ABT opened its season with mixed rep classics to commemorate its 75th season. Saturday evening consisted of Balanchine’s classic Theme and Variations, choreographed for ABT in 1947, Tudor’s 1940 Jardin Aux Lilas (Lilac Garden), and Agnes De Mille’s 1942 Rodeo.
Isabella Boylston and Daniil Simkin were leads in Theme and Variations. Their performance was very good; Isabella’s footwork was precise in the difficult allegro work, flowing with the beautiful Tchaikovsky score. Her turns were solid, on the mark with the music. Isabella has improved over the past several years, growing into her role as a Principal Dancer. As a stamp of approval of her dancing, she was recently a guest artist with the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg and the Royal Danish Ballet.
Daniil seemed relaxed in his solos, cutting back on the difficult tour/pirouette sequence. In the difficult male solo in the first part of the work, most do a series of double tour/single pirouettes. In previous performances, he inserted double pirouettes with mixed results. Saturday, he alternated single and double pirouettes between double tours with a nice result, consisting of solid landings and good fifth positions. Likewise, in the double pirouette rond de jambe section, he didn’t push his turns beyond the limit.
The partnering was also solid. The two have been paired in this work a number of times over the past several years and their frequent pairing is paying dividends.
In Jardin Aux Lilas, Hee Seo was Caroline the Bride-to-be, who is about to enter into a marriage of convenience to The Man She Must Marry (the always expressive Roman Zhurbin, originally played by Tudor). Her Lover was played by Cory Stearns while Veronika Part portrayed her fiancé’s mistress. In this soap opera, everyone is somber, distraught, and distressed.
Veronika demonstrated that she is not just a technical wizard, but can excel in dramatic roles, complemented by her technique. Hee was expressive in her role as the confused and somber Caroline.
The evening concluded with Rodeo. Like Fancy Free and Theme and Variations, I can’t see the work enough. Copland’s Rodeo score is a classic and captures the essence of the American West. Misty Copeland was The Cowgirl and always expressive Craig Salstein was The Champion Roper. Misty was effective as the tomboy cowgirl, giving the role a lively, energetic interpretation as she sought the affection of The Head Wrangler (Grant DeLong). I particularly enjoyed her horseback segments as she clumsily attempted to ride her invisible horse. Craig provided dramatic flair, particularly in the Saturday Night Waltz segment as he gave an energetic tap solo filled with razzle dazzle.
There were numerous empty seats Saturday evening. Mixed rep performances don’t draw crowds like full-length performances; mixed rep is best suited for ABT’s fall season at Koch Theater, with a capacity of about 2,600 relative to about 3,800 for the Met.
Bad News/Good News
Polina Semionova was scheduled to perform in Giselle Saturday with Mariinsky’s Vladimir Shklyarov. The bad news is that she is not dancing. The good news is that she will be replaced by Stella Abrera. Stella has performed the lead role of Giselle at other companies, but never with ABT. She was scheduled to perform in the role several years ago with ABT, but had to withdraw due to an injury. It will be a challenge for Stella and Vladimir, who have never partnered before, but it should be a great evening.