I Desire to See Désir Again

June 4, 2009

American  Ballet Theatre has a winner in James Kudelka’s Désir. This rhapsodic ballet has gorgeous partnering with soaring lifts and beautiful touches of affection. Every single pas de deux is both rapturous and inventive. The legs make aching arcs and the bodies and skirts follow.

 In the fourth section, Hee Seo (see her in “25 to Watch” from 2006), partnered by Marcelo Gomes, is a dream of elegance. From her first extension to the side, when Gomes gently takes her foot and brings it diagonally down to the ground, their pas de deux is heavenly. Again and again he takes her foot and brings it somewhere else, never tying her in knots, always expressing a love for her and a desire to see where she ends and the world begins. They don’t rush, and neither does Kudelka in his choreography. He takes his time, allowing the dancing to be fully felt.

    Désir, which was originally premiered by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in 1991, uses some of the same Prokofiev music as in Cinderella.

The opening pas de deux, with Gillian Murphy softly yielding to an open-chested Blaine Hoven, allows her to swirl her upper body near and around him. The second, quicker pas de deux, reveals a crisp Sarah Lane—lovely but with a bite—shaping each move with clarity. Later three couples dance an intriguing group section, for instance when the men walk toward then away from women, and vice versa. For both genders, turning your back on someone seems to fuel their interest. It’s as though Kudelka is saying that part of desire is turning away, or knowing that the other person can turn away.

    May Désir stay in the ABT rep a long time. It must be a delicious challenge for the dancers, and a break from the big story ballets for the Met audience.