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American Ballet Theatre: Sinfonietta, Jardin aux Lilas, Fancy Free

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American Ballet Theatre

Jardin aux Lilas
Fancy Free

David H. Koch Theater

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Chief Executive Officer
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
October 25, 2014

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Sinfonietta (1991): Choreography by Jirí Kylián, Rehearsed and Staged by Patrick Delcroix, Music by Leos Janácek, Scenery and costumes by Walter Nobbe, Lighting by Kees Tjebbes, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by the Company. Sinfonietta was created by Jirí Kylián for the Nederlans Dans Theater in 1978.

I have always been of the mind that orchestras should be seen as well as heard, so it was wonderful to revisit Jirí Kylián’s 1991 Sinfonietta. In this ballet, about eleven musicians with trumpets and cornets (not listed in the Program) stand at front stage side, against the red velvet curtains, and play at intervals in this Janácek (“Sinfonietta”) score, with Ormsby Wilkins conducting in the orchestra pit. Kylián's choreography is designed for four to eleven dancers in each of five movements. On last viewing a sizable representation of Principals was cast. However, tonight, it was more interesting, with a mostly Soloist-Corps ensemble.

The sole Principals were Veronika Part and Isabella Boylston. Thus, the high energy, catapulting males, from stage left to right and back, mid-air, leaping and running, were spellbinding. The heraldic brass, so piercing, in the atonal Janácek score, drove the robust pulse. However, Walter Nobbe’s pastel costumes and pastel, landscape backdrop did not succeed in enhancing the vibrancy of tonight’s talent and passion. Rather, it served to subdue the sparkling performance. Within the ensemble, Gabe Stone Shayer, Skylar Brandt, Stella Abrera, and Arron Scott were especially magnetic.

Jardin aux Lilas (1940): Choreography by Antony Tudor, Staged by Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner, Music by Ernest Chausson (“Poème”), Costumes by Peter Cazalet, Violin Soloist: Benjamin Bowman, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Devon Teuscher as Caroline, the Bride-to-be, Cory Stearns as Her Lover, Roman Zhurbin as The Man She Must Marry, Veronika Part as An Episode in His Past, and a Corps Ensemble of eight as Friends and Relations.

Antony Tudor’s Jardin aux Lilas is a mesmerizing, gripping ballet drama, set to a Chausson score. This is a ballet to experience on multiple performances, and tonight’s cast was exquisite. Devon Teuscher, a Soloist, was cast as the lead, Caroline, the bride-to-be, with Roman Zhurbin, also a Soloist, as The Man She Must Marry. Cory Stearns is Caroline’s impetuous and impassioned Lover, while Veronika Part is An Episode in His Past. Mr. Zhurbin, the superb character-dancer, strutted with defiance and tight control, in the dimly lit, bucolic, party setting. Peter Cazalet designed flowing dresses and refined suits, for this retro tale. Mr. Stearns and Ms. Teuscher dashed about with longing and alarm, always reaching for that elusive kiss. They were both possessed and riveting. Ms. Part was the fiancé’s mistress, filled with seething fieriness, lurking about the stage, looking for an entry back into her lover’s world. The kiss is unrequited, and the marriage proceeds. But the story is essentially abstract and secondary to the romanticized and rapturous choreography. Benjamin Bowman played the violin solo with sublimity, and Ormsby Wilkins conducted.

Fancy Free (1944): Fancy Free: Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Staged by Jean-Pierre Frohlich, Music by Leonard Bernstein, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Kermit Love, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton after original design by Nananne Porcher, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Herman Cornejo, Cory Stearns, and Marcelo Gomes as the Sailors, Stella Abrera, Julie Kent, and Karen Uphoff as the Passers-By, and Duncan Lyle as the Bartender.

Most New York balletomanes can describe this one-act, 1944, Robbins ballet from memory, step by step, as it’s performed on both sides of the Plaza, off and on, throughout the seasons. Yet, it’s always refreshing and entertaining, a must-see-often work, to be sure. Tonight’s three Sailors were Herman Cornejo, Cory Stearns, and Marcelo Gomes, all seasoned and splendid in the roles. Mr. Cornejo’s frenetic, beer-fueled solo, on top of the bar, had the audience in an ebullient state, as he gyrated in gymnastic energy, landing onstage after some jack-in-the-box jumps. Mr. Stearns, in the central solo, was equally sensational, less acrobatic, more seductive. Mr. Gomes, as well, was thrilling in his rhumba rhythms and swiveling hips. Stella Abrera, as the Passer-By with the red pocketbook, danced with scolding humor, as she eluded and won over the sailors, while Julie Kent was a flirtatious second Passer-By. Karen Uphoff had the third Passer-By cameo. But this ballet is also about Leonard Bernstein’s iconic score, and David LaMarche brought out its sensuality and dynamism. Oliver Smith’s barroom scenery never gets old, with the hidden corridor for the sailors to appear and disappear in cartwheels. Kudos to all.

Devon Teuscher and Cory Stearns
in Tudor's "Jardin aux Lilas"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Marcelo Gomes, Cory Stearns and Herman Cornejo
in Robbins' "Fancy Free"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

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