Dreary ABT Fall Season Finally Ends

American Ballet Theatre’s Fall season came to an end today, the least successful Fall season I can remember (I think the first ABT Fall season at City Center was in 1998). The season featured several good works (Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, Her Notes) that have been performed too many times in the past several seasons; an interesting new work from Alexei Ratmansky (Songs of Bukovina); and two works to avoid from Benjamin Millepied (the new I Feel The Earth Move, and Daphnis and Chloe, which had its ABT debut last year).

Millepied’s I Feel The Earth Move is strange from the start. After Other Dances Friday, the curtain did not close and the audience could see stage hands remove the piano. Side drapes were raised, exposing lights beaming into the audience. Suddenly, music from Philip Glass’ from his Einstein on the Beach started with a cast of women walking across the stage in shorts and tank tops. The women left, leaving David Hallberg, dancing in spasms to the discordant score. I always enjoy David’s dancing, even to not so great choreography. Misty Copeland joined David for a short segment, danced with emotion, but little purpose.

Misty, Devon Teuscher, and Hee Seo led the second movement, which consisted largely of floor dances with the slipper clad women in a line, sometimes in an X pattern, possibly representing female bonding power. I really don’t know. Whatever the meaning and pattern, it was not entertaining.

Herman Cornejo made an appearance in the third movement, providing energy to the work with nice pirouettes and tours while Hee and Cory Stearns had a forgettable duet. On the supporting dancer side, dancers congregated in small circles and disbanded to the entire stage, a recurring theme. The ending was abrupt, with a jeté from dancers as the stark lights shut down.

The program has a Tony Kushner quote from Angels in America about no more secret deaths, and moving forward in the world. If this work was about the AIDS crisis, the message escaped me.

The work is disjointed, without meaning or cohesion. A disjointed work is not a fatal flaw for me; Nacho Duato’s Coming Together performed by Dance Theatre of Harlem (click for review) is also strange and hard to follow, but is successful because there are plenty of innovative and exciting movements. The primary negative about I Feel The Earth Move is that it is not interesting; aside from a few notable segments from Herman and David, not much stands out. The segment with the women doing a floor dance was repetitive and dull. I Feel The Earth Move is a far cry from the Jerome Robbins’ classic, Glass Pieces, a great multifaceted work. Glass Pieces succeeds as the segments are linked together nicely, with interesting combinations of steps.

ABT Fall Season 2017

Isabella Boylston and Cory Stearns. Click for more photos.

Rounding out the evening was Ratmansky’s Songs of Bukovina, nicely done by Christine Shevchenko and Calvin Royal III. The two displayed great energy in this Russian folk piece I previously reviewed. Other Dances featured Isabella Boylston and Cory Stearns. Cory had the steps down, but lacked the folksy gusto to pull it off; Isabella had a better feel for the work.

Fall Season Final Thoughts

I noted in my previous review that the biggest flaw in ABT’s Fall season was the repetition. It seems the company wanted to get by this fall by presenting recently performed works, possibly to minimize rehearsal time. Add to the rep two tedious Millepied works and the result was a dreary season. It is a shame the rep was sub par as the level of dancing was high. I enjoyed Christine Shevchenko, Calvin Royal III, Gabe Stone Shayer, Tyler Maloney and, of course, old favorites Herman Cornejo and David Hallberg.

Hopefully ABT can come up with more interesting works not recently performed next fall. Tudor, Tharp, and Taylor are always welcome.

More Reviews:

Gia Kourlas of The New York Times
Robert Gottlieb of the Observer
Marina Harss of DanceTabs
Mary Cargill of danceviewtimes
Michael Popkin of danceviewtimes
Jerry Hochman of CriticalDance
Jerry Hochman of CriticalDance