"Thirteen Diversions", "Apollo", "The Firebird"
American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
New York, NY
June 13, 2012 matinee
by Carol Pardo
Copyright © 2012 by Carol Pardo
Marcelo Gomes, often cast as a prince in American Ballet Theatre’s full evening works, moved up to a god status with his debut in the title role of Balanchine’s “Apollo.” He’s the most Dionysian Apollo to tread the boards in years. From birth (ABT retains the opening scene) to Olympus, this Apollo was all about channeling energy and mastery of the self.
The progression from newborn to adult was very subtle. Still in swaddling clothes, the divine babe all but out-jumped his handmaidens. Released from his bonds, he was not quite steady on his feet but raring to go and radiating energy in all directions. Leto must have encouraged her son’s interest in dance to burn off some of his overwhelming need to move.
Gomes made this beautifully thought out narrative arc come alive. As always, he gave the moment everything he had. As always he was a deluxe partner: Balanchine’s various daisy chains unspooled as if greased. At only a few moments, particularly an instant late in the ballet where his torso rocked like a hinged puppet, was there any indication that this was his first performance in an historic role.
His muses were a well-matched trio: Melanie Hamrick as Calliope, Devon Teuscher as Polyhymnia (also a debut) and Polina Semionova in a company debut as Terpsichore. Hamrick seemed overwhelmed by the entwined demands of character and syncopation. Teuscher needed to sharpen her attack and timing. This muse lacked focus. Semionova had the measure of her text, but grinned throughout as though the ballet was all about her. There’s a reason the ballet is not called “Terpsichore”. Most unfortunate of all? This cast got one shot at the ballet and there’s no knowing when they will get a second, a chance to learn and grow. It’s a sure bet that “Swan Lake” will return, but ABT last danced “Apollo” in 2006.
The rest of the program was also spiced with debuts. Alexei Ratmansky’s “Firbird” was performed by its third cast of the week. Isabella Boylston was the red bird with a bustle. Alexandre Hammoudi, in the suit stolen off John Travolta’s back during “Saturday Night Fever,” was Ivan and Kristi Boone was the Maiden. All made their New York debuts while Cory Stearns danced Kaschei, of the riding coat and the hair color suitable to a St. Patrick’s Day beer pong tournament,for the first time ever. This was my first look at a ballet that requires a second. Hammoudi has the height and presence for Ivan. Boone was almost touching in her transition from spellbound maiden to liberated lover. Under the influence, she and her sisters were more like ladies who lunch and have imbibed too much Long Island iced tea with their cucumber sandwiches, than trapped royalty. Liberated she danced with joy. Stearns was a creepy monster, whose eyes, dark and distant, seemed to emit lasers. His gaze controlled his flock. Boylston, with her high beautiful jump should have registered more strongly than she did, but, in one of the oddities of this production, the title character is the weakest of the lot.
The afternoon began with Christopher Wheeldon’s “Thirteen Diversions.” Wheeldon’s choreography for the corps is the star of the show, animating the stage and providing contrasting texture to the soloists’ dances. Misty Copeland, in what was intended to be her debut (an emergency earlier in the week moved it up) showed how much she has grown. Her dancing had a variety of attack that kept it interesting. And her final duet, partnered by Gray Davis, had real weight and authority. It would be instructive to see “Thirteen Diversions” on a smaller stage, but it would be even more revelatory to see this program again. Let’s hope that happens—and soon.