Thursday, July 01, 2010

All-Ashton at ABT (with bonus complaining about hockey)

Today was not a good day for Sabres fans (make sure the sound is on when you follow that link). I hate days like the trade deadline and the beginning of free agency because the Sabres never do anything exciting (unless one counts losing players as exciting). Which would only be partially bad except certain Sabres fans (not linked to here) then proceed to flip out about the lack of activity even though said dullness has been the GM's m.o. for years and is therefore entirely predictable. It makes me cranky.

On the other hand--and be prepared to admire this incredibly smooth transition--I did have a lovely evening at the ballet last night. I went to see American Ballet Theatre's beautiful All-Ashton program. Having never seen any of Ashton's work I was excited to go and was even more excited when the box office sold me a student ticket for a seat toward the front of the orchestra. So different from sitting in the Family Circle and watching the tiny dancers.

The first ballet--Birthday Offering--featured roles for seven female soloists and costumes gaudy enough that they might have been improved by watching from the Family Circle. But I loved how distinct each of the seven variations were and particularly liked Misty Copeland's, in which she repeatedly flicked her feet rapidly in front of and behind the knee as if knitting with her legs. And Stella Abrera and Eric Tamm looked wonderful both separately and together. They're two dancers I'd so like the opportunity to see more often.

I was much less sure of the partnership of Sascha Radetsky and Hee Seo in Thais Pas de Deux. The pas de deux achieves a delicate exoticism without veering as sharply into orientalism as other ballets do although the orange costumes don't help. Seo looked graceful and soft and otherwordly but her beautiful lines made Radetsky's look short in comparison and he couldn't match her air of mystery. I usually like him very much--I just think this role might not serve him well.

The second pas de deux of the evening was the Awakening from Ashton's Sleeping Beauty which I don't think works particularly well as a stand-alone piece. Although maybe it would with a more charismatic pair of dancers. Particularly problematic for me was that Paloma Herrera seemed so much the stronger of the two. Cory Stearns seemed almost superfluous when partnering her; it felt as though she could do all the same things with no help at all. Maybe if he had been more authoritative it would have helped. I feel as though my lack of knowledge when it comes to dance really hurts me at times like this. I don't know if my problem is the choreographers or the dancers and I don't know if my problem is something technical or if it's just that I'm watching dancers that don't quite do it for me for whatever reason. Well, it's something that I imagine I'll understand better the more I see.

Even if I hadn't enjoyed the first three ballets of the evening though, it would have been more than worth it to see The Dream. I particularly appreciated the clarity of the storytelling and the way that the dancing constantly moved the story forward. Maybe it's the result of having no background in dance but the utter frivolity of so many story ballets can drive me crazy. I sit there wondering why I'm watching a variation in a particular place or what purpose some bit serves other than obstructing the story or if it was really quite necessary for the dancers to do that move again. Then again, maybe it's just that a lot of these ballets are very silly indeed. But with Ashton's take on The Midsummer Night's Dream there was none of that. The dancing--coupled with the lovely set and costumes--served to create characters and atmosphere with very little that felt like excess. And such dancing from all involved (I saw the cast with Herman Cornejo as Puck and David Hallberg and Gillian Murphy as Oberon and Titania respectively)! I felt fortunate to be sitting in the theater, watching people who are capable of creating something so beautiful and funny and charming.

No comments: