We wonder if ABT had heard our prayers when they decided to program a London season of mixed bills, leaving the full length classics they had brought last time at home. We had been craving variety in the aftermath of too many Cinderellas, Giselles and Swan Lakes at the Royal Ballet, so we grabbed the chance to see as many different ballets as we could. Among ABT’s offerings at Sadler’s Wells, these were our favorites:
Seven Sonatas â€“ This short piece by Alexei Ratmansky is unpretentious and delightful. Three couples dance to Scarlatti piano sonatas hinting at different moods and relationships. As the dancers sail from one sonata to the next their movements feel like a natural extension of the music. We see different characters and a beautiful episode of longing and loss between David Hallberg and Julie Kent. We think this Ratmansky piece would be well served by The Royal Ballet and Bag Lady L. was so enthused she picked some great fantasy casts.
Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once – when contrasted with Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas EDHAO shows that, as a choreographer, Benjamin Millepied still has work cut out for him. Although we found this ballet very enjoyable the mixing of so many different elements is at times puzzling; we couldn’t be fully convinced by a lyrical Pas de Deux that coexists with army-like formations, even though dancers looked very committed: Marcelo Gomes showed his incredible command of the stage, but the moment we all registered the most came when Daniil Simkin threw himself with abandon across the stage in amazing barrel turns.
Theme & Variations (aka the “Pink Monster“) - ABT performs T&V as originally choreographed on Alicia Alonso and Igor Youskevitch which is slightly different from the version in the Royal Ballet repertory (based on NYCB’s restaging in the sixties). There is also a difference in tempo, ABT’s much faster, or so we thought. In the Saturday matinee T&V was danced with charm and spirit by Daniil Simkin and Yuriko Kajiya (both making their debuts); with highlights in Daniil’s impressive jumps and Kajiya’s sharp turns. Great to see AD Kevin McKenzie put his trust in these talented soloists (David Hallberg did not call T&V the Pink Monster for nothing) and we hope US audiences will also get to see them soon.
Jardin Aux Lilas (Lilac Garden) - This Tudor classic, originally choreographed for Ballet Rambert and rarely performed in the UK, is pure ballet chic. Scorseseâ€™s Age of Innocence comes to mind, not only via Tudor’s cinematic choreography (the ensemble “freezes” as bride-to-be Caroline says her last goodbye) but in the narrative of a “marriage of convenience”: Caroline has to give up her true love, and “the man she will marry” his previous liaison. In the first cast we saw Julie Kent give a poignant performance as Caroline with Cory Stearns – looking every inch the Edwardian heartthrob – as her lover. In the matinee we thought Leann Underwood (as the misstress) conveyed more lyricism than a miscast Xiomara Reyes (Caroline).
The Nutcracker Pas de Deux - This was a chance to sample a tiny morsel of Ratmansky’s newest Nutcracker, with Marcelo Gomes and Veronika Part leading. Ratmansky again transforms music into steps and proves just how much he loves Tchaikovsky’s haunting score; we feared for the couple as the choreography demands speedy footwork and very intricate lifts, but Gomes is a tremendous partner and Veronika is all elegance, even when she plays peek-a-boo with the audience. We only wish we could have seen the work in context; from this short extract Ratmansky’s Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince seem to have a story to tell and this aspect was lost in translation.
Company B - It was a great time for ABT to bring a Paul Taylor work to Sadler’s Wells given that the Rambert Dance Company will be staging Rosas later in the season. Despite being so different from Seven Sonatas, the work belongs in the same class – a ballet of moods, dances and relationships. It is also vintage chic, albeit not in the same way as Lilac Garden: set in the 40s but with a certain “Mad Men” feel to it (at least in Gillian Murphy‘s gorgeous retro curls), dances develop against the backdrop of WWII with men sometimes marching slowly in the background, sometimes collapsing dead. While Misty Copeland is a charmer in “Rum and Coca-Cola” and Sascha Radetsky shows off his best “Boogie Woogie”, Company B ultimately reminds us that joyful moments are often short-lived and that we had better enjoy them here and now, just like this ABT tour. We hope it won’t be long till they return. Now back to the lake we trudge…