Monday, November 13, 2017

The Renaissance has a, well, renaissance


Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, Caprese 1475–1564 Rome).
Archers Shooting at a Herm, 1530–33. Drawing, red chalk; 8 5/8 x 12 11/16 in. (21.9 x 32.3 cm)
ROYAL COLLECTION TRUST / © HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II 2017, www.royalcollection.org.uk
If it was ever out of fashion, the Renaissance seems to be having another big moment. Besides Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman & Designer, at the Met Museum, Walter Isaacson (who wrote Steve Jobs' riveting biography a few years back) has just published a biography of Leonardo da Vinci, who was 30 years older than Michelangelo. And Christie's is auctioning a small da Vinci painting: Salvator Mundi, ca. 1500, which was only determined to be painted by Leonardo in 2011. (Dr. Carmen Bambach, curator of the Michelangelo show, has concurred with the attribution.) The lot is dubbed "The Last Da Vinci," and is part of, oddly enough, the Post-War & Contemporary auction on November 15

Shows at the Met, such as Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman & Designer, are reminders of how lucky we are to have access to such a literal treasure trove, and to the exhibitions it has the resources to put together. Collections tapped for the Michelangelo show range from international museums to the Queen of England's private cache.The exhibition, organized by Dr. Carmen Bambach, a curator at the Met, is primarily composed of 128 drawings, with supporting paintings and sculptures by Michelangelo, but also his mentors and colleagues. 

Many of the drawings are small-scale and informal in feel—the sort you might find done on a napkin or perhaps done idly while daydreaming. The imagery sometimes shares paper with handwritten notes, or can occupy both sides of a sheet of paper. Of course, there are larger, more formal drawings as well. But part of the charm of the exhibition is this focus on process, on lively renditions of parts that unite to compose a larger whole.

Michelangelo Buonarroti. Italian, Caprese 1475–1564 Rome.

Cartoon with a Group of Soldiers for the Crucifixion of Saint Peter, Drawing, 1542–46

Black chalk and charcoal; 8 ft. 7 9/16 in. × 61 7/16 in. (263 × 156 cm)

Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples 398
A major focus of the show is an illuminated reproduction of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Below it are displayed studies for figures in the mural, with a key showing the corresponding finished part above on a small, gridded diagram. It is a thrill to see up close the sketch of the two hands reaching toward one another in The Last JudgmentAs a teen, Michelangelo studied with Ghirlandaio, who also has several works on display at the Met. The most engaging compositions are not formal ones, such as portraits either full-length or cameo—but bodies in motion: twisting, pulling, advancing. A large drawing, Cartoon with a Group of Soldiers for the Crucifixion of St. Peter, shows a mass of bodies from the back. You feel like you're amid the scrum of men surging forward.

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, Caprese 1475–1564 Rome)

Studies for the Libyan Sibyl (recto); Studies for the Libyan Sibyl and a small Sketch for a Seated Figure (verso)

Ca. 1510–11. Red chalk, with small accents of white chalk on the left shoulder of the figure in the main study (recto); soft black chalk, or less probably charcoal (verso). Sheet: 11 3/8 x 8 7/16 in. (28.9 x 21.4 cm).  Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1924

I coincidentally just read the novel The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild, which revolves around a small (fictional) painting by Antoine Watteau that finds its way to a junk shop and is bought for a song by a young woman. The painting holds a deep, dark secret which is revealed throughout the book. It is eventually put up for auction, and along the way  captivates numerous prospective bidders as a priceless symbol of pure love. While the central artwork derives from the Rococo period, it's another story of the power of art to endure through time, making immortal human emotions and artistry. 

The story of the Leonardo up for auction now seems like the perfect fodder for a novel about the timelessness of art. And yet it's real, another episode in the painting's sixth century on earth. On it goes as we watch for a brief time.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Red Shoes—Devilishly Entertaining


Photo: Johan Persson
If you're familiar with Matthew Bourne's theatrical productions, you expect a story told without text, only through movement, gesture and music. Oh, and scenery. In fact, the sets, by regular collaborator and designer Lez Brotherston, are so key that they virtually become another character in the cast. This is certainly true for The Red Shoes at City Center, in which a proscenium-within-the-proscenium seems to have a clever mind of its own by the end of the production, and even more possessed with spirit than the eponymous toe shoes.

