Whipped Cream is a redo of a 1924 Richard Strauss ballet Schlagobers, and is a silly, surreal, fantastical fever dream filled with gorgeous choreography and simply spectacular sets and costumes. At one point, my eyes filled with tears at the sumptuous dreamlike figures parading across the stage. It was simply glorious. Apparently, Strauss wrote only two ballets in his career and, for some reason, they have both been forgotten. Ratmansky saw a CD of Schlagobers one day and decided to do the ballet (the original choreographic notes are presumed lost). Because of the surreal elements in the libretto, Ratmansky decided he needed a very strong design element to make the ballet work. I don't know the artist Mark Ryden, but my goodness, if strong design was what was needed, Ryden sure provided it! Here is an interesting NY Times article describing their process (I was especially struck by this quote from Ratmansky: "But in Mark’s designs, I find a parallel to my own approach; the use of a classical, historical technique to say something different").
That gives such insight into Ratmansky, and just confirms what I've always felt about his choreography - he takes classic steps and turns them into something modern. Whipped Cream is really a perfect synthesis of that idea; the ballet seems quaint and old-fashioned, but the execution of it is clearly contemporary, as are the surreal designs. I loved the juxtaposition. The ballet's story is pretty simple: a boy eats too much whipped cream in a candy store and gets sick. When all the kids leave the shop, the candy and other confections come to life. That's the first act. The second act is a little darker and more surreal, with the boy in the hospital, being tended by a drunken doctor and nurses with huge syringes. Finally, I think the boy surrenders himself to his fantasy world (some of the plot seems ambiguous to me) and ends up with Princess Praline.
The score is very rich and is very well-suited to this kind of ballet. There are a lot of variations in tempo and the orchestra was particularly well-used. I definitely want to see if I can find a copy of the score so I can listen to it again - I especially enjoyed the pas de deux music for Princess Tea Flower/Prince Coffee, and for The Boy/Princess Praline. That choreography really matched well with the music and just elevated the whole thing. And then the scenic design elevated everything even more! I can't really explain how the whimsy and brightness in both the designs and the choreography made everything such a rich experience.
|photo credit: Andrea Mohin|
In the vaguely darker second act, my ABT MVP Roman Zhurbin was an amazing bottle of vodka (yes, really!) and the pas de trois he did with the champagne and the brandy was terrific. Misty Copeland was Princess Praline and she was exuberance personified. The audience, many of whom were there to see her, I think, responded loudly to her every move. I don't know, she's a lovely dancer, but I just don't see 'it' when she dances. I am obviously in the minority. She did have great energy and seemed to have a nice rapport with Cirio, so that's good. Oh, and the second act had the parade of amazing dreamlike creatures! Seriously incredible. My photo above (from curtain call) doesn't even do them justice.
I just had a really great time at Whipped Cream last night and I already wish I could see it again this week (can't. busy.). There's just too much going on to be able to see everything in one visit. I can only imagine that ABT will bring it back from season to season - it's a great ballet for kids, even with the drunk doctor and the dancing liquor bottles, and it should rake in money in the summer, much like The Nutcracker does in the winter. For a moment, I'll admit I started thinking, 'Hey, is this like Nutcracker with all the candy and stuff?', but it really wasn't. The music and the storytelling are completely different. I think ABT has a hit on their hands, but I guess the rest of the week will tell the story...
|Mark Ryden sketch of his designs|