ABT Studio Company
"Ghost Light," "Nocturne," "Jardin aux Lilas," "Flower Festival pas de deux," "Vanish"
Skirball Center at NYU
New York, NY
April 27, 2007

by Mary Cargill
copyright © 2007 by Mary Cargill

ABT's Studio Coompay, the 13-member group of young dancers now led by its new artistic director Kirk Peterson, performed an intriguing mixture of new and old works, showcasing their considerable talents—if not always in first-rate choreography.

The program opened with the New York premiere of Brian Reeder’s "Ghost Light," to music (not identified) of Aaron Copland. Reeder, in earlier works for the Studio Company, has shown a gift for characterization, and the new work, too, had a deft economy of gesture. A blank stage and a bare light bulb and a young man (Roddy Doble), with a mop combined with the slightly raucous nostalgia of the music, effortlessly evoked the backstage of a small vaudeville theater, populated by the ghosts of hoofers of yesteryear. Three couples danced variations of social dances, a flapper, a waltz, and a tap dance, and at the end, the stage hand sets down his mop (shades of Cinderella,) joins hands with the waltz girl, and goes off with the ghosts. It was a gentle and charming little fairy tale, which, though somewhat limited choreographically, suited the young dancers.

Kirk Peterson’s "Nocturne" also received its New York premiere. It was a solo for Joseph Gorak to Chopin, which avoided many of the swoony clichés this musician seems to summon from so many of the post-Robbins piano ballet choreographers. There was a serene, classical surface, tinged with bending and scooping movements, accented by elegant little beats. Again, while not world-shattering choreography, it made the dancer look good.

Antony Tudor’s "Jardin aux Lilas" is world-shattering choreography, and its understated subtle moves can be a challenge for dancers from a world so far away from the Edwardian age and the stifling effects of honor, duty, sacrifice, and forbidden attachments. It was performed without the scenery, unfortunately, so the almost physical smell of lilacs was missing. But the dancers, coached by Donald Mahler, did very well. Roddy Doble was The Man She Must Marry, quite a contrast from the stage-struck cleaner of the first ballet. He didn’t quite manage all the underlying menace of the final walk off-stage, but did move with the proper heavy stiffness. Devon Teuschner was Caroline; again the tragedy of the final walk could have been stronger, and some of the gestures looked well-coached, not instinctive, but it was a truly moving interpretation.

Both Christine Shevchenko as An Episode in His Past, and Yannik Bittencourt, as The Lover moved with a real understanding of the meaning behind their movements. The guests too, especially the unnamed girl in white, whose gentle and helpless sympathy for Caroline clarifies the situation, danced with a fine understanding. I can only hope that this means the Studio Company can continue to challenge and expand the dancers’ artistic side.

The Bournonville's "Flower Festival in Genzano" offered some unexpected challenges, both for the woman (Teuscher) and the man (Gorak). In the adagio, Teuscher’s shoe came untied, and she had to dance with the ribbon dragging on the floor, but she was thoroughly professional and just ignored it until she could get off stage. And the beginning of the male solo was greeted with a blackout, and a muffed recording. Gorak just gave a little grin and started over again, apparently, from the elegance and beauty of his beats, completely nonplussed. It was a delicious rendition on its own, but the dancers had the audience rooting for them from the start.

Rooting is, I’m afraid, what the final ballet "Vanish," by Adam Hougland, was also after, since its only purpose seemed to be to pummel the audience into applause. It was yet another post-Forsythe exercise, with bare-chested men and bare-legged women huffing and puffing and wagging their butts in harsh, stark lighting; the only novelty was the brown leotards, in place of the more common black. It was like watching electrified droplets of brown ooze hurl across the stage, first one way, and then another, to no effect whatsoever.

Volume 5, No. 17
April 30, 2007

copyright ©2007 by Mary Cargill

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