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American Ballet Theatre: Monotones I and II, Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, Prodigal Son
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American Ballet Theatre: Monotones I and II, Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, Prodigal Son

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American Ballet Theatre

Monotones I and II
Serenade after Plato’s Symposium
Prodigal Son

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 26, 2016

(Read More ABT Reviews)

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

Monotones I and II (1965-66): Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Music by Erik Satie, Orchestration by Claude Debussy, Roland Manuel, and John Lanchbery, Designs by Frederick Ashton, Lighting by Brad Fields, Staged by Lynn Wallis, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Stella Abrera, Isabella Boylston, Joseph Gorak, Veronica Part, Alexandre Hammoudi, and Cory Stearns.

The first trio in the Frederick Ashton 1966 Monotones I still looks like green garden sprouts, and the trio in his 1965 Monotone II still looks like white luminous stars. The choreographer’s costume designs (same for men and women) and choreography are ethereal and effervescent, head to toe, with glistening lighting by Brad Fields. The sumptuous orchestrations of Satie’s original piano pieces, by another trio, Debussy / Manuel / Lanchbery, elevate the aura in Koch Theater immediately. Tonight’s two dance trios were Stella Abrera, Isabella Boylston, and Joseph Gorak (Monotones I and Veronica Part, Alexandre Hammoudi, and Cory Stearns (Monotones II). Satie’s “Trois Gnossiennes” and “Trois Gymnopédies” respectively form the two separate, but similar scores.

David LaMarche, in the pit, kept the music entrancing and transporting with rhythmic hand gestures, expanding the orchestral tones into surreal ambiance. At one point in each of the “Monotones”, a pas de deux occurs, but with a feel of outer space, in gravity-defying weightlessness. The third member of the trio then joins the duo in figurative imagery. There are lifts, legs sliding on the stage floor, seated positions, trio chains of exact positions with leg-arm lifts, arms held back like a swan, one-foot hops, and ethereal, somber starkness. This is a ballet one wants to experience every Fall Season.

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: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Jeffrey Cirio, Marcelo Gomes, Blaine Hoven, Calvin Royal III, Gabe Stone Shayer, Arron Scott, James Whiteside, and Devon Teuscher.

For Ratmansky’s dynamic Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, scored to Leonard Bernstein’s music of the same title, we were treated tonight to a new cast, the one I reviewed from the 2016 Spring Gala. Aaron Scott was stylized, spinning, and aerobic, and Calvin Royal and Gabe Sone Shayer seemed psychically connected, feeding off each other’s bristling energy. Blaine Hoven and Marcelo Gomes added intense muscularity and momentum to the playful, “Platonic” ensemble of seven men. However, Jeffrey Cirio and James Whiteside added gestural ornamentations in slightly garish fashion that seemed out of place. The ensemble was brimming with fueled speed in motion, especially Mr. Shayer and Mr. Whiteside, who seemed perfectly suited in the showcased solos. Devon Teuscher, who appears late in the ballet, was serene and sophisticated, as always, a luminous vision in Brad Fields’ lighting design. The Kaplan-conceived costumes received quite a workout tonight, flying and fluttering as breezes were whipped up. Ormsby Wilkins was in the pit, with solo violinist Benjamin Bowman in the string spotlights. Mr. Ratmansky should create more ballets that harness the virtuosity of the Company’s strong men.

Prodigal Son (1950) Ballet in Three Scenes: Choreography be George Balanchine, Staged by Richard Tanner, Libretto by Boris Kochno, Music by Sergei Prokofiev (L’Enfant Prodigue), Scenery and Costumes by Georges Rouault, Lighting by Gil Wechsler, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Daniil Simkin as The Prodigal Son, Veronica Part as The Siren, Roman Zhurbin as Father, Alexei Agoudine and Sean Stewart as Servants to the Prodigal Son, Brittany DeGrofft and Paulina Waski as The Sisters, and nine male Corps as Drinking Companions. Presented by arrangement with the George Balanchine Trust.

There is no composer whose ballet scores are so searing, other than Prokofiev, whose scores for Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella replay in the mind for days, even weeks. Prodigal Son, a familiar Balanchine ballet scored to Prokofiev’s music, requires a muscular, athletic, youthful Prodigal Son. Daniil Simkin, in the role tonight, seemed more like the Siren’s (Veronica Part) son than her prey. Ms. Part is quite tall and muscular herself, a stunning actress-ballerina. Mr. Simkin is perfectly suited in a variety of roles, but his Siren should have been the shorter, less dynamic Hee Seo, who will be cast on other nights. However, Mr. Simkin, as he rebels against his Father (a welcoming and forgiving Roman Zhurbin) and his two Sisters (Brittany DeGrofft and Paulina Waski), leaped and spun mid-air in astounding energy, punching his chest with pulse. In the seduction scene, Ms. Part almost covered Mr. Simkin’s full image with her long, lanky limbs, before sliding down his back in iconic, deliberate slowness. Jeffrey Cirio, who will dance with Ms. Seo, would have been better cast with Ms. Part.

As Servants to The Prodigal Son, Alexei Agoudine and Sean Stewart leaped and bounded about with juvenile fervor and boundless lack of inhibition. Balanchine was but 24 when he choreographed this ballet for Diaghilev, and, with Rouault’s dark, fantasy-like sets and costumes, the work has vigor and vibrancy, with Prokofiev’s percussive, atonal score. The Drinking Companions adeptly moved the sturdy, changeable sets about with powerful leg stomping and slow, thigh-driven marches. Ormsby Wilkins in the pit kept the score dramatically propulsive.

Kudos to all.

Isabella Boylston, Joseph Gorak, Stella Abrera
in "Monotones I"
Courtesy of Marty Sohl

Daniil Simkin in "Prodigal Son"
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

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