Review of ABT’s Met Season

ABT’s season at the Met has been over for a few week, so here’s a cumulative post about it. I didn’t go to every production; namely, I skipped Swan Lake, Giselle, and Onegin. I saw the other five, though, and I have thoughts!

I far prefer ABT in their fall season. “But Jessie,” you say, “you’re fascinated with full length narrative works.” This is true. I also show a preference for those that care about storytelling. So yes, this means that while I deeply appreciate the dancing and richness of choreography in Petipa (or after-Petipa) works, they’ll never be my favorites.

That brings me to Don Quixote and Le Corsaire. The plots of these two are sparse at best, and in the case of Le Corsaire I wished I could actively pretend it was a set of divertissements with no overarching storyline. The choreography of individual dances in these is bright and technical, and in general ABT executed them well. The happiness of Kitri makes it a good role on Isabella Boylston, and Daniil Simkin is made for bravura roles like Basilio. He can turn for days, and I loved his barrel turns in the grand pas coda. Skylar Brandt as Amour was really light and playful, and she was the highlight of the second act of Don Q. In Le Corsaire, Hee Seo was glamorous as Medora, and I really liked her line. James Whiteside was a strong Conrad, but Jeffrey Cirio as Lankendem and Joo Won Ahn as Ali both outdanced him, getting enormous height in their leaps.

Don Q I was able to enjoy more plotwise because the plot is weak and a bit silly, not awful.  Le Corsaire… there is so little of that plot that is remotely acceptable by modem standards. And that’s a good segue to The Golden Cockerel because this? This is an Orientalism-heavy work that we had let die (as a ballet, at least) and then decided to revive. I also found this production very weak in terms of density of dance in the choreography. However, it really let the character artists (Gary Chryst, Craig Salstein, Tatiana Ratmansky) in the company shine. I loved the dance of the Peasant Women, so shifting, colorful, and spinny. Some of the best dancing parts were for the Tsar’s two sons, danced by Arron Scott and Alexandre Hammoudi. They were excellent in their solos, which were full of leaps and turns. (I didn’t like the direction their pas with their chosen girls went.) I also loved Skylar Brandt as the Golden Cockerel; she was light and birdlike here. She’s quickly becoming one of my favorites.

The other full length work was Whipped Cream. It’s odd and tonally inconsistent, and I never believed that this was really a story told through a child’s lens. Parts of it were charming and enjoyable, but it never gelled as a work for me. However, Golden Cockerel notwithstanding, Ratmansky has perhaps the largest choreographic vocabulary in ballet today, or at least makes the best use of it. The dancing by the sweets in the first act was my favorite part (Stella Abrera as Princess Tea Flower really stood out), though Daniil Simkin as the little boy had some solos full of leaps and turns later that I enjoyed.

The mixed bill, Tchaikovsky Spectacular, included a Ratmansky piece that’s a few years old, Souvenir D’un Lieu Cher. I think it evoked a cherished set of relationships more than a place, but I largely enjoyed the work. The second part was quite different from the first, though; I didn’t feel they had sense as one piece. This work had the best partnering of the evening. Both couples (Marcelo Gomes with Stella Abrera, Alban Lendorf with Sarah Lane) were super smooth together — different, but both so lovely.

In Mozartiana, Christine Shevchenko danced the lead woman’s role with David Hallberg as her partner, and Arron Scott danced the other lead man’s role. Shevchenko was light and seemed young, pleasant, especially young at the beginning. She showed control and restraint but still felt full. Scott’s part wasn’t particularly interesting, but he was jovial and courtly. Hallberg wasn’t expressive, mostly, but he was light, with good turns and jumps battus, though he was mixed on his precision. I liked the corps quatre as well — lively and light.

Misty Copeland and James Whiteside danced the grand pas from Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker. Copeland emoted heavily, maybe too much, but Whiteside was a bit wooden. I think this piece would make a lot more sense in context; there were moments that seemed like a reference to other parts of the particular story that Ratmansky is telling in the full piece, and they were confusing here. The first section of the pas has a lot of lifts (it feels like it’s all lifts and emotion). The beginning of Sugar Plum Fairy didn’t seem very musical to me, but that improved as the piece went on. I liked the tarantella and Whiteside’s huge assembles, tours, and jetes battus in the coda.

The fourth piece was Marcelo Gomes’s AfterEffect. It was too long overall, but there were a number of sections that I found interesting. I liked that it started with all men. Cory Stearns carried the piece well as the lead, and Jeffrey Cirio had a leaping featured part, as well. The later sections included women, but the women were used in too symbolic a way for my taste.

My favorite performance of the season was probably either Don Quixote or Tchaikovsky Spectacular, but like I said, I definitely prefer the fall season. I’m looking forward to going to a couple of ABT performances this October!

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