Etudes and Rabbit and Rogue

American Ballet Theatre

June 6, 2008

As we say at the beginning of this feature, everyone is entitled to their own opinion because everyone has the right to be wrong.  And boy is NY Times reviewer Alastair MaCaulay wrong.  His reputation precedes him.  He is knowledgeable:  professional;  and can be mean-spirited:  not professional. 

To begin with, he says straight up that “Etudes” is “ghastly” and “appalling.“ Well, Alastair, if you go in with that attitude of course you will have a “miserable” time and be way disappointed.  Last time I stuck a sharp stick in my eye I decided not to do that again.  Surely there are other reviewers who could see a wonderfully danced exposition of ballet styles and skills through different eyes and give ABT’s “Etudes” the complimentary review it much deserves. 

The principals, Michele Wiles, Cory Stearns and Angel Corella were masterful.  They enjoyed the dance and each other’s company, and the audience also enjoyed them powerfully.  Mr. MaCaulay knows far more about dance than this reporter, but maybe he has been in the reviewing game too long.  Maybe he should take some time and review break dancing on the streets of Harlem.  It would surely be a new experience for him.  Snobbery has diverse remedies.  Perhaps getting out into the real world and seeing real people dance for tips–like Mr. Bojangles–might cure him.  Etudes was great.  I enjoyed it.  So, apparently, did the three thousand seven hundred and ninety-nine other patrons. 

There are some challenging trumpet and flute riffs in the score and the orchestra was up to it.  The lighting was a bit harsh at times, but not enough to distract uncomfortably.  The staging was a bit awkward  during the scene at the barre and seats on the sides lost some of the action to shadow. Some spectacular dances by all of the principals. 

Not to be too tough on AM, though.  I have to agree that the new Twyla Tharp piece, “Rabbit and Rogue” was a bust.  The performers danced their little hearts out, but the choreography smacked of a world famous, seasoned veteran, forgetting to take the bees and bats out of her bonnet and belfry respectively.  The music sucked (can I say that in a review?) and I imagine the dancers felt they had wasted their time learning all that choreography.  I enjoy modern music, as much as standard classical and baroque fare when it is well done, but this wasn’t.  ABT’s dancers are great, and how can one fault the administration for giving Ms. Tharp a venue for a new work, given her long and storied choreography par excellence?  Nowhere to put the blame.  I predict “Rabbit and Rogue” will never see the light of day after this run.