My second night at ABT’s Fall Season included The Brahmns-Haydn Variations, Jessica Lang’s world premiere Her Notes, and Benjamin Millepied’s Daphnis and Chloe.
I already wrote about The Brahms-Haydn Variations here, and this was the same cast, so in this post I’ll focus on the other two works on the program.
Her Notes is set to excerpts from Fanny Mendelsoohn Hensel “Das Jahr,” written while she traveled for a year, with pieces corresponding to months. Lang used January, February, June, December, and the postlude here. The colors of the costumes and set were muted grays, blues, and greens, and the main piece of the set was a large square with a small square cut out.
Gillian Murphy opened the ballet by stepping through that small square onto the main part of the stage, and the others followed her onto the stage later. She was partnered with Marcelo Gomes throughout the piece. After having seen them together in both Brahms-Haydn and this piece, I cannot overstate how well-matched these two are as partners. The other main couple was Misty Copeland and Jeffrey Cirio. They had less partnering, though, and while they have similar speed and did well individually, I didn’t find them particularly notable as a couple.
There were a couple of parts of the piece I particularly enjoyed. Cirio, Cory Stearns, and Blaine Hoven had a fun allegro part in January. In June, after a pas between Murphy and Gomes, four other dancers rushed onstage past them in a way that evoked water. Devon Teuscher and Stephanie Williams danced the postlude, their slow movements showing off impressive balance and providing a haunting close to the piece.
Overall, this work was pretty and interesting, with some humorous moments, bits of innovative partnering, and interesting use of the set. However, it wasn’t a stand-out piece; I wouldn’t be disappointed if it did not remain in the repertoire.
The program closed with Millepied’s Daphnis and Chloe. It’s a story ballet but pretty light on the narrative, which came in inconsistent bursts. Stella Abrera and Cory Stearns as Chloe and Daphnis had easy chemistry, and even as the tone of their relationship changed throughout the ballet, it never felt strained. Cassandra Trenary also stood out as Lycenion, and her acting was well done — not coming on strong in front of groups but very seductive when alone with Daphnis. Blaine Hoven as Dorcon performed an incredibly powerful and athletic solo full of leaps and turns when Dorcon challenges Daphnis early in the ballet. The response was a reluctant solo by Daphnis (he’s talked into it by Chloe), not powerful in the traditional way, but Stearns’s portrayal showed great self-confidence and a snse of having nothing to prove.
The scene that stood out most in the ballet was that between Chloe and Bryaxis, danced by James Whiteside, after Chloe has been kidnapped. Abrera and Whiteside’s pas was incredibly performed despite the scene starting from uncomfortable and quickly becoming disturbing and horrible. (This is an onstage depiction of sexual assault.) Abrera and Whiteside were impressive both in their technical dancing and in their acting in this scene.
The ballet had more corps dancing than I expected. The corps starts the ballet with group dances dressed in white, with the women in pointe shoes. Later, the women appear in a dream after Daphnis is attacked, and they’ve changed to tulle skirts and technique shoes. The men change into black and become pirates. I particularly enjoyed the men’s corps parts, both as friends of Daphnis and Chloe and as pirates. At the end of the ballet, all characters change into bright colors for a final group dance.
The sets, which were shifting, colorful geometric shapes, added little to the production and were often distracting. Sets were used well to indicate the dream scene, though, and at the end the color seemed to transfer from the background to the dancers.