Full-strength ballet fever hit New York this week, with American Ballet Theatre‘s two-month Metropolitan Opera House season joining New York City Ballet‘s Spring repertory already underway. So nearly every evening, and at three matinees, many thousands of ballet fans descend on Lincoln Center to soak it up. ABT’s emphasis at the Met is the full-length story ballet, but they will also perform some repertory programs. These are particularly signficant because they are foregoing their usual brief fall season at City Center, which features short repertory and contemporary work, in order to channel resources toward Alex Ratmansky’s new Nutcracker, which will premiere at BAM in December.
So what by ABT should you see at the Met this season? If you like costume-heavy exotica that involves rajahs, temple dancers, thieves, and peasants, check out La Bayadère (this week) or Don Quixote. I caught Diana Vishneva, Marcelo Gomes, and Gillian Murphy in La Bayadère on Tuesday night, and they performed this lavish love triangle with a cool remove as dictated by the two women, who tend to hold back emotionally. Gomes danced with his usual ardent, warm, relaxed but technically superb style despite his somewhat distant partners.
June brings the classics: The Sleeping Beauty, a recently mounted production limited by a boring fairy tale story, an unattractive costume palette, and a claustrophobic set, but whose Rose Adagio is a litmus test for top ballerinas; Swan Lake, a solid vehicle displaying the company’s dramatic and technical chops, particularly for the lead woman; and McMillan’s Romeo & Juliet, even more powerful juxtaposed with recent versions by Peter Martins at NYCB, and Mark Morris, with an improbable happy ending.
Repertory programs include an all-Ashton program, a savory slate of American choreographers including Tharp, Taylor and Robbins, a mixed bill which essentially subs out the Taylor with Ratmansky’s On the Dnieper from last year, and a “masters” program of more classical selections. A wild card is John Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias, to Chopin and based on a story by Dumas, which receives eight performances.
All of the dancers have unique gifts, but I’ll be paying special attention to Gomes, Julie Kent (returning from maternity leave), David Hallberg (the epitome of grace), Natalia Osipova (guesting from the Bolshoi), Cory Stearns and Hee Seo (soloist/corps members with principal duties), and Gillian Murphy (whose technique should free her to emote more). In smaller parts, catch Maria Riccetto, Daniil Simkin, Misty Copeland, Blaine Hoven, Craig Salstein, and the charismatic Sascha Radetsky, whose return from Dutch National Ballet is truly welcome.
Image: David Hallberg. Photo by Gene Schiavone.