ABT Prodigal Son Review

The highlight of the second and final week of ABT’s fall season at Lincoln Center was Prodigal Son, with impressive performances by Jeffrey Cirio (Thursday) and Daniil Simkin (Friday) in the lead role.

Both displayed great technique and gusto in the opening solo, filled with high leaps and controlled multiple turns. Daniil’s turning capabilities are substantial and he completed endless turns in plié with his hand on his knee. Jeffrey was more animated and believable in the opening “I am a spoiled brat” stomping segment with mouth wide open while Daniil was more subdued. Both demonstrated dramatic range in the final scene after they were humiliated and stripped by the Drinking Companions and Siren. Battered and bruised, the son crawled home aided by pole. In an iconic ballet moment with Prokofiev’s inspiring music of redemption, the father lifted his wayward son like a baby, protecting him with his cape as he carried him home. A beautiful moment and both Jeffrey and Daniil provided believable portrayals in this dramatic close.

Danial Mantei (Thursday) and Roman Zhurbin (Friday) were effective as the Father as they attempted to moderate their son’s self-indulgent ranting.

Veronika Part was accomplished in her portrayal of the seamstress Siren. She played this role well with her long, lean, imposing build that commanded the stage, although she struggled at times managing her long cape. On pointe, she is taller than Daniil as he was like a little boy overpowered by her; he embraced her in a stomping promenade with his head buried against her chest as she raised her hand overhead as if to say, “I have conquered him.” Hee Seo was not as successful in the role Friday. Hee has the technique but lacks a certain nastiness required for the role exemplified by Veronika, NYCB’s Maria Kowroski, and former ABT Soloist Kristy Boone, who played the role opposite Angel Corella years ago.


Veronika Part, Prodigal Son. Click for more photos.

The grotesque bald Drinking Companions were in fine form as they hideously stomped their way on stage. They beat and striped the Prodigal bare and, as a final insult, the Siren stole his amulet. A single light focused on the bloody, near-naked Prodigal standing against a table, berift of his pride and possessions. The pathetic stripped Prodigal crawled away for the long journey home.

Alexei Agoudine and Sean Stewart on Friday brought life and nuance to the Servants to the Prodigal Son, dancing well as they betrayed him.

The Balanchine 1929 classic is set to music by Prokofiev. Serge Diaghilev, founder of Ballets Russes, hired Balanchine in 1924 and Prodigal son was Balanchine’s last work for the company’s final Paris season. The story is derived from a biblical parable from the Gospel of Saint Luke. Russian poet, dancer and Diaghilev advisor Boris Kochno added dramatic material that emphasized the theme of sin and redemption.

The rest of the second week was repetitive, consisting of works performed in week one, with the exception of Ashton’s Monotones I and II and Prodigal Son. On Friday, Stella Abrera was stellar in the first section of Monotones dancing in synch to the beautiful harp strumming. Alexandre Hammoudi was equally effective in the second section. However, I find Ashton’s work strange and dull with dancers clad in futuristic unitards with skullcaps. This is not my favorite Ashton work. His Symphonic Variations is more my style, a great plotless celebration of classical ballet technique performed by ABT this fall season after a 10 year absence. Although the dancers were not always together in this strenuous piece, I enjoyed the work with new Principal Dancer Alban Lendorf adding a muscular presence to the role.

Jessica Lang’s Her Notes was a joy, set to Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s (Felix’s sister) most famous work Das Jahr (The Year). Ten dancers provided a dance representation of various months of the year in a multifaceted and nuanced work. I hope ABT performs Her Notes in future seasons.

I was less impressed with Benjamin Millepied’s 2014 Daphnis and Cloe. The story is based on the 2nd century writings of Greek writer Longus. It is the story of Daphnis’ love for Chloe, and the many obstacles they encounter before they find true love, originally performed by the Ballets Russes. I found the 55 minute work tiresome and repetitive and struggled to maintain my attention. I don’t have a desire to see it again.

ABT’s fall season had nice rep, with important works danced at a high level. The fall season contrasts with the ABT’s spring Met season, with familiar full-length ballets designed to fill the 4,000 seat Met. I particularly enjoyed the busy Twyla Tharp work The Brahms-Haydn Variations, Lang’s Her Notes, and Prodigal Son. Most of the Principal Dancers in the upcoming Met season danced in the fall season, a departure from previous years in which the bigger names pursued other projects (Herman Cornejo and Maria Kochetkova were exceptions in their absence). ABT is a more cohesive company with dancers having a stronger committment rather than dancers flying in just for the Met season. This is a welcome development. Young dancers made their mark in the fall, including Skylar Brandt, Cassandra Trenary, Blain Hoven, Calvin Royal III, Cameron McCune, and Stephanie Williams.

More ABT Fall Season reviews:

Alastair Macaulay of The New York Times
Alastair Macaulay of The New York Times
Robert Greskovic of The Wall Street Journal
Robert Gottlieb of The New York Observer
Joan Acocella of The New Yorker
Caryn Cooper of Broadway World
Sheila Kogan of The Huffington Post
Marina Harss of DanceTabs
Marina Harss of DanceTabs
Poison Ivy’s Wall of Text

Met Closed Saturday

Arriving at Lincoln Center, I wondered about the substantial police presence with numerous NYPD cars parked near the center with the press lined up outside of the Met after the ABT performance at Koch Theatre. The New York Times reports that the last act of the afternoon opera performance along with the evening performance were cancelled due to an audience member sprinkling a powdery substance into the orchestra pit during intermission. Police said the substance may have been the remains of his mentor. “The man told other patrons he was there specifically to sprinkle the ashes during the performance, the police said. Mr. Miller (police spokesman) said the act may have been a violation of the city’s health code but that there was no criminal intent.”


Reporters and photographers outside of the Met Opera House, October 29, 2016, 9:20 pm