American Ballet Theatre
Theme and Variations, Jardin Aux Lilas, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Company B
Tuesday 2nd February 2011
In some ways Programme Two seemed, on paper at least, to offer the better selection of short ballets than Tuesday nights Programme One. True, it has greater diversity, ranging from a tutu extravaganza through long dresses and a lot of restraint to Americana. But the dancing let them down. Programme One may have been very samey in content, but the dancers seemed more at ease with that style and were easier to watch. There were exceptions though.
Theme and Variations needs to be well drilled & well rehearsed. Patterns and formations should be clear, defined and sharp. I didn’t see that. I saw fudged lines, principal dancers Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg decidedly on edge with the choreography (though Murphy did a better job overall) and a messy corps who looked ruffled by windy fingers. I would love to see Hallberg dance this with Tamara Rojo; can you imagine their dual commas as the music swells, feet in perfectly arched unison ? I think Hallberg would have an easier time of it in the lifts too, especially the shoulder sit at the end.
If the hits from the first Programme were the two ballets at either end – the (crustless) bread, if you like – then tonight’s winners were the peanut butter & jelly filling of the sandwich. The evening was saved by the two middle ballet’s – the utterly ravishing Jardin Aux Lilas and the crowd-pleasing Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. Both were blessed with great dancers and could have gone on forever.
Antony Tudor’s Jardin Aux Lilas, with its complex emotions and story that needs to be told, albeit with restraint, was perfection itself. It’s all about timing and implication. Julie Kent, as Caroline : faultless. She is le dernier cri du chic – or drop dead elegant. Cory Stearns was much better suited to the role of Her Lover than last nights awkward Duo Concertant. Kristi Boone, as An Episode in His Past was exquisite with buttery feet. The whole ballet, from the sets to the lighting to the dancers themselves, coated the audience in a sublime mix of rapt attention and blissful delight. Peter Cazalet’s compatible costumes and scenery designs provide just the right amount of emphasis.
Herman Cornejo & Xiomara Reyes shot from corner to corner in ever more astonishing feats of daring in the peachy & grey Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, choreographed by George Balanchine. Heaven on earth. Reyes blazed a blistering trail; Cornejo lit the touch paper – where were the fire extinguishers ? Reyes’ turns were of such sheer force that they seemed to surprise even her ! Cornejo has sprezzatura in spades. This pair have a rare chemistry on stage and it makes them a joy to watch & they received the best audience reception of the night.
And then there was Company B. Why ? Granted, Misty Copeland, slightly lawless in the Rum & Coca-Cola section with the boys slavering over her hypnotic hips should be run on a continuous loop, and Sascha Radetsky’s Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy to the title (Company B) was a delight, but the rest ? Incarnadine baggy trousers on dancers ? No. Socks and plimsols ? No, on both counts. Fashions may be heading towards pebble, sand & ochre hues but they don’t sing from the stage. They had it easy with The Andrews Sisters songs; dancers usually have no words to play with & must tell the story themselves, but why bring a non-ballet piece about 1940’s America to a London audience in 2011 ? I’m sure it works at home, but I’d wager that fewer ballets danced with greater accuracy could have worked better for their dancers; and if it works for them, it’s surely going to work for the audience.