The story, based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, revolves around a love triangle between Victoria, a young dancer, the object of affection from both struggling composer Julian and impresario Boris Lermontov, who gives Vicky a pair of red pointe shoes when she is cast as the lead in his new ballet, The Red Shoes. The set design for the ballet is a modern, all-white construction of nesting arches which together comprise a surface to catch video projections (by Duncan McLean). All of the costumes and set elements for this sub-show are in striking black and white except for Vicky's red shoes, which represent the blurring between reality and fiction. While Vicky's success as the lead in the ballet is celebrated, Lermontov becomes jealous of her relationship with Julian, and drives Julian to quit, taking Vicky with him. Although torn, she ultimately chooses to return to the ballet, and in a delirious state, is struck by a train.  

Tackling the film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, with music by Bernard Herrmann, is an ambitious task. Obviously, film is without limits as far as settings and editing go. But Bourne and Brotherston do amazing things with Proscenium, spinning it to take us back and forth between Covent Garden in London, and Paris, flipping our points of view between watching the stage, and watching the audience and foregrounded backstage antics. With other scenic changes, we jump to Monaco, the south of France, a dance studio, a salon. At one point, the proscenium's curtain is pulled half open, revealing Lermontov's study (with a kitschy bronze statue of a foot in a toe shoe); it rotates simply and brilliantly to reveal a shabby flat where Vicky and Julian restlessly pace.  
Ashley Shaw and Dominic North. Photo: Johan Persson
I caught the cast with Ashley Shaw and Dominic North as the young couple, and Sam Archer as Lermontov. (In some celebrity casting, Sara Mearns alternates as Vicky in New York shows, and Marcelo Gomes as Julian throughout the show's tour.) Shaw impressively evokes the spirit and bearing of the film's star, Moira Shearer. Perhaps more than most of Bourne's past productions, The Red Shoes demands ballet technique of its female lead, although I had to remind myself that most of the ballet is a caricature. It also requires Broadway worthy charisma and projection through physical means alone. And, unlike film's ability to show a close-up (and therefore emotion), we are never very close to Vicky's face, so her body must do the talking. 

While it is greatly entertaining, there are some weak spots. Character development is hasty and somewhat shallow (in part due to the lack of language), which provides the audience with less reasons to become as empathetic as when watching the film. The front of a locomotive is ferociously frightening in the end scene, if somewhat tonally jarring. And City Center's stage felt somewhat too small for the production, but Bourne is a master of creating high-impact movement with limited breadth. Dancers perch on furniture and stamp, clap and twist, which is echoed in spots around the stage. He uses vertical space as much as lateral, compressing a huge amount of action into a compact cubic area.

Bortherston also designed the costumes, flattering 1940s influenced fitted and flared dresses and high-waisted trousers. But it is his Proscenium that steals the show—swiveling, sliding, revealing and hiding the cast members, who dart through it and around it to unravel the story. The Red Shoes is another entry in Bourne's sui generis canon, one that we New Yorkers can only wish to see more of.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

ABT's Fall 2017 Season—the Farm Team Flourishes

Roman Zhurbin and Hee Seo in Elegy Pas de Deux. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor
ABT continues its evolution into a home-grown company with fewer and fewer international guest artists, and lots of talented young dancers who’ve come up through the ranks. In the two shows I caught during the brief 2017 fall Koch season, there were some memorable appearances by dancers I’ve watched for years, but who are now being given, and seizing, the spotlight. It was also the first season in memory when Marcelo Gomes did not perform; he is on tour with The Red Shoes, by Matthew Bourne, although the ABT season did include David Hallberg, who I managed to miss.

One notable revelation was the casting of Roman Zhurbin with Hee Seo in Elegy Pas de Deux, by Liam Scarlett. Zhurbin, a soloist, has long been the go-to guy for berobed male power-character roles, such as paternal or kingly figures, the monster version of Von Rothbart in Swan Lake, etc. Here, he bares his usually covered muscular torso, and is allowed to simply dance. While that involves lots and lots of lifts and overhead presses of his Seo, it was a revelation to see his confident, sensitive performance purely as a dancer. The standing ovation he received shows that others felt the same way.

