A Gorgeous "Clear" Debut, An Eerily-Intriguing Nocturnal Reverie, and A Sparkling "Ballo"!

Another happy night for me at American Ballet Theater [a.k.a Danny Tidwell’s Old Company — sorry, I’ll only do that for this City Center season, I promise :) ] But that goes without saying; ABT is always a blast.
Jose Carreno

Tonight was the debut of a long-favorite dancer of mine, the legendary Jose Carreno, in “Clear,” Stanton Welch’s beautiful male-centered ballet which I’ve been chirping about incessantly here, here, and here. That first “here” links to my post chattering on about the excerpt of this ballet that I saw performed two nights ago with Herman Cornejo in the lead. Well, interestingly, Jose gave it a completely different tone here. Where Herman was more grounded and virile (‘man-god’ I called him), Jose was lighter and more ethereal, like Angel Corella, on whom the ballet was originally created. (Angel has skipped out on performing with ABT this season, I assume because he’s working on getting his own new company underway in Spain. Fun fun!). I know how much Jose admires Angel because, when I once sat in the front orchestra far to the side, I could see into the wings where Jose was watching Angel perform Sinatra Suite — so cute! — so I figure he’s watched Angel a lot and had his movement in mind. Also, abstract though the ballet is, Herman gave it a bit more of a story, with his more angsty interaction with his ballerina, at times seeming haughtily to refuse her, then taking notice of her, succumbing, and ultimately becoming, blissfully, one with her. Jose kind of kept it at the same level, being ‘nice’ to his ballerina throughout, and concentrating more on the watery fluidity of the movement. Jose excels at turns, and he was breathtaking in the ballet’s repeated sequence of continuous spins for the lead man, where he spots in one direction and fouettes himself around several times, then turns a quarter and spots in that direction and fouettes around, then the next quarter, and so on, into a full circle. Herman’s forte is his sky-high jumps. So, Herman’s “Clear” was more virtuostic, dramatic; Jose’s more poetic. Just fun to see how two genius interpretive artists, through their different strengths, make a ballet their own.

And can I just sound like a schoolgirl for a moment and get something out of my system: Jose is so damn gorgeous!!!!! The girls behind me were giggling all through the beginning movement. It was hard not to join them. But Sir Alastair was sitting right in front of me, so I had to behave like an adult…

And all the up & coming young dancers like Jared Matthews were so cute; I was sitting up close tonight so could see faces well. He and the others kind of had these looks like “oh my god, I can’t believe I am sharing the stage with this legend…” Adorable :)

Just one more thing regarding “Clear” and then I’ll shut up about it: Blaine Hoven!!!!! I made a trip to the ladies room during intermission and a woman in line whom I didn’t know turned around to me. “You know who I am really liking?” she blurted out to me as if we were the best of friends, as she looked down at her Playbill and scanned the cast list. Her finger stopped at Blaine’s name and just as she looked back up at me, I nodded and we simultaneously said “Blaine Hoven.” The man is starting conversations amongst complete strangers in the ladies room line! He needs to develop his artistry more, and perhaps hone his partnering skills, but as a soloist, his technique, his lines, and the ease with which he takes on the modern movement vocabulary: extraordinary.

(image of Julie and Marcelo taken from City Center website; top headshot of Jose from ABT site)

Second on tonight’s program was Lar Lubovitch’s beautiful, but somewhat eery, crepuscular dreamscape, “Meadow,” danced by my favorite partnership, Marcelo Gomes and Julie Kent. This is a ballet that makes me yearn to know more about dance and the way choreographers create meaning. The whole thing unfolds behind a scrim, so from the start it has that feeling about it that it’s not quite real; it takes place in the land of the imaginary. It begins with an ensemble of both women and men, the women wearing nude-colored tops, the men shirtless, and both in flowing, blue skirts (more like skorts for the men) bearing abstract, cloud-like shapes. They flitter around the stage almost like night-time fireflies, or night-nymphs, some throwing their arms up as they run, a couple at a time doing a lift and carry. The music is a melodic Franz Schubert. But intriguingly, at various points a sole instrument — an untuned violin here, a bass there — will strike out discordantly over the mellifluous music. It sounds like an orchestra warming up, one instrument at a time, but why in the midst of already-playing music? Then, the sound completely shuts off while the dancers are still in the midst of a sequence, before slowly scattering off into the wings. This musical disruption, to me, gives the piece a disconcerting, eery feel, like something is awry, but what?

After the ensemble disappears, Marcelo and Julie, standing in the background and in the midst of an impossible-looking overhead lift, slowly come to view under an increasingly bright light shining down from above. They wear skin-tight unitards, Julie’s completely skin-toned like the tops of the night-nymphs, Marcelo’s the same blue with cloud shapes as the skirts / skorts of the ensemble. They complete a series of slow, high, dangerous-looking lifts that have that same, slow-motion dreamy feel. The ensemble returns, another pas de deux happens, and eventually Julie and Marcelo interact with the night creatures, Julie getting lost among them, and lifted away by one of their men-folk, Marcelo reaching out in vain behind her. It’s rather sad. The piece ends with the ensemble gone again and a final pas de deux beginning in the same crazy-high overhead lift as in the first duet. This time, though, Julie is lifted (by stage wires apparently emanating from the ceiling), all the way up to the heavens, Marcelo standing on the ground, reaching up, looking very alone. The audience oooohed and aaaahed over the trick with the wires, but I was left feeling unsettled; it was beautiful but discomfitting. And I still am not sure about the soundscape at the beginning. The dancers didn’t react to it at all; their movement corresponded to the underlying mellifluous Schubert. Maybe it was supposed to evoke the consciousness trying to wake the subconscious before it goes too far and there’s no turning back?…

Last was Balanchine’s pretty, poetic, female-centric “Ballo Della Regina,” which I also just blogged about as being performed opening night. This one starred Michele Wiles and Maxim Beloserkovsky. As I mentioned earlier, I was nearly knocked out of my seat and catapulted up to the chandeliers by David‘s opening-night performance. So I was expecting to be a bit let down tonight, which I most definitely was not. Max was great, perfect really, for what I imagine Balanchine to have wanted. David took over the stage, but Max blended in more; he was just a happy-as-can-be man amongst the butterflies. Of course that’s not to say there was anything wrong with David’s performance. Never! David is what makes you want to spend the money and go to the ballet in the first place. You just really don’t want to see anyone else onstage when he is around; you just want him.

Michele was the one who really blew me away tonight. She not only danced the female lead here perfectly, she gave it so much life, so much sparkle, she set the stage on fire tonight. Of course Kristi Boone and others in the ensemble helped. The women’s bright smiles brought a real humor to some of Balanchine’s more original, subversive-at-the-time steps: the high-leg-lifted marching on pointe, sometimes with bent knee resembling a playful tip-toe-ing across the stage, the cute little square-dancish jumps, the jazzy can-can-esque kicks. I noticed the ABT dancers wear wide grins while the NYCBallet dancers (who perform Balanchine much more frequently) are generally more subdued (excepting Ashley Bouder). I don’t know which is officially better, or if one even can be said to be, but to me the lively facial expressions bring out the charming fun of Balanchine.

(image above, of Lord Hallberg and Gillian Murphy, copied from NYTimes website; here is Sir Alastair’s review of opening night)

Anyway, off to bed for me now, I’m tired… Tomorrow night at ABT is the premiere of a new ballet by NYCB’s Benjamin Millipied, and Saturday night another, the new one, a Jorma Elo / Chuck Close / Philip Glass collab. And tonight’s program will repeat later in the week. Go here for info.

8 Comments

  1. Tonya, too bad I didn’t see you last night. Some random thoughts: This was the first time I saw Clear and I LOVED it! Of course for Carreno but also for more of Blaine Hoven – he MUST be promoted to soloist this year. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Julie Kent and so it was wonderful to see her with Marcelo last night. She is the epitome of ethereal and here’s something ELSE I love about Marcelo – he really smiles during the bows as if he’s enjoying himself so much – love that. I have to disagree about Michelle though. Of course the dancing was superb but her smile seemed pasted on – at times she actually looked scared to me. I wanted her to have fun dancing this piece and let the audience know how exhilerating it is. I didn’t get that at all. For me Kristi Boone and Melissa Thomas stood out in the chorus. First time seeing Max – now there’s a smile and a wonderful dancer (but he can’t help it that he’s not David, who I can not wait to see on the 3rd). A lovely evening and reinforced how very much I love this company.

  2. HI Barbara! I know, I thought you might be there and I looked around for you. Yes yes yes, welcome to the world of Marcelo 😀 His smile and whole personality onstage, during curtain calls, and in interviews in books and magazines are what drew me in and really made me fall for him — for him and for ballet in general, really. He just emanates happy, warm-hearted Brazilian man who loves what he does so much and wants to spread it all throughout the audience. I love him so!!! I know, I remembered our conversation about Blaine, hehe! I love Julie too. Funny about Michele — it seems I either really really like her in something or else I really don’t; my feelings are never just so-so. I think perhaps Macaulay’s critique of Gillian’s hanging-open / half-smiling mouth may be part of what made Michele (and everyone else) want to smile so brightly this time… Maybe?

  3. On the subject of “forced smiles” – it’s occurred to me that since this is the first time I’ve seen ABT at City Center that I’m simply not used to the intimacy in that venue. The same smile at the Met may look completely natural being quite far away. I know I was incredibly moved by Michelle’s Swan Lake last spring and was disappointed this time. Again, she was technically brilliant but no warmth came through for me.

  4. I’m hearing really interesting things about Blaine Hoven, how exciting. Somehow, his modern training makes me think he might be good in Sinatra Suite. Just a random thought, what do you think?

  5. Entirely off subject:
    I saw the 10/26/07 SYTYCD show last night. Amazing. A review is coming soon, but I took over 100 pictures and they take a while to upload.

    Happy blogging!
    Selly

  6. Yeah, Jolene, I could see him doing Sinatra Suite eventually, but I don’t think he’s ready for something like that yet; I think he needs to work on his artistry more because that’s a role that requires good acting skill on the part of the man. Something to aim for though. I think the way he moves in the jazzy pieces is so wonderful — he looks like a snake, like he has no vertebra whatsoever! I could see him doing samba really well :)

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