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Marian Horosko
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The Opening of the American Ballet Theater's Season

by Marian Horosko
October 7, 2009
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023

Featured Dance Company:

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

American Ballet Theatre's fall season opened October 7 at Avery Fisher Hall with three new works: Alexei Ratmanski's "Keyboard Sonata," to the music of Italian composer Domenico Scarlattti (1655-1757) who wrote for the harpsichord. Prior to Ratmanski's formal and elegant interpretation, Scarlatti's music was the accompaniment for Massine's "Les Femmes de bonne humeur," Loring's "Harlequin for President" (1936) and as well as for works by Béjart and Cranko.

Ratmanski uses the vocabulary and interpretation of ballet with infinite care, which is not always exciting, but like Balanchine, the dancers are courteous to each other in their roles. David Hallberg, seems to have found his mentor for his classroom approach to a role. The opening included "The Dying Swan," a solo Fokine work originally for Anna Pavlova, freely adapted by Maya Plisetskaya to include an arm waving exit facing upstage not in the original. The original film (too fragile to be displayed) is more heartbreaking as the swan lifts her arms to fly once more but cannot, and simply folds her wings and dies. Ah, well.

Jerome Robbins' "Other Dances," danced by Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg, is a mildly humorous series of Chopin mazurkas. Hallberg knows how to do a mazurka. Murphy does not.

Azure Barton's new work, "One of Three" set to Ravel's Violin Sonata in G, is the "miss" of the season as she remains on her college vision.

But it was the work of Benjamin Millepied, who knows how to keep a high interest in his scenarios and present a challenge to his dancers, that created a work that might rival "Rite of Spring," or "Le Sacre du Printemps," choreographed by Nijinski in 1913 for Diaghilev depicting pagan Russian fertility rites. Millepied's work, "Everything Doesn't Happen at Once", using 25 cast members headed by Marcelo Gomes, to music by David Lang." It includes his musical excerpts "cheating, lying, stealing," rites. Millepied groups then shatters his groups as he includes violence, and a hero, here and there and a few tender moments. Coming to the front of attention, in this work, was Daniil Simkin, a young dancer, who astounded a matinée audiences last year and who was also a remarkable contender in an earlier "Youth America Grand Prix" competition. Simkin, an American, has youthful abandon in his leaps, and turns in the manner of André Eglevsky, a former premier dancer, who left his arms out during his multiple turns, slowly bringing them in after 7 or 8 revolutions. (It is a technique originally taught by a Russsian teacher, Nicholas Legat in the last century.)The work closes with a sensational leap by Simkin halfway across the stage who is then caught by male members of the cast.

Getting away from the miseries of dancing at Avery Fisher Hall, where presentations require compromised lighting, entrance and exits exposed, and a conductor who could use a rear-view mirror, ABT deserves a theater of its own. The Metropolitan Opera will be the surface for the 2010 season beginning in May 17-July 10. A tribute to the great ABT ballerina, Alicia Alonso (90) is planned as the company celebrates it 70th season. (Alonso danced despite a severe visual impairment. "If Beethoven could conduct without hearing, I can dance without seeing," she once remarked).

Recommended: "Bravura!" a book about Lucia Chase, founder of ABT and its 35-year director, written by her son, Alex C. Ewing, chancellor emeritus of the University of North Carolina School of Arts. Published by University Press of Florida, the book is available in bookstores.

Where would American dance be if it were not for Chase's determination to establish an American ballet company.
Daniil Simkin

Daniil Simkin

Photo © & courtesy of Gene Schiavone

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