Friday, June 1, 2012

ABT's Bright, Light Stream

David Hallberg. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor
The Bright Stream, by Alexei Ratmansky to Shostakovich, is a big cream puff in the serious, jamon laden banquet of ABT's spring season. That's not to say that La Bayadère doesn't have lighter moments... it's just that the characters don't seem to realize it. But in The Bright Stream, everyone performs with a wink and a nod, and it looks like the dancers are having a blast. Ratmanksy has created an ensemble vehicle that in theory is led by four stars, but the limelight is often stolen by a shaggy dog or a milkmaid. It's all part of the fun, amid Ilya Utkin's etched-effect sets.

Marcelo Gomes, Paloma Herrera, David Hallberg, and Gillian Murphy are the headliners. Herrera and Murphy are both solid, technically outstanding dancers with picture-perfect proportions. Herrera's got killer feet, and Murphy is a spinner. But I have to admit that I have seen less of them in recent seasons with what seems to be an increasing number of fancy-pants guest ballerinas like Osipova (now apparently a regular principal), Cojocaru, not to mention resident Russian star Vishneva. It is a lucky fool's errand, trying to decide on one or two casts to see, but that means I invariably miss others.

There were a few seasons when Herrera (Zina) was perpetually paired with Gomes so that they moved as one. That feeling resurfaced in this performance, especially with Gomes' "aw shucks" demeanor as the Pyotr, the country bumpkin. Hallberg of course stole the show dressed as a sylph, alternating between convincingly feminine affectations and a galumphing guy. His height and long limbs increase the comical impression. Murphy is perfect as the Ballerina, masquerading as a man, bursting across the stage in flat-out split leaps. Supporting, yet key, roles were danced by Craig Salstein, Misty Copeland, Maria Riccetto, Jared Matthews, Martine van Hamel, Victor Barbee, and Roman Zhurbin.

As refreshing as this ballet is, I find the choppy pacing a bit distracting, as well as the plethora of mime. And I know it's all part of the joke, but the extent to which hiding one's entire identity behind an eye mask stretches the limits, especially when the ballerinas have black, blonde, and flame red hair. Still, it's hard to recall the dancers looking as happy while performing, and for that we are thankful.

No comments: