Just finishing my City Center-spectating season and am so sad. I hate this time of year. My favorite dance company is gone and I won’t be seeing them again until May. Oh well.
I went to the last three performances (Friday night, Saturday matinee, Saturday night); here are my highlights:
(photo of Herman Cornejo by Joe McNally from ABT website; all headshots from ABT)
I really loved all of the dancers who performed my favorite short ballroomy ballet — Tharp’s “Sinatra Suite” — but yesterday Herman and Misty Copeland (in headshot above) in particular took my breath away. Herman was the closest thing to Baryshnikov that I’ve seen, in terms of the actual movement (he has the smallest body of the three men who danced the role — other two were Jose and Marcelo — thus the closest in body type to Baryshnikov). The piece was choreographed on Baryshnikov and some of the movement, like the quick, jumpy weight shift in the first song, looked the cleanest on Herman; whereas Marcelo, for example, almost couldn’t move fast enough and missed a beat. But what Marcelo and Jose may lack a bit in that department, they more than make up for in the over-the-top personality they give to the role, particularly in the “That’s Life” song. In fact, everyone seemed to be able to do the “That’s Life” cocky shithead guy very (almost frighteningly) well; it’s the other three songs: “Strangers in the Night,” “All the Way,” and “My Way,” where they seem a little more bland, seeming to play the same guy three times. To me the first song (“Strangers”) is about two people just meeting and falling for each other, the second (“All the Way”) actually falling in love, the third (“Life”) having a problem moment, and the fourth (“My Way”) his saying he needs to go it alone, then the fifth, the male solo danced to “One for My Baby,” evokes his missing her. It seems like all the men danced to each of those songs besides “Life”, played each of those roles, the same way: all classy and romancy, giving only cocky “That’s Life” guy something unique.
Misty danced the female role better than I’ve ever seen it done, including by Elaine Kudo, who danced the original with Baryshnikov. That girl had personality galore and was not about to let the guy get away with anything. Go Misty! The others seemed to let the guy push them around too much. But again, I focus on “That’s Life.” She didn’t seem to do anything breathtaking in the other three duets. It’s funny, ballet dancers normally dance dreamy in-love princes and princesses, temple dancers and warriors, fairytale characters and their knights in shining armour — you think they’d be able to do a contemporary romantic routine?…
Anyway, Misty also floored me with her performance in Tharp’s “Baker’s Dozen,” which I ended up seeing a total of four times. In my final viewing of it yesterday, Misty danced the part of the flirty girl who keeps hopping on poor Craig‘s unsuspecting back. She was so fun and playful, proved to have just as much charisma as Craig, and she just has a natural jazz body. If I was Twyla, I’d definitely choreograph everything new I did from here on out on Misty; she is THE female Tharp dancer.
Also, when I first saw this ballet I wrote that I felt the company wasn’t putting everything they had into it, but suspected that may be because it was a brand new one for them. After having seen it numerous times now, I know I was right. They’re doing so much better, they’re really nailing the teasing / sexy / cool / jazzy / clownish / playful / swingy nature of it all. What a fun ballet! Craig still stands out, but in a ballet like this that requires solid acting skill, it’s almost unfair to compare anyone else to him, he’s such a natural. If he wasn’t a ballet dancer, I’m positive he’d be enjoying a very successful Broadway career.
(do not ask why these photos are varying sizes; I’m simply copying them from ABT’s website and have no clue what kinds of codes they’ve written in or what kind of codes my blog software is somehow putting in! It just so happens that pictures of Marcelo come out the largest, I swear! Above are Marcelo and Julie in “Leaves”)
Yesterday, I had my first ever viewing of Antony Tudor’s 1975 ballet, “The Leaves Are Fading,” which the company has revived for this season. Wow, it was really beautiful, albeit in a bittersweet kind of way. It began with a woman coming out onstage wearing a long, green ballroom dress. She walked around as if deep in thought, reminiscing. She left and several male and female dancers entered all wearing pinky-peach costumes — the women in flowing summery dresses, the men in blousy tops with sweet gentlemanly little silk scarves. The group danced lyrically as an ensemble then broke into duets, each seeming to symbolize a different time in a relationship — young innocent love, then slightly older and more fraught with angst, then more mature; and Marcelo and Julie, my favorite partnership (have I said that before? ) danced the main, more mature couple. They dance so beautifully together, she just floats in his arms so effortlessly, so romantic, so poetic. The backdrop and wings were painted various shades of green, as if to evoke a field, and the pink costumes made the dancers almost look like flowers at points. At the end, green dress woman re-enters, her presence framing her memories, coming to terms with them, making clear they are about a past youthful love that no longer exists but will always remain part of her. Fittingly teary end to my own emotional farewell to ABT season! It was so lovely you just get caught up in the images, in the feelings they evoke. They didn’t have many performances of this ballet and I only got one chance to see it, so I hope they put it on again next year. I’d really like to see it again.
Finally, this year the company revived Agnes de Mille’s “Fall River Legend,” based on the true life story of Lizzie Borden, who killed her parents with an axe after their severe abuse of her. I saw this ballet on Friday night with Apollinaire, who loved it. Go here for a little write-up on that (read the “Note,” at the end of this post; also read the post for her review of Ballet du Grand Theater du Geneve, which I saw with her (and really liked!) but haven’t had a chance to review yet). Anyway, I personally didn’t care much for the de Mille. I feel that she only presented a partial story, leaving out the parental abuse that’s necessary to make sense of Lizzie’s actions. The ballet begins with Lizzie’s being sentenced to hang for her crime, then flashes back to her life. The flashback begins with her father being very loving toward Lizzy, then a sister dies and a stepmother enters the scene, who doesn’t much seem to like Lizzy, but doesn’t seem particularly horrible to her, and the father still seems to be loving albeit traumatized by the sister’s death. All of a sudden Lizzie is shown fighting the urge to hack up her dad and stepmom, then eventually succumbing to it. The rest of the ballet (the main part) is devoted to Lizzie being remorseful and haunted by what she has done, slowly accepting her fate. I agree with Apollinaire that Gillian Murphy was just amazing in this role — she perfectly captured the awkward outcast, making me both feel sorry for her Lizzie and fearing her. But, without the choreographer’s devoting any time to the family’s abuse of her, all of that great acting was unfortunately reduced to melodrama.
Lastly, I saw Benjamin Millepied’s “From Here on Out” again yesterday and it did grow slightly on me the second time around. I’m still far more in love with the Nico Muhly musical score though and can’t wait to get my hands on a recording of it. Again, I particularly liked the final third of the ballet, when the crescendo really starts to build. I feel like Millepied was really getting started just as he was ending. I really liked the second cast that I saw, led by Isabella Boylston and Cory Stearns. Isabella in particular was perfect at those angular abstract contemporary moves — I almost thought I was seeing NYCB (who does more abstract contemporary ballets) at points!; Isabella’s ideal for contemporary.
Well, I’ll be excited to hear what others, for example, in Berkeley, (for example, Jolene!!!), have to say about the new Millepied as well as the new Elo, “Close to Chuck.” Sad as I am about ABT leaving NY now, the good thing is they’re a touring company, so you don’t have to be in NY to see them. Go here to check their touring schedule. These are the greatest dancers in the world (Tidwell was once one of them, remember ); please do not pass up the opportunity to see them if they come near your neck of the woods!