Seo has proved remarkably diverse as a dancer, too, although she excels in abstract roles rather than dramatic ones. Her line is always perfect and elongated. Gillian Murphy has become perhaps the most reliable and versatile female principal. I saw her featured in Robbins’ Other Dances, a duet with Cory Stearns; both were superbly nuanced and tender in this romantic work. And as the lead in Her Notes, Jessica Lang’s 2016 ode to Fanny Mendelssohn, she was paired with Thomas Forster and articulated each pose perfectly. Forster was also cast in numerous highly visible roles, including Ratmansky’s Serenade after Plato’s Symposium and Wheeldon’s Thirteen Diversions. While Forster has been steadily rising through the ranks (he is a soloist), his strengths have been his shapely feet and his height, but he has been filling into his tall frame and has developed his partnering.

Christine Shevchenko and Calvin Royal III in Songs of Bukovina. Photo: Marty Sohl.
Newish principals Stella Abrera, Misty Copeland, and Christine Shevchenko have taken on their fair share of lead roles, with great success. Shevchenko led Songs of Bukovina, the Ratmansky season premiere, dancing with Calvin Royal III. I still have yet to get a full sense of her style, but she is so fundamentally sound technically, and clean of line, that no doubt many her assured future roles will bring that into focus. Royal, now a soloist, has such gentle confidence and fluidity, and is given to heartfelt smiles now and then. The two were also matched in Symphonic Variations, a fascinating 1946 Ashton opus on form, line and detail. Soloist Joseph Gorak was born to dance such works by Ashton, and he shone in a repeat role in Plato’s Symposium as well. Another outstanding performance in that work was given by Tyler Maloney, a corps member; he acquitted himself wonderfully in Bukovina as well.

Other corps dancers caught the eye. Gabe Stone Shayer's exuberant personality and love of dancing distinguish him in everything, which included Bukovina and Her Notes paired with Misty Copeland. Catherine Hurlin has shown great range for a youngster, with remarkable polish and magnetism. Zhiyao Zhang danced with clarity and vim in both Plato’s Symposium, and subbing for Alex Hammoudi in Thirteen Diversions.

Ratmansky produced Songs of Bukovina for the 2017 fall season, to live piano music by his frequent collaborator, composer Leonid Desyatnikov. It is a perfectly pleasant way to spend a half hour or so, if not breaking new turf for the prolific Russian choreographer. After a section of divertissements by the four couples, one pair is featured—Shevchenko and Royal, who acts as a sort of emcee, gesturing to individual dancers to begin their solos and duets. Dynamics range from allegro, skipping and darting, barely touching the stage, to grand gestures such as pirouettes with the leg in second. Details such as wagging heads and flexed feet feel somewhat disconnected to the primary movement. But it’s a decent vehicle for 10 dancers, and with just one pianist needed to produce the music, it’s sure to be included in future seasons. Ratmansky has thus far spoiled us with one dance after another, producing such gems as Plato’s Symposium. But it would be wise to remember that even Balanchine couldn’t produce a creative breakthrough every time. We are thankful for every dance we get from Ratmansky.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

NYCB's Fashion Gala 2017


Pulcinella Variations. Photo: Paul Kolnik
When costuming dance nowadays, rehearsal type clothes are becoming fairly common. And why not? The price is right, the dancers can move freely, and really, we usually watch for the movement or story more than anything. But New York City Ballet’s fall “fashion gala” shines the spotlight equally on the fashion designers for the premieres, in this season’s case, of four ballets. Some of the costumes succeeded wonderfully, in addition to some of the dances. The premieres were unveiled at the gala, devoid of intermission as well as Peter Martins’ Chinoiserie study, The Chairman Dances (memorable for the wrong reasons), which will precede the four premieres in repertory in the coming weeks.


With 11 ballets now in the company’s repertory, and a number for other companies, Justin Peck could be excused for running out of ideas in such a short time. But his Pulcinella Variations demonstrates further artistic growth. Other than Alex Ratmansky, there is perhaps no classical ballet choreographer making such musical, flowing phrases organic to the vocabulary. If you think of ballet as a language built of letters, words, and phrases, these are full-blown paragraphs, properly punctuated. He knows the company’s dancers in and out, as well as their capabilities. Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Variations is a delightful choice, offering seven movements in which to showcase the varied skills of his peers. Most notable are Indiana Woodward, Anthony Huxley, and Tiler Peck (dancing with Gonzalo Garcia). All dance lucidly, imaginatively, and expand and collapse time with their superb command of technique. Tsumori Chisato designed the surreal, eye-popping costumes with huge eye and floral motifs, and while these are among the most memorable couture in recent seasons of NYCB's fashion galas, the dance itself is just as notable.

