BWW Review: ABT Triumphs with Tchaikovsky and Closes Spring Season
It's always a bittersweet feeling when a company ends its season, and in the current political climate, one can never take the arts for granted. But on Friday July 7, 2017, the Metropolitan Opera House was atwitter with the promise of American Ballet Theatre's program dedicated to Tchaikovsky. Pre-show, the audience crackled with uproarious excitement, perfectly in keeping with the dazzling, multi-layered nuance to be found in the breadth of Tchaikovsky's compositions.
Up first was a somber Balanchine staple, "Mozartiana." Donning diaphanous black tulle, the junior corps de ballet made up of students gracefully framed the petite Hee Seo as Preghiera. A vision of careful delicacy, Seo's facilities played off the score's beats and timbres with ease, but it was Jeffrey Cirio's Gigue, whose boundless buoyancy leaves nothing to be desired, that wonderfully captured the rapidity of Balanchine's movement. The corps de ballet proved a quiet reminder of the piece's grounded quality, offering notable refrains for Seo and Cory Stearns in their unceasingly complex pas de deux. It's wonderful to see the pair's sweet chemistry develop over time and Stearns remains the picture of elegance as a leading man and partner.
The pas de deux from Act II of Swan Lake replaced the programmed pas de deux from Act II of The Nutcracker, but was still danced by one of the most cohesive pairs within the company today: Misty Copeland and Herman Cornejo. An ABT mainstay, Cornejo is solid and powerful, letting Copeland shine like the light that she is. Blessed with incredible lines and arches, her reputation precedes her, but she lives up to her magic, and delivered a soft, yet strong version of the beloved Odette character. I especially appreciated her choice to punctuate the music's fragility with swift arm sweeps.
A personal favorite, "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" was up next, danced by dynamo technicians Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside. Whenever Gillian graces the stage, you can expect a spectacular outing, and this night proved no different. But it was Whiteside's gravity-defying height and supple precision that made the audience cheer. Originally a member of the Boston Ballet, Whiteside dances Balanchine with impossible ease and fluidity; you can tell the movement fits him like an expensive pair of leather gloves.
The fourth and final piece of the evening, "Aurora's Wedding" brought resplendent luxury and grandeur to the stage that the previous three pieces lacked. Joy permeated the entire scene, gilded in gold sparkle as the excitement came to a climax with the introduction of Princess Aurora and Prince Désiré, portrayed by Isabella Boylston and Alban Lendorf. Lendorf is a true throwback to Russian ballet princes of the past, grounded in a technique that permeates. Conversely, Boylston is a ballerina for today: exuberant, versatile, and athletic, and the pair's combined strengths brought the house to its feet.
I'll miss watching this company dance, but am looking so forward to the fall season.
Photo Credit: Rosalie O'Connor