writers on dancing


Gods, Cowpokes and Lots of Fouettés

“Apollo”, “Le Corsaire pas de deux”, “Paquita pas de deux”, “Rodeo”
American Ballet Theater
New York City Center
New York, New York
October 27, 2005

by Mary Cargill
copyright ©2005 by Mary Cargill

Apollo, Maxim Beloserkovsky, had his choice of a slew of new muses on Thursday night: Veronika Part debuted as Terpsichore, Michele Wiles as Polyhymnia, and Melanie Hamrick as Calliope. ABT dances Balanchine’s original version, with its expressionistic birth scene and exalted staircase ending. Despite the somewhat dated and occasionally awkward movements of the first scene (the twitchy birth, the swaddling clothes, the difficult climb down the stairs in pitch dark) this version is, I think, more interesting than the stripped down, more classical version Balanchine switched to. It is like watching a choreographer develop, along with his hero, from the first literal tentative steps to the complete mastery of movement.

Beloserkovsky was a very fine Apollo, intense and powerful. He underplayed the first part a bit, downplaying the open-mouthed gasping movements, which often generate a titter. Even the problem with his costume top (he ended up tossing is off and dancing bare chested) couldn’t disturb his concentration. He had an intriguing combination of power and playfulness in his dances with the muses, the summons to Olympus, with its simple, dignified walk, was given power and weight.

Part, too, was a magnificent Terpsichore, from her first prancing steps. Both she and Beloserkovsky have a dignified reserve, which translates into a fine partnership. She is a bit tall for him, but they managed the lifts very well, including the always fraught swimming move. It was very secure, with no bobbles, and Part used her arms so well there, with a weight that seemed to cut through the air.

Wiles was a perky Polyhymnia, but the difficult turns were spot on and perfectly controlled. Hamrick was a bit diffident as Calliope, but she is a lovely dancer with clean, clear lines.

Another bare chest was on view when Angel Corella danced Ali to Xiomara Reyes’ Medora in the “Corsaire pas de deux”. These, with another long-after Petipa pas de deux, “Paquita” (danced by Jose Manuel Carreño and Irina Dvorovenko) were the somewhat high calorie middle ballet. Both ended in a flurry of fouettés; as far as I’m concerned 64 is about 63 too many, but the audience disagreed, and cheered wildly. Corella seemed to be having a ball, and his obvious joy and sincerity kept the piece well this side of kitsch. His technique is a marvel, turning while bending his leg, looking like a turquoise cork-screw, and springing through the air in astounding jumps. Reyes’ classical technique is beautiful, but she does not have the classical grandeur a showpiece like this needs. She is so much more interesting in character roles.

Dvorovenko, on the other hand, was born to wear a red tutu, and gave “Paquita” a triumphant, if somewhat mechanical, confidence. Carreño, on the third hand, was a warm-blooded joy, dancing with a twinkle in his eye, as if it were all a wonderful joke to share with the audience.

Agnes de Mille’s “Rodeo”, too, is a lot of fun—though could anyone ever criticize those 19th century male choreographers for not taking women seriously after reading de Mille’s description of “Rodeo” as dealing “with the problem that has confronted every American woman from the earliest pioneer times and which has never ceased to occupy her throughout the history of the of the building of our country: how to get a suitable man.”

“Rodeo” is pure fantasy—even Cinderella was content to have one man seek her out, but de Mille has to have two men fight over her little Cowgirl alter ego. But it has been sending audiences home happy for 60 years, and it did so again, on the strength of some wonderful performances. Erica Cornejo as the Cowgirl underplayed the pathos, and gave her some backbone. Craig Salstein was pure “aw shucks” charm as the Champion Roper, and his tap dance was both innocently virtuosic and warmly expressive; he is one of the most natural performers ABT has, and just seems to glow from the stage. And so does the entire piece.

Volume 3, No. 40
October 31, 2005

copyright ©2005 Mary Cargill



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last updated on October 31, 2005