Tuesday, November 12, 2013

ABT in Repertory—Hitting the Sweet Spot

Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes in Bach Partita. Photo: Gene Schiavone
ABT's fall rep season is brief, about a week and half this year. The upside is that it leaves us wanting to see more of the company's shorter form repertory, though they've been including one or two such slates in their two-month Met Opera House runs. Would they consider more? Highlights from week two at the Koch Theater, a wonderful venue for the company:

Bach Partita (1983), by Twyla Tharp
  • To Partita No. 2 in D Minor for solo violin, played vibrantly by Charles Yang
  • Three main couples feature in five parts
  • In the opening section, four dancers interweave quickly, setting a motif of roiling, ceaseless movement
  • Whiteside pairs with Polina Semionova—these two leggy dancers are deservedly getting a lot of work these days in a company vastly different in personnel than even a few years ago
  • Marcelo Gomes and Gillian Murphy—a magnetic and peerless duo; Murphy's usual unerring sense of center apparent in triple and quadruple pirouettes; when Gomes does the simplest gesture—placing his hand on her shoulder—it becomes a significant dramatic event
  • Stella Abrera and Calvin Royal III—a fresh and appealing combo; Royal, a tall, warm presence, also seeing a number of high profile roles this season; good to see Abrera dancing with crisp confidence
  • Santo Loquasto designed cute shorts for the guys, and white or flesh hued dresses of short and midi length for the gals
  • Tharp plays with the ballet form, oscillating arms in high fifth during chainés, or making ronds de jambe en l'air a kind of lighthearted flourish rather than a demonstration of subtle control
  • Tharp and Mark Morris are masters at moving on and offstage large groups of dancers and varying dynamic and atmosphere
Mark Morris' Gong. Photo: Gene Schiavone
Gong (2001), by Mark Morris
  • To Tabuh-Tabuhan (1936) by Colin McPhee, with western and Balinese percussion instruments
  • Dazzling rainbow palette costumes for the 15 dancers by Isaac Mizrahi, with gold anklets for the women
  • Morris quotes Balinese traditions—gestures (prayer hands, deep second grand pliés), flexed feet, shadow silhouettes—without appropriating it
  • Moments of stillness alternate with big split leaps in second
  • Humor in a passage when the ensemble hops to beats of a gong to form a column
  • James Whiteside (a new principal) held the eye with great authority
  • Gillian Murphy and Sascha Radetsky danced as two parts forming one; she convincingly free falls, and he catches her at the last moment
  • Nice to see Misty Copeland in good form, and Grant De Long performing capably in place of Gomes

Les Sylphides (1908), by Michel Fokine, to Chopin
  • Such a treat to see Joseph Gorak, rising star in the corps, as the sole male dancing with Isabella Boylston (her grand jetés are breathtaking), the ever-charming Sarah Lane, and Hee Seo (whose arms float into place), plus 16 supporting women. As I've mentioned before, his physique reminds me of David Hallberg—not just his high-instep feet, but his regal épaulement.
  • This chestnut epitomizes the romantic period, but sometimes drifts into a precious Degas still life.

Cory Stearns & Veronika Part in The Moor's Pavane. Photo: Gene Schiavone
Moor's Pavane (1949), by José Limón

  • This proscenium theater is somewhat too large in scale for this quartet, which, while grand in diagram, still relies strongly on facial expressions
  • Roman Zhurbin, as the Moor, is among the company's finest character dancers
  • Seo, his wife, physically exemplifies the innocent purity required of her role
  • Cory Stearns, the friend, puts his feline stealth to good use, preening and slinking about  
  • Veronika Part, his wife, manages to project well as a sly conspirator
Next up for ABT: Ratmansky's The Nutcracker at BAM in December.

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