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ABT— "Baker's Dozen," "Citizen," "The Leaves are Fading," "Theme and Variations"

by Lori Ortiz
October 22, 2008
New York City Center
130 West 56th Street
(Audience Entrance is on West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
(Entrance for Studios and Offices is on West 56th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019
212.247.0430

Featured Dance Company:

American Ballet Theatre
American Ballet Theatre (office)
890 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
212-477-3030
www.abt.org

Kudos to ABT. Two out of four of the choreographers presented Wednesday night are women. And Lauri Stallings is the kind of choreographer who gives us something to talk about. After all, in her premiering commission "Citizen," she breaks every rule in the ballet book.

There can be no complaining about noisy pointework; the three women stomp toe shoe clad feet flat on the floor, in one phrase. You'll hear nothing about silly tutus; there isn't a tutu in sight. David Hallberg wears an iridescent green corset, laced in the back, and silver reflective knee-length leggings. The women wear vests over long-sleeved teddies with fur wrist-cuffs. The stage is denuded; so much so, that we see the extras leaving out the back exit. (None too briefly the stage is crowded with citizens in hats and raincoats.)

The movement is Awkward (capital a intended.) Blaine Hoven cartwheels into the darkness after stumbling into a handspring in the spotlight. Hands are palsied-looking and posteriors protrude. Somehow, Hallberg manages to make dance sense of it. Paloma Herrera also mystifies with intriguing grace. She enters alone, strutting across the stage, and in the end she's alone in front of the fallen curtain, and pulled underneath by Hallberg. The two give reason to believe there's potential here. The clear ending admits comic relief.

Despite all the strangeness and ostensible opposition to the expected in "Citizen," there are really no surprises. Shock-of-the-new seems old. The score begins with dripping water. After this stock introduction, Max Richter's anomic, hypnotic music (excellently performed by the ABT orchestra conducted by Ormsby Wilkins) is pure Glass.

Firefly lights in the dark add another sprinkle of oddity. In combining frills and chills, Stallings offers a look of feminist goth. The "visceral state of being" that is her aim, is achieved as frustration or even umbrage. But Hallberg and Herrera realize characters and give hope that "Citizen" is a first act that might lead to something.

A gorgeous performance of Antony Tudor's "The Leaves are Fading" follows, with Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes leading. Kent is featherweight delicate and Gomes gently pushes her shoulder. She flies. The most glorious moments of the evening are in Gomes solo. Kent arches into the house as if bursting away from their matrimony. He pulls her back. At the end they hold on to each other for dear life.

Everyone wears tie-died chiffon in shades of orange or magenta, against a green-blue windy, late autumn scene. Marian Butler and Jared Matthews are lovely in the first long duet. Hee Seo is also exceptional, partnered by Isaac Stappas. Zhong-Jing Fang is a standout, as usual, with her silent steps, fluid line, and her very pulled up torso. The special girl in the green dress, whose dream we are seeing, is Melissa Thomas. Charles Barker conducts the Antonin Dvorák music.

The program began with Twyla Tharp's peppy "Baker's Dozen," for twelve in kitchen whites. Kristy Boone gets towed out over her partner's shoulder. She adds surety to the Tharp. Though many of the moves are potentially funny, Misty Copeland has the comic ability and gets the laughs. Stappas, in solo, falls back into a kneeling position and grinds his pelvis. Recent corps inductee Devon Teuscher, from ABT studio, does flying leaps and moves with the music later in the piece, winning us over.

Bring on the tutus and tiaras. The regiments, twenty-six, close the curtain exhilaratingly with Balanchine's architectural "Theme and Variations," to Tchaikovsky. David LaMarche conducts the orchestra, with a remarkable violin. Ronald Oakland is the concertmaster. Michele Wiles and Cory Stearns lead. Both look beside themselves keeping up with the music, but somewhere in the center they relax and connect with each other and us, only to lose it again. Wiles wows us with many upset pirouettes renversée, presenting a souvenir of her sparkle.

Balanchine made the ballet for ABT in 1947. It's replete with chandeliers overhead and pillars at the wings in Kirk Peterson's 2003 staging. The costumes are by Theoni V. Aldredge and the brilliant lighting by David K.H. Elliott. It's has been called "The niece of Sleeping Beauty." It's that classical.
Paloma Herrera in 'Citizen'

Paloma Herrera in "Citizen"

Photo © & courtesy of Gene Schiavone


Nicola Curry and David Hallberg in 'Citizen'

Nicola Curry and David Hallberg in "Citizen"

Photo © & courtesy of Gene Schiavone


Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes in 'Theme and Variations'

Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes in "Theme and Variations"

Photo © & courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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