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By Gus Solomons jr
American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
May 25, 2011
Reviewed by Gus Solomons jr
Sascha Radetsky, Alexandre Hammoudi and Daniil Simkin in Benjamin Millepied’s Troika. Photo by Mikhail Logvinov. Courtesy ABT.
It’s a shame the general public has no idea how difficult the dancing is that American Ballet Theatre does with such authority, grace, and apparent ease. The program titled "From Classic to Premieres"—comprising premieres by Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon, a new work by Benjamin Millepied, and Antony Tudor's 1967 Shadowplay—received respectable applause on Wednesday, May 25, reflecting not the quality of the dancing, which was typically amazing, but the wow factor of the choreography, which featured few flashy tricks.
Ratmansky’s Dumbarton is a lyrical etude for five stellar couples, impelled by Igor Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks. The dancers dash on and offstage in too-brief interactions in myriad combinations. Even in an abstract piece Ratmansky throws in little dramatic flourishes, and his forte, quick shifting of spatial patterns, reigns throughout. The ballet is well-crafted—no surprise for Ratmansky—but the constancy of change and fast pace makes it too frenetic to savor.
Millepied’s Troika, which premiered at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater in March, is a male trio, set to Bach solo cello music, wonderfully played by Jonathan Spitz seated onstage. After an opening of good-natured horseplay, the structure has each man by turns taking the lead, while the other two accompany, lifting and supporting him or matching his steps. Millepied features each dancer’s strengths—Sascha Radetsky’s exuberance and dazzling beats, Daniil Simkin’s playfulness, and Alexandre Hammoudi’s poeticism. But boyish roguishness seems juvenile for such a masterful cast.
Shadowplay reflects Tudor’s fascination with Buddhism. It recounts the journey of its protagonist toward Nirvana, beyond worldly irritations. Boy with Matted Hair (Craig Salstein, technically assured and expressively restrained), reposing by a gnarled tree (scenery and costumes by Michael Annals), encounters a pack of vine-swinging Arboreals, a six-pack of Aerials on point, a Terrestrial (stately Cory Stearns), and Celestials (Xiomara Reyes, lofted by strongmen Roddy Doble and Patrick Ogle). This odd, exotic piece is a curiosity we appreciate getting to see once.
Handily abetted by Brad Fields’s dazzling lighting, Wheeldon paints ravishing stage images in the premiere of Thirteen Diversions. The cast in Bob Crowley’s stylish costumes—four lead couples in light gray and eight couples in black—move against a backdrop of changing color washes with a glowing bar of light in contrasting hues that changes the perceived height of the space. To Benjamin Britten’s Diversions for Piano and Orchestra, Wheeldon sends the corps streaking across the stage like paintbrush strokes, creating spaces for his amazingly inventive partnering, most especially a duet for Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg that twines like a warm embrace.