi Saveliev, Xiomara Reyes, Herman Cornejo, Julie Kent, Alexandre Hammoudi.

In the gorgeously refurbished and shiny City Center, American Ballet Theatre presented Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas. Scarlatti’s score was performed on solo piano by Barbara Bilach with aplomb. The dancing was airy, sweeping, with shifting gestures and weight. At one point, three couples fall to the stage, men leaning over their partners. Herman Cornejo is always entertaining, and here he partnered Xiomara Reyes in sparkling vivacity. Yuriko Kajiya and Julie Kent were rapturous, yearning, full of life. But, their respective partners, Gennadi Saveliev and Alexandre Hammoudi, were lacking in depth and chemistry, moving stiffly to the music without vibrancy. The on-again, off-again romantic phrases, between Ms. Kent and Mr. Hammoudi, were a letdown, compared to those with David Hallberg in 2009. Tonight, Ms. Kent seemed a stranger to her lackluster partner.

Ms. Kajiya is one of the most endearing dancers in the company, and I look forward to seeing her in more lead roles. Her footwork is precise, but warm, her personality glowing. This is one dancer who’s not seen enough as a star, as she certainly exudes animation and radiance.

Duets (1980): Choreography by Merce Cunningham, Staged by Patricia Lent, Music by John Cage (“Improvisations III”), Design and lighting by Mark Lancaster, Performed by Gillian Murphy, Cory Stearns, Paloma Herrera, Eric Tamm, Veronica Part, Vitali Krauchenka, Adrienne Schulte, Sean Stewart, Julie Kent, Jared Matthews, Devon Teuscher, Luis Ribagorda.

There’s so much modern dance in New York, and Ballet Theatre has such a brief one-week fall season, that it was quite disappointing to have such talented ballet artists immersed in Cunningham’s work throughout the week. The two Paul Taylor works will be more suited to Ballet Theatre’s theatricality and effusiveness. But, here, in what should be a stark, contemporary motif, six couples - twelve dancers, five of whom are Principals - are forced into dancing to John Cage’s “Improvisations III”, consisting of clicking wood, or whatever. The dancers seemed trapped, wishing to explode into their finest and fullest gestures, but limited to robotic or rippling muscularity.

The high point was the sixth couple, a pleasant surprise, as Devon Teuscher and Luis Ribagorda arrived in brio and ebullience. At this point, the audience was immersed in the minimalist score, and this couple made the most of the finale. Earlier, Julie Kent and Jared Matthews, as well, plus Veronika Part, Paloma Herrera, and Gillian Murphy, the crème de la crème of the Company, tried their best to generate magnetism in this inherently abstract, confining choreography. In the case of Cunningham, I’d rather see the Cunningham Company dance at the Park Avenue Armory. And, I’d rather see Ballet Theatre dance more ballet.

Known by Heart (“Junk”) Duet (1998): Choreography by Twyla Tharp, Staged by Stacy Caddell, Music by Donald Knaack, selections from Junk Music, Original Costumes and Design by Santo Loquasto, Lighting originally by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by Maria Riccetto and Marcelo Gomes.

For this fall season, Twyla Tharp’s Known by Heart (“Junk”) Duet was matched as the follow-up to Duets. The score is called Junk Music, and it was just that, with Maria Riccetto and Marcelo Gomes moving this time to clicking metal, instead of wood. This was campy, silly choreography that minimized the extraordinary skill of Mr. Gomes. He is one of the most charismatic Premier Danseurs on the world stage today, and here he was miming meaningless gestures. He looked embarrassed. Ms. Riccetto, who’s a superb Mercedes, the street dancer, in Don Quixote, was, here, trapped in a lesser role. For a Soloist to be featured with Mr. Gomes is a huge honor, but here both dancers seemed cartoonish.

Black Tuesday (2001): Choreography by Paul Taylor, Staged by Andy LeBeau, Music: Songs from the Great Depression, Set and Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting designed by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company.

Now here was modern dance that exuded sensational pizzazz in the capable hands of Ballet Theatre. Paul Taylor’s innately charming, warm, fun-loving, but always classy works, fit perfectly with Ballet Theatre’s innately theatrical, dramatic, astoundingly skillful dancers. Every song and dance, depression era inspired, was more magnetic than the previous one, and I could see this again and again, with the Taylor Company and Ballet Theatre providing different styles but equally compelling bravura. Tonight the dancers wore shoes, a first obvious difference, and the imagery was more refined, less muscular, than the Taylor Company has danced it, right on this stage.

Santo Loquasto’s black bridges and Jennifer Tipton’s lights were, as always, the impressive backdrop to this magnificent piece. It was thrilling to see Julio Bragado-Young and Sean Stewart in “Underneath the Arches”, radiating pathos and magic. A highlight was Nicola Curry’s “Sittin’ on a Rubbish Can”, with a comically pregnant belly that she kept holding up. Ms. Curry bounded about with so much humor and talent that I was eager to see her again soon in another solo showcase. Craig Salstein, Misty Copeland, Zhong-Jing Fang, and Kelley Potter were outstanding in “Are You Making Any Money”, falling all over each other and dancing up a storm.

But, my favorite was Ms. Copeland’s “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams”. Ms. Copeland is one of Ballet Theatre’s finest, who has grown into a mesmerizing, melodramatic actor, as well as sensual, sensitive dancer. She seizes the stage and grips the eye. Daniil Simkin’s “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” spotlighted his exceptional lightness and speed, not to mention acrobatic skills. It’s fitting that this Taylor work premiered with this Company in 2001.

Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo
in Ratmansky's "Seven Sonatas"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Adrienne Schulte and Sean Stewart
in Cunningham's "Duets"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Scene from Taylor's "Black Tuesday"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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