American Ballet Theatre's program on Nov. 1 offered an evening of ideal diversity: Sir Frederick Ashton's "Symphonic Variations," Martha Graham's "Diversion of Angels," Antony Tudor's "Pillar of Fire," and "Raymonda (Grand Pas Classique)," staged by Anna-Marie Holmes after Marius Petipa.
The same cast seen opening night in "Symphonic Variations" also graced the Nov. 1 performance. Marian Butler, Craig Salstein, Ashley Tuttle, Maxim Beloserkovsky, Maria Riccetto, and Carlos Lopez again served to remind us of the nobility and originality of Ashton's poetic visions.
Takako Asakawa, a former member of the Martha Graham company, staged "Diversion of Angels," one of Graham's more inspirational and difficult creations. And still this was absorbed with a drive toward perfection, which was achieved throughout.
Graham herself best explained "Diversion": "Its action takes place in the imaginary garden love creates for itself." She also described the work as "three aspects of love: the white couple represents mature love in perfect balance; red, erotic love; and yellow, adolescent love."
Stella Abrera and Gennadi Saveliev, The Couple in White, performed with exquisite subtlety. Watching Erica Cornejo and Jesus Pastor as The Couple in Yellow resulted in a sense of exhilaration as they displayed their youthful ardor. The Couple in Red, Sandra Brown and Isaac Stappas, cast vivid shading, with Brown particularly notable as she bounded briskly across the stage during scenes performed by the other two couples, as if to imbue them with her flaming intensity.
Most remarkable about the choreography was the amazing diversity and originality of the leaps that had been conceived by Graham, the likes of which had never been seen previously from others whose specialty was taking to the air. This was the Graham work that became a favorite of ours, turning us into a Graham devotee for life.
Antony Tudor conceived "Pillar of Fire" for Ballet Theatre (later American Ballet Theatre) in 1942. The story relates the tribulations of Hagar, who is fearful of becoming a spinster similar to her embittered older sister, and also fearful of losing a young man she loves to her frivolous younger sister. In desperation, she gives herself to a dissolute young man.
The time of the ballet is 1900, when Hagar would face the bitter enmity and bigotry of small-town inhabitants for her actions. But she is eventually reunited with the young man she loves, who devotedly cares for her despite her transgression.
It was the role of Hagar that raised Nora Kaye to the rank of ballerina when she was the first dancer seen as the beleaguered heroine. Later on, it was Sallie Wilson who portrayed the role successfully for many years.
Julie Kent danced Hagar at the Nov. 1 performance and proved a revelation. She possesses a rare, all-pervasive spiritual presence that avoids the temptation to overstate the drama. And still her every movement and emotional depth came across the footlights with heartbreaking pathos. Kent's performance was of the caliber that remains etched in memory.
"Raymonda (Grand Pas Classique)," with its imperial grandeur and breathtaking bravura display, is always one that audiences go wild over. On this occasion, Michele Wiles and Carlos Acosta, leading the revels, had onlookers in absolute delirium. Wiles can sustain endless balance on pointe and she assumes the grand manner as if born to the blood royal.
Acosta can manage to reach boundless heights in his grand tours, and those triple beat cabrioles of his lead an audience to frantic outbursts in appreciation of his incredible feats. However, when completing a solo, he doesn't just walk offstage—he struts off. Perhaps a dancer of his ability can be allowed to display a bit of ego, even if not in character with the ballet.
Wiles and Acosta were ably supported by soloists Marta Rodriguez-Coca, Sascha Radetsky, Anna Liceica, and Gennadi Saveliev.
NYCB All-Balanchine Benefit
New York City Ballet has announced that the opening night benefit will feature an all-Balanchine program of "Serenade," "Bukagu," and "Symphony in C." The benefit takes place on Nov. 25 at the New York State Theater, and will begin with a cocktail reception at 5:30 pm on the promenade of the theatre. A black-tie tribute ball and dinner will immediately follow the performance, which begins at 7 pm.
Tables of 10 tickets are available for $10,000, $15,000, and $20,000, and include performance tickets; individual benefit tickets are priced from $1,000 to $2,000; and tickets for the cocktail reception are $200, all available through the NYCB special events office at 1-212-870-5585.
Tickets for the performance only are priced from $20 to $100, and are available through Ticketmaster at 1-212-307-4100, online at www.ticketmaster.com, or at the New York State Theater box office.
Dance Forum-NY Fundraiser
Dance Forum-NY's fall fundraiser, "Gallery of Dances," serves as an original evening of dance with site-specific choreography, cocktails, playful theatrics, and raffle prizes, topped off with a surprise finale. Each night will be a gallery-opening celebration. The entire evening becomes an intimate gallery stroll through the space as ongoing dance art curates itself. Twirling waiters, part of Carol Fonda & Company, will serve cocktails and tapas. (Be ready: They will work the gratuities—an inside peek at the tricks of the trade, New York-style.)
Be forewarned that guests will be asked to check their shoes at the door, Manolos and all, as part of Dance Forum's floor conservation act.
Venue: Union Square's Dance Forum-NY (a studio-performance space), 20 East 17th St., 2nd fl., NYC. Performances: Nov. 14-16 and Nov. 20-22 at 8 pm. Tickets: $150, $75, and $30, call 1-212-633-7202. Proceeds go to support the company's 2004 educational programming projects, including attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and AIDS communities.
Flamenco at the Joyce
Maria Benitez Teatro Flamenco will perform a program of new ensemble classical works incorporating castanets with the elegant classical dance idiom and flamenco.
Venue: The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Ave., NYC. Performances: Tues., Wed. & Fri., Nov. 25, 26, 28, at 8 pm; Sat., Nov. 29 at 2 and 8 pm; Sun., Nov. 30 at 2 and 7:30 pm. Tickets: $38, available by calling JoyceCharge at 1-212-242-0800, online at www.joyce.org or www.telecharge.com, or at the box office.
The Kasrnoyarsk, National Dance Company of Siberia will be seen at Lehman Center Concert Hall, 250 Bedford Park Blvd. West, Bronx, NY, on Nov. 15 at 2 pm. Tickets are $35, $30, and $25; call the box office at 1-718-960-8833.