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Autumn Reveries at ABT. (New York).

Autumn Reveries at ABT American Ballet Theatre City Center Theater New York, New York October 23-November 4, 2001

The lights slowly faded on Julie Kent and Angel Corella. He held her straight up, with one of her arms raised, also straight up. It was the end of the October 25 premiere of Clear, by Australian choreographer Stanton Welch. The audience stood and cheered. It was the most distinguished new offering of American Ballet Theatre's autumn season.

Like its musical accompaniment (J.S. Bach's Concerto in C Minor for Violin, Oboe, and Strings and the first and second movements of his Violin Concerto in G Minor for Violin and Strings), Clear made the complex appear simple and the simple appear strong.

Initially, it appeared to be one of those multi-step abstractions of which there were several during the season. But the action glided between the brilliantly fast and the elegantly slow. Where other ballets gained only in momentum, Clear gained in depth.

Performed by seven of the company's top men (Corella, Marcelo Gomes, Herman Cornejo, Joaquin De Luz, Jerry Douglas, Sascha Radetsky, and Maxim Belotserkovsky), with Kent as their lone female, the ballet's mood was stoic. Each of its sections concluded with a brief recessional.

In its earth-toned costumes by Michael Kors for Celine, and in the smooth logic of its patterns, Clear seemed like a lamentation. And yet it vibrated with hope and drew not only physical but moral strength from its fine interpreters.

The season also featured company premieres of Kirk Peterson's Amazed in Burning Dreams, Robert Hill's Marimba, and George Balanchine's fifty-four-year-old Symphony in C.

Perhaps because he is one of ABT's ballet masters, Peterson knows his dancers very well. Despite its mystical, Blake-like title, his ballet was a demanding, energy-steeped exposition of their individual physical skills.

To Philip Glass's pulsating score for the film Mishima, the dancers, in slate-blue cutoffs and unitards, red wristlets, and a red circle drawn around one eye, shot through the light-infused landscape. Sometimes they were in cool pairs; sometimes the men took over, splaying their arms like skate wings.

The energy was relentless, but the ultimate mood was more of depletion than fulfillment as the men dropped to the floor and curled around the women's feet.

Amazed in Burning Dreams did not rely on a few featured dancers. On the two occasions that I saw it, there were many cast changes. All performed as though they had been rehearsed to a fare-thee-well. Especially strong were Carlos Lopez, Misty Copeland, Marcelo Gomes, Erica Cornejo, and David Hallberg.

Another workout. This time it was Marimba. Created for nine dancers, it was dominated by composer Minoru Miki's Marimba Spiritual. Makoto Nakura played the instrument with flair and flying arms, with three drummers backing him. For an unfathomable reason, I kept thinking of Balanchine's Agon as the dancers swept through their athletic ceremonial. And yet Marimba lacked the very quality that makes Agon so distinctive: It had no palpable style. Hill used his dancers authoritatively, and they responded in kind. But what were they conveying?

In its exuberant grandeur, Symphony in C looks at the nineteenth century through twentieth-century eyes. Bizet was very young when he wrote the music. Balanchine was middle-aged but agelessly in love with momentum when he created the ballet.

The first movement has the sparkle of new snow. Paloma Herrera's interpretation was rhythmically somewhat inflexible, but both of her partners, Vladimir Malakhov and Ethan Stiefel, danced eloquently.

The second movement is indelibly associated with New York City Ballet's Tanaquil Le Clercq and Francisco Moncion; her backward falls into his arms were calmly trusting. Here, Susan Jaffe, partnered by Carlos Molina, and especially Nina Ananiashvili with Jose Manuel Carreno, treated the passage too languorously.

The finale looked crowded on the City Center stage. But the company is obviously thinking ahead to spring performances at the Met. The production was staged by Victoria Simon and John Taras.

In a world of over-choreographed ballets, the ABT revival of Antony Tudor's Dim Lustre brought a welcome calm--the calm of classical vocabulary presented, commented upon, but never overstretched. Like Tudor's Jardin aux lilas, the ballet is Edwardian in sensibility, with a central couple placed against a social setting. As they dance, various stimuli--perfume, a handkerchief, a kiss--recall other loves at other times, until the two are driven asunder.

Kent and Stiefel circled the ballroom with the wind of innocence at their heels, while in a subsequent performance, Jaffe and Guillaume Graffin suggested a more somber mood. Their parting seemed inevitable.

Zack Brown, who was entrusted with the set and costumes for Dim Lustre, envisioned it as some sort of haunted ballroom, with gaslight stanchions looming over the guests. The ballet was staged by David Richardson.

Whether they are pres du lac or front and center, the ABT dancers take to the stage boldly and with individuality. At times they bring distinction to an average work. Erica Cornejo and her brother Herman Cornejo did so in Clark Tippet's Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1, as did several dancers in Paul Taylor's Black Tuesday.

Compared with Taylor's Company B, Black Tuesday is a lightweight depiction of a heavyweight theme (the Great Depression). And yet the dancers conjured up an atmosphere of spiky courage, especially Michele Wiles in "Sittin' on a Rubbish Can," Gillian Murphy in "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams," and De Luz in "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Karen Ellis-Wentz, Erica Cornejo, and Stiefel also distinguished themselves in the same roles.

The season was peppered with grands pas de deux, the most memorable being Balanchine's Sylvia and Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, the latter performed by Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Belotserkovsky. They made me realize, as though for the first time, how much ravishing detail beyond mere technical display there is in this dance form. Every element, be it eyes or hands or the trajectory of the entire body, had been lovingly burnished by this beautiful couple.

When you get on in years, you give up jumping and lifting, but there's still a lot to be said by arms. Choreographer Robert Hill revealed this in Reverie, an opening-night novelty made for Frederic Franklin, Georgina Parkinson, and Martine Van Hamel. Franklin is 87. Let's not count the women's years. Although the three were not ideally attuned, they brought a gentle whiff of nostalgia to a season of high-keyed dance.
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Author:Hering, Doris
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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