Not Quite Timeless, but Still a Good Time

October 16, 2012

As the second presidential debate got underway last night, another kind of American ritual was going on at City Center: the 70th-anniversary revival of Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo, which kicked off American Ballet Theatre’s weeklong fall season. The portrait of youthful love on the ranch, revolutionary when first performed by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, didn’t exactly feel “timeless,” as deemed by artistic director Kevin McKenzie in an opening retrospective film. While the use of a down-home vernacular—lassoing cowboys bucked by invisible horses, flirtatious skirt-twirling from a bevy of “Womenfolk”—might have broken ground in 1942, it has, in the intervening years, entered the realm of cliché.

Which isn’t to say clichés can’t be charming and fun, especially when accompanied by Aaron Copland’s rollicking score, and they were last night—particularly in the relationship between the spunky, bumbling Cowgirl (Xiomara Reyes) and the gentlemanly Champion Roper (Sascha Radetsky), who, sporting a pair of white leather boots, woos her with a suave, endearingly uncomplicated tap dance.

The program also included Mark Morris’ fresh, buoyant Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes and two pas de deux at opposite poles of the emotional spectrum: Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes, in a rather sullen duet from James Kudelka’s Cruel World, followed by Balanchine’s chipper Stars and Stripes pas de deux, danced by Sarah Lane and Daniil Simkin. (His instantaneous recovery from a half-onstage, half-offstage fall was just as impressive as the soaring jumps that preceded it.)

I would happily watch Drink to Me again, for another look at its attractive, unexpected geometries, and fleeting, nonchalant entrances and exits. If you can, see it Saturday night, when it shares an evening with Twyla Tharp’s transcendent In the Upper Room, and the premiere of part one in Alexei Ratmansky’s new trilogy to Shostakovich symphonies.


For the full schedule of ABT’s City Center run, click here. —Siobhan Burke