ABT AT 70 AT THE GUGGENHEIM

Last night American Ballet Theatre put on a little celebration of its 70th anniversary and gave a little preview of its upcoming Met season (which begins next Monday, May 17th) at the Guggenheim, as part of the museum’s Works and Process events. Dancers from each decade of ABT’s existence — Susan Jaffe, Susan Jones, Donald Saddler, Lupe Serrano, and Rachel Moore – spoke briefly about what the company was like back in the day, and then there was (happily) a great deal of dancing.

Stella Abrera, Marian Butler, Jared Matthews and Sascha Radetsky performed the Lovers’ Quarrel from Ashton’s The Dream (based on Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream), followed by Xiomara Reyes and Alexei Agoudine dancing the Titania / Bottom pas de deux from that ballet. I’ve never seen Ashton’s version of this ballet — only Balanchine’s — and the choreography looks so rich, richer to me, in a way, than Balanchine’s (though I know a lot of NYCB fans will balk at that). So, I’ll be looking forward to that. Audience cracked up, of course.

Then, Abrera, Isabella Boylston, and Yuriko Kajiya performed the Shades Trio from La Bayadere. Stella in particular took my breath away. Veronika Part and Eric Tamm then did a gorgeous pas de deux from John Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias (which I’ve never seen before and now can’t wait to; it appears to be his version of Manon). Though everyone from ABT looks near perfect, everyone just pales in comparison to Veronika. I just can’t ever take my eyes off her. After last night I’m really really looking forward to her in Lady.

Then came the pas de deux between romantic sailor guy and the girl in pink from Robbins’ Fancy Free, which was danced well by Sascha Radetsky and Isabella Boylston (who has probably developed a fan base among Natalie Portman haters). Judging by the applause and a few words I overheard, the audience really took to them. Part and Abrera then performed the La Bayadere fight scene between Nikiya and Gamzatti (Abrera is an excellent Gamzatti by the way), and the program ended with the final Don Quixote pas de deux danced sweetly by Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews.

As far as the discussion, interesting points to me were when Jaffe said of all the characters she’s danced, she felt closest to Tatiana in Eugene Onegin (I wasn’t a regular ABT-goer when Jaffe danced and didn’t know they’d ever done that ballet — made me desperately want them to bring it back), Lupe Serrano mentioned that there used to be only one cast per ballet (which we’ve talked about before on this blog as being perhaps preferable to the current system of rotating dancers since it’d be more likely to, like opera, create stars), and Saddler (who began with the company in 1939 and performed in its inaugural season) talked a bit about founder Lucia Chase, who wanted a “star system” for the company, and what it was like to dance ballet at a time when there really wasn’t any here. He said Fokine was the greatest influence on him, as, like Tudor (later a great influence on him as well), each step was reflective of character.

5 Comments

  1. Hi Tonya, I went to this show on Sunday. Too bad I keep missing you.
    I really had fun listening to former dancers, especially Susan, telling stories of good old days.I liked Veronika very much, too. I loved her when she danced Nikiya (with Marcelo as Solor, of course, and what can I say about him other than him being so super beyond-belief-gorgeous in every show!) two years ago during the MET season and also in Avi's show. She is so handsome and beautiful. Yumiko

  2. ooh, what fun!
    hey, there is a dvd of ashton's The Dream with alessandra ferri, herman cornejo and ethan stiefel. it's wonderful — (i check it out from the library now and then!)

  3. Just wanted to add some info on the Camellias pas de deux that you saw. So Lady of the Camellias is actually Neuemeier's version of the Dumas play Lady of the Camellias, which is more widely known today in its operatic form – La Traviata. Camellias/Traviata is similar to Manon in that it's about a courtesan kept from her true love. In the play (but not in the opera), the character of Manon Lescaut is referenced as a point of comparison for the titular character Marguerite's life.

    You were right in deducing that Veronika Part and Eric Tamm were dancing Manon because in Neuemeier's Camellias, a ballet version of Manon is interspersed throughout the story. At the beginning of Neuemeier's Cammelias, Marguerite attends a performance of Manon at the ballet and is shocked to discover the parallels between her life and Manon's – this instigates soul searching and sort of puts the drama into action. The character of Manon reappears throughout the ballet in a dreamlike fashion at various key moments. So I guess the Manon role is considered a secondary character in Neuemeier's ballet, but she gets plenty of dancing nonetheless!

  4. priscilla Stevens

    Tonya,I,too, saw the Monday night Guggenheim performance. I,too,think that VP is without peer. When I arrived home, I did some “research” on the computer to
    ascertain the relationship between Marguerite and Manon. Needless to say, it is quite hard to follow, and will take a lot of faith on the part of the viewer to comprehend. You might want to read some of the reviews of 'Lady” when it was first done for Stuttgart, and you might like to get the DVD from your library. I can't quite
    see Marcia Haydee as Marg, but then she WAS the original. Wait for VP's Manon!!! It will probably break your heart, and will make Dnieper look like a
    pretty simple tale. Can't wait to see Vishneva and Part on the same stage.
    It would be nice to see Part & Vishneva as Nikiya and Gamzatti, wouldn't it?

  5. That seems really nice to me! :-) And your weblog is awesome, by the way. Best wishes from the Netherlands and… keep on dancing! xMM

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