Benjamin Millepied, Christopher Wheeldon, and Alexei Ratmansky Premieres at ABT

Above: Isabella Boylston and Marcelo Gomes in Christopher Wheeldon’s Thirteen Diversions, which premiered at American Ballet Theater two weeks ago. (Photo by Rosalie O’Connor.)

Once again, I’m behind on posts. May was a crazy month, filled with family emergencies, last minute travel, and trying to juggle paying legal work with book industry stuff and blogging. Hopefully June will be a bit quieter, though not likely at the rate it’s going thus far…

Anyway, on May 24th, ABT held a night of premieres, showing three new works by today’s “in” choreographers. Wheeldon’s Thirteen Diversions, set to Benjamin Britten’s Diversions for Piano and Orchestra, was overall my favorite. It seemed to have the most going on in terms of emotions, the most developed sections, the most varied movement, and interesting lighting design (by Brad Fields) to boot, though I know others were bothered by that. Background was lit with different colors each section and began with part of the back darkened, with light slowly encroaching. It created an atmosphere of mystery. I also felt like Wheeldon’s dance allowed the dancers to shine the most. Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg were a duo whose dancing had a sweet, light feel to it, like a relationship in bloom, while Marcelo Gomes and Isabella Boylston kind of went back and forth, with more depth and nuance to their relationship. She’d go from peaceful to needy to wanting to escape him back to needing him. They danced it well.

Above: Michele Wiles and Thomas Forster in Ratmansky’s Dumbarton, which I liked as well. (Photo by Rosalie O’Connor.) Dumbarton, set to Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks, was mostly light and lyrical, with dancers clothed in light-colored contemporary costumes (by Richard Hudson). At times, though, the dance took on a more mournful tone, as the music would grow slower and Misty Copeland would collapse, then be carried off by a group of men. But then she’d reappear again in the next, lighter scene, as if nothing had happened. Then, it would happen again. I wasn’t sure if we were going back and forth in time or if there was a continuity of life kind of motif at play.

Millepied’s Troika was a relatively short dance, for three men, set to Bach.  Above are Sascha Radetsky, Alexandre Hammoudi, and Daniil Simkin (being thrown) in photo by Mikhail Logvinov. I started out really liking it but it kind of lost steam. I thought each man would have a different personality or embody a different mood: Simkin more playful, Radetsky more masculine, Hammoudi more soft and lyrical. To an extent it was danced that way, but then mid-way through they each seemed to be doing the same things. They started to blend into one another. Maybe that was the point. At the end, there was a series of lifts where Radetsky and Hammoudi kind of threw Simkin. He’d playfully try to escape them, but they’d catch him, scoop him up, and toss him. Someone remarked that this reminded them of Tharp. It also reminded me of Millepied’s earlier work for ABT, where Simkin was tossed in the air by a group of men in the midst of trying to escape a group of women. So Millepied repeats his themes over a few times.

Also on the program was a revival of Tudor’s Shadowplay with Craig Salstein and Xiomara Reyes in the leads. Created in 1967 and set to Le Livre de la Jungle by Charles Koechlin, it had a very dated feel and many have noted this is not one of Tudor’s better works. To me, it had a kind of Rite of Spring meets Prodigal Son feel to it. Salstein plays a poetic, monk type of figure who wants to be alone to meditate. But he is constantly bothered by this group of beings who appear to be half human, half primate who swing around gymnastically on a set of tree branches. Eventually they bring to him a woman, who’s very Siren-like, and whose sinister charms the protagonist is ultimately able to ignore. That’s what I saw in it anyway.

I felt a bit underwhelmed by the evening overall. It’s always exciting to see new dances though. And it could just be me and my penchant for full-length story ballets :)

One other thing: some of the gossip blogs stated that ABT had stricken Sarah Lane from the performance because of Natalie Portman’s presence. I didn’t know Lane was supposed to be dancing that night so have no idea if that’s at all true. Can’t imagine it is. Boylston still danced, and, as I said, I thought she danced very well.

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