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ABT's Summer School's Final Showcase

by Marian Horosko
June 24, 2009
New York, NY
American Ballet Theatre's final program of the 250 students enrolled in the summer school, 2009, took place, June 24 at La Guardia High School Auditorium. More than 30 faculty members, many of them former members of the main company, American Ballet Theatre, guided them through the excerpts from ABT's classical legacy and some new works, performed by two casts on the same day. It was a staggering undertaking, not undertaken in size by any other ballet school in the U.S. The contribution to these young dancers, who come from various schools for the summer study through audition tours, will take home unforgettable memories of having at least a small taste of some of the great legacy of ballet and its inspiring scores. They have met personal challenges, disappointments and been inspired to reach new technical levels and performing requirements.

They ranged in age from pre-teenagers to late teens. All the excerpts they performed were age-appropriate, beginning with the Dance of the Hours from "Coppelia," (Delibes) stage by still-performing Frederick Franklin, 98, who received a birthday ovation at the end of an ABT performance this season.

In an excerpt from "La Bayadère," Ethan Brown staged the Fakir solo and his gang, performed by eight young boys with boundless energy. Another excerpt from the same ballet, followed. Brian Reeder choreographed a charming "Fairies Brigade," with themes from "A Midsummer's Night Dream;" a coda from Fokine's "Les Sylphides;" more "Coppelia;" and another excerpt from "Le Corsaire" followed. But it was in the six variations from "Raymonda," that the Petipa contribution to ballet is fully exposed as each solo variation demands a different technical requirement. The physical placement, correct style, musicality and potential is immediately clear from entrance to finish. Here, Shu Kinouchi showed professional potential.

The first section was closed with Twyla Tharp's "Push Comes to Shove," the obligatory "modern" work supposedly suited to the taste of young performers.. It is time to shove this overly exposed work into the orchestra pit.

Part II: everyone got intro this new work, "E.J." by Joe Istre to music by Elton John.
Patience: "Everybody Else," was choreographed by the "red" level, indicating the color of leotard worn by the older students. In collaboration with Tina Fehlandt they committed the obligatory "contemporary" work with student input. But it was when we got into ethnic styles that the school, like every school, got into trouble. "Character" classes using the basic steps introduced into the classics. These classes are not given in schools, with few exceptions, because it requires hiring a teacher familiar with the styles of several countries that contributed their ethnic dances to classical works. At one time in America, ethnic groups (Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, etc.) danced traditional works from their home legacy and taught them to young and older members in their of their clubs, in celebrations and get-togethers. They were fun to do. Spirited. Tuneful. Suitable to any age.

But back to the end: after "Sleeping Beauty's Friends" appeared the "find," a well-trained, charming performer in "Coppelia" as Swanhilda, Asia Bui. She is ready to contest at an internaional competition. Staged by Hilary Cartwright with taste and restraint, Bui has a correctly placed body, confidence, musicality and holds the audience's attention. After sweeping groups made entrances and exits in "Paquita" excerpts came another contemporary work with students and controlled by Jessica Lang in "Collisione." But the surprise choreography of the program came from Leslie Browne (she comes from a family of many former members at ABT), "Out of Bounds." It immediately established a high level of technique, short and to the point. Hope to see more of this budding choreographer.

A video tape of the 2009 Intensive can be ordered from www.TakeOneDigital.com/ABT.
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