The Wind Still Brings. Photo: Paul Kolnik
When young choreographers receive big commissions, it’s not a surprise that their tendency is to use all the amazing talent they have to work with in big, showy ways—kind of like flooring the Ferrari to see how fast it accelerates. But as a viewer, that can be wearying; it’s good to see Troy Schumacher taking a deep breath and infusing his new work with some contemplative moments.


Schumacher (recently promoted to soloist), with his premiere The Wind Still Brings to music by William Walton, shows artistic maturity and emotional generosity to augment his usual youthful, athletic style of movement. There are large group passages (he employs 14 dancers here) in which bodies pour on and offstage, coalescing and dispersing, with the requisite duets and solos. But it’s the dreamlike middle section that makes an impression. The dancers spread out over the stage and lie down. A woman wanders on and lies down beside another, who rises seemingly in response; the first woman then also stands. The pair moves to another pair, and thus all four are on their feet, and so on, like a message spreading steadily through whispers. It’s quiet, thoughtful, and feels like many private moments strung together. Jonathan Saunders designed the varied, striking peach and blue costumes; each design is worn by a man and a woman, including skirts and tunics, and the mens’ hair is slicked back, lending a fascinating overall feeling of androgyny.

Composer's Holiday. Photo: Paul Kolnik
The 18-year-old Gianna Reisen, an apprentice at the Ballet Semperoper Dresden and a graduate of School of American Ballet, choreographed Composer’s Holiday to music by Lukas Foss. Although 12 dancers perform, there’s an intimacy to the proceedings that makes it feel like a smaller group. There are striking pictures: a woman is carried aloft in the opening scene; a couple leaps over a line of dancers, trying to touch; another woman walks on mens’ backs like stepping stones. The classical style contains challenging flourishes and quirks (a woman is carried off, slung over a man’s shoulder fireman-carry style). Virgil Abloh designed the costumes; the womens’ tutus evoke Degas’ above the knee length skirts, the men wear dark patterned tops.

Not Our Fate. Photo: Paul Kolnik
Not Our Fate, by Lauren Lovette, features a pairing between Taylor Stanley and Preston Chamblee, in addition to eight others. All the men wear timeless white t-shirts and slim black pants, designed by Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim. The women sport fitted black jackets and voluminous white scarf skirts that show movement, but overpower their bodies and lines, in addition to feeling archaic, especially in contrast to the men. The score, by Michael Nyman, is typical of his flowing, repetitious phrasing, which after awhile feels like the relentless noise from a jackhammer down the block. Nonetheless, Lovette creates inventive formations, such as when the group forms perpendicular lines around a featured soloist, moving to each stage quadrant. And a motif is memorably repeated in the final scene, when Stanley alights on Chamblee’s shoulder. We're not quite used to seeing same-gender couples, but we're well on our way. And how refreshing is it that including a female choreographer or two is no longer newsworthy.

New York City Ballet's season runs through October 15.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Many Sides of Tharp

Kaitlyn Gilliland and Matthew Dibble. Photo: Yi-Chun Wu
Even though Twyla Tharp, 76, has been creating dance for decades, seeing it performed recently by her company at the Joyce yet brings revelations. Her style varies for the occasion. Some of her classical ballets—such as In the Upper Room, in the repertory of ABT—are among the most technically challenging and rigorous that exist. Her Broadway shows, including the smash Movin’ Out, are stocked with crowd-pleasing, jazzy numbers, but always grounded in the ballet lexicon, even if it’s not obvious. And there is her early post-modern stuff—boneless noodling, contact improv, full of wit and quotidian delights.

The Joyce program (which runs to Oct 8) comprised two 1970s pieces and two premieres in a three-week run. The Raggedy Dances (1972), to ragtime music and Mozart, features Matthew Dibble, Kara Chan, Kaitlyn Gilliland, Kellie Drobnick, and Daniel Baker. A pair enters from the right, bobbing, darting, advancing and retreating, and exiting left. This repeats several times, which is kind of funny because they have to cross the stage by running around backstage, out of view. A bare-legged woman with a lace shawl does an alluring short solo, ending with a demi-hinge and a pelvis bump. Various patterns and pathways are trod in the multi-song work, marked by the loose virtuosity for which Tharp is known.

