American Ballet Theatre commemorated Alexei Ratmansky’s 10th anniversary as Artist in Residence with four Ratmansky Trio performances. Ratmansky has undoubtedly made his mark at ABT, reflected by his works the company is staging this season in addition to the Ratmansky Trio program: Harlequinade (2018), Whipped Cream (2017), and Sleeping Beauty (2015) out of the eight productions. Other notable works he created for ABT include: Seven Sonatas (2009), The Nutcracker (2010), Firebird and Symphony #9 (2012), Serenade after Plato’s Symposium (2016), Songs of Bukovina (2017), Whipped Cream (2017), and Harlequinade (2018). ABT is a much different company today relative to 2009; the company had a star-studded lineup (Ananiashvili, Carreño, Corella, Dvorovenko, Gomes, Herrera, Vishneva, Stiefel) bereft of engaging new works. The company today has few stars, but numerous innovative Ratmansky works with a distinct classic Russian flavor.
The highlight of last week’s Ratmansky Trio was his new work, The Seasons, a reworking of Petipa’s 1900 ballet that was one of his last productions before his retirement. With a score composed the work from Alexander Glazunov, Petipa constructed a plotless ballet that featured characters such as Snow, Frost, the Faun, and the Rose in celebration of the seasons. Ratmansky’s version features original choreography while retaining almost all of the original character names “…though the monikers are designed to serve more as abstract ideas than literal representations,” according to the program notes. The work is “…a declaration of love, expression of gratitude and gift to the company that has been my home for the last decade,” says Ratmansky.
The Seasons is a fast-paced work with four sections corresponding to the seasons starting with Winter. I enjoyed the first segment the most with Aran Bell in the Winter role serving as a master of ceremonies along with Katherine Williams (Frost), Hee Seo (Ice), Catherine Hurlin (Hail), and Luciana Paris (Snow), all in icy blue attire. This part was executed with great clarity and purpose. I am looking forward to seeing the young Corps member Aran in lead roles this season in Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. He is put forward as the future of ABT. Given his work in Seasons, there is much to anticipate. Solid technically, he sailed through a double pirouette/double tour combination with sturdy landings.
Two ABT Studio Company dancers, Lochlan Brooks and Elwince Magbitang, provided substantial energy as they ushered out the cold Winter in favor of the Spring segment. James Whiteside (Zephyr), Sarah Lane (Rose), and Skylar Brandt (Swallow) led this segment, clad in brightly colored patchwork costumes. The highlight was Skylar’s energy and turns paired with Sarah’s delicate movements.
My least favorite segment was Summer with Isabella Boylston (Spirit of the Corn) and Blaine Hoven (Faun) and a group of young girls from ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School clad in black tights and red dresses. The segment was disjointed and out of synch with a lack of flow between the leads and the young dancers. Isabella was not at her best on her turns. Representing a mix of seasons, Isabella and James were effective in a soothing pas de deux.
Cassandra Trenary (Bacchante) and Blaine Hoven (Bacchus) led the Autumn segment. Cassandra was noteworthy, dancing with great joy, completing an odd hop and turn section. Gabe Stone Shayer as one of the Satyrs stood out with a nice solo consisting of double assembles with bent knees and stylized turns throughout.
The Seasons is an explosion of movement and I was at times overwhelmed taking it all in with a large number of dancers and steps in this 40-minute work. Some parts had a pleasing flow, while others were disjointed, lacking cohesion. With so much going on, seasons is a work that would reward multiple viewings to uncover nuances and meaning. I hope ABT brings it back in the fall season.
I was lukewarm on Songs of Bukovina when it debuted in 2017, but this work has grown on me, particularly the pairing of Christine Shevchenko and Calvin Royal III. Folksy Russian charm and informality are vital themes in this work.
See photos from a review from the fall season.
On the Dnieper depicts a young soldier, Sergei (Thomas Forster) as he arrives home after the war. He is no longer in love with his fiancée Natalia (Devon Teuscher) and turns to Olga (Catherine Hurlin), who is seeing another man (Alexandre Hammoudi). After much drama, fighting, and grief, Natalia unselfishly helps Sergei and Olga escape together as she is alone, heartbroken.
The Thursday performance featured impressive dramatics from Devon and Thomas and the second love pair, Alexandre and Catherine Hurlin. Devon was particularly effective at the end as Sergei and Olga go their merry way, leaving her in grief, tossing wedding confetti into the air.
On the Dnieper did not leave much of an impression on me when it debuted in 2009. Despite the compelling dramatics from the leads, my reaction is much the same 10 years later.
More reviews of the Ratmansky program: