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BWW Review: AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE Sparkles in Fall Season

On Friday, October 28, 2016, a crisp, cool air set the mood for a dreamy evening performance of American Ballet Theatre's fall program. A company known for its classic traditionalism, the evening took a turn for the eclectic, choosing to showcase the dancers' eccentricities and otherness through modern dance-inspired works that spanned from 1929 to the present.

The evening began with Jessica Lang's Her Notes, which had its world premiere with the company just a week earlier. Set to a beautifully haunting score by Fanny Mendelssohn, the dancers were effortlessly dynamic, as they slowly came to life with rhythmic waves of motion. Using the dancers' gorgeous musculature to experiment with syncopation, Lang's choreography seesawed between modern and classical through the width of curved port de bras and fluid bourrées. With a playful self-consciousness, the piece experimented with different pas de deux and pas de trois pairings, showcasing the dancers' rapturous passion - for each other, for the music, and for the movement. There was such joy in the clarity of the expression, it was delightful to watch.

Sir Frederick Ashton's Monotones I and II followed, set to the delicate and sparse sounds from Erik Satie, orchestrated by Debussy, Roland-Manuel and Lanchbery. With an emphasis on synchronous timing, the choreography's sterility and precision was a picture-perfect meditation on control. Each pas de trios experimented with constant contact, but as the piece progressed, the sense of connection changed, becoming instead a forceful manipulation of space and energy. This kind of structural execution, while refreshing, misses the heart and soul that makes this company all that it is. And while performed well, I was ready for Prodigal Son to take the stage.

A landmark Balanchine ballet in three scenes, Prodigal Son brings to mind visions of a youthful and exuberant Mikhail Baryshnikov, exploding through the air with raw force and emotion. But to see Daniil Simkin own the space was to see Misha reimagined. Slight and spry, Simkin's innate quirk easily frames his stunning classical technique, which brings relevance and light to this century-old piece. With every grand jeté and never-ending pirouette, the tension built, eventually spilling over into a dynamic pas de deux between Simkin and Veronica Part as The Siren that explored every realm of physicality and form. As the ballet progressed, Simkin's Son began to deteriorate in spirit and body, bringing new meaning to every yearning reach forward and every devastating fall. A man grappling with pain and awareness, the use of sound helped to communicate the emotion beautifully. But even in the quiet, there was immense strength and power that concluded the ballet - and the evening - on a perfect note.

Photo Credit: MIRA

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