writers on dancing


Of Mice and Ballerinas

"Theme and Variations," "Grand Pas Classique," "The Ballerina", "Le Spectre de la Rose," "Sinfonietta"
American Ballet Theatre
City Center
New York, NY
Sunday, October 31, 2004, Matinee

By Mary Cargill
copyright © 2004 by Mary Cargill

American Ballet Theatre celebrated Halloween with a matinee appearance of Angelina Ballerina, the beloved mouse, much to the delight of the many children in the audience. Angelina, interviewed by the unflappable Susan Jaffe, mimed her questions with astonishing effectiveness, but managed not to upstage her dancing partners, Veronika Part and Maxim Beloserkovsky. The three appeared in the premiere of Kevin McKenzie’s “The Ballerina”, which might as well have been called “Angelina goes to The Concert”—there were many echoes of Jerome Robbins. Part and Beloserkovsky could have been dancing outtakes from “Dances at a Gathering” as the Girl in Rust and the Man in Very Dark Blue, but any chance to see Part’s arabesque is cause for celebration, and the work was charming.

The afternoon opened with the uncompromising classicism of Balanchine’s “Theme and Variations”, with Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes, who were, as they say, on their game, and it was a performance to cherish. Murphy’s crystal technique was merely the basis of a wonderful performance; her whole body, including her eyes, seemed to respond to the music and she was in turn grand, melancholy, and rapturous without any sense of imposing an overly dramatic outline. The feeling came from within, and was as rich and satisfying as a full blown Aurora. Her upper body was particularly nuanced, and she gave the impression of moving in a different atmosphere, of parting an invisible curtain into a grander world which she was able to share with the audience.

Gomes was equally vivid; theirs is a wonderful partnership. His dark good looks emphasize her blonde beauty, and his warmth and modest grandeur seem to bring out depths in her sometimes icy perfection. He has the imaginative ability to expand his solos to include his partner, as well as the pure technical skill to echo each movement in the pas de deux, making it a conversation between the most wonderful people in the world.

Victor Gsovsky’s “Grand Pas Classique”, danced by Michele Wiles and David Hallberg, is not nearly as exalted as “Theme and Variations”, but at its best it is a celebration of pure classicism. (At its worst, it is a series of sometimes flashy steps danced to rather dull music.) If not at its absolute best, it still got a thrilling performance. Hallberg is an extraordinarily pure dancer, who has the ability to find subtleties in his gloriously big movements, and his solo, with his precise beats and luxurious jumps combined with a soft and rounded upper body, was thrilling. Wiles is a beautiful dancer as well, and, though she has had more secure balances in other performances, had impeccable footwork. She did milk her bows after her solo a bit, verging on parody—the Trockaderos came to mind, but she deserved the ovation.

Herman Cornejo replaced the injured Ethan Stiefel in Fokine’s “Le Spectre de la Rose”, and Maria Riccetto, in her debut, replaced Xiomara Reyes. The ballet has been somewhat redesigned—there is no bird cage, the girl doesn’t have the charming bonnet of the early photographs, and the spectre’s costume is not nearly as pink and bepetaled as Nijinsky’s was; a change, I suspect, for the better. Cornejo had a soft flow and the unique curving arms. Riccetto managed her sleepwalking dance very well, but the ending, where she awakes and finds the rose, had none of the depth that make descriptions of Karsavina’s performance so intriguing. In a famous demonstration of the mime scene many years after she stopped dancing, she apparently showed that the girl realizes that the perfect spirit of the rose was only a dream, that reality is not dancing at a ball, and that the kiss was really a farewell to girlish illusions. The current version’s happy ending turns a profound moment into a Hallmark card.

Jirí Kylián’s “Sinfonietta” is also to some extent a Hallmark card, a fake folk exhibition of the “Men must jump and women must weep and we are all peasants worshiping the land” ilk. ABT’s men jump very well indeed, and they seemed to enjoy the beefy aerobics that Kylián substitutes for choreography; the audience certainly did.
Volume 2, No. 40
October 25, 2004

Copyright ©2004 by Nancy Dalva


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last updated on October 25, 2004