ABT Gala Reveals New Depths in Dancers

October 21, 2008

I saw a completely different side of a few dancers at the gala last night at City Center. Gillian Murphy, who’s been a beautiful but sometimes steely superwoman—her double triple fouetees are scarily dependable—performed Juliet in Tudor’s Romeo and Juliet. She did bedroom scene (the farewell to Romeo) (which is a rather restrained version if you’re used to seeing Macmillan’s R + J) with David Hallberg. She really gave to her partner, melting toward him in her upper body—so convincing as a young girl in love. At one point she’s kneeling, and her Romeo lies with his head on her lap; she holds his head tenderly, kisses him from above. He suddenly gets up cause of course he’s gotta get out of there after killing her cousin. She is left holding the space where his head was, and you can see that she still feels her lover in her hands. In her dancing, she expresses a pull toward and away (which is what love does). That takes total attention and imagination.

   And Herman Cornejo in Taylor’s Company B! Oooh, what a great Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy he makes! He doesn’t stand out in the group of guys in the beginning, but in his solo, well, you just want it to go on forever. He finishes off the big solid leaps with down into-the-ground finger snapping. He can really relax those hips!  He has all the pizzazz that was missing from his rendering of Sinatra Suite a season or two ago. It’s always a pleasure to see Cornejo dance. He’s so into the dancing, not into pleasing an audience. And there is greatness in his modesty. He makes you seek him out, and then you are rewarded!

   Other breakthroughs in Company B (which was staged by Patrick Corbin): Misty Copeland  took it away as the girl from Trinidad singing about Yankee dollars. You have to leave your feminist perspective at the door, but she was having a great time, sashaying around, swiveling her pelvis, and flirting. She always looks free and bold (compared to most ballet dancers) but this time she was really larger than life. So was Craig Salstein, goofy in black-rimmed spectacles in “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!” He was hilarious cartoon-figure, a master of physical comedy.

   All of which bodes well for the two-week season that started last night.