BWW Review: American Ballet Theatre, Marcelo Gomes Choreographer World Premiere AfterEffect was Delightfully Affective

October 28, 2015

American Ballet Theatre

David H. Koch Theater

Credit Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Just before the curtain rose on the debut of AfterEffect, Marcelo Gomes was seated two rows behind this reviewer. As I glanced backwards, he seemed confident in having the audience watch his creation. And so the ballet began.

There wasn't just one highlight of Gomes' ballet. From the beginning to the end was a feast of classical technique, with almost break-dancer-like upper body moves that matched the music of Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70. A driving force may have been this masterful music within the colorful the way the notes speak as a ballet dancer would onstage.

The dozen male corps de ballet dominated the scene. Their white unitards with a shoulder splash of color allowed their ethereal jetés, chaînes, and group formations to resemble the movement of the ribbons used by gymnasts, gracefully unpredictable when soaring through the air. The male-to-male trio partnering had elements similar to Choo San Goh's ballet Configurations, commissioned by ABT in May of 1982. What I found daring in Gomes' choreography decisions were the double tours, which were perfectly executed and landed collectively by the dozen men. Quite Gutsy. Entrechats mixed with pencil turns and fouettés into sliding on the floor exemplified that the ABT dancers, both male and female, sold me on their being able to perform outside their strict technique comfort zone.

Misty Copeland, recently promoted to principal dancer, showed off her polished style. The pas de deux she performed with James Whiteside and Ms. Copeland resembled that of an Olympic ice-skating duo. He didn't let her touch the floor for over half the duet. Ms. Copeland's gorgeous legs whirled around his body, while her face was impassive. The pitch-black stage utilizing one singular light from above put them in dream-like state.

The female corps, when performing as group, appeared stiff and uninterested in their performance. It only changed when they were featured, or in a trio. They became more animated and energized. I was invigorated when Zhiyao Zhang began with a double tour into double pirouette, which was repeated numerous times. As a corps member, he shined onstage as if he were a soloist.

James Whiteside, minus Misty Copeland's brief time within the ballet, and the rest of the cast together ended AfterEffect. Twenty-six dancers went from attitude turn, double pirouette, arabesque, and finished in unison. The momentous finale was what propelled everyone present in the theatre to spontaneous applause, followed by a standing ovation. I believe ABT will see more packed theaters if Artistic Director, Kevin McKenzie, continues to commission Mr. Gomes as a budding choreographer.

Company B, choreographed by Paul Taylor and reconstructed by Cathy McCann Buck, was a delight to behold, allowing the dancers to adapt well to the styles of the 1940's. Three performers, whose theatrics and bravura dancing jelled with The Andrew Sisters songs, were Gabe Stone Shayer, Patrick Ogle, and Cassandra Trenary. Mr. Shayer, of the Tico-Tico piece, showed the ease of his leaps, which hung in the air and softly came down to earth-fun-loving and sassy. Mr. Ogle, of Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh! demonstrated his enjoyment of letting loose. Throughout the other Company B pieces, my eye naturally fell upon him-he exhibited a realistic way of dancing to this era, without letting his classical technique overshadow the stylized choreography. Ms. Trenary, the femme fatale of Rum and Coca-Cola, caused me to reminisce about the stars of the past who delighted their audiences with a coquettish flair designed to tease. The costumes by Santo Loquasto were authentic to the period and gave the dancers freedom of movement. A fun ballet for any generation.

The Green Table, book and choreography by Kurt Jooss, ostensibly is a dark-themed ballet. Yet, its message and characters are empathic, impish, and thoroughly committed to an agenda. Opening the ballet are dancers who are masked and balding men representing those who profit from war, most probably businessmen or government leaders. But their masks show a sardonic grimace, indicating that war is imminent and a financial downfall probably following.

Our next player in The Green Table is Death, danced by soloist Roman Zhurbin. The sharpness of the tribal-like choreography demonstrated his performance as a mastery to detail. This preciseness was a quality consistent throughout his role. F.A. Cohen's music enhanced this character. When the three male dancers played the roles of the Soldiers, the bending of their arms and positioning of their hands created the illusion of them firing weapons. However, when the table was turned in the battle, Mr. Zhurbin was present to collect them into his world.

The Village Women emulated the distress of losing their earthly life. Mr. Zhurbin was again present while a female dancer melted into his arms, compassionately welcoming her sorrow to end. Even though this ballet held a heavy veil of emotion, Daniil Simkin, dancing the Profiteer, alleviated the intensity by skirting playfully in-and-out of the battle scenes, and from Death. I strongly feel this ballet can move a person to contemplate how war may not always be the correct choice of action.

Instead make ballets, not war.

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From This Author Marsha Volgyi

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