A nearly sold out Metropolitan Opera House in New York was ready to host its antepenultimate performance of American Ballet Theatre’s 2017 Met Season. This time, not only were there many of American Ballet’s top dancers performing together, but the audience had one single protagonist: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
The celebrated composer’s music was heard once more in the heart of Lincoln Center. ABT combined extracts of some of Tchaikovsky’s masterpieces: Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, along with two different ballets created by George Balanchine: Mozartiana and the exciting Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux:
Mozartiana (George Balanchine)
Hee Seo, Jeffrey Cirio, Cory Stearns
The Nutcracker pas de deux (Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov)
Misty Copeland and Hermán Cornejo
Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (George Balanchine)
Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside
Sleeping Beauty Aurora’s Wedding (Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov)
Isabella Boylston, Alban Lendorf, Devon Teuscher, Skylar Brandt, Zhiyao Zhang
Elegant black costumes opened Mozartiana, Balanchine’s plotless ballet created in 1933. Hee Seo, delicate as a feather, executed her steps impeccably. She was accompanied by a corps de ballet of eight, where half were young professionals and the other half, pointe-shoe-less girls. Both groups meshed well and performed wonderfully, taking care of the arm angles and listening to the music to create the cannons Balanchine carefully implanted.
Jeffrey Cirio’s speed and his movement along the stage was admirable. In his solo, and the dances with the corps, Jeffrey made sure that his coordination stood out, impressing the audience with his short appearance in the ballet.
Hee’s partner, Cory Stearns, whose wonderful tall height was surely spotted in the balcony, successfully executed the rapid footwork his variations asked. Balanchine’s steps were demanding, and even when there were little tense moments in the pas de deux, a great applause filled the house after the grand finale.
In the Pas De Deux, Hermán Cornejo ran on to the stage looking for his Odette which, interpreted by Misty Copeland, made a perfect duet for the night. Different from other Swan Queens out there, Misty has an intensely emotional approach for Odette. Making sure to always hit the music accents and switching between delicate torso, fast feet, and stretchy developpés, her Odette always looked like she wanted to desperately run off Siegfried, telling the story perfectly, and always into the character.
Hermán seemed to lift Misty as if she were weightless, showing off his partnering skills while maintaining the exquisite artistry that defines this Argentine dancer. Both created a wave of applause, impacting the young children onstage, to the elders in the room.
When the celebrated Gillian Murphy stepped the stage alongside James Whiteside, the excitement came once again. It seemed like the audience was waiting for this duet to come forward. Both took risks on Balanchine’s demanding pas de deux.
Gillian cared about every detail that defines the unique style of the choreographer, and the variation was executed at an impressive pace. James, with his great connection with both his partner and the audience, ended the variation in perfect double-tours and timing. Both ended with an exciting coda, which had some audience members at standing ovation for the two artists.
To end the night, and extract of Alexei Ratmansky’s version of Sleeping Beauty was performed. With the opening of the curtains, a realistic scenography combined with impressive, beautiful costumes filled the stage for Aurora’s Wedding.
Ratmansky maintained an already hard choreography and added some more challenges for the dancers. We might know some of the steps, but he made sure to surprise us in every movement. The costumes, all in the same theme, were brilliantly designed to be different and stand out from all the other productions out there.
Not a character in this part was forgotten. The company, from Isabella Boylston and Alban Lendorf (who danced beautifully clean, both in their solos and pas de deux), to the fairy tale characters, Fiorina and the Bluebird (amazing recognition for their work too), the Cats, the Polonaise, and Mazurkas. It was a true party, exquisite in every way.
The Metropolitan Opera House surely enjoyed this Tchaikovsky feast. “I wanted to make sure I watch the company before they end their season”, said a spectator, “I just love the way they dance”.
With all the liveliness and the standing ovations, the New York audience seems to never tire of American Ballet Theatre, especially when they have so much to offer and deliver. With this company, why would the audiences be patient and wait for the next Met Season?