Review: ABT’s Tchaikovsky Spectacular Lives Up To Its Name
By Sheila Kogan, Contributing Writer, July 5, 2017
American Ballet Theatre presented a program in which four different ballets utilized some of Tchaikovsky’s lesser-known compositions. Arguably the most famous composer of ballet music (Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker), Tchaikovsky composed a wide range and variety of music that lends itself to this art form.
Technically, the music used in Mozartiana (Suite No. 4 for Orchestra) is not entirely composed by Tchaikovsky. There are some portions that he composed in the style of Mozart, but the majority of the piece is made up of his orchestrations of some of Mozart’s smaller works. It was Tchaikovsky’s tribute to the master, as well as bringing attention to some of his lesser-known pieces of music. The ballet was choreographed by George Balanchine in 1933 and revised in 1981; it’s been part of ABT’s repertoire since 2004.
The curtain rose to reveal one adult ballerina (Veronika Part) and four young ballerinas (students of the American Ballet Theatre Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School), all wearing matching, sophisticated black costumes designed by Rouben Ter-Arutunian. The youngsters performed with charming professionalism and then left the stage to the adults. The beautifully elegant, plotless ballet was led by Veronika Part, who danced with the lightness of a summer breeze. No matter the complexities of the choreography, there was a soft quietness to her execution. Her partner, soloist Blaine Hoven, matched her style. Neither made a sound, not from a hard toe shoe nor the landing from a high jump. Their control and musicality was just lovely. Also included were members of the ABT company, highlighted by Daniil Simkin whose showy technique made his solo fun. At the curtain call, Veronika Part’s fans rushed to the front of the auditorium, cheered and threw flowers at her. Deserving of the accolades, her presence in future performances will be missed (Ms. Part’s departure from the company was recently reported in the news).
Next, was the company premiere of Souvenir d’un lieu cher, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky to Tchaikovsky’s music of the same name (orchestrated by Alexander Glazunov). Ratmansky proved once again that he is astonishingly creative and original, making this my favorite piece of the evening. It was as rich and gorgeous as the velvet costumes designed by Keso Dekker. With just two couples who danced beautifully (Stella Abrera, Marcelo Gomes, Sarah Lane, Alban Lendorf), it was dramatic without being literal. Ratmansky created a logical, liquid flow of movement with unexpected surprises and clever touches. Benjamin Bowman’s violin solo deserves special mention. The whole piece was entrancing and I would love to see it again and again.
Next up was the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, which had been choreographed by George Balanchine. The music is sort of an outtake from Swan Lake (discovered long after the premiere), and the piece is often included in gala performances because it’s short and full of flashy tricks. It was danced with sparkling bravura technique by Isabella Boylston and Joseph Gorak. As anticipated, it was a crowd pleaser.
Finally, there was AfterEffect, choreographed by ABT principal dancer Marcelo Gomes to Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, Op.70. This piece was the most modern on the program, and included vigorous, angular movement. The ballet’s dedication “To those who have fallen…and those who prevail” unfortunately failed to bring clarity to what was happening onstage. Gomes took advantage of the size of the American Ballet Theatre company, and the sheer number of dancers racing to and fro in white unitards was impressive. While some of the choreography seemed uneven, there were moments that came into focus and indicated Gomes’ promise as a choreographer, with the the women’s section being the most successful. The huge cast was led by the strong dancers James Whiteside, Misty Copeland and Zhiyao Zhang.
It’s always a pleasure to have dance accompanied by live musicians, and Charles Barker and David LaMarche (AfterEffect) conducted with a secure understanding of the needs of a ballet company. The music used for this program may have been less familiar and more subtle than the most famous ballets composed by Tchaikovsky, but by highlighting these beautiful works, ABT has given audiences the opportunity to hear his music afresh, and to see how it continues to inspire choreographers.
Tchaikovsky Spectacular presented by American Ballet Theatre on July 3, 2017 at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York City.
Mozartiana: Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky/Mozart (Suite No.4, Op. 61); choreography by George Balanchine; costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian; lighting by Mark Stanley; conducted by Charles Barker. Dancers: Veronika Part, Blaine Hoven, Daniil Simkin, Zhong-Jing Fang, Apriil Giangeruso, Paulina Waski, Katherine Williams, Miuka Kadoi, Jordana Lerner, Katherine Quaranta, Grayson Stranko, students of American Ballet Theatre Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School.
Souvenir d’un lieu cher (Company premiere): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (orchestrations by Alexander Glazunov); choreography by Alexei Ratmansky; costumes by Keso Dekker; lighting by Brad Fields; conducted by Charles Barker. Dancers: Stella Abrera, Marcelo Gomes; Sarah Lane, Alban Lendorf.
Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux: Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky; choreography by George Balanchine; conducted by Charles Barker. Dancers: Isabella Boylston, Joseph Gorak.
AfterEffect: Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (“Souvnir de Florence, Op. 70”); choreography by Marcelo Gomes; scenery by Francoise Gilot; costumes by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung; lighting by Michael Korsch; conducted by David LaMarche. Dancers: James Whiteside, Misty Copeland, Zhiyao Zhang and Skylar Brandt, Zhong-Jing Fang, Melanie Hamrick, Jose Sebastian, Roman Zhurbin, Calvin Royal III, Luciana Paris, Christine Sevchenko, Devon Teuscher, Arron Scott, Blaine Hoven, Paulina Waski, Katherine Williams, Thomas Forster, Sean Stewart, Alexandra Basmagy, Brittany DeGrofft, Elina Miettinen, Lauren Post, Daniel Mantei, Paatrick Ogle, Cameron McCune, Carlos Gonzales.
Cover: Misty Copeland and James Whiteside (with members of American Ballet Theatre) in ‘AfterEffect;’ photo: Rosalie O’Connor.