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Paul Berss
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American Ballet Theatre - Theme and Variations, Le Corsaire pas de deux, VIII, Sinfonietta

by Paul Berss
October 24, 2004
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

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American Ballet Theatre
American Ballet Theatre (office)
890 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

American Ballet Theatre - Theme and Variations, Le Corsaire pas de deux, VIII, Sinfonietta

Paul Berss
October 24, 2004

The evening began with a spirited performance of Balanchine's "Theme and Variations," led by Michele Wiles and David Hallberg, a well-matched couple physically, and both fine, unmannered classical dancers. Their approach to this splendid ballet differed, however, and I preferred Mr. Hallberg's elegance rather than the friendly, robust quality of Ms. Wiles. I also miss seeing more elegance in the polonaise that brings the ballet to a close.

Paloma Herrera and Jose Manuel Carreno pulled out all the stops in "Le Corsaire" pas de deux. Herrera didn't seem to dancing from her heart, but she is always wonderful to watch; Carreno, on the other hand, had a ball with his role, even in the bows.

Christopher Wheeldon's "VIII" is a curious work, which partially succeeds. The action revolves around Henry VIII rejecting his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, for Anne Boleyn, who meets an even worse fate than her predecessor. Angel Corella's portrayal of Henry was, I felt, too quiet and understated. And while the women's costumes gave a feeling of the period, all the men looked like they were wearing smart designer exercise suits, even the King. Alessandra Ferri was superb as Katherine - pious and dignified, but crushed and helpless to stop her husband's abandonment. Julie Kent was a more spicy replacement, but the deterioration of her relationship with Henry wasn't made clear before she walked across a platform at the back of the stage behind a curtain lowered to her shoulders, signifying her beheading. Choreography for a quartet called The Masks was very clever and inventive, though I don't know exactly how they fit in to the story; and the ending was effective as Henry stood alone and was soon joined by another woman, obviously eager to try her luck with the King.

The program ended with Jiri Kylian's smashing "Sinfonietta," a wonderful, uplifting, pure dance work that shows the company's youth, exuberance, and strong technique. It's a beautiful visualization of the score by Leos Janecek, and the musicians stationed on either side of the stage was most effective.

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