The show of the night: Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo
I finally got to see ABT last night at Berkeley! It was a highly anticipated night, where I was excited due to the internet buzz about their new programs as well as watching interesting photos from rehearsals. And, to top it off, we got great seats in the fourth row orchestra. I love sitting up close and watch sweat spin off from Sascha Radetsky’s face and shower Julie Kent as he turned in Fancy Free.
It’s always interesting to look around the audience – in addition to the usual sea of gray hair, I notice a percentage of youngish girls in the audience who twittered audibly at the onstage appearance of Sascha Radetsky. I believe this is what is called the Center Stage effect. It probably is worse during tour, I imagine. I spotted some SF Ballet dancers as well – I wonder if they were comparing interprations and techniques on Fancy Free, which SFB performed last year??
Anyways, this was the first time I’d seen ABT perform a City Center-like repertory program. It’s a series of short pieces, and I know that sometimes it’s easy to walk away from repertory programs feeling unsatisfied, like you were being shown a series of excerpts from multiple books without getting a good idea of the big picture of each excerpt. You can’t get invested in a full sweeping story of something like Swan Lake, but what ABT has done is to pick a series of pieces that really showcase the talents of its individual principal dancers. Ballo is a great example – they opened with this sparkling but harmless Balanchine piece, which for reasons I understand now, isn’t one of Balanchine’s more famous pieces. But, what it does do is to showcase the precise quick footwork of Gillian Murphy, in which I felt like she thrived and blossomed and really came alive only during her variation. It also showcases David Hallberg’s amazing ballon and quick footwork. And it was really nice to see the big smiles on stage! The four female soloists were great as well. Maria Riccetto was clean and sharp, and Hee Seo has that extra special something that was amazing to watch.
The Sleeping Beauty Rose Adagio, with Paloma Herrera was next. Despite emotional lackluster performances the last few times I’ve seen her (including Giselle), I was still excited to see her because of her amazing balances and technique which would completely work in her favor here. But I was confused when her balances were completely cut short, and it didn’t even look like she tried. When I saw SF Ballet perform Sleeping Beauty last year, usually the last balance they try to go for it and stretch it out, despite wobbling – and it’s always thrilling to watch because you’re rooting for them at the same time. Perhaps she was tired and touring is tough, and I know it’s still a difficult piece. It’s just that with stories of how amazing her balances are that she gets stuck doing pirouettes and can’t come down from them, I expected longer balances. Oh well. This review mirrors my sentiment as well. One note on the princes – their costumes really are outrageous. Blaine Hoven’s wig is priceless (poor guy, it’s not his fault!). A bob is rarely attractive on men, especially a prince! But at least his costume was better than the Celtic prince.
The next piece stole the entire program and was my favorite. It was Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo in the Le Corsaire pas de deux. I can’t remember the last time that I heard an audience gasp and go crazy at a ballet performance, with one of Cornejo’s flying leap entrances where he must have been more than a few feet off of the ground. He was absolutely thrilling to watch, and of course this is the sort of thing where he excels. Xiomara Reyes made a lovely partner as well, understated but perhaps unfairly overshadowed by the showier Cornejo. This piece also reminds me of Mark Morris saying how he sometimes doesn’t like ballet because a lot of times it’s all about the tricks. And this pas de deux is definitely about tricks, but still, it’s so much fun!
The man of the hour: Herman Cornejo at curtain call
The show ended with Jerome Robbin’s Fancy Free. It’s all-American fun, a story of three sailors on leave and looking for girls. It’s so much fun, yet it’s not just fluff – it’s very layered and really well choreographed. The choreography was reminiscent of West Side Story, another example of the collaboration between Robbins and Bernstein (I thought one move was very similar to the lollipop munchkins in Wizard of Oz with the side head jerks – does anyone else know what I’m talking about? But that was probably just a fluke). The three male leads were danced by Craig Salstein, Sascha Radetsky, and Marcelo Gomes. I’d never seen Marcelo in a contemporary role like this (the last time I saw him was Albrecht in Giselle), but it was really fun and his samba made me laugh. Craig Salstein had great comedic timing and really sank his teeth into the role, and it was fun to watch him go. The camaraderie between the three of them was so easy and kept me smiling the entire time. Julie Kent also made a very luminous girl that Sascha charms, and even watching her brief pas de deux with him, I realized she was the only female dancer that really had me breathless the entire night, even in her non-pointe shoes. She literally glows, and she melts with her amazing extensions. I know people always talk about the amazing talent of men in ABT (and rightly so!) but dancers like Julie Kent and Diana Vishneva (my faves) are absolutely rare and just as praiseworthy as well.
Just one note on the bartender in Fancy Free, played by Julio Bragado-Young. I wondered why Robbins kept him in this piece when all he does is smoke, read his paper, and move the bar stool at one point so Sascha can jump over it. I thought his bland cynicism was an excellent commentary on the ridiculous goings on inside his bar. In a sense, he’s almost like the narrator of the story, and by his cynical quiet contempt that’s highly contrasted by the testosterone-driven hyperactivity of the three sailors, says volumes in his silence. And yes, I thought the bartender merited his own paragraph. I thought his part was hysterical and absolutely essential to this piece.
Curtain call for Fancy Free – I accidentally cut out Craig Salstein! The guys’ costumes look like a nightmare to dance in, and I’m sure the hat doesn’t help either. L to R: Marissa Thomas, Marcelo Gomes, Julie Kent, Sascha Radetsky, Stella Abrera
Now for Program B coming up this weekend! It’s going to be a more contemporary program, with Elo’s “C to C”, “Sinatra Suite”, Tharp’s “Baker’s Dozen”, and Millepied’s “From Here on Out”. Unfortunately, the biggest Cal football game of the year is also taking place that day (Cal vs. USC), so it’s going to be absolutely insane, so I’m told. I should wear red just to be anti-Cal (representing my alma mater, Cal’s rival!) but afraid I’m going to get jumped.
What did people think of Ballo della Regina? ABT’s Fancy Free?