Review: ABT STUDIO COMPANY Brings the Drama to The Joyce Theater

A dazzling program of old and new works took the stage.

By: May. 08, 2024
Review: ABT STUDIO COMPANY Brings the Drama to The Joyce Theater
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It’s true what they say: everything old is new again. Ballets from a past time are reinvigorated and rejuvenated when today’s dancers take that form and breathe new life into it. This is exactly what the audience experienced the night of May 5th, when American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company took the stage for the final night of their Joyce Theater residency. With a stacked program full of classical favorites and new pieces, the dancers made everything feel fresh and fun—that is, after all, the brilliance of dance at its best. 

And Sunday proved that this group of dancers is the best of the best.

Up first was Diana and Acteon (Pas de Deux), which had its world premiere nearly 90 years ago in April of 1935. But with choreography so precise; sharp, staccato bourrées en pointe and repeated piercing arabesques, the piece still felt as relevant as ever, and the dancers attacked the movement with gusto. A personal favorite—Flight of the Bumblebee—followed. Peppered with dramatic turn sequences and sustained élevées, this solo feels like a chase, but also a discovery. The joy of movement, purely for movement’s sake, was captured effortlessly, and the melodious percussions of Rimsky-Korsakov’s score kept the energy high. Other classical staples, The Seasons (Pas de Deux) and Swan Lake (Neapolitan Dance) were up next. It was nice to see the standards are still in tip-top shape, and are laying the the foundation for inspiration in new works that are created.

This all led to the new James Whiteside piece entitled Young & Beautiful. Set to music by Lana Del Rey, mixed with audio clips from the ballet documentary, Silver Feet, the piece followed several aspiring dancers on their way to discovering success. Whiteside masterfully took classical technique building blocks and wove them together with jazz-inspired embellishments to create a movement vocabulary that felt both old and new; both timeless and culturally relevant to the here and now. I particularly loved the repeated series of circles that kept appearing: piques en manèges and assisted tour jetés represented the cyclical nature; the ups and downs of what it means to be a dancer and sacrifice for your art. It was especially moving when at the end of the piece, one sole ballerina ran off stage, unable to continue in the difficult journey to “make it.” It was real and honest—a breath of fresh air.

Another classical highlight, The Sleeping Beauty (Rose Adagio), continued the program, as well as Night Falls and Within the Sunset. But the highlight of the Second Act was Twyla Tharp’s Known by Heart Duet, which premiered in its original form in 1998. Tharp’s choreography is singular in its fluidity and humor—as audience goers, you're always trying to catch onto the joke. But that’s what keeps it so exciting: the range of emotions you can experience, blended with the perfectly-finessed quality of movement, keeps your eyes moving all around and trying to soak up every last drop. It’s a feast of pure artistry.

Bravo to the entire company for a fabulous evening, well-spent appreciating dance for all that it is.

Photo Credit: Rosalie O'Connor


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