Photo from inside the gala tent last night at American Ballet Theater’s opening night gala taken from NY Social Diary, who, sadly, don’t seem to have any pics up of Irina Dvorovenko in her beautiful red gown. It was one of the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever seen — long and many-layered but each layer seemed to be made of a light, sheer piece of fabric, so the whole thing looked light and diaphanous, though it wasn’t really see-through, just looked that way. Anyway, if anyone finds a picture of her, please let me know! Roberto Cavalli probably designed it…

Anyway, so the opening night gala was last night. It was loooong — one of the longest I’ve seen. We didn’t get out until 9:30, and it began at 6:30. It opened with an excerpt from Frederick Ashton’s Birthday Offering, of seven couples waltzing at what seemed to be a party (I haven’t seen this ballet), with Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky the main couple.

Following that was a series of introductions and thank yous by Kevin McKenzie (Art. Dir.), Blaine Trump and Caroline Kennedy (the two women were honorary chairs of the evening, along with Michelle Obama, who wasn’t there), and then David Koch who has funded the upcoming production of the company’s Nutcracker this winter.

Then, a group of ABT II dancers performed an excerpt of Edwaard Liang’s Ballo Per Sei, which was a contemporary lyrical piece, set to Vivaldi. I recognized a SLSG favorite — Irlan Silva — right away.

Then came the “Rose Adagio” from Sleeping Beauty, performed by Michele Wiles, with Sascha Radetsky, Craig Salstein, Gennadi Saveliev, and Roman Zhurbin as suitors. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this performed so well. Michele really held those balances, and she was so vivacious! Both she and Paloma Herrera, who danced a later excerpt from SB later in the evening, really embodied a young Princess Aurora very well. Michele got loads of applause – the most thus far of the evening.

Then came David Hallberg and Natalia Osipova’s Olympic version of Giselle — this an excerpt from Act II. People laughed and shook heads in amazement at Osipova’s sky-high ballons and sprightly jumps and leaps. She is really incredible. And then at the end when she jeted off and he followed her, it was really beautiful. But athletically astounding as it was, it was still moving; nearly brought tears to my eyes. I mean, how do you manage to do athletic feats like that and make it seem like you’re a light, other-worldly spirit instead of nearly exhausting yourself to death? I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to see anyone else dance Giselle again besides Osipova now. I saw a couple of etoiles from the Paris Opera Ballet perform it at the Guggenheim a few months ago and all I could think was, “wait, where’s the ear-high develope?” and “that arabesque penchee is nowhere near 6:00!” Natalia Osipova has spoiled me.

Then came Veronika Part and Marcelo Gomes doing my favorite gala fare, the Black Swan pas de deux. They were magnificent. Veronika kept doing these equally astounding crazy penchees, and she was so tantalizing with all of her faux White Swan poses! She was really a bad tease! And perfect fouette sequence for her, and his jetes and all — they got loads of applause too (oh, and so did David and Natalia).

Then was the beautiful Thais Pas de Deux by Ashton, danced by Diana Vishneva and Jared Matthews. I recently saw this rehearsed at a studio visit by Hee Seo and Sascha Radetsky, and it looks so different onstage far away and with costumes and all. It looked a lot more like MacMillan than I remembered. I loved it; Diana and Jared did very well but I still can’t wait to see Hee and Sascha. For her gala gown, Diana was wearing a very interesting-looking Japanese-styled dress.

Ending the first half of the evening was the finale of Tharp’s Brahms-Hayden Variations, danced by a group of seven couples, replete with trademark Tharpian flash and crazy lifts and high energy. Can’t wait to see this now either. I have in my notes, “who is dancing with Hammoudi?!” When I looked at my program, I saw it was Stella Abrera. She is really back and really on!

First dance after the intermission was the “Kingdom of the Shades” scene from La Bayadere.  Beautiful as always though it seemed some of the dancers were not completely in unison.

Then came Paloma Herrera and Cory Stearns dancing the Awakening Pas de Deux from Sleeping Beauty, which was followed by the wedding pas de deux from that ballet danced by Herman Cornejo and Xiomara Reyes. I particularly loved Paloma. As I said before, she and Michele Wiles really embodied the sweet, youthful spirit of Aurora. Paloma and Cory danced very well together. They seemed like a real couple.

Then was my second favorite excerpt of the night — the Act III Pas de Deux from Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias, danced by a very passionate Roberto Bolle (who received a load of applause when the curtain initially opened on him) and a very dramatic Julie Kent. Every excerpt of this ballet makes me want to see the whole. Not much longer now — it begins next week, and I can’t wait. I think they received the greatest applause of the night. Audience really went wild, and it’s partly because he’s so internationally famous, but also I think because they just did so well with it. This seems to be a ballet that requires both good acting and excellent partnering ability because some of those lifts… The pianist, Soheil Nasseri, came onstage too for a bow at the end. He was very good.

Next to last was the Act III Pas de Deux from Don Quixote, danced by ABT audience faves Ethan Stiefel and Gillian Murphy. There was a slight mishap with the lift where he throws her up, she does a crazy twist in the air and then he catches her and the fish dive wasn’t hands free, but they each danced spectacularly on their own. It looked at one point like she was doing quadruple pirouettes between some of her fouettes, and he nearly kicked his leg to his forehead during some of his jumps and then did a flashy little jump during his fouette sequence that had the audience screaming.

The evening ended on a modern note  with David Parsons’s Caught, danced by Angel Corella, who, expectedly did an exquisite job. The audience, many of whom hadn’t seen that dance before, seemed so spellbound they almost forgot to clap right away. Angel’s so cute 😀

And finally, everyone who danced came out onstage at the end and took a little bow while the orchestra continued to play. Dancers still in costume — Daniil Simkin, Craig Salstein, Gennadi Saveliev come to mind — did a flashy trick, the “Shades” did a little dance in unison, and then dancers who danced in the first half came out in party gown (which is how I fell in love with Irina’s dress).

Fun evening. During intermission I checked my cell-phone and found a text from a friend who saw me sitting in orchestra from the side par terre, where he was sitting. So I texted him to meet me afterward, and we went for martinis, clam chowder and crab cake sandwiches at Ed’s Chowder House across from the Plaza, my favorite post-ballet place to go since it replaced Center Cut mid-NYCB fall season. They have a TV in the bar, and I was happy that the Yankees were still on. So I saw A-Rod hit his game-tying home-run… But how my friend ever saw me in that enormous Met crowd I’ll never know. Though many arrived late, house ended up being packed.

Oh, and I almost forgot: at the beginning of his speech, Kevin McKenzie introduced several dancers – each representing an era of ABT (this being the company’s 70th anniversary)- who all came out and took a bow. Included were Lupe Serrano, Baryshnikov, Nina Ananiashvili (who got a lot of applause), Alessandra Ferri, Natalia Makarova, and cutie Frederick Franklin, who gave a little speech as well. Isabella Rosellini was in the audience, a few rows down from me. I didn’t recognize anyone else in the audience.

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