ABT Second Week: New Romantics, Apollo, and Beach Boys

American Ballet Theatre’s New Romantics program featured two new works and one from last year. James Whiteside’s New American Romance, which debuted in July at the Vail Dance Festival, is a compelling piece (see photo above with Joo Won Ahn, Devon Teuscher, Calvin Royal III). Set to a piano score by Claude Debussy (Suite Bergamasque), the work has innovative features in a classical romantic theme. Movement 1 was most enjoyable with Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell with a recurring flip over lift (which quickly became repetitive), controlled double tours to second position, and a triple saute de basque for Aran. Who said romantic-style ballets can’t feature some razzle-dazzle? Movement 2 with Katherine Williams, Isadora Loyola, and Stephanie Williams had some gender bender moments when Katherine performed turns from second position and a double tour to the knee, steps generally performed by men.

There is an unsettling trend of new works having outlandish, bizarre costumes that overshadow the dancing (Twyla Tharp’s new A Gathering of Ghosts, for example). Fortunately, James avoided this trend with tasteful, beautiful violet costumes by PRIMADONNA (not sure what/who that is). New American Romance is an engaging piece, and I look forward to future works by James.

Ormsby Wilkins, Stella Abrera, Joo Won Ahn, October 20, 2019

Ormsby Wilkins, Stella Abrera, Joo Won Ahn, October 20, 2019

I didn’t understand the program notes for former ABT dancer Gemma Bond’s A Time There Was. Viewing the work did not shed light on the inspiration of the piece. There is much going on with five segments, but would require multiple viewings to capture the rich detail. The work did feature energetic dancing from Corps members not usually featured, Breanne Granlund and Anabel Katsnelson. Another strange costume choice with men appearing in the middle of the work with long strings around their waist. Why such peculiar costume choices?

I reviewed Jessica Lang’s Garden Blue last year. I wasn’t any more impressed with the work this year.

I saw the Balanchine, Bennett & Beach Boys program the first Friday of the season and last Thursday. It was entertaining despite the odd mix of works. Joo Won Ahn (Friday) and Calvin Royal III (Thursday) made their ABT debuts in Apollo. Both were had a strong presence, conveying much confidence. Notable muses were Stella Abrera in her debut as Terpsichore (Thursday), Katherine Williams and Christine Shevchenko as Polyhymnia in the Thursday and Friday performances, respectively.

The program featured a revival pas de deux, Clark Tippet’s 1985 Some Assembly Required.¬†Tippet was a Principal Dancer at ABT who passed away in 1992. Tippet’s works are rich in detail such as his Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1. Some Assembly Required was choreographed for Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner, former ABT dancers who are married. The couple also staged the work this year. Some Assembly Required, which ABT Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie describes as Anthony “Tudor-esque”, is a study in relationships and power dynamics infused with impatience, confusion, and immaturity. In the program, McKerrow says that Tippet “…was seeing things I didn’t realize he was seeing. I almost felt uncomfortable, but John and I have been through a lot, and that was what we were going through at the time.”

Sarah Lane and Cory Stearns are generally not paired due to their contrasting size with Cory much taller. The pairing last Thursday was filled with great emotion and dynamic range. Skylar Brandt and Roman Zhurbin were cast Friday, also well done.

Twyla Tharp’s Deuce Coupe premiered in 1973 at Joffrey Ballet and had its ABT premier last May. Like Ratmansky’s The Season, I wasn’t blown away at the Spring Met season. On second viewing, I found the work much more appealing. Maybe it works better on a smaller stage. Another explanation is that I am in a better mood this fall relative to the spring. Noteworthy Friday was Blaine Hoven showing off his 1960s groove and bootie shake, Luciana Paris with sultry moves, and the “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” segment.