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American Ballet Theatre: The Brahms-Haydn Variations, AfterEffect, The Green Table
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American Ballet Theatre: The Brahms-Haydn Variations, AfterEffect, The Green Table

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American Ballet Theatre

The Brahms-Haydn Variations
The Green Table

David H. Koch Theater

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic 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
Susie Morgan Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 31, 2015 Matinee

(Read More ABT Reviews)

(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on the Fall Season Ballet Music.)

The Brahms-Haydn Variations, in memory of Peter T. Joseph (2000): Choreography by Twyla Tharp, Staged by Susan Jones, Music by Johannes Brahms (“Variations on a Theme by Haydn for Orchestra, Op. 56a”), Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Misty Copeland and Sterling Baca, Luciana Paris and Arron Scott, Stephanie Williams and Blaine Hoven, April Giangeruso and Calvin Royal III, Skylar Brandt and Craig Salstein, Catherine Hurlin and Cameron McCune, Paulina Waski and Duncan Lyle, and the Company.

On a Halloween matinee, Twyla Tharp’s The Brahms-Haydn Variations was uplifting and invigorating, on second viewing this season. The cast had changed, and today’s three lead couples were Misty Copeland with Sterling Baca, Luciana Paris with Arron Scott, and Stephanie Williams with Blaine Hoven. Under the baton of David LaMarche, Brahms’ “Variations on a Theme by Haydn for Orchestra” was imbued with extra pulse. Ms. Copeland was featured in fouettés that brought attention to this recently promoted Principal. Also in dynamic form was Skylar Brandt, a Soloist, well partnered by Craig Salstein, who matched her energized dexterity. April Giangeruso and Calvin Royal were also vivid and vivacious in speed and spirit. Santo Loquasto’s straw-gold costumes are complimentary to the cast. But, the star not onstage is Twyla Tharp, with her outstanding choreographic expertise and daring. This is a timeless ballet.

AfterEffect (2015): Choreography by Marcelo Gomes, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (“Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70”), Scenery by Francoise Gilot, Costumes by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, Lighting by Michael Korsch, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Cory Stearns as The Man, Cassandra Trenary as His Loss, Jeffrey Cirio as His Hope, and a Corps-Soloist ensemble of twenty-four as The Community.

Marcelo Gomes, a cavalier and premier danseur extraordinaire, is now also a rising choreographer. His less complex choreographies have been reviewed on these pages, but tonight we saw a ballet in another realm. AfterEffect, with a shifting collage backdrop, designed by none other than Françoise Gilot, lover and muse of Picasso and wife of Jonas Salk, is breathtaking. On first viewing, I tried to take it all in and focused at first on the costumes by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, white unitards with broad-brush swaths of painted color that match the backdrop. Then I focused on the plot, a simple tale of The Man (Cory Stearns), His Love (Cassandra Trenary), and His Hope (Jeffrey Cirio). Basically it’s about love, loss, and hope.

An ensemble of Corps and Soloists numbers twenty-four, all of whom are onstage, in shifting patterns like the backdrop, as an amorphous Greek Chorus. A luxuriant pas de deux between Mr. Stearns and Ms. Trenary, a new Soloist, brings ardor and romance to the stage. A separation follows, with Mr. Stearns in distraught dance, but then, Jeffrey Cirio arrives to lighten his mood. The specific choreographic detail that’s so riveting is one of Ms. Trenary being carried by a grouping of men, like a winged “deus ex machina”, to fly toward Mr. Stearns. It’s ethereal and spiritual, capturing the mood of this new ballet’s motif.

The Green Table (1932): Choreography by Kurt Jooss, Music by FA Cohen, Costumes by Hein Heckroth, Masks and Lighting Design by Hermann Markard, Staging by Jeanette Vondersaar, Repetiteur: Claudio Schellino, Lighting directed by Brad Fields, Pianists: David LaMarche and Daniel Waite, Performed by Roman Zhurbin as Death, Duncan Lyle as The Standard Bearer, Cameron McCune as The Young Soldier, Skylar Brandt as The Young Girl, Christine Shevchenko as The Woman, Alexei Agoudine as The Old Soldier, Zhong-Jing Fang as The Old Mother, Daniil Simkin as The Profiteer, and the Company as Soldiers, Women, and Gentlemen in Black. This work was influenced by a dance of death and a post-WWI political culture, when it was premiered in Paris in 1932. (ABT Notes).

Today would be my third and final viewing, this season, of Kurt Jooss’ 1932 The Green Table, with its keyboard drumbeat toward war. Jooss created this ballet with composer, F.A. Cohen, one year prior to Hitler’s becoming Chancellor of Germany. The ten Gentlemen in Black, made up of Corps men and women, grotesquely masked and wearing period black suits and ties, were even more foreboding and feverish at today’s matinee. Roman Zhurbin was Death, once again, in a highly theatrical role, replete with dark gazes, kicking legs, and stomping boots. David LaMarche and Daniel Waite, as always, were masterful on duo pianos for the dramatic and driven score.

Daniil Simkin was extraordinary today as The Profiteer, in mime-like fashion, sinewy and agile. Skylar Brandt, as The Young Woman, once again exuded pathos, yearning, and despair. Duncan Lyle had extra muscularity in his role as The Standard Bearer, who carried the flag. The five Corps dancers, as Women, created an aura of grim resignation.

Kudos to all.

Cassandra Trenary and Cory Stearns
in Gomes' "AfterEffect"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

The David H. Koch Theater
Photo Taken the Night of the 9/15 Lunar Eclipse
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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