ABT Gala: Treasure Upon Treasure

May 14, 2012

We were in the presence of jewels, of incredible riches at the ABT gala last night. Every performance had a grandeur, every dancer was someone you wanted to keep watching. And there was just enough variety to keep you wanting more. It didn’t feel like a grab bag of hits, as it can sometimes feel.

The dancing was extravagantly gorgeous, and it was nice to see how some terrific dancers have gotten even better.

I think David Hallberg is dancing larger and more thoughtfully than before. Bolshoi means big, and his dancing has expanded in both his sense of drama and integrity. Seeing him with Polina Semionova, another tall, generous dancer, in Bayadère was so satisfying.

Daniil Simkin could do Les Bourgeois in his sleep. This playful solo with tricks embedded was made for his father by Ben Van Cauwenbergh, and Daniil grew up learning it. It has wowed audiences on the competition circuit, and now I see more elasticity and humor in it. Of course the belly-flop leaps are just as spectacular. 

Herman Cornejo, always elegant, was turning his head more sharply than I remember. I guess that’s called for in Don Q, but I like Herman when he gives a more fluid delivery. He still does a double cabriole like no one else, with his legs separating widely in between the two beats. And his partnership with Xiomara Reyes is a comfortable one.

Susan Jaffe’s Blue Pas de Deux provided a nice break from the classical/romantic episodes. It gave Veronika Part an opportunity to be sleek and sexy (not nervous or cautious), and it showed that ABT has a budding choreographer in house.

For sheer romance, Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes top the charts. In the balcony scene from MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, they seem to make each other drunk with the kiss and all the lifts leading up to it. At the end, after she skittered back up the stairs, Marcelo slammed into the column underneath the balcony with a fevered abandon.


Marcelo Gomes and Diana Vishneva in MacMillan’s
Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, Courtesy ABT.


In Flames of Paris, Natalia Osipova was sprightly and Ivan Vasiliev manly (my friend called him a “beast”). I noticed he’s doing more posing than when he was younger. He actually slipped and fell to the floor at one point. After that he was determined to jump even higher and turn more—and he was posing more too. The audience seemed to love the swagger—or maybe they just loved that he got up from the fall and kept going.

Now for the soloists. As my colleague Kina Poon says in her recent “Dance Glance,”  the soloist level at ABT is rife with gorgeous dancers who don’t get to dance lead roles much because of all the guest stars. But last night ABT showed two pieces that showcased the soloists. One was the odalisque section from Bayadère for Sarah Lane, Misty Copeland, and Isabella Boylston, three dancers with unmistakable star power.

Excerpts from Wheeldon’s Thirteen Diversions, which began and ended the evening, featured Stella Abrera, Hee Seo, Maria Riccetto, Simone Messmer, and Eric Tamm. They are also beyond excellent, but that ballet has so many people running around that it was hard to focus on the dancers.


ABT dancers in Wheeldon’s
Thirteen Diversions. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.


Great dancing also came from Irina Dvorovenko & Maxim Beloserkovsky, Angel Corella & Alina Cojocaru, Paloma Herrera (staying calm when Cory Stearns almost dropped her), Julie Kent & Roberto Bolle, Gillian Murphy & Vadim Muntagirov, and charming children from the JKO school.


Of course, bold-faced names were in attendance, but I will leave you with a photo I snapped of just two of them: Frederic Franklin, about to turn 98, and Raven Wilkinson, who knew each other from Ballet Russe days.


Frederic Franklin and Raven Wilkinson.