Gelsey Kirkland Ballet at
Symphony Space

Gelsey Kirkland Ballet presented its second program of the company’s inaugural season Friday at Symphony Space in Manhattan. The nicely diversified and highly entertaining mixed bill consisted of familiar works (Leaves are Fading pas de deux, Raymonda Suite), pieces I haven’t seen in awhile (Pas de Quatre, Flames of Paris), and works I had not seen before (Ballebille, Cavalry Halt).

The expressiveness and theatricality of the young dancers stood out. From the back of the orchestra seats, I could connect with the expressions and the emotion conveyed by the dancers. In one segment in Raymonda Suite, a hairpiece from one of the female dancers fell to the floor; without missing a beat, a male dancer picked it up in character and held it to his heart as if to say “Thank you for the lovely gift.” This is not a surprise as the “…Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet’s mission is to foster a rebirth of dramatic storytelling in ballet through our academy programs that provide specialized training for gifted students from around the world, and through the development of the Gelsey Kirkland Ballet, a classically oriented Professional Studio Company capable of creating and performing new and dramatic works,” according to the company website. If this performance is any indication, the company is achieving the lofty goals set out in their mission statement.

Cavalry Halt is a one-act ballet created by Petipa for the Mariinksy Theatre in 1896 set to music by Johann Armsheimer and Johann Strauss. The program notes say that the ballet is rarely performed in the U.S.; I had never heard of the ballet before the performance and wonder why this delightful comedy ballet is not performed more often. The work centers on Maria (Dawn Gierling) and Theresa (Katrina Crawford) who literally fight for the attention of peasant boy Philipp (Anderson Souza). Philipp enjoys the completion until the cavalry arrive and mayhem erupts, greatly complicating the love triangle. The piece ends with the marriage of Philipp and Maria and a grande pas de deux.

The pas de deux had a number of difficult and strenuous steps that were well done; Anderson’s solo consisted of numerous pirouettes, beats, tours to a lunge, a rond de jamb en l’air diagonal, finishing with a double tour to the knee. Dawn had a nice fouetté section, which featured quarter turns ending up in front to supported turns. As if the pas de deux was not enough of a workout, Anderson had about eight double tours to second position at the end.

The night opened with Raymonda Suite featuring India Rosa and Johnny Almedia. The two danced well together, but with a few rough edges. For some reason they struggled on several shoulder sits, generally, a fairly simple step. In their solos, India’s expressive pointe work and arms stood out. Johnny had a nice turn section, punctuated with 4-5 pirouettes at the end, with a nice pause in passé. The corps dancers were a bit out of synch at times with the men completing double tours with varying degrees of success.

The Leaves Are Fading das de deux with Dawn Gierling and Christian Laverde Koenig was a delight. Anthony Tudor choreographed the piece with Gelsey in the premier role, with music by Antonín Dvořák. Former ABT dancers Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner from The Anthony Tudor Ballet Trust set the work for this performance. Dawn has solid technique and nice extensions in this dramatic work. Christian was very forceful, energetically dancing the opening section with clenched fists. In a poignant moment at the end, they stood together with his arm around her shoulder; she slowly walked away and he lightly held on to her hand. I wonder if this is the section the Tudor Trust is referring to: “The light of day darkens, the leaves are fading and the woman departs with her memories reborn.”

Here is a video from the company promoting the piece, with excerpts from Gelsey and Ivan Nagy, who passed away recently:

I had never seen Ballebille before. The work is from the third act of Napoli (The Fisherman and his Bride) created in 1842 by August Bournonville. Anderson Sousa’s light beats and brisk footwork stood out. No lack of energy in The Flames of Paris pas de deux with Nicole Assaad and Erez Ben-Zion Milatin. Both dancers had a lot of pizzazz to this bravura work. Nicole’s solos featured nice light footwork, a repeating single pirouette from plié section, and a series of fouettés with doubles thrown in that traveled a bit too much. Erez’s jete splits, turns in second section, double tour diagonal from emboite turns stood out, all with explosive energy.

Anton Dolin for ABT reconstructed Pas de Quatre in 1941 after Jules Perrot. It was originally performed in 1845 by four of the most famous European ballerinas of the time: Carlotta Grisi, Lucile Grahn, Marie Taglioni, and Fanny Cerrito. The dancers Friday (Anastasia Barsukova, Michelle Katcher, Nicole Fedorov, and Katia Raj), all clad in white dresses, danced beautifully in this light, airy, Romantic era ballet.

A DVD of the performance will be available at Blinding Light Video.

Update: Gelsey Kirkland Ballet’s website has reviews of the performance from Haglund, danceviewtimes, BWW Dance World, and me.