ABT Does Right by Ashton.
The American Ballet Theatre's spring season at New York's Metropolitan Opera House was a case of good news and great news. The good news was that the company was dancing well, and the great news was that it has acquired two works which show that off: Sir Frederick Ashton's one-act ballet The Dream and his full-length La Fille mal gardee. ABT, which met the ballets' demands for acting dancers in the leads and dancing actors in the character roles, had a genuine triumph.
In The Dream, Ashton's brilliant distillation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, set in the early Victorian period of Mendelssohn's incidental music, Julie Kent and Amanda McKerrow brought much of the wayward majesty needed to the role of Titania, if not all of the diamond-sharp footwork, and Kent was especially melting in the final reconciliation pas de deux. Carlos Acosta, the Cuban star, dancing with Kent, caught the powerful and controlling nature of Oberon, even if he missed some of the effortless elegance.
The corps, in the fast footwork and delicate Romantic poses, looked very well rehearsed and comfortable in the challenging choreography. The difficult role of Bottom, which needs both impeccable technique and a powerful stage presence, was given to corps members Flavio Salazar and Julio Bragado-Young, who performed Bottom's mime scene with the right touch of humor and dignity. The ability to create a character using gestures and expressions is not often required in these days of perpetual motion and gymnastic choreography, and both dancers rose to the challenge.
Ashton's La Fille mal gardee, too, has its special nontechnical challenges, in the roles of the materialistic Widow Simone and Alain, the hapless suitor of the Widow's daughter. The dancers, coached by Alexander Grant, the original Alain, did not try to make the ballet funny; they tried to make it real. The humor grew out of the characters and their story, not from the pratfalls. La Fille does have its share of pratfalls, especially in the Widow Simone's clog dance, but ABT's Widows, Kirk Peterson, Guillaume Graffin, and Victor Barbee all had the good taste not to stomp the humanity out of the role. Graffin, especially, was a model of comic fussiness and witty timing.
There were four principals cast as the Widow's daughter, Lise, and the goodhearted, high-jumping hero, Colas. Most met the technical challenges (Ashton had been partially inspired by the Bolshoi's 1956 London visit to go for virtuosic gold, without, of course, making that an end in itself), and again, they concentrated on creating characters rather than mining laughs. The most youthful and appealing were Xiomara Reyes and Angel Corella; Nina Ananiashvili and Carlos Acosta were the most exuberant and clear in their characterizations (both have danced the parts with The Royal Ballet). Wonderful as the individual performances were, La Fille was a company effort, and ABT danced with energy, charm, and understanding. This sunny, multilayered comedy deserved all of its many cheers.
There were cheers, as well as tears, on Monday, June 25, when Susan Jaffe gave her final performance in Giselle (see News, page 20). The season was not all farewells, of course. The most promising debut was Marcelo Gomes's Albrecht. Gomes, one of the remarkable group of Latin dancers at ABT, is tall, elegant, and has extraordinary stage sense. His Albrecht was impetuous and fierce tempered, clearly in love with Giselle, and his final scene was simple but deeply felt, and avoided extraneous melodramatics. With dancers like this and ballets by Ashton, ABT had a truly sunny season.
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|Title Annotation:||American Ballet Theatre|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2002|
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