Wednesday, May 21, 2014

ABT 2014 - Classic Spectacular

Last night was the 'official' start to my ABT season - the evening of short ballets they called Classic Spectacular was the first in my subscription series (last weekend's Don Quixote visits were happy accidents).  Since I hadn't previously seen any of the three ballets included, I was really looking forward to the evening.

First up was Balanchine's "Theme and Variations" - choreographed originally in 1947, this ballet is intended "to evoke that great period in classical dancing when Russian ballet flourished with the aid of Tchaikovsky's music" (quote by Balanchine).  Sounds perfect to me.  I love the Russian style of ballet and I love Tchaikovsky, so "Theme and Variations" is the perfect marriage of the two.  From my subscription seat up in the baloncy, I adored seeing the intricate patterns of the choreography.

photo credit: Marty Sohl
The curtain goes up to reveal twelve ballerinas and the main couple (danced last night by Polina Semionova and James Whiteside).  There are solos, pas de deux, group dances and a final explosion at the end with 26 dancers triumphantly sailing through space.  It's a lovely, clearly technically difficult piece and it was beautifully danced last night, though I must say it took Polina and James a few minutes to settle into the choreography - it almost looked as if they were rusty and needed one more rehearsal.  But by the time their major pas de deux happened, they were rapturously beautiful together.  Polina used her glorious head and neck stunningly when dancing with the four female soloists, as they were going in and out of a daisy-chain-type-variation.  She was just regal and beautiful and seemed to me the perfect image of a ballerina.  James was confident and strong - he may have travelled a bit during his big turn/pirouette section, but I'd rather see bold dancing that goes a bit off course than timid dancing.  It's too bad they're only doing four performances of this piece - I'd love to go back and see how they deepen and refine their movement and their connection.  But I thought last night was lovely, all the same.  

After a brief pause, the next piece was also choreographed by George Balanchine - "Duo Concertant," set to music by Stravinsky.  This piece features a live pianist and solo violinist on stage with two dancers listening and reacting to the music.  The dancers stood by the piano and listened to the entire first movement, then would go back and forth between dancing and listening throughout the rest of the piece.  The last section was done in almost total darkness, with just a couple of shafts of light that the dancers moved in and out of.  The effect was lovely.

The two dancers, Misty Copeland and Eric Tamm, were beautifully matched and had a lovely, open, easy rapport.  The piece was just lovely, not showy, but perfectly in tune with the music and the musicians.  Both dancers were effortlessly light on their feet.  I would definitely love to see this piece again, especially since I think the spot operator in that last section got a few of the cues mixed up.  It didn't ruin anything, but it did dull the effect of the ending, I think.  Ah well.

photo credit: Fabrizio Ferri
The intermission was interminable, it had to have been at least a half hour.  But when the curtain went up for "Gaite Parisienne," all was forgiven.  Choreographed by Leonide Massine (who I always think of in The Red Shoes when I read his name), this is just a fun fun concoction of joyous dancing and a lot of humor.  The colorful costumes are by Christian Lacroix - they're so witty and fun!  The ballet is just saucy and very French, with Offenbach music, can-can dancers and a trio of delightful billiard players.  Oh, and I was very taken with the waiters.  Marcelo Gomes (who as everyone knows by now, is perfect) is The Baron, who loves the Glove Seller, danced by Hee Seo.  She is just an exquisite dancer, so smooth and lovely, and they made a very beautiful couple.  My favorite performer, though, may have been Joseph Gorak as the Dance Master.  Each time I see him dance, I'm more impressed with his characer work, open-hearted dance qualities and beautiful line.  He was just debonair and wonderful, rakishly brandishing his violet silk top hat.  But everyone was wonderful and "Gaite Parisienne" was a terrific way to end the evening.  Frothy and fun.  With the can-can!  Ballet subscription season is again off to a terrific start...

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