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American Ballet Theatre: Drink To Me Only with Thine Eyes, Symphony #9, Rodeo
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American Ballet Theatre: Drink To Me Only with Thine Eyes, Symphony #9, Rodeo

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American Ballet Theatre

Fall Repertory
Drink To Me Only with Thine Eyes
Symphony #9

At New York 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
October 20, 2012 Matinee

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes (1988): Choreography by Mark Morris, Staged by Tina Fehlandt, Music by Virgil Thompson (Etudes for Piano), Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Michael Chybowski, Pianist: Barbara Bilach, Performed by Gemma Bond, Marian Butler, Roddy Doble, Thomas Forster, Joseph Gorak, Nicole Graniero, Melanie Hamrick, Yuriko Kajiya, Joseph Phillips, Arron Scott, Eric Tamm, Stephanie Williams.

The advantage of seeing the same work three times in three programs is that the viewing experience is always different, sitting in different vantage points. Today’s matinee perspective allowed me to see the ballet from another side of the house. Once again, Joseph Gorak was a featured dancer, maximizing the rhythms of the Virgil Thompson piano score. Barbara Bilach must know this music from memory, as she’s been the only pianist for accompaniment. Today I noticed the nuanced, shifting moods of the piece, at once casual and classical, rushed and rapturous. The Etudes for Piano includes titles called “Pivoting on the Thumb” and “Fingered Fifths”, and they sounded crisp and clear. Eric Tamm and Joseph Phillips, as well as Yuriko Kajiya and Nicole Graniero, caught my eye.

Symphony #9 (2013): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Dmitri Shostakovich (Symphony No. 9 in E-flat major, op. 70), Costumes by Keso Dekker, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Polina Semionova, Marcelo Gomes, Simone Messmer, Craig Salstein, Herman Cornejo, and the Company.

On second viewing of this work in less than a day, I enjoyed it even more. Polina Semionova and Marcelo Gomes became one couple, with Simone Messmer and Craig Salstein becoming the other. Herman Cornejo had the central role, half-way into the ballet, but once Mr. Cornejo left the stage, he did not return. In his place was Jared Matthews in costume. Mr. Matthews had danced that same role last night and happened to be backstage for Rodeo, the work to follow the next intermission. Mr. Cornejo was injured, I was told, but it was not serious. Today it was Mr. Gomes whose choreographic role had him falling to the stage. His partner, Ms. Semionova, characterized a vague dramatic role, as Mr. Gomes emoted an internalized torment. Mr. Salstein was, as usual, in some form of vibrant mime, with Ms. Messmer along for the humor. They were vivacious, with the Gomes-Semionova couple more subdued. The company ensemble was riveting, as they shifted groupings and posture. I look forward to seeing Symphony #9 in its triptych of Shostakovich connected ballets, when Mr. Ratmansky presents his new full-length production in the Spring. Charles Barker kept the Orchestra invigorating.

Rodeo (1950): Choreography by Agnes de Mille, Music by Aaron Copland, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Thomas R. Skelton, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Jared Matthews as The Head Wrangler, Sascha Radetsky as The Champion Roper, Xiomara Reyes as The Cowgirl, Kelley Boyd as The Ranch Owner’s Daughter, and the Company as Her Eastern Friends from Kansas City, Square Dance Caller, Cowhands, and Womenfolk. ”Rodeo” is a ballet in two scenes and premiered at Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1942. Agnes de Mille danced then with Frederic Franklin and Casimir Kokitch. ABT (Ballet Theatre) premiered the ballet in 1950 in Germany. (ABT Notes).

I remember seeing this ballet long ago, with Ms. de Mille sitting in the house. That was an electric experience. David LaMarche conducted today’s performance, and Copland sounded fantastic. Jared Matthews was Head Wrangler, filled with swagger, and Xiomara Reyes was The Cowgirl, filled with persona and vulnerability. She exuded just the right amount of tomboy and ingénue in her partnered square dance with Mr. Matthews. The Champion Roper was Sascha Radetsky, a great role for him, tap dancing with strength. Everything about this De Mille classic was enjoyable and energized. One highpoint was Mr. Radetsky’s mock arrogant seduction of the vulnerable Cowgirl, with his rapid dance in boots. Kelley Boyd, as The Ranch Owner's Daughter, exuded sophistication and snobbery in this ballet infused with authentic Americana. Mr. Matthews was commanding and ebullient in his athleticism, and the Company, as Eastern Friends, Cowhands, and Women Folk, were all in rare form, do-si-do-ing to Kenneth Easter’s Square Dance Calling, a versatile dancer with a unique way for words. Kudos to all.

Polina Semionova and Marcelo Gomes
in Alexei Ratmansky's "Symphony #9"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Xiomara Reyes and Sascha Radetsky
in Agnes De Mille's "Rodeo"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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