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American Ballet Theatre Fall Season Gala 2008
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American Ballet Theatre Fall Season Gala 2008

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American Ballet Theatre

Fall Repertory
Opening Night Gala 2008

At City Center

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Georgina Parkinson
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 21, 2008

(See More ABT Reviews, Interviews, and Candids)

Theme and Variations (1947): Choreography by George Balanchine, Staged by Kirk Peterson, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (Suite No. 3 for Orchestra), Costumes by Theoni Aldredge, Lighting by David K.H. Elliott, Conductor: Charles Barker, Performed by Paloma Herrera, Marcelo Gomes, Kristi Boone, Renata Pavam, Maria Riccetto, Melissa Thomas, Grant DeLong, Carlos Lopez, Daniel Mantei, Jared Matthews, and the Company. This performance of Theme and Variations is presented with permission of The George Balanchine Trust.

Balanchine’s Theme and Variations is an elegant work to open ABT’s Fall Season, and Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes are two strong, seasoned Principals, with dramatic depth and daring footwork. Mr. Gomes is one of ABT’s most gallant Princes and Cavaliers. Ms. Herrera, a master of virtuosity, although not as emotionally connected as Mr. Gomes, matched his bravura solos and the supported ensemble leads. Her balance is uniquely unparalleled. The Tchaikovsky score was embracing and sensuous, creating a pas de deux that was majestically drawn out and flawless. Catching my eye was Roman Zhurbin, usually seen in secondary dramatic roles, and tonight he shone in this plotless, but persuasive, ensemble role. Also, of note, Kristi Boone and Melissa Thomas, as well as Arron Scott and Luis Ribagorda, seemed to be poised as artists to watch.

Romeo and Juliet, Romeo’s Farewell to Juliet (1943): Choreography by Antony Tudor, Music by Frederick Delius (Prelude to Irmelin), Costumes by Sylvia Taalsohn Nolan, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg. It is thrilling to see a new version of a favorite ballet, and Tudor’s (Antony Tudor was Associate Director and later Choreographer Emeritus of ABT.) Romeo and Juliet excerpt tonight was just that, thrilling. Tudor created this one-act ballet with a score by Frederick Delius in 1943, and it should be seen more often, as a fascinating contrast to the dynamic and driven three-act, Prokofiev production.

Tonight’s excerpt from Tudor’s one-act, startlingly stunning work was performed by Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg. Ms. Murphy equally balanced her outstanding technicality with her theatrical talent, and it’s known that chemistry explodes when this couple is cast. Mr. Hallberg’s fierce gaze and astounding passion, plus his magnetic lifts and perfect landings, caused me to wish for so much more. Delius’ score inspires the imagination and envelops the dancers in delicate sadness, as this literary “Farewell” unfolds. Kudos to Ormsby Wilkins for conducting this score with unhurried sensuality. There must be one choreographer in the current swath of artists, who could research and re-create this “must-be-revived” one-act ballet. Perhaps both the Antony Tudor Estate and Ballet Trust could initiate such a worthy project.

TIME (2007): Choreography by Craig Salstein, Music by Robert Schumann (Traumerei), Pianist: David LaMarche, Performed by Michele Wiles. Craig Salstein, one of ABT’s prominent soloists, with endless charisma and charm, is now a choreographer-to-watch. David LaMarche played the Schumann piano score from Traumeriei for this new piece by Mr. Salstein, in its third presentation. (It premiered in 2007 at a Gala for Cedar Lake Theatre and once again with ABT in May for a children’s ballet event, with Michele Wiles as solo on both dates.) Ms. Wiles exudes earthiness and spontaneity, and her solo tonight was exhilarating and touching. She shone in an ability to make her torso and legs harmonize in swirling dervish and sultry longing. She appeared at one with the choreographer’s intent and the pianist’s theme.

