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The DanceView Times, New York edition

The Return of Part and Meunier

Theme and Variations/Tschaikovsky pas de Deux/Mozartiana/Ballet Imperial
American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
New York, NY
May 27, 2004

by Susan Reiter
copyright © 2004 by Susan Reiter
published May 31, 2004

After a year and a half of wondering exactly what ABT had in mind for two intriguingly distinctive ballerinas who joined the company's ranks in late 2003 (and where they were hiding them most of the time), this one evening offered a chance to view both the elusive Veronika Part and Monique Meunier not only out onstage but actually in toe shoes and tutus. What a relief to be able to replace the image of Part striding along in a tank top and brown dungarees to George Harrison music (the only ABT role in which I'd seen her before her revelatory appearance in a Raymonda soloist role at the opening night gala) with the vision of her long, tapered torso in the black bodice and tutu the ballerina wears in Mozartiana, marvelously attuned to the delicate strains of the Tchaikovsky "Preghiera" that begins the ballet.

And what a pleasure to see big, bold, infallibly musical Meunier out there dancing Balanchine once again, rather than in a quasi-character role (such Pillar of Fire's prim Elder Sister or the stately Countess Cybele in Raymonda) or twitching around, her face a mask of white powder, in Kylian's unfortunate Sechs Tanze. As the second ballerina in Ballet Imperial, she wore an unflatteringly ornate costume that made her upper body look shortened and bulky, and she clearly is not at ideal ballerina weight. But she plunged into the expansive choreography with such vigor and joy that one could not help rooting for her. The audience clearly picked up on this; after being stunned momentarily when Meunier took a hard fall, landing stretched out on her side, as she was in the midst of the first movement's pas de trios, they applauded her fervently when she not only continued with no loss of energy or flair, but added an extra fillip to a tricky downstage pirouette sequence. Clearly, she was no only nonplussed by the tumble but more than ready to put it behind her.

The fascination of seeing Meunier going full throttle made Nina Ananiashvili, who was making her debut in the major ballerina role at this performance, seem like an afterthought. She was regal in deportment but seemed wispy and colorless next to the full-bodied dancing of Meunier, and a doleful, tense demeanor sealed her off rather than opened her up toward the audience. Marcelo Gomes, a perfect paragon of courtly elegance and an ideal questing romantic hero, was her deferential partner.

Ananiashvili had exceeded my expectations in Mozartiana on this program's opening night, but where she had imposed her stylistic decisions and careful execution of the role, Part seemed to give herself up to its delicate mysteries, letting her performance create itself on the spot. Her poignant but not excessively rapturous expression and fluid, breath-like phrasing worked wonderfully in the Preghiera, her arms and torso filling out each delicate phrase of the music. In the Theme and Variations, she and Maxim Beloserkovsky began their companionable little stroll together with a gracious lilt and unaffected pleasure. During her intricate variations, she retained an air of calm authority and unfailing musical sensitivity. She did not push things to any extremes or attempt any Farrell-like moments of daring, but with her innately lush way of phrasing movement and attention to detail created her own brand of magic. Beloserkovsky has the lean, darting legs and a somewhat elfin quality that make him an appropriate interpreter of this landmark Ib Andersen role. He acquitted himself quite well, although he tends to push for effects and was not able to blaze through the pirouettes of his second variations with the panache of Angel Corella. Jesus Pastor added a jazzy edge to portions of the Gigue, giving an interesting if not yet complete performance.

Another debutante was Xiomara Reyes in Tschaikovsky pas de Deux, which she attacked with tremendous speed and an enthusiasm that bordered on frenzy. Her zest and boldness were undeniably exciting, but at times she shaped the movement carelessly, flinging away the details of articulation that make this role such a gem. Julio Bocca brought his own brand of bravura to the pas de deux, altering portions of his solo passages but adding his own brand of excitement to a performance that left the audience cheering happily.

The program opened with Ashley Tuttle and Angel Corella, harmoniously partnered together, in a Theme and Variations that hit all the right notes without taking off into that greater realm of magic where this ballet can sometimes venture. Tuttle is so clear and attentive and heartfelt when she dances Balanchine, but in this role one wishes for her to radiate a more magisterial air, to glitter a bit more. Corella is sometimes too much the eager-to-please puppy in his solos, but he always terrifically attentive and skillful in his partnering, and the pas de deux glowed graciously.

Photo: Monique Meunier in Ballet Imperial. Photo: MIRA

Originally published:
Volume 2, Number 20
May 31, 2004

Copyright ©2004 by Susan Reiter



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