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Celeste Heywood
American Ballet Theater
Performance Reviews
New York City Center
American Ballet Theatre
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American Ballet Theater - Fall Repertory Season

by Celeste Heywood
October 20, 2006
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

Featured Dance Company:

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

American Ballet Theater

Adrienne is the artistic director of ACFDance.
What a night of choreography. The exqusite technique and precision of George Balanchine is a testiment to classicism. The sublty of movements just a little off-kilter make Mark Morris Mark Morris. Twyla Tharp reminds us all of why there is dance. And American Ballet Theater still reigns over New York City.

Simple lines and ballet positions become the staple of Balanchine's 'Symphonie Concerte.' Sixteen corps de ballet frame the stage as eight principals finish the lovely ensemble. Before long, the ballet is not just about formations and synchronicity. ABT soloists Julie Kent and Paloma Herrera take the stage to begin what could be considered a neutral duel often used in ballet, or a humane comment on competition. Regardless, the crowd inadvertently chooses their favorite, as a clear difference in style is reflected both in their choreography and movement styles. A single male dancer eventually enters and becomes a typical centerpiece. At once lifting Kent, then Herrera, the eight principals seamlessly form closer lines around the three soloists, narrowing the space, eventually gliding them offstage. Intricate jumps and balances by Kent and Herrera are complimented by simple ballet arms and poses by the corps. Quiet music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is equally met by the soft walking and runs of true ballet professionals. Before long, the heat between the female soloists builds to a grand end. The female soloists and twenty-two other dancers surround the male soloist in an end that reminds us of, no matter how timeless Balanchine's work may be, the need to cover the stage in a picture-perfect ending, while showcasing the minimalistic male dancer, is both a reflection of the times and how ballet may forever remain ballet.

'Drink to Me With Thine Eyes' presents another example of how Morris is always a sure thing. Muted beige-colored costumes help keep focus on the movements, which are a fine blend of simple and advanced ballet moves, with little kinks thrown in just to keep us guessing. Arms crowned above the head (held in 5th position in ballet terms), are altered slightly so that the hands are crossed at the wrists. Combined with the deliberate plopping of the dancer in a crossed-legged (ballet 5th) position, the movement is both weird and humorous — yet, somehow completely justifiable. This slight variation of intention and style is how Morris prepares us/allows us the right to laugh. Then, in the pause between musical movments, a single dancer quickly changes his place onstage. It is unexpected yet committed, and therefore gets a few chuckles — now Morris has really got us. Frantic leaps across the stage are a welcome juxtaposition to the recognizable balletic phrasing shared equally by men and women. Catches of musical notes are the most clear in a solo by male dancer, whose delivery is precise and unique. As the piece builds, the biggest response comes from four men sauntering in sideways carrying women above their heads in the signature crossed-arm and leg position, all on a 45-degree angle, giving it just that little something extra. Shortly thereafter, in keeping with the subtly of all stimuli (costumes, lighting, and music by), a male and female dancer fall to the floor in graceful poses that make the audience both smile and sigh. For a modern twist on contemporary ballet, Morris couldn't be more right. Our perspective on dance is a little broader for having witnessed it.

Twyla Tharp's 'In the Upper Room' is a celebration of dance in all ways possible. Every angle is covered: costumes, lighting, visual effects, music and choreography. The piece itself is a masterpiece, reminding us of the power such movement theater can possess. Black & white checkered body suits are eventually gone to reveal red leotards, bare male chests and white sneakers. Blaring red pointe shoes provide a sharp contrast. Rushed sections feature moves that are at once lyrical, then jazz-influenced. Irina Dvorovenko steals the show with a technical prowess and languidity that makes it hard to look away. Jillian Murphy is also a delight, bringing a sensuality that is oftentimes lost among other dancers.

In all, ABT presented an impressive program worthy of acclaim and a second viewing.
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