Overgrown Path, Excerpt (1980): Choreography by Jǐrí Kylián, Asst. to the Choreographer: Roslyn Anderson, Music by Leoš Janáček (On the Overgrown Path, Part IX), Costumes by Walter Nobbe, Costume Supervision by Joke Visser, Lighting by Joop Caboort, Tech and Light Adaptation by Kees Tjebbes, Pianist: David LaMarche, Performed by Julie Kent, Gennadi Saveliev, Jared Matthews. The revival of this 1980 Jǐrí Kylián work, to a score by Janáček (On the Overgrown Path, Part IX), is a feature of this Fall Season. Tonight’s excerpt for three, Julie Kent, Gennadi Saveliev, and Jared Matthews, was titled “In Tears”. Ms. Kent has strength and genius in her dance expression of torment and sorrow. Physically supported in a trio by the intense Mr. Saveliev and the attentive Mr. Matthews, Ms. Kent was the image of grief, with her body seeming to melt into the Janáček theme. This excerpt was a preview for the full-length work, and it opened a window into the melancholy that Janáček felt, in his loss of both son and daughter around the turn of the century and into his analogous compositions. Program notes say that this ballet deals with elements of “life and death”, and “In Tears” is the ninth of ten segments to the full ballet.

Don Quixote, Act III Pas de Deux (1978): Choreography by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky, Music by Ludwig Minkus, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Xiomara Reyes and Jose Manuel Carreño. The Don Quixote Pas de Deux, with its physical pyrotechnics and 32 fouettés, is always a crowd-pleaser, and, after the previous study in grief, it was vocally and voraciously welcomed. Ms. Reyes fanned herself, while twirling endlessly toward stage front, and Mr. Carreño was in rare form, even more virtuosic than last year. He presented a taut and balanced figure, matching Ms. Reyes for a Cuban dynamo duet. His leaps and lunges were exemplary, and, in this writer’s opinion, an ABT Gala without 32 fouettés is not a Gala.

Company B (1991): Music – Songs sung by the Andrews Sisters, sentiments during WWII, Choreography by Paul Taylor, Reconstructed by Patrick Corbin, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Lighting Recreated by Brad Fields, Performed by the Company. Company B has been reviewed in this magazine, during the Paul Taylor Dance Company seasons. This is a joyous and buoyant work, with bittersweet innuendo, as it’s set against a World War II scenario, as soldiers fall in silhouetted background, while dancers spin and run to The Andrews Sisters’ tunes. This music is contagious, and for days the lyrics and music dance in one’s head, e.g., “I Can Dream, Can’t I?”, “Tico-Tico”, and “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!”. In fact, this music should be heard more often, for its cheerful mood, a mood that uplifted a country at War. This contemporary work, danced in ballet slippers, rather than bare feet (as the Taylor Company dances), illustrates the sheer versatility of ABT and its embrace of American Modern Dance.

Tonight, Arron Scott was wired and energized in “Tico-Tico”, with its Latin inspired rhythms. Misty Copeland was bold and vivacious in “Rum and Coca-Cola”, seducing a cast of men who lie at her feet, and Craig Salstein was Mr. Entertainment as Johnny, in “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!”, seducing a cast of women who pursue him with vaudevillian verve. Herman Cornejo was the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B)”, and his sensational turns were boundless and dizzying. But, my favorite was Gillian Murphy’s solo in “I Can Dream, Can’t I”, as she mesmerizingly seized the stage in a meshing of music and motion, reverie and rapture.

Kevin McKenzie had warmly welcomed the audience, and the Fall Season should offer a few special surprises and many lingering memories. Charles Barker, Ormsby Wilkins, the ABT Orchestra, and David LaMarche deserve kudos for tonight’s eclectic scores. The Company deserves kudos for compelling dance.

Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg
in "Romeo and Juliet" (Romeo’s Farewell)
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Gennadi Saveliev, Julie Kent, Jared Matthews
in "Overgrown Path"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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