Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so they say. So it is with ABT, which instead of two weeks at City Center this fall, did a handful of performances last week at Avery Fisher Hall. Making it perhaps even worse is seeing just one show, a reminder of how special their fall seasons can be, when they perform contemporary work and the younger company has a chance to be featured. This program included three new commissions by Alex Ratmansky, Aszure Barton, and Benjamin Millepied, all set to live music played onstage.
Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas (to Scarlatti) led off. Three couples mixed and matched or went solo in this suite performed by Barbara Bilach on piano. It took awhile to adjust to the dancers entering/exiting from two doors on each side wall (I kept expecting one to make for the closed fire door, dead center), but the stage seemed much larger than in my memory, if terrible acoustically for dance, amplifying the dancers’ footfalls. The cast I caught included three women—Hee Seo, with a lush upper body; the sparkling Sarah Lane; and the truly committed Yuriko Kajiya—paired with, respectively, a maturing, complete Jared Matthews, the muscular Joseph Phillips, and Carlos Lopez, who has never looked better in a role. Ratmansky’s playful musicality and wit flowed through the episodes showing different phases of love.
Aszure Barton featured three strong women in One of Three, to Ravel. Michele Wiles, stunning in a form-fitting white gown, Nicola Curry, and Luciana Paris. Bevies of suit-clad guys pursued, deified, cossetted them. Blaine Hoven partnered Wiles; both have crack technique, and both seemed more relaxed than normal, a positive thing for two perfectionists. Curry, alluring in a lace halter and pants, glinted with verve. Hoven also featured in Benjamin Millepied’s Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once as a kind of drum major to a dancing band of 23, which makes sense given the percussion driving David Lang’s score performed by an ensemble lined upstage. The dancers often split in two teams, framing the high-kicking Isabella Boylston and Marcelo Gomes, whose normally irrepressible charisma seemed oddly muted. Daniil Simkin had the fun part, flying in various positions into the waiting arms of a team of catchers. A little part of me annoyingly wished that Millepied had chosen to go with the kind of intricate, detailed classical work he set on his own company last season, rather than the contemporary ballet that seems de rigeur for many young choreographers and tends to blur together.
The fourth work on the program I caught was Jerome Robbins’ Other Dances, originally made for Baryshnikov and Makarova as a pièce d’occasion, here danced by Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg. Even though the choreography is inoffensive and is meant to congenially showcase the on-stage pianist (in this case, David LaMarche), Hallberg’s sheer physical perfection and nobility were reason enough to feel sunshine and rainbows. And Murphy is a wonderful match for him, besides being a technical whiz herself. I missed the usual larger sampling of contemporary work this fall, so the sublime image of them will have to tide me over until next summer.
Image: Daniil Simkin in Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once. Photo by Gene Schiavone.