BWW Reviews: AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE Celebrates Seventy-Five Years of Variety and History
American Ballet Theatre is widely recognized as one of the best ballet companies in the world. And much like the United States, ABT is a melting pot of diverse choreography and traditions. This year marks the company's 75th season, providing an ideal opportunity to showcase this varied repertory during their fall season at the David H. Koch Theater. Thursday's program of Twyla Tharp's Bach Partita, Alexei Ratmansky's Seven Sonatas, and Ji?í Kylián's Sinfonietta featured both contemporary and historically celebrated choreographers.
Bach Partita and Seven Sonatas felt similar in tone. Both ballets featured six principal dancers in a structured ballet set to classical music. The main difference between the two was the size of the cast. Bach Partita featured a group of fourteen demi-soloists and a female corps de ballet. Seven Sonatas did not use any supporting dancers, but chose to prominently highlight the accompanying pianist on stage as the seventh cast member. The choreography was filled with long and lovely movements, but it did not establish itself as a work with enough heft to stand out in the program. Instead, it might have established itself more fully had it been paired with a contrasting work. Bach Partita emerged as the more compelling work, due to the complexity found in the choreography for the corps and the soloists. Tharp, known for mixing modern and classical elements, did not relegate the dancers to a static, supporting line, but allowed them to be a tour de force in their own right. Their movements, which alternated between canons and discordant yet complementary choreography, added richness and complexity to the work. The layered effect of the corps, soloists, and principals mimicked the harmony of Bach's music.
From the first leap to the horn fanfare, Sinfonietta celebrates life, movement, and joy. Dancers expressed this euphoria through open arms, grand jetés and dramatic battements. Danil Simkin's boyish enthusiasm blended naturally with the theme, allowing him to shine throughout. Sinfonietta was responsible for establishing Nederlands Dans Theater as an internationally-acclaimed, forward-thinking company in 1978. Today, the work remains a classic. Its organic movements and emotional expression are timeless, allowing the work to feel contemporary.
Both Bach Partita and Sinfonietta showcased the technical skill of American Ballet Theatre. The Tharp utilized precision and artistry, while the Kylián displayed the sheer power of these dancers. The company truly shines when allowed to perform the full range of its seventy-five years of repertory. The audience left looking forward to seeing what would be included in the next seventy-five.
Photo credit: Marty Sohl