The final performance I attended of the American Ballet Theatre fall season included Ashton’s Monotones I and II, Ratmansky’s Symposium, and Balanchine’s Prodigal Son.
Monotones I and II is about balance, in lots of different ways. In Monotones I, that balance is more individual, with the key shape being arabesque, often in plie. This piece was danced by Stella Abrera, Isabella Boylston, and Joseph Gorak, and it felt mysterious and perhaps even exotic. In Monotones II there isn’t as key of a shape, but there’s more partnering, and it is often extended. (Maybe the shape is the woman being partnered by both men with her leg up near her ear in developee.) Monotones II was danced by Viktoria Part, Cory Stearns, and Thomas Forster. The partnering was very impressive, and overall the work was cleaner. Like Symphonic Variations, I found there to be a lot of precision and focus on position, but I found more of the shapes interesting in Monotones.
Symposium had the same cast as the first time I saw it, with one exception (Arron Scott instead of Daniil Simkin). It was just as impressive a second time, and it was definitely the best ballet of the fall season. Ratmansky might be my favorite current choreographer.
Prodigal Son is the rare Balanchine ballet in which most of the dancers are men …except the best part still manages to be for a woman, not the male title character. (Yep, still Balanchine.) Veronika Part was the Siren and was quite seductive in the role, down to the details, with particular highlights being the kicks across the stage, how she pulled the Son to her, and her sections on the table. Most of my thoughts on this ballet, though, are praise for Daniil Simkin. (“Simkin is unfair” is a quote from my notes after the performance.) Everyone knows he can dance, and he certainly does in this part (really impressive pirouettes in forced arch that he makes look so easy), but he showed off as an actor here as well. This particularly came through when he was watching the Siren before approaching her; he leaned over the table and followed her in such realistic ways. But his very best acting was near the end, as he stands limp against the unmoving table and then drags himself back to his father’s house. The focus of the dancing is the Siren, but with a dancer and actor as strong as Simkin, the ballet is still about the Prodigal Son.