A far more strident and crisp approach is taken in The Fugue (1970). There is no accompaniment, simply percussion from the dancers’ stampings and footfalls. Chan, Gilliland and Tankersley, wearing all black shirts and trousers with red accessories, crack out beats with their hard-soled shoes, and punch the air like martial artists. You barely miss music in this play on rhythms and the potential for humans to make noise. A beautiful lighting scheme (by Jennifer Tipton, who lit the program) featured a house-shaped projection of light on the bare upstage bricks.

Entr’acte (2017) is fascinating as it involves Tharp herself onstage, first giving a lecture-demo of a rehearsal, then herself interacting with longtime muse John Selya, who at one point picks up Tharp upside-down on his back, and spins rapidly. I feared for the fearless choreographer, who obviously trusts her life to Selya (who starred in many of her shows over the years, and before that was in ABT). Her dancers flit around her like so many skilled birds and devotees, but Tharp retains an aura of tough love. And lest you think she lacks humor, she tosses in some lines: “If you think you have something to say, speak your mind... The language of dance has always eluded me.”

While Tharp is a remarkable formalist, it’s pop songs that seem to spark her creative heart. The final work and premiere, Dylan Love Songs, is in the jukebox mode of her Broadway shows (and connects with the short 2006 run of The Times They Are A-Changin’, to Dylan), with a string of seven numbers, each shifting in dynamic and emotion. John Selya lurks around the stage perimeter in a black coat and hat, a sort of shaman or dark spirit, dispensing hats other garments like pixie dust. Reed Tankersley picks up a strewn striped sweater, doing creative things with it—skipping over it, pulling it taut with his foot, wrapping it around his waist or head. A couple falls in and out of romance’s spell; another pair roughhouses, one flipping over the other’s back. Dynamics range from rat-a-tat phrases to lush and lyrical, most succinctly embodied in Kaitlyn Gilliland’s dancing. She has internalized Tharp’s mysterious essence, and combined with her NYCB chops, could be Twyla’s dream personified—a quite different, yet similarly skilled embodiment than another early Tharp ideal, Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Acro-Cats: Purr-fection!


The Acro-Cats are in Brooklyn through this weekend, and if you're a cat lover, you can't miss them. Seriously. They perform through Sep 10 at the Brooklyn Music School, which is adjacent to BAM's stage door.

If you live with a cat, a lot of what the Acro-Cats do will look familiar. They jump on furniture, walk along narrow, high surfaces, and paw at stuff. But to see them do it on request, in an organized fashion, in front of a big crowd of strangers, is nothing short of miraculous. And hilariously cute! The cats are joined by a chicken, a groundhog, and two rats, who all have their own special tricks.

Samantha Martin, the ringmaster and the force behind the Acro-Cats, gives a running commentary throughout the show. She talks of having fostered more than 200 kitties along the way, and describes each cat's personality and theatrical skill. They push shopping carts, ring concierge bells, jump through hoops, climb vertical poles, clamber across a horizontal pole while hanging below it (and stop for a "just hang in there" photo op, hanging from her front paws). Between acts, each cat returns to its carrier upon the toot of a whistle. 

The finale is The Rockcats, in which a number of cats (and a chicken on percussion) each take up an instrument, including keys, guitar, trumpet, chimes, and of course, cow bell. After the show, you can go onstage and visit with the kitties. It's a completely delightful theatrical experience, and so refreshing amid an abundance of great (but mostly serious) performance. And Martin's description of how she trains the cats gives us cat-servants hope, albeit distant, for channeling our own furry friends' tendencies!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

It's all about the people


Alex Hammoudi and Devon Teuscher in Swan Lake. Photo: Gene Schiavone
I've compared ballet to baseball before. This time, it’s about how the basic framework, or vehicle, remains fairly constant—nine innings played in a proscribed area; a three-act romantic ballet—but what makes a game or a dance interesting are the ever-changing personalities passing through. (I'll admit it: baseball is fundamentally boring without the varied characters at work.) They all bring strengths and weaknesses; it’s this essential humanity that gives the proceedings drama and makes it palatable to watch the same format repeatedly.

