American Ballet Theatre

American Ballet Theatre
Lady of the Camellias
Metropolitan Opera House, NYC
May 25–June 7, 2010
Reviewed by Rose Anne Thom


Julie Kent and Roberto Bolle as Marguerite and Armand. Photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy ABT.


What a perfect subject for a ballet is Marguerite Gautier, the tragic heroine of Alexandre Dumas, fils’, La Dame aux camélias. (Antony Tudor thought so in l951, as did Frederick Ashton in l963.) A robust cast of demi-monde players in mid–19th century France complement this consumptive courtesan, her aristocratic lover, Armand, and his scheming father, Monsieur Duval. Add Chopin’s music and a two-page synopsis to the mix, and, voila, a romantic full-length ballet made to order for ABT’s spring season at the Met.

But John Neumeier’s revised version of his 1978 Lady of the Camellias lacks the vital spark of imaginative choreography to fire the narrative. The story evolves from the memories of Armand and his father. The stage is often frenetically busy: Some of the dancers watch the opera Manon Lescaut, others dance it, while Armand and his father observe from the sidelines. The choreographer fails to guide the viewer’s eye through the sequence of pivotal events, diminishing the romantic thrust of the plot.

Further, Neumeier is frighteningly unmusical. When audiences are familiar with how masters Fokine (Les Sylphides) and Robbins (Dances at a Gathering and The Concert) used Chopin, the bar is set rather high. Neumeier doesn’t necessarily ignore the music but its nuances are lost in much histrionic partnering and lackluster ensemble work. There are moments when Neumeier does harmonize with the score. In the first pas de deux, with Armand prostate at her feet, Marguerite’s wavering emotions manifest in rapid-fire bourrées, as she skitters anxiously around him. In the second act, the lovers intimately encircle each other—with their arms, their legs, and tiny steps—eventually expanding into a rapturous circular path enhanced by floor-skimming lifts. They fully convey their all-consuming passion in response to the music. But gratuitous lifts and too much rolling over each other on the floor clutter Neumeier’s pas de deux.

Of the two casts that performed on May 25 and 26, Cory Stearns embodied Armand more ardently, his dancing as poignant as it was precise. He commanded attention even in those scenes when he lingered on the apron. His Marguerite, Irina Dvorovenko, balanced her characterization between capricious pleasure-seeker and self-sacrificing lover. Roberto Bolle was a more subdued Armand, while the always-exquisite Julie Kent emphasized Marguerite’s tragic aspect, appearing a touch too retiring when escorted by her throng of admirers.

Gillian Murphy and Stella Abrera beautifully danced the thankless role of Manon Lescaut, in the parallel story of another doomed courtesan. A trio of admirers fawned over Manon, manipulating her like a pretzel while her relationship with her lover Des Grieux, danced by David Hallberg and Blaine Hoven, was almost inconsequential. Adding a smidgen of humor, both Julio Bragado-Young and Alexei Agoudine, alternating the role of Count N, buzzed around their respective Marguerites like pesky mosquitoes. Marguerite’s friends, providing a carefree romantic antidote to the tragic lovers, were danced by Xiomara Reyes and Jared Matthews, in one cast, Luciana Paris and Gennadi Saveliev in the other. They romped through their solos, each women flicking a fan as she hopped on pointe, each man wielding a phallic riding stick through a whirlwind of fancy jumps.

In all performances ABT’s dancers, as expected, brought what life they could to the limited choreography. But they could not salvage a ballet that failed to live up to the potential of its narrative.

Health & Body
Getty Images

It's hour three of an intense rehearsal, you're feeling mentally foggy and exhausted, and your stomach hurts. Did you know the culprit could be something as simple as dehydration?

Proper hydration helps maintain physical and mental function while you're dancing, and keeps your energy levels high. But with so many products on the market promising to help you rehydrate more effectively, how do you know when it's time to reach for more than water?

Keep reading... Show less
Breaking Stereotypes
James Beaudreau, Courtesy Lara

Inside a bustling television studio in Los Angeles, Lindsay Arnold Cusick hears the words "Five minutes to showtime." While dancers and celebrities covered head to toe in sequins whirl around preparing for their live performances on "Dancing with the Stars," Cusick pauses to say a prayer to God and express her gratitude.

"I know that it's not a given, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to do what I love for a living," says Cusick, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For her, prayer is a ritualized expression of her faith that she has maintained since she was a girl in Provo, Utah. Even with her seven-plus years of industry experience, she always takes a moment to steady herself and close her prayer in Christ's name before rushing onto the stage.

Keep reading... Show less

The hotly-debated Michael Jackson biomusical is back on. Not that it was ever officially off, but after its pre-Broadway Chicago run was canceled in February, its future seemed shaky.

Now, the show has secured a Broadway theater, with previews starting July 6 at the Neil Simon Theater.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance History
Jacques d'Amboise leading a National Dance Institute class. Photo by Lois Greenfield, Courtesy DM Archives

In the October 1969 issue of Dance Magazine, we spoke with Jacques d'Amboise, then 20 years into his career with New York City Ballet. Though he became a principal dancer in 1953, the star admitted that it hadn't all been smooth sailing.

Keep reading... Show less


Get Dance Magazine in your inbox