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American Ballet Theatre: Her Notes, Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, The Brahms-Haydn Variations
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American Ballet Theatre: Her Notes, Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, The Brahms-Haydn Variations

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American Ballet Theatre

Her Notes
Serenade after Plato’s Symposium
The Brahms-Haydn Variations

David H. Koch Theater

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Kara Medoff Barnett, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Clinton Luckett, Assistant Artistic Director
Susan Jones, Principal Ballet Mistress
Ballet Masters: Irina Kolpakova,
Carlos Lopez, 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 23, 2016 Matinee

(Read More ABT Reviews)

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

Her Notes (World Premiere): Choreography by Jessica Lang, Music by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (Excerpts from “Das Jahr”), Costumes by Bradon McDonald, Scenery by Jessica Lang, Lighting by Nicole Pearce, Rehearsal Assistants: Clifton Brown and Christopher Vo, Piano Soloist: Emily Wong, Performed by Gillian Murphy, Misty Copeland, Skylar Brandt, Cassandra Trenary, Devon Teuscher, Stephanie Williams, Marcelo Gomes, Jeffrey Cirio, Cory Stearns, and Blaine Hoven.

On second viewing, in two days, of this lush new ballet, Her Notes) by Jessica Lang, the cognac-smooth choreography was even more transporting and intriguing. Gillian Murphy’s tiny backward steps make a statement that she is dancing in her prime, better than ever, each year more and more exquisite in drawing the eye to her classical, sophisticated presence. She steps in and out of the empty square space, cordoned off in minimal set design, which shifts in slanted directionality as each scene develops. Marcelo Gomes, as well, was superbly attentive, gallant, and imbued with energy. The filmy grey costumes by Bradon McDonald seemed even shiner this afternoon, perhaps a lighting adjustment since Friday night’s premiere. Although I was watching the same cast in the same roles as in the premiere, there seemed more strength in each dancer’s confidence and positioning. This is the advantage of premieres, the freshness and spontaneity that morphs into slight seasoning as repeated performances ensue.

Emily Wong’s piano interpretation of excerpts from Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s composition “Das Jahr” was also more impassioned, it seemed, more fluid as well. In the secondary roles, Devon Teuscher and Stephanie Williams, dancing the fifth part “Postlude” as they led the ensemble, were elegant and engaging, moving like flying herons in spring, arms like elongated, soft wings. I am glad I have yet one more viewing of this work next week.

Serenade after Plato’s Symposium (2016): Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Leonard Bernstein (“Serenade after Plato’s Symposium”), Scenery and costumes by Jérôme Kaplan, Lighting by Brad Fields, Violin Soloist: Benjamin Bowman, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Thomas Forster, Joseph Gorak, Alexandre Hammoudi, Alban Lendorf, Tyler Maloney, Arron Scott, Jose Sebastian, and Hee Seo.

Ratmansky’s thrilling Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, a Spring Season debut, scored to Leonard Bernstein’s violin concerto of the same title, brought out a new male ensemble of seven, this time with Hee Seo in the lone role for a woman. Charles Barker was in the pit with Benjamin Bowman on solo violin. Today’s male ensemble included the new Principal, Alban Lendorf, a dancer that’s persistently extraordinary and magnetic to watch, as he seizes one’s gaze in each role. The additional men were Soloists, Joseph Gorak, Thomas Forster, Alexandre Hammoudi, and Arron Scott, as well as Corps dancers Tyler Maloney and Jose Sebastian. Jérôme Kaplan’s costumes are uniquely different for each of the men, contemporary, long, and loose. The men’s interaction revives the essence of Plato’s text, “The Symposium”, with each man in the philosophical work offering a treatise to variations of love, and in which the term “platonic love” was also born. Ratmansky’s recently choreographed ballet is the choreographic version of Plato’s vision, all in the aura of Bernstein’s dynamic, atonal score.

Ms. Seo, as the lone woman, seems to have a dance relationship with one man, who prefers playful abandon. Leaps, high kicks, yearning gesture, magnetic, merged figures, languor and fervor, all abound. Rapid backward steps and athletics bring out the virtuosity in Mr. Lendorf, whose muscular build drives his momentum and elevation. Other highlights include Arron Scott’s rapid spins and mid-air leaps, Joseph Gorak’s stunning fouettés, and the Maloney-Sebastian duo’s fervent athleticism. This is one of Mr. Ratmansky’s most entertaining new ballets.

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 Isabella Boylston and Alban Lendorf, Skylar Brandt and Arron Scott, Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes, Christine Shevchenko and Joseph Gorak, Sarah Lane and Craig Salstein, Cassandra Trenary and Blaine Hoven, Luciana Paris and Roman Zhurbin, and the Company.

Today’s performance of Twyla Tharp’s The Brahms-Haydn Variations, another ballet’s second viewing in two days, was, once again, synchronized, symmetrical, and sensational - Balanchine on hormones. David LaMarche was in the pit, this time, and the Brahms score was extra-scintillating and propulsive. Today’s cast, once again the equal of Friday night’s, was also extra-confident, extra-seasoned, and extra-ebullient. Alban Lendorf and Isabella Boylston are turning into a duo on fire, with Ms. Boylston warmly smiling from ear to ear, thoroughly enjoying her new partner. Their matched physicality and personality brings new excitement to the stage. The fish dive leaps into Mr. Lendorf’s arms, the rapid twirls and dervish spins gave their colleagues inspiration. In fact, the Skylar Brandt-Arron Scott duo was flaming as well, in even more youthful abandon. Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes bring maturity and classical lines to the visual gestalt, but this duo kicked up dust as well. Among the Soloist-Corps ensemble, Cassandra Trenary and Blaine Hoven are a duo to watch, both exemplifying the best in the Company’s rising stars.

Kudos to all.

A Scene from "Her Notes"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Alban Lendorf and the Cast of
"Serenade after Plato's Symposium"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

Marcelo Gomes and Gillian Murphy
in "The Brahms-Haydn Variations"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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