The revolving cast at ABT this season suddenly feels homegrown again, after years of importing guest artists from around the world to pop in for an R&J or two. And with the recent departure of two Russian ballerinas who represent opposite ends of the spectrum—Diana Vishneva, a fiery, precise mover, and Veronika Part, statuesque and lush—it would seem that an era is ending. Not a decade ago, dancers from Spain and Latin and South America dominated the ranks, such as Carreño, the Corellas, the Cornejos, Gomes, and more, alongside the Russian contingent (add to the above Beloserkovsky and Dvorovenko, who since her ABT retirement has notably distinguished herself as an actor in The Americans).

The season-end promotions were just announced, and all four named have risen through ABT’s ranks, in the wake of last season’s promotions of Stella Abrera and Misty Copeland, among others. This year, new principals are Christine Shevchenko (Ukrainian, but mostly raised in the US); Devon Teuscher, who already seems to have an rich inner life to convey along her interpretations; and Sarah Lane, who has largely toiled as a soloist for nine years, with a brief celebrity turn as Natalie Portman’s body double in the movie The Black Swan. Promoted from corps member to soloist is Calvin Royal III, who since 2011 has frequently bobbed to the surface in featured roles and who seems to be on a sure-fire path to prince-dom, assuming some other company doesn’t lure him away. (Case: at NYCB, principal Ana Sofia Scheller, little seen in recent seasons, recently moved to San Francisco Ballet where, presumably, she will get more roles.)

The three women promoted have put in solid principal work already. Teuscher was luminous and deeply empathetic in Swan Lake, Lane sparkled in the premiere of Ratmansky's 

Whipped Cream paired with Simkin, and I heard she was fantastic as Giselle. Shevchenko subbed capably for Gillian Murphy and Part as the female lead in Le Corsaire, doing overtime with four performances. So while these promotions are not a given, it does seem more a formality in the wake of slots opening up with retirements.
Calvin Royal III and Luciana Paris in Don Quixote. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor

Other notable season performances and higher visibility dancers include soloist Cassandra Trenary, who seemed to have prominent roles in nearly everything (e.g., The Golden Cockerel, Onegin, and Aftereffect), besides flashing her social dance chops at Midsummer Night Swing; soloist Blaine Hoven, in Whipped Cream and Mozartiana; corps member Catherine Hurlin, whom we recall as little Clara in The Nutcracker a few years back, with growing poise and technique. Jeffrey Cirio danced often; notably in Don Quixote with Misty Copeland, where alongside Calvin Royal III as Espada, it dawned on me that the top three roles were filled by non whites. Stella Abrera had a grand season, seemingly flourishing as a principal after seasons of injury and recovery; she sparkled as Princess Tea in Whipped Cream, and was a heart-wrenching Giselle on the anniversary of Gomes’ 20th anniversary with ABT.

Joseph Gorak has earned to be seen frequently, with his pristine, artful lines and innate épaulement. He reminds me of a young David Hallberg in many ways—also (unfortunately) in the need to build upper body muscle to be able to hoist women overheard, as he failed to do in the final exit of an otherwise crisp Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux with Isabella Boylston. Speaking of which, Boylston hit her stride this season, endearing herself further with audiences with her courage, commitment, and excellent form; she also seems to have found her match with Lendorf as a frequent partner. I saw them perform Aurora’s Wedding, an augmented act from Ratmansky’s The Sleeping Beauty. While they performed laudably, the piece itself—considered a company premiere—is a lopped off triumphal pageant that carries little of the hard-won dramatic bearing leading up to it, though much of it is still fun to see.

And there’s the return of Hallberg, after two years rehabbing a terrible foot injury, after making front-page headlines by joining the Bolshoi, which defied conventional knowledge and tropes about that company’s style, versus his own, more Mariinsky-like classical sensibility. Seeing him in action again was like seeing a unicorn. His flexibility and ballon remain remarkable, his line exquisite, his upper body strength now reliable. And he inhabits his roles more, rather than wearing them externally. Perhaps the injury did have a silver lining, by causing some soul searching and retraining. In fact he is writing a book on the topic, so we can read firsthand his thoughts.

While one dancer’s departure means another’s entrance, some dancers, like Hallberg, simply cannot be replaced. At least we can look forward to more performances by him, as well as the numerous advancing dancers who have risen through ABT's ranks.