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American Ballet Theatre: Baker's Dozen, Citizen, Pillar of Fire, Brief Fling
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American Ballet Theatre: Baker's Dozen, Citizen, Pillar of Fire, Brief Fling

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American Ballet Theatre

Fall Repertory
Baker’s Dozen
Pillar of Fire
Brief Fling

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
November 1, 2008

(See More ABT Reviews, Interviews, and Candids)

Baker’s Dozen (1979): Choreography by Twyla Tharp, Staged by Elaine Kudo, Music by Willie “The Lion” Smith, transcribed by Dick Hyman, Original Costume Design by Santo Loquasto, Lighting Originally by Jennifer Tipton, Pianist: Barbara Bilach, Performed by Kristi Boone, Misty Copeland, Yuriko Kajiya, Simone Messmer, Luciana Paris, Devon Teuscher, Tobin Eason, Craig Salstein, Thomas Forster, Luis Rigaborda, Isaac Stappas, and Jeffrey Golladay.

Twyla Tharp’s Baker’s Dozen is one of the most joyous, melodic (Willie “The Lion” Smith piano rags), captivating one-act ballets in the Fall Repertoire. Barbara Bilach always plays the piano rags, as she did tonight, and Craig Salstein always steals the show. The motion is vaudevillian, suited to the rags, and the costumes are white like a baker’s apron. Twelve dancers, in tie shoes and loose pants, cavort, disappear in the wings, return and bump into other dancers, jump into surprised arms, get lifted and spun, and so on. Divided into five segments, this dance brings out the humor and versatility of these classically trained Soloists and Corps. Kristi Boone, Misty Copeland, Luis Ribagorda, and Isaac Stappas caught my eye, as well as the very campy Mr. Salstein, who swiveled his pelvis in “silent movie” jocularity.

Citizen (World Premiere): Choreography by Lauri Stallings, Music by Max Richter (November and On the Nature of Daylight), Costumes by April McCoy, Lighting by Ryan O’Gara, Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Paloma Herrera, David Hallberg, Isabella Boylston, Nicola Curry, and Blaine Hoven.

It’s rare that an ABT World Premiere falls this flat, but Lauri Stallings’ Citizen was one of the most dreadfully annoying ballets I’ve ever experienced. To a Max Richter score, bravely conducted by David LaMarche, the lighting early on was full City Center blare, with extras onstage. Mr. Hallberg arrived in a green cinched corset and silver pants. The remaining dancers were in frail costumes (but for Paloma Herrera in a skimpy bathing suit), with torn, avant garde effects, and the motion was beyond repetitive. It was flailing of arms, deliberate weird entrances and exits, and not at all contemporary ballet. This was, rather, faux ballet. Ms. Herrera, Mr. Hallberg, Isabella Boylston, Nicola Curry, and Blaine Hoven all valiantly followed their misguided directions. The program quotes a paragraph of Ms. Stallings’ psychobabble, such as “…we search to define a relationship with ourselves and you…questions are not so much answered as they are seen and heard…”

Pillar of Fire (1942): Choreography by Antony Tudor, Staged by Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner, Assisted by Susan Jones, Music by Arnold Schoenberg (Verklärte Nacht), Scenery and Costumes by Robert Perdziola, Lighting by Duane Schuler, Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Veronika Part as Eldest Sister, Julie Kent as Hagar, Sarah Lane as Youngest Sister, Gennadi Saveliev as The Friend, Jose Manuel Carreño as The Young Man from The House Opposite, and Melanie Hamrick and the Company as Lovers-in-Innocence, Lovers-in-Experience, and Maiden Ladies Out Walking. This tale of three sisters, one a spinster, one a lonely woman in love, and one a flirt, is set in 1900, when Schoenberg wrote the music used for this ballet score. (Program Notes).

Julie Kent, as Hagar, was a more vulnerable, internalized middle sister, with Veronica Part as the Eldest Sister, self-righteous and stoic. Sarah Lane brought out the ingénue in the Youngest Sister, the one who almost gets Hagar’s object of desire, The Friend, tonight Gennadi Saveliev. Mr. Saveliev is a versatile theatrical performer, as comfortable as the villain as he is the lover. As the suitor of two, he was a study in restraint and classical, Princely qualities. Jose Manuel Carreño, as The Young Man from the House Opposite, was devilish and delightful. He used Graham technique to shift his pelvis in erotic gestures to woo Hagar into the House Opposite. This study of the tug between sexual expression and sexual repression was again mesmerizing, and I hope Antony Tudor’s Pillar of Fire will remain frequently cycled in Fall Repertoire. It should be noted that Melanie Hamrick was the fiery seductress within the House Opposite, and, among the Lovers-in-Experience, Roman Zhurbin caught my eye. Among the Lovers-in-Innocence, Nicole Graniero and Arron Scott danced with notable expression.

Brief Fling (1999): Choreography by Twyla Tharp, Staged by Keith Roberts, Music by Michael Colombier and Percy Grainger (Country Gardens, Handel in the Strand), Original Costume Design by Isaac Mizrahi, Original Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by Xiomara Reyes, Herman Cornejo, and the Company. Twyla Tharp’s second work tonight, Brief Fling, featured Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo, as it did on a previous night, with the Scottish motif entrenched into a mélange of dance motifs; ballet virtuosity extraordinaire was contrasted with electronic propulsion and even hints of Balanchine’s Union Jack. Isaac Mizrahi designed catchy red plaid costumes, and Michael Colombier did the honors for the taped, contemporary score. Keith Roberts worked overtime on such tight staging. The two pas de deux for Ms. Reyes and Mr. Cornejo were wild, as the form was classical and the music was chaotic. Ms. Tharp’s repertoire is extraordinary and incomparable.

Scene from "Baker’s Dozen".
Courtesy of MIRA

Nicola Curry and David Hallberg in "Citizen".
Courtesy of Rosalie O'Connor

Maria Riccetto and Jared Matthews
in "Brief Fling"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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