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American Ballet Theatre (ABT) Studio Company opened their three-day performance schedule on the evening of April 15, 2016, at The Joyce Theater. The troupe offered a program of five balletic acts that included one world premiere and two New York City premieres. With a full house, numerous supporters of the ABT attended. I recognized a few corps de ballet members of the company, principal dancer of ABT Gillian Murphy, and the extraordinary ballerina Alessandra Ferri in the audience. It was a lovely gesture for them and for many other guests to see the upcoming dancers who could someday be part of the ABT main company.


Former principal dancer Ethan Stiefel choreographed this ballet, which had its world premiere on opening night of the Joyce season. The dance is an incorporation of Level 7 and Primary A students of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School Pre-Professional and Children's Division. Mr. Stiefel created a ballet-style Monty Python storyline with knights, maidens, a family dynamic, and also with an interesting choice of one more addition-a dancing Mascot dragon. Ok, that was cute, but was it really appropriate for this venue? The five male knights were comical and fanciful with one that I noticed had the most clean advanced technique, as well as animated facial expressions on the stage. Mr. Luigi Crispino was that dancer. Originally, Noel Kovacs was to perform as one of the knights. However, it was our fortune to have Mr. Crispino as his alternate. To be honest, when I was not as engaged with some of the dancers, I immediately looked over to him and was pulled back into the scene. This young man has got "it" and should be a rising star very soon indeed.

Third Wheels

A New York City premiere of Gemma Bond's Third Wheels demonstrated the reason to this act's title. The trio, Xuelan Lu, Elias Baseman, and Ilya Kolotov, were intertwined throughout the dance. Both Mr. Baseman and Mr. Kolotov have a twin-esque look about them-close in height, hair color, and style, and in their body forms. The possibly subconscious casting worked due to Ms. Lu's constant back-and-forth partnering between the two. In a sense, one of the men was the third wheel and within Ms. Bond's choreography she had them dance the franticness of "two's a company, three's a crowd." I especially noticed the talents of Mr. Kolotov with his extreme arched feet and his high leg extensions. Physical gifts such as those two examples are usually endowed upon women. He lucked out. Both of Ms. Lu's partners were attentive and kept me focused on the pleasant fact that this seemed well coached. James Whiteside, principal dancer of ABT, also contributed to the Studio Company with the design of their costumes-a pair of red suspenders and a white top with dark colored pants (a dark pleated short skirt for Ms. Lu). Fun-loving and simple for a not simple third wheel situation. Overall, these three made the iconic phrase into "two's a company, but three are more fun to watch."


An act filled with intensity. Libera! was performed by Satchel Tanner (Naazir Muhammad's alternate) and Breanne Granlund. The choir of Ave Maria brought the statuesque choreography to an organic level of fundamentals. An upside side down parallel cirque move and static poses to allow the music to fill in some dance gaps gave the feel of a calm and bold element. Technically, both dancers worked well together. However, I felt that this act is for more of a seasoned ballet couple. They were costumed in an organic manner with Ms. Granlund in a nude leotard and Mr. Tanner shirtless in nude shorts. If only there had been more of a seduction and carnal attack between them, it would have changed my earlier viewpoint of it to be danced by a seasoned duo. I would suggest working on the chemistry of the sensuality more than the technical side. Technique is taught, but a higher-level of connection must be found from within.

Danse Baroque & Murmuration

These two acts followed a brief intermission. Danse Baroque was performed by the Level 7 students. It was a quick dance and the final piece commenced soon after. Murmuration, a New York City premiere by choreographer George Williamson. The music by Dobrinka Tabakova, ("Concerto for Cello and Strings") was a wonderful tune that helped move the dancers. One cannot go wrong with strings. A cast of eight of the Studio company members were a fiery bunch. Even their costumes had tones of orange, gold, and red to enhance their demeanors. Zimmi Coker and Alex Pappajohn were outstanding -- Ms. Coker with her archy feet and fantastic balance, while Mr. Pappajohn resembled an earlier Joaquin De Luz in his fastidious steps. I enjoyed this act with its waves of songs and movement.

ABT Studio Company had a successful opening night in Program A. I will also be attending their Sunday matinee of Program C on April 17, 2016. Look for that review on BWW.

Photo Credit: Richard Perry (Knightlife)

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From This Author Marsha Volgyi

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