ABT Review, Oct. 23

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Marcelo Gomes, Cory Stearns, Herman Cornejo with Stella Abrera in background

ABT’s fall season began Wednesday at Koch Theater at Lincoln Center with all mixed rep programing. The Thursday performance consisted of two classics, Antony Tudor’s Jardin Aux Lilas (Lilac Garden, 1936) and Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free (1944), and the world premier of Raymonda Divertissements.

Raymonda Divertissements was choreographed by Marius Petipa, staged by Ballet Master Irina Kolpakova and Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie, set to music by Alexander Glazounov. Hee Seo and James Whiteside were the leads, supported by a cast of eight men and women. The piece features a pas de deux by the leads, solos by the leads, and solos by the supporting cast, in particular Skylar Brandt and Christine Shevchenko. At times, the piece is disjointed without a systematic flow or unifying theme between segments.

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Hee Seo and James Whiteside

I enjoyed Christine’s solo, which consisted of difficult fouettés and turns to an arabesque, all nicely controlled. She also had a series of large hops on pointe in a diagonal. Christine was promoted to Soloist last summer. James had a nice solo consisting of double cabrioles to the front and a series of double tours in posse, finishing up with multiple pirouettes to a double tour to the knee with substantial gusto. His dancing was fine, but he had a hyper-serious demeanor and strange facial expressions that detracted from his dancing. Hee’s solo was very slow, with a few hops in posse. In general not much going on during her solo although she did the best she could with the choreography.

In Jardin Aux Lilas, Devon Teuscher played 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 is played by Cory Stearns while Veronika Part portrays 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. Newly-promoted Devon was expressive in her role as the confused and somber Caroline.

I’ve seen Robbins’ Fancy Free dozens of times and never tire of this classic, his masterpiece first work. The audience enjoyed an experienced cast with Herman Cornejo, Marcelo Gomes, and Cory Stearns as sailors with Stella Abrera and Julie Kent the Passers-By love interests.

The sailor’s comedic timing was impeccable with their cocky, flip demeanor interrupted by the sudden appearance of a beautiful woman (Stella). She manages to escape while Marcelo and Herman chase after her. Cory is left behind, but encounters another woman (Julie). Cory impresses her with his war exploits, shooting down Japanese planes. Herman double sauté de basques back on stage with Marcelo and Stella close behind. Three men and two women: the competition begins.

The sailors have a dance-off with Herman showing off double tours to the splits and multiple split jumps; Cory has a soft and slow solo, with double tours between bar stools and Marcelo (naturally) has the Latin solo as he shakes his hips to the beat. The women can’t choose among the sailors (or think they are equally repulsive) and leave, but not after the men fight. After making up, the sailors resolve to resume their friendship…until Leann Underwood shows up and all hell breaks loose again.

The experienced leads displayed great technique and timing, whether yucking it up, fighting, or making a bid for the attention of the women. Herman, Cory, and Marcelo are in their element portraying the sailors with great gusto. Stella and Julie were expressive as the beautiful dames, enjoying the attention of the men.

The piece is great fun, a wonderful piece of Americana featuring Broadway music by Leonard Bernstein, World War II nostalgia in a New York setting.