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American Ballet Theatre: Les Sylphides, Bach Partita, Gong
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American Ballet Theatre: Les Sylphides, Bach Partita, Gong

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American Ballet Theatre

Fall Repertory
Les Sylphides
Bach Partita

At David H. Koch Theater

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, Keith Roberts
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan-Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 1, 2013

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Les Sylphides (1940): Choreography by Michel Fokine, Music by Frédéric Chopin, Orchestration by Benjamin Britten, Scenery by Alexandre Benois, Costumes by Lucinda Ballard, Lighting by Nananne Porcher, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Isabella Boylston, Sarah Lane, Hee Seo, Thomas Forster, Marian Butler, Luciana Paris, and the Company. Les Sylphides was presented in 1909 in Paris with the title “Chopiniana”. Performances are with permission of the Fokine Estate. (Program Notes).

Michel Fokine’s Les Sylphides is the most perfect ballet to open, for me, this Fall Season. The Company as a whole is essentially the star, with featured spotlights on key Principals and Soloists. It was first presented in 1908 in St. Petersburg, and then in 1909 in Paris. It was later seen in the US in 1940 at American Ballet Theatre’s opening performance at Rockefeller Center’s Center Theatre. It’s a timeless ballet set under a moon in the woodlands. Thomas Forster was the iconic dreamer, who pursues sylphs in impassioned chases, much like a Fragonard painting. The Company was warm and ebullient. David LaMarche, Conductor, débuted the long-lost Benjamin Britten orchestration this season, in contrast to the previously reviewed Roy Douglas orchestration, and, in the Chopiniana version, previously reviewed Glazunov and Keller orchestration. Maestro LaMarche magnified the mystery of Britten’s influence, with subdued pauses and dancers beginning a phrase in silence.

Hee Seo and Thomas Forster danced the Pas de Deux with grace and sophistication. Ms. Seo was porcelain in demeanor, studied in presence. The duo danced with vivid buoyancy. Mr. Forster will grow into the role, as he did not command attention, and Sarah Lane, in the Waltz, was restrained, dancing with fixed expressiveness. Isabella Boylston, however, in the Mazurka, was full of life and lust for the score. She drew eyes like a magnet. Marian Butler and Luciana Paris, leading the ensemble, were enchanting.

Bach Partita (1983): Choreography by Twyla Tharp, Staged by Susan Jones, Music by Johann Sebastian Bach (Partita No. 2 in D Minor for solo violin), Costume design by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Violin Soloist: Charles Yang, Performed by Polina Semionova, James Whiteside, Gillian Murphy, Marcelo Gomes, Stella Abrera, Calvin Royal III, Misty Copeland, Craig Salstein, and the Company.

Bach’s “Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin”, performed tonight by violinist Charles Yang, was resonant. Twyla Tharp has choreographed for fascination and fervor. Four couples or ensembles lead each of the four movements. Polina Semionova and James Whiteside, in the first, were glowing, with arms pulsing with the score. Santo Loquasto’s
brown and beige costumes were emblematic of this uncluttered work. Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes led the second movement, with Ms. Murphy generating exquisite fouettés and Mr. Gomes in playful, yet masterful partnering. The third movement was led by an ensemble: Ms. Semionova, Ms. Murphy, Stella Abrera, James Whiteside, Mr. Gomes, and Calvin Royal III. Solos abounded, but in simultaneous, parallel positioning. The fourth movement was led by Ms. Abrera and Mr. Royal, with Misty Copeland and Craig Salstein. It was a pleasure to see a robust, balanced Mr. Royal, who is fast growing into a dynamic virtuoso. In fact, Ms. Copeland and Ms. Abrera, as well, blossomed before our eyes. The Company has never looked better.

Gong (2001): Choreography by Mark Morris, Staged by Tina Fehlandt, Music by Colin McPhee (“Tabuh-Tabuhan”), Costumes by Isaac Mizrahi, Lighting by Michael Chybowski, Pianists: Barbara Bilach and David LaMarche, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Stella Abrera, Marian Butler, Misty Copeland, Gillian Murphy, Xiomara Reyes, Herman Cornejo, Marcelo Gomes, Sascha Radetsky, Arron Scott, James Whiteside, and the Company.

Mark Morris’ Gong is danced in Isaac Mizrahi’s 15 colorful costumes, each one shade from the next. Arms spread out, as the sound of a Chinese gong raced along, evocative of Philip Glass’ music. Colin McPhee’s score (conducted by Charles Barker) was occasionally silent, with dancers moving together in silence. At other times, this casual but charismatic ballet features solos and men partnering men, women partnering women. The effect is surreal and esoteric. In the ensemble, Misty Copeland, Herman Cornejo, Marcelo Gomes, Gillian Murphy, and Aaron Scott continually caught my eye. Barbara Bilach and David LaMarche were virtuosic pianists in this challenging, contemporary score, with strong Asian ornamentation.

Scene from Fokine's "Les Sylphides"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes
in Tharp's "Bach Partita"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Scene from Morris' "Gong"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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