writers on dancing


Angel Corella's Forlorn Petrouchka

Fokine Celebration
"Les Sylphides," "Petrouchka," "Le Spectre de la Rose," "Polovtsian Dances"
American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
New York, NY
June 18, 2005 (matinee)

by Susan Reiter
copyright ©2005 by Susan Reiter

The ever-ebullient Angel Corella was well hidden behind Petrouchka's sad-clown make-up and droopy, forlorn body language, in American Ballet Theatre's new production of Michel Fokine's "Petrouchka." He made the puppet a scrappy, feisty figure, but one who was clearly never going to find any satisfaction from his sad-eyed crush on the ballerina, nor any relief from his ongoing mistreatment by the Charlatan. When the three puppets broke free of their perches and came downstage in the first scene, Corella resembled the pushed-aside kid brother, trying to keep up with two older, self-involved siblings.

His scene along in his cell was quite touching, especially when he mimed the beatings he suffered and gestured helplessly towards the picture of the Charlatan. When the ballerina suddenly entered, his jack-knife jumps were so bold and exciting that they seemed to physically push her away, in addition to frightening her off. Sometimes the Ballerina suggests a degree of innocence, but not on this occasion. As Stella Abrera played her, she had a cold-hearted hauteur and knew she would always get her way. Roman Zhurbin's Moor was not as assertive nor as cartoon-like as he can sometimes be, but he staked his possessive claim to the Ballerina with the air of one who could not imagine being refused.

The opening scene seemed not to have quite fully jelled and could brim with more life, but the final fairground scene was robustly eye-filling. Isaac Stappas made the Chief Coachman a vivid bon vivant, sizing up the Nursemaids and fully enjoying the festivities. Jennifer Alexander also created a strong character as the Chief Nursemaid, slightly saucy but not hoydenish. The scene built to its rollicking crescendo, buoyed by that propulsive, irresistible Stravinsky music, with the eager, high-flying Grooms (Tobin Eason and Jeffrey Gollaway) leading the way.

The final moments made their full impact, as Corella happily mocked the Charlatan and savored his moment of triumph; you could sense how he relished the openness up there on that roof, his freedom from all those enclosing walls. But then came the moment of surprise and resignation, when he sense his sweet victory was to be a brief one, and he flopped forward, a helpless puppet once more.

ABT's male roster is being kept busy by this Fokine program, and four men are taking a turn at the Nijinsky role in "Le Spectre de la Rose." Making his New York debut in the role on this occasion, Danny Tidwell was certainly stunning enough to be the embodiment of any girl's dream. He is lankier than the more compact dancers who have tended to be cast as the Rose, but his exceptionally beautiful proportions and quietly sensuous presentation helped him claim the role as his own. His leaps were, as expected, exceptionally bold and beautiful, and he made the curling arm flourishes seem organic rather than applied. He sustained the momentum of his bravura flights, executing the demanding technical passages with no sense of strain, and made a calm transition into the partnering. He urged the demure Xiomara Reyes out of her chair with supple persuasiveness, and sustained a protective air as he guided her through her dream.

"Polovtsian Dances" came across as less hokey and more coherent than it did as part of the opening night gala. It certainly has its kitschy aspects, but it skillfully reflects the exoticism and fervor of Borodin's music. It's a purely presentational series of flavorful ensembles, and at times you sense the dancers waiting around for their next "turn." But it serves its purpose as an entertaining closing work, and helps complete the program's wide-ranging picture of Fokine's crucial explorations of ballet's expressive possibilities.

The program opened with "Les Sylphides," with Maria Riccetto, Gennadi Daveliev, Martha Butler and Kristi Boone.

Volume 3, No. 24
June 20, 2005

copyright ©2005 Susan Reiter


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last updated on June 20, 2005