ABT’s big New York season takes place in the summer, when they mainly feature lavish productions of well-known ballets such as Swan Lake and La Bayadère. But their annual two-week City Center seasons are often more exciting, featuring contemporary choreographers’ work, or smaller-scaled repertory. Also, frequently cast in prominent roles are younger company members who might be hidden beneath wigs or carrying a spear at the Met.
This fall’s run, Oct 21 – Nov 2, features choreography by Antony Tudor, whose work looks wonderful on ABT. The City Center stage is also just the right size for his poetic, often searingly dramatic or comedic ballets. Tudor repertory this season includes Jardin aux Lilas in a revival premiere, and The Leaves are Falling, Pillar of Fire, the pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet, and the hilarious Judgment of Paris starring some company alum. And at a special All-Tudor Centennial Celebration on Oct 31, the company also performs Continuo, a sextet to Pachelbel. ABT has a special section of their Web site that features Tudor’s work.
Things loosen up with the addition of Paul Taylor’s fantastic Company B to Andrews Sisters hits; this classic dance hits emotions from elated to tragic and takes on resonance in times of war. Twyla Tharp’s Brief Fling showcases her powerhouse technique in a witty duet. And her popular Baker’s Dozen returns, featuring twelve dancers moving to jazz by Willie “The Lion” Smith.
The company performs Lauri Stallings’ premiere of Citizen. Stallings was with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, known for its keen technique, interesting repertory and connection with Nederlands Dance Theatre. Speaking of which, longtime artistic director of NDT, Jiri Kylian’s Overgrown Path is being performed by ABT in a company premiere. This highly regarded choreographer’s work also looks well-suited on ABT, whose dancers’ discipline and clarity complement it.
And of course there’s a bit of Balanchine in Ballo della Regina and Themes and Variations. It’s good to see Balanchine in mixed programs as it highlights the man’s fundamental genius at putting steps together, and the dancers’ physical brilliance in their execution. ABT’s gala often features a piece d’occasion, or a ballet performed only that night. This year’s, on Oct 21, features Time, by charismatic soloist Craig Salstein, to be danced by Michele Wiles.
ABT’s dancers are always inspiring. This season, catch as much Julie Kent/Marcelo Gomes as you can to see one of ballet’s best-suited pairs. And Gillian Murphy/David Hallberg are extremely complimentary, besides each possessing tremendous natural gifts. Rising soloist Sarah Lane has a number of big roles in which to show her technical clarity and bright stage presence; she dances with the sublime Herman Cornejo in Themes and Variations. And young newcomer soloist Daniil Simkin makes his ABT debut in Flames of Paris.
Photo: Misty Copeland, Isaac Stappas, Carlos Lopez and Gray Davis in Paul Taylor’s Company B. Photo © Lois Greenfield 2008.