AMERICAN BALLET THEATER
November 14, 2011
With the exception of Andrei Ratmansky’s “Seven Sonatas,” ABT basked in an all-American dance affair Saturday at City Center.
Bodies drape across backs and feet flex in un-balletic ways during Merce Cunningham’s “Duets" performed by six determined couples to John Cage's "Improvisations III." In an unusual sight on a ballet stage, dancers duck down head first extending a leg, and rise to an off-kilter balance only to be guided around in a raised, bent legged revolution. Understanding that in Cunningham’s work the audience—although not ignored-- is “incidental” to the performance—there’s a difference between being neutral and totally blank. However, Paloma Herrera and Eric Tamm find a nice balance within Cunningham’s complex postmodern shapes and intent.
One of the most effectively realized pieces was “The Garden of Villandry” by Martha Clarke, Robby Barnett and Felix Blaska performed to the live accompaniment of pianist Barabara Bilach, violinist Ronald Oakland and cellist Jonathan Spitz.Two men, Gennadi Saveliev and Roddy Doble, share interest in the lone woman--the impressively restrained but thoroughly dramatic Veronika Part. Dressed in Victorian eveningwear, the dancers move deliberately and economically to Franz Schubert's quiet "Trio No. 1 in B Flat, Op.99." Hands slip in and out of pockets, heads tilt slightly, and arms connect at the elbows producing achingly evocative feelings of tension arising from a woman emotionally caught between two men.
In Ratmansky’s “Seven Sonatas," three couples react coyly and playfully to Domenico Scarlatti’s fluttering sonatas played on-stage by Barbara Bilach. Dressed in spring white, they gather as if in a drawing room at the turn of the century. At once courtly and jaunty, Ratmansky slips swift turns in and out of rapid leg beats and airy leaps that rotate in the air and expand into continuous motion. A Russian flavored folk riff of air turns and quick pivots draws the dancers into one seamlessly musical sequence after another.
Twyla Tharp's "In The Upper Room," a definite crowd-pleaser and part of the American canon of dance classics, throws dancers around in a cyclone of movement to surging music by Philip Glass. Runs and jumps, punching arms and raggedy doll torsos, suggest a “West Side Story” rumble between red-socked ballet dancers and sneakered hoofers. All about breath and cushioned plies, dancers uncork flying leaps, throw arms up in pumping gestures and shift weight side to side like Mohammad Ali in a race against mortality. There are so many moving parts, some of the dancers fall into a blur of motion, but one dancer, Simone Messmer, stands out for her abandon and naturalness.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis