Two World Premieres

American Ballet Theatre, October 25, 2007;  City Center;

Debra Randall  contributed to this review

On the program last Saturday night were three ballet segments.  The first, called Clear, was a repertory piece by Australian choreographer Stanton Welch.  Bach’s music is superb, but the ballet left me a little cold.  Ordinary dancing–not to say these fine dancers are ordinary by any stretch–but not so exciting.  I also find it unbalanced when a dance is performed by 6 men and only two woman.  It just seems unnatural to me.

Second on the program was a world premiere piece called C to C (Close to Chuck), Chuck being Chuck Close, the scenery designer who is confined to a wheelchair. Mr. Close’s painting of Philip Glass (still working at age 70) resulted in a solo piano homage to Close that reflects an abstract of events in Close’s life and the long friendship between the two men.

The dancers portrayed highlights from Close’s life through dance which on occasion resembled mime and at other times seemed almost like the Vogue moves of the 80’s made popular by Madonna.  In one segment, the dancer contorted his body to illustrate the condition which was destined to cripple Mr. Close.  Excellently danced;  great versatility of the dancers;  I didn’t know how to feel!  Was I sad for Mr. Close’s condition?  Was I uplifted by the dancer’s movements?  Was I awed by Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo’s unique moves?  Perfect conflict of emotion that makes such art stay with you for longer than just the few minutes it takes to play out on the stage.

In the opening scene the men wore long, black, seemingly stiff skirts which seemed to inhibit their movements and looked a little confining, but they soon shed those.

The last selection, also a world premiere, was choreographed by Benjamin Millipied who, perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, worked with Philip Glass at the tender age of 18.   This was the loudest and most dramatic music on the program.  Again, it is the emotions evoked by the music that is most important in neo-classical works, that is, ballets without a story.

ABT’s fall season at the City Center usually consists of a group of modern works, and Saturday was no exception.  The dancers’ versatility is amply showcased in these works as they move fluidly among styles, from classical to modern and back again.  

ABT is a classical company:  Swan Lake , Romeo & Juliet, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty with occasional neo classical works, but in their brief, two week long fall season it is mainly neo-classical, which means there are no stories, just the emotions that can be evoked by fine dancers working to interesting music and working their bodies in graceful, sometimes unexpected ways.

They do a fine job.  If you like dance, stay informed about their works and take in some of their fine performances.  Not likely to disappoint no matter which program they perform.