On October 14th, I was able to visit the David H. Koch Theater to attend ABT’s Fall Show Dress Rehearsal.
On the program were:
Serenade After Plato’s Symposium- choreography by Alexei Ratmansky
The Brahms-Haydn Variations- choreography by Twyla Tharp
Symphonic Variations- choreography by Frederick Ashton
Kaitlyn and I did not get to see Symphonic Variations since we had to run to class. A pity, because I am a big fan of Ashton’s work and I would have loved to see the balance between all three pieces. The first two were certainly different, though excellent in their own ways.
Serenade After Plato’s Symposium was almost overwhelming in its various stimuli both aesthetically and thematically. The male dancers were costumed in an assortment of black plants with a red waist band and red wrist bands, or an open white blazer over pants, or a white unitard, or a heavy long-sleeve shirt with a one-shouldered sash draping over long pants (I sure felt sorry for THAT guy, doing so much allegro in that sweat factory of a costume). The lone female- Hee Seo- wore a draped, soft light blue dress. I didn’t ‘get’ the costume elements at all. Nor did I understand the purpose of the large white rectangle hanging askew overhead. I did not really find the music enjoyable. As for the choreography, it was a showcase of the excellence of the dancers but left me confused. There were some repeated themes, flicking hand motions, purposeful bad landing of beats in an unsteady demi second plie, that added an interesting layer on to the technical elements of choreography but failed to make a concrete impression on me personally. I would absolutely love to see it again to have another chance at interpretation. It apparently made a very favorable impression on other writers (Alastair Macaulay’s review from the New York TImes calls it ‘the best ballet of the 21rst century’) . I will say that I enjoyed the various solo moments for the men of ABT, and I may have found a new dance-crush in newcomer Alban Lendorf. Great article from the NYT on Lendorf’s American Ballet Theatre debut here)
The Haydn-Brahms Variations was everything I love about ballet and love about Twyla. This piece made use of all of the traditional elements of ballet, familiar classical music, a corps de ballet, male with female partnering but in true Twyla fashion, added a little twist. Or maybe I should say, shimmy. Amidst tricky partnering (the opening lifted rond de jambe en dedans to land on pointe in an arabesque) and a beautiful contrast between quick turns and elegant poses, the choreography included little breaks from technique. The dancers would flicker out of poses with a quick, light shake of the shoulders before again returning to balletic form, a wink on the face of classic beauty. It was whimsical, musical, charming, and elegant. A favorite moment came as lead Gillian Murphy performed a lightning fast series of chaines in a circle, the last one finishing with a loose head roll, straight into a grand plie in second on pointe (those feet!) pulled right into a contracted lift. I really believe there is not anything Gillian Murphy cannot do. A few dancers seemed to struggle a little with the partnered slide in 4th position, perhaps because they all have such amazing arches it’s hard to pull off pointe enough to slide. Murphy utilizes her fantastic technique seamlessly in both classical and contemporary moments and for this, she shines in this piece. I could also watch Isabella Boyleston do battement a la second all day. She must be missing a bone somewhere in her hip socket. Her extension as well as her musical dynamic quality, is truly amazing.
I love the dress rehearsals because it’s fun to see if someone decides to mark something, how the conductor gives notes to the musicians, seeing the ballet masters come onstage and work with the dancers after running each piece. However….
I can’t wait to see the actual performance tonight. Unfortunately, neither of these pieces are on the bill. But I will be seeing the new Jessica Lang piece (hey, I’ve worked with her!) as well as Monotones, and Prodigal Son. And yes, I’m seeing Veronika Part in that last one.
The NYU/ ABT cohort was also invited to see ABT’s studio company last week where they performed classical repertoire from Don Quixote, Paquita, excerpts of a piece by Ratmansky, and one by Ethan Stiefel. It’s incredible to see these wonderfully talented dancers on stage since I mostly only see them as we ride the elevators up to the studios at ABT together. They were all incredible but a petite readhead was the stand-out performer for me. I will use my journalism skills and find out who she is. (I did after all, figure out who the Pink Floyd ballerina was).
I’m excited to share what I see and hope that everyone is taking in beautiful sights this weekend. Though, it’s Halloween weekend so how likely that is, I don’t care to guess.