The American Ballet Theater’s 75th Anniversary Performances
American Ballet Theater
David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center
October 30, 2015
The centerpiece of the evening was Monotones I and II, set to music by Eric Satie with choreography by Frederick Ashton. Each Monotone is a pas de trois; one for two women and a man; the other for two men and a woman with II made first. Both pieces look very simple but they aren’t, as each contains a lot of arabesques and attitudes as well as other moves requiring hard-to-sustain balances. The dancers stand out from the background lit by Michael Korsch—the first group in yellowish-green from neck to toes; the second in white, both with what look like squashed bathing caps adorned with jewels on their heads. (Originally, the head coverings were different and, apparently, more stylish.) The piece is classic and remote; at times the dancers made me feel they were under the sea, moving their arms and legs against the weight of water.
Monotones was preceded by AfterEffect, choreographed by Marcelo Gomes, a major ABT star of many seasons here premiering his first large-scale ballet. The dance is made for two men (The Man) and (His Hope) and a woman (His Loss.) The man, danced by James Whiteside, starts with big leaps and then begins to diminish as the Hope, the lithe Misty Copeland, arrives held aloft by a group of men who put her down so she can perform a pas de deux with Whiteside. After the pairing ends, the men reappear and carry her away. Ms. Copeland is flown in again, to kiss the Man who then gets His Hope (Zhiyao Zhang)) as a partner and the two cavort for a while until the corps comes in for a big finish. I read that Gomes wanted his work to show the effect memory, in this case, the memory of trauma and grief which is doesn’t quite do. The piece is performed to Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70 by Tchaikovsky and set against a bright , color-blotched background painting by Francoise Gilot. The dancers are clad in white unitards with splashes of color that resemble the painting as effectively created by designers Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung.
The final number was Company B with the sempiternal music of the Andrews Sisters and choreography by Paul Taylor. The work is both rousing and sometimes poignant depending on the song. Craig Salstein does a fine job attracting all the girls as Johnny in Oh Jonny, Oh Johnny, Oh, with black-rimmed eyeglasses and Misty Copeland is back as the swaying, hip-thrusting sexpot in Rum and Coca Cola. There Will Never Be Another You is a sad song, made sadder here as Roman Zhurbin leaves Christine Shevchenko at the end. Despite the relentlessly cheery music, Company B points out that the background of war does terrible things to men and women. In several numbers, a line of men slowly crosses the stage with bent arms, presumably heading to the war from which many will not return.