Thursday, June 05, 2008

Etudes/Rabbit and Rogue

I went to see ABT's mixed bill on Monday night. This is the second time in a short while that I've seen Etudes and one can't help but compare one performance to the other. The ballet opens with the corp doing barre exercises, and in this part the dancers of ABT were less synchronized than those of the Kirov. I mean that in the sense of both timing and style. There was something about ABT's corp that just seemed a little off. Once that section was in the past it improved and I thought they were quite exciting in the rest of the ballet. In the ending section I was also relieved that they were on a much more spacious stage than the City Center one and it looked less like someone was one second away from getting kicked in the head.

Xiomara Reyes danced the ballerina role. I'd barely seen her dance before and I really enjoyed her in this. When the Kirov danced this I saw Alina Somova, and I think it just might be safe to say that they're very different ballerinas. :) Reyes is tiny and compact but seemed so controlled and tasteful while simultaneously conveying real joy through her dancing. Sascha Radetsky, who had the male role that's full of jumping, was also great. Very precise, and sharp, and easy looking. Angel Corella was supposed to perform the male role with all the spinning but did not dance due to illness. (As a sidenote, I really wanted to say that he was scratched due to illness, but I think that might be the hockey fan coming out and maybe that's not what one says when talking about ballet.) Anyway, the idea of doing all that spinning when sick makes me feel sick but I couldn't help but feel disappointed not to see him dance the role. This was my favorite part of the ballet when I Sarafanov dance it with the Kirov and I imagine Corella would have been spectacular. Jared Matthews, who replaced him, wasn't. I'm still not good at articulating what I like and don't like about a performance, but in comparing him to Radetsky I felt like he lacked the cleanness and precision that was so pleasing about Radetsky's dancing. It was almost like his dancing looked a bit smudgy.

Overall I think that I enjoyed Etudes less the second time around and it wasn't the fault of the dancers. I understand what it's about, and I like the opportunity to see some lovely dancing, but the ballet never seems to add up to more than the sum of its parts and become truly interesting.

The second ballet was Rabbit and Rogue, a Twyla Tharp world premiere with a score by Danny Elfman. The ballet is divided into 5 parts: Frolic, Rag, Lyric, Gamelan, and Finale. Stiefel (Rogue) and Cornejo (Rabbit, which incidentally though irrelevantly is conejo in Spanish) danced the leads fabulously, wearing black bodysuits, each with a silver stripe diagonally across the front (Stiefel) or the back (Cornejo). Their relationship is an antagonistic one. They're constantly bothering one another, with Cornejo picking at Stiefel, or posturing, or walking away in a huff. The ensemble in the first section is dressed all in black and continually enters and exits, sometimes moving as a large unit, sometimes not. There is also a quartet of four dancers--Kajiya, Ricetto, Lopez, and Salstein, all very enjoyable. All the women wore fun, shiny silver shoes.

After the Frolic section we moved onto the Rag section; I assume the name refers to Ragtime music as it did have that feel to it. My favorite part of the ballet takes place in this section with Murphy and Hallberg as the Rag couple. Hallberg was also in a black bodysuit, this one with the silver stripes down the side. Murphy was in a sparkly black leotard. They began by dancing a kind of romantic seeming, social dance influenced duet. But part way through Murphy pushed Hallberg away, asserting her independence. Hallberg tries, at first unsuccessfully to get her back, finally succeeding at the end, but not before Murphy has danced brilliantly on her own, showing just how much she can do on her own two feet. The section features everyone but Rabbit/Cornejo, but Murphy and Hallberg are at it's center. I just find both of them such a joy to watch dance, so assured and lovely, and it was fun to see them in this more relaxed, loose feeling work.

The Lyric section involves Rabbit and Rogue (again pestering one another) with the quartet and the women of the ensemble. Then came the Gamelan section. Apparently Gamelan is a kind of musical ensemble and I assume it is related to the music we were hearing at this point, although I'm not at all familiar with it. Here we get the Gamelan couple as the focus although everyone outside the Rag couple makes an appearance. The Gamelan couple was Paloma Herrera and Gennadi Savaliev, who were also very good and had the most balletic feeling choreography of all the leads. The couple appears in white and silver, with Herrera wearing a white dress that came down to about mid-thigh. The women of the quartet also wore white dresses which were nearly identical but came down to the knee, while the women of the ensemble were in dresses that, though also in the same style, went down to the ankle. The men wore white shirts and silver leggings. The Gamelan couple seemed to project more calm and less personality than the Rag couple.

Finally in the finale the dancers all appear on stage together, with on man--I'm not sure who he was--interceding in the bickering between Rabbit and Rogue and forcing them to work together partnering the same woman. And so it ends on a note of conciliation, with everyone on stage dancing together and our two heroes having buried the hatchet and decided to be friendly.

I guess, first, that it's hard not to feel fortunate while watching Ethan Stiefel, Herman Cornejo, David Hallberg, and Gillian Murphy, along with other excellent dancers, all at once. Tharp is fun and high energy and while this isn't my favorite work of hers that I've seen (and I've seen very little) I did enjoy it quite a bit. It's a little bit too busy--too stuffed with dance that doesn't perhaps have the room to breathe that it should--and a bit too long. I think it would need more differentiation in tone to pull off the length. But Tharp also really gives her dancers a chance to shine--which they did--and has moments of inventiveness, musicality, humor, and fun. The relationships and interactions among the characters give us a few really nice moments and the dancers are something else, so I'll take it. The Danny Elfman score is a delightful mishmash that sounds like one of his movie scores. If you've seen a movie he's done the score for I'm sure you can imagine it.

Photos stolen from review.

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