ABT’s Thursday mixed rep program had an interesting mix: Twyla Tharp’s The Brahms-Haydn Variations (2000) last performed by ABT in 2010; Ashton’s modernist Monotones I and II (1965); and Jooss’ World War I drama The Green Table (1932).
Tharp’s work is a dance interpretation of Brahms’ work featuring 30 dancers. The opening segment features all dancers moving in interesting patterns followed by several pas de deux, set to minimalist costumes and background. I particularly enjoyed Maria Kochetkova (her first ABT performances as an ABT Principal Dancer) and Herman Cornejo with simple flowing movements; Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside; and Christine Shevchenko and Joseph Gorak.
After the pas de deux, all assembled for the finale; the stage was jammed with all 30 dancers on the Koch Theatre stage, which is smaller that the stage at The Metropolitan Opera House where the work had its New York debut. The work will be performed again on October 24 and November 1.
Ashton’s Monotones I and II entered the ABT repertory this Fall (although it had been performed previously by the ABT Studio Company). Alistair Macaulay of The New York Times has a nice background article on the work. It is a modern piece consisting of two trios of dancers: Stella Abrera, Isabella Boylston, and Joseph Gorak in Monotones I; and Veronika Part, Thomas Forster, and Cory Stearns in Montotones II clad in unitards and caps. I particularly liked Monotones II with Cory and Thomas moving in unison with Verionika in some sections and partnering her in others, consorting her in various ways. Watching the dance unfold to Ashton’s interpretation of the lovely music was interesting that would pay dividends with multiple viewings.
I liked the last work the most, Jooss’ The Green Table, one of the most significant dance works of the 20th century (Joan Acocella of The New Yorker has a nice background article on the work). The 37 minute piece, subtitled A Dance of Death in Eight Scenes, was inspired by a medieval Dance of Death and the aftermath of World War I. It opens with diplomats in grotesque masks engaged in discussion around a green table. At the end of the scene, they pull out their guns and fire in the air, symbolizing the start of war. The next six scenes portray various aspects of war: The Farwells in which the men say goodbye to their loved ones; The Battle; The Refugees; The Partisan; The Brothel; The Aftermath; and finally the diplomats back at the table in The Gentlemen in Black as they cynically continue their negotiations as if nothing has happened. The figure of Death is a constant in the work. He is the only winner in this work as he relentlessly claims numerous victims.
Marcelo Gomes was powerful as Death as he moved in a methodical and mechanical manner throughout, showing no remorse in his skeleton-like costume. The work is best performed by big, powerful dancers like Marcelo and Joffery’s Christian Holder in the 1960s. Other standout performances were Herman Cornejo as the Profiteer moving rapidly throughout the work, Luciana Paris as The Old Mother, and Arron Scott as The Young Soldier. ABT does these dramatic works well, as fitting of their Ballet Theatre name and background.
The role of Death will be played again by Marcelo on October 25 and Roman Zhurbin on October 23, 28, and 31.