Tue Jul 3 2007
Before offering a thoroughly opinionated guide to American Ballet Theatre's repertory for its fall City Center season (Oct 23--Nov 4), it should be noted that Stella Abrera is making her surprise debut in Cinderella tomorrow afternoon. (Xiomara Reyes is injured; Abrera will dance opposite Guillaume Ct of the National Ballet of Canada.) Abrera, while very beautiful and the easily the best Lilac Fairy in the company's recent slew of performances of The Sleeping Beauty, isn't the greatest dancer, but I caught Cinderella last night and was reminded that there just isn't much real dancing to do anyway. The production is shapeless, tedious and unmusical—and despite valiant efforts by leads Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes, it remains a dog of a ballet. ABT should be ashamed. Commissioning such a major work from the dull James Kudelka was as recklessly stupid as burning money.
So what is ABT's latest act of artistic abuse? A collaboration among artist Chuck Close, composer Philip Glass and—horror upon horrors—the Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo, whose awkward, whiplash style is torture to watch (and probably to do, too—it's only a matter of time before a dancer becomes seriously injured). ABT's artistic director, Kevin McKenzie, is to blame, but save some spitballs for Mikko Nissinen, who named Elo, his old friend, the resident choreographer of Boston Ballet.
The season also includes a new work by Benjamin Millepied, the New York City Ballet principal who, so far, hasn't indicated that he will make a thrilling choreographic mark in ballet (his best effort was Capriccio for the ABT Studio Company last season, but even that wore thin). ABT's inability to nurture anyone—from its dancers (especially the gifted, underused Michele Wiles) to its choreographers—is distressing. Who has made a stream of successful ballets for the Studio Company? Brian Reeder. And who gets the commission? Benjamin Millepied. WTF?
There are a couple of bright spots in the form of company premieres: Merrill Ashley is staging George Balanchine's Ballo della Regina, a famously difficult part that was made on her (Gillian Murphy? Michele Wiles? Knowing McKenzie, he'll cast Veronika Part.). Twyla Tharp's 1979 Baker's Dozen, staged by Elaine Kudo, is also on the schedule—very exciting! Revivals are Antony Tudor's The Leaves Are Fading (staged by Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner) and Agnes de Mille's Fall River Legend, based on the murderous Lizzie Borden. It's not very good (De Mille's book on the Borden case is more gripping). Returning rep includes Lar Lubovitch's Meadow, Stanton Welch's Clear, Twyla Tharp's Sinatra Suite and Jerome Robbins's Fancy Free. Tickets go on sale July 16 (212-581-1212; abt.org).