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American Ballet Theatre: Theme and Variations, Jardin aux Lilas, Rodeo
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American Ballet Theatre: Theme and Variations, Jardin aux Lilas, Rodeo

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American Ballet Theatre

Theme and Variations
Jardin aux Lilas

At the
Metropolitan Opera House

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
May 12, 2015

(Read More ABT Reviews)

(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on this Season’s Ballet Music.)

Theme and Variations (1947): Choreography by George Balanchine, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (“Theme and Variations” from Suite No. 3 for Orchestra), Costumes and Scenery by Zack Brown, Lighting by Brad Fields, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Sarah Lane, Herman Cornejo, and the Company.

In a luxurious set, with long golden columns and sparkling chandeliers, and with luxurious costumes of peach (Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo), midst purple tutus, the Company performed this Balanchine gem, with its sumptuous Tchaikovsky scores.

The Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3 for Orchestra was brightly conducted by Charles Barker, with the fluid rhythms inspiring virtuosic, double and triple tours en l'air, by Mr. Cornejo. Although Ms. Lane seemed a bit strained, stretching to meet some of the ballet’s challenges, she did pull off rapid pirouettes, often turned at the waist by Mr. Cornejo. As the lead duo appears center stage for most of the work, it was somewhat of a mismatch. Soloists and corps were compelling. The orchestral horns and percussion were critical to the dynamism and momentum, but, perhaps, Mr. Cornejo was waxing nostalgic, in view of the upcoming Farewell of his longtime partner, Xiomara Reyes, who would dance in tonight’s third ballet.

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: David LaMarche, Performed by Hee Seo 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.

My one previous viewing, last season, of Tudor’s Jardin aux Lilas, had featured a different lead, soloist, Devon Teuscher, as Caroline, the Bride-to-be. Tonight, Hee Seo, in the role, was understated, inhibited, and under-dramatized. This should have been a mesmerizing, gripping ballet drama, set to Chausson’s Poème. Roman Zhurbin stoically and strongly performed as The Man She Must Marry, Cory Stearns was Caroline’s impetuous and impassioned Lover, and Veronika Part was a rapturous 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.

I kept recalling last year’s leads dashing about with longing and alarm, always reaching for that elusive kiss. Yet, Ms. Seo, although suitably dancing the role, exuded no depth or poignancy. Ms. Part was the fiancé’s former mistress, filled with seething fieriness, lurking about the stage, looking for an entry back into her lover’s world. Ms. Seo’s and Mr. Stearns’ kiss is unrequited, and the planned marriage proceeds. This story, in a lilac garden at night, is mostly abstract and secondary to the romanticized and spellbinding choreography. More and more, I would like to see Tudor ballets revived, after seeing Pillar of Fire last night, and Jardin aux Lilas tonight. Benjamin Bowman played the violin solo with sublimity, and David LaMarche conducted the mesmerizing score.

Rodeo (1950): Choreography by Agnes de Mille, Staged by Paul Sutherland, Tap solo staged by Dirk Lumbard, Music by Aaron Copland, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Thomas R. Skelton, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Grant DeLong, James Whiteside, Xiomara Reyes, Lauren Post, and the Company. “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).>

Tonight’s Rodeo, by Agnes de Mille, would be, sadly, one of Xiomara Reyes’ final performances with Ballet Theater. She performs her Farewell in Giselle, in two weeks. Tonight, however, she was stunning and virtuosic, begging the question, why not another year or two? Ms. Reyes is a youthful ballerina, petite, and can dance with radiant elegance, rambunctious spunk, and affecting vulnerability. The Cowgirl role is one that finds Ms. Reyes wanting a man to dance with, to flirt with, to corral horses with. She starts out in riding pants and ends in a ruffled dress, drawing in her man. A square dance, with Kenneth Easter as Caller, was outstanding, with the cast clapping hands, stamping feet in do-si-dos, and cheering the momentum along.

With Charles Barker in the pit, the Copland score was pulsating and evocative of old Americana. Grant DeLong was filled with swagger as Head Wrangler, while Ms. Reyes exuded just the right amount of tomboy and ingénue in her partnered square dance with Mr. DeLong. The Champion Roper was James Whiteside, a great role for him, tap dancing with pizzazz. Everything about this De Mille classic was enjoyable and energized. Lauren Post, as The Ranch Owner's Daughter, exuded sophistication and snobbery. The Company, as Eastern Friends, Cowhands, and Women Folk, were all in rare form.

Sarah Lane and Cast of "Theme and Variations"
© The George Balanchine Trust
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Hee Seo and Cory Stearns
in "Jardin aux Lilas"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

Xiomara Reyes in "Rodeo"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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