American Ballet Theatre

Opening Night Gala: 'Hereafter,' 'The Leaves Are Fading,' 'La Bayadere,' 'Esmeralda Pas de Deux,' 'Diana and Acteon Pas de Deux,' 'Don Quixote,' 'Swan Lake,' 'With You Without You'

by Kate Snedeker

May 5, 2003 -- Metropolitan Opera House, New York

On Monday night, American Ballet Theater kicked off the 2003 Met Season with a smorgasbord of ballet treats, ranging from a brief preview of Stanton Welch's new piece HereAfter to excerpts from the lyrical Tudor pas de deux, The Leaves Are Fading . The evening’s festivities, co-chaired by Blaine Trump and Caroline Kennedy, celebrated Kevin McKenzie’s 10th anniversary as the Artistic Director and provided a glimpse of the exciting dancing that will fill the Met stage during the next two months.

In the Waltz & Pas D’Action from Natalia Makarova’s staging of La Bayadere , it was Irina Dvorovenko who really shone, her extensions high and unforced. Ethan Stiefel was a gracious partner and soared in his solos. Carlos Molina stood out in the male demi solos, with the corps in good form.

John Gardner returned as a guest artist to dance the moving Leaves Are Fading pas de deux with his wife, principal dancer Amanda McKerrow. McKerrow and Gardner gave the piece an emotional performance, flowing to Dvorak’s “Cypresses”. Yet, the ballet seemed lost on the large, deep Met stage, and is better suited to the more intimate stage at City Center, where the company performs each fall.

The mood lightened with Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes in Perrot’s Esmeralda Pas de Deux . Herrera had difficulty with the tambourine early on, but recovered nicely. The newest (and youngest) male principal, Gomes danced with his usual elegant, natural smoothness. His tendency to cheat off the floor in tours has lessened, but was still obvious in his otherwise notable pirouette/double tour sequence.

Angel Corella lit up the stage with his electric intensity and trademark whirlwind pirouettes in very short solo from Stanton Welch’s upcoming HereAfter . Dancing to music from Orff’s Carmina Burana, sung by baritone Thomas Meglioranza, Corella soared into the air, slid across the stage in near splits, and splayed his body on the stage. The solo was a mere four minutes, a somewhat disjointed preview, and it would have be nice to see Corella in something more substantial.

Gillian Murphy and Jose Manuel Carreno evoked awe with their sensational bravura skills in Vaganova’s Diana and Acteon pas de deux (Adagio and Coda). Carreno did a high-flying series of barrel turns en circle and Murphy liberally sprinkled multiples into her stunning series of fouettes.
The tricks were no less sensational Kevin McKenzie’s comic Don Quixote Act III Pas de Deux a Quatre, but things weren’t always what one would expect. Julio Bocca shared the stage with not one, but three highly talented ballerinas, Nina Ananiashvili, Ashley Tuttle and the newly promoted Xiomara Reyes. Appearing one by one to dance with him, they proceed to bewilder, confuse and finally frustrate Bocca. Peeking out from the wings, he seemed to think it was finally safe to dance, but half way through his impressive solo, Ananshiavili darted out to finish it for him! Comedy aside, the dancing was superb with Bocca doing a stunning series of at least six double tour-pirouette combinations and splicing in huge laid out leaps into his tour jetes en circle.

Though Maxim Belotserkovksy’s dancing had a velvety smoothness and elegantly finished quality, the Act I Waltz from McKenzie’s production of Swan Lake provided a rather bland end to the first act.

The evening concluded with With You Without You , ABT’s tribute to George Harrison, premiered last October at City Center. A collage of choreography by Welch, Natalie Weir, Anne Reinking and David Parsons set to George Harrison’s music, the tribute sometimes lacks cohesion, but makes wonderful use of the company’s talented dancers. Notable were the sinuous Sandra Brown and Jose Manuel Carreno in Reinking’s sensual pas deux to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, and Corella, holding nothing back in Welch’s “Something”. The most fascinating and moving piece, however, is the finale by Parsons to “My Sweet Lord” in which the cast leaps, twists, tumbles, spins, jumps and soars against the deep red backdrop. The dancing appears almost freeform, the choreography highlighting the talents and emotions of each dancers-seventeen dancers moving in seventeen different ways to Harrison’s evocative music. It was, in itself, a brief demonstration of the company’s talent, and invitation to see these dancers use their varied talents in the ballets during the Met Season!

Note: Contrary to the casting in the program, David Hallberg did not perform and was replaced by Ricardo Torres in all three ballets. As of the writing of this review, Hallberg is expected to dance in all of his schedule performances during the Met Season.

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