George Balanchine and Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

This was a magnificent evening of joyous music and consummate ballet, seen Friday, May 22.  The four ballets moved like four symphonic movements.

The uncluttered, glowing color behind the dancers is all the setting one wants or needs to enjoy the dazzling use of the human body — and the ABT’s glamorous, sensuous costumes that bring out its beauty.  Think jewels splashed against exotic tie-dyed silk.
The four ballets:

Allegro Brillante

is like a classical pas de deux but with Balanchine’s purity — beyond narrative — although eroticism is its own story.  From his first moment on stage, Ethan Stiefel was thrilling and charming, he just has it in him since Gillian Murphy, perfect in technique, seemed emotionally disengaged.  The choreography is interesting in the way it follows the music.  For example, if the music flutters, alternate lines of dancers alternately go up and down, fluttering with it.

Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux

Well — there are those who dwell on a more rarefied plane but — this above all is what most people come to the ballet for!  A classical pas de deux in the style of Petipa, it’s loaded with the narrative of desire, and astonishingly danced by the big, strong Marcelo Gomes — those leaps! — and the delicate and poignant Paloma Herrera.  The music was originally written for Act III of Swan Lake, according to the program note, but wasn’t used for reasons of history, was lost, and later discovered — a good reason for Balanchine’s choice of classical choreography.


is the andante — the costumes are black, lacey and 18th Century.  Suspended chandeliers speak ancien regime and the sequence of dance styles, a prayer, a gig, a minuet, a pas de deux, and a finale are like a courtly entertainment.  Ballet students, little girls not yet on pointes, dance in the ensemble.  Principal Dancer Veronika Part was strong and precise but, as in Allegro Brillante, the male Principal Maxim Beloserkovsky had more fire, and his footwork in the air is breathtaking.

Theme and Variations

is a big piece with lots of dancers, just right for a finale.  It was beautifully danced and costumed but the choreography is distracting.  David Hallberg was superb in his solos but overworked in partnering Michele Wiles.  As in Allegro Brillante the choreography  often followed the music only here, the musical “ups” required Hallberg to lift Wiles again and again, to the point where the repetition seemed unimaginative and lacked balletic ease — at her final leap into his arms he looked shocked, I had a close view from the second row and hoped he could hold on.  He did.  Whew!

An evening of ballets by a single composer and choreographer is a wonderful idea — a free flowing unity in diversity.  This is a great season for The American Ballet Theatre.  Shortly they will be dancing their All-Prokofiev Celebration, including a world premier, On the Dnieper.  The American Ballet Theatre is performing at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, NYC.

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