American Ballet Theatre has returned to the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College in what looks like it might be an annual October event. Lucky for dance lovers as ABT ranks up there as one of the best in the world.
On this visit, audiences were luckier still as they were able to witness three world premieres – one by its artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky, one by New York City Ballet principal Benjamin Millepied and yet another by Canadian choreographer Aszure Barton.
Adding to that excitement was the unusual staging. In preparation for its first program at Avery Fisher Hall, the company danced in a symphony shell, without a curtain, so we could watch them warm up before the music began. Further, the program featured live music (not always a guarantee with ABT) that was expertly and expressively played.
This arrangement gave the program a recital feel, lending an intimacy that often is lacking in a ballet performance.
Perhaps because of this format, Ratmansky and Barton created rather delicate works of dance. Ratmansky explored piano pieces by Scarlatti while Barton’s delved into the romanticism of Ravel’s Violin Sonata in G. Paired with Jerome Robbins’ folksy and polite “Other Dances,” to music by Chopin, it was hard to get feverish over what was turning out to be a quite civil affair.
Then, thankfully, came Millepied’s work “Everything Doesn’t Happen At Once” to a percussive, minimalist score by David Lang. The dance was bold, dramatic and visually stunning.
Dressed in black and white, the dancers performed in a rectangle in front of the musical sextet. Lit starkly with lines and grids, the space was either a turbulent terrace for 24 dancers to pass through or a quiet sanctuary for Stella Abrera and Marcelo Gomes.
Under the direction of Millepied, these already wonderful dancers blossomed further. In the central duet, unfolding to the repeated thumping of a drum, Gomes surrenders to Abrera’s cool. She’s stiff, he’s supple, capturing and holding her as she barely takes note of his presence. Millepied doesn’t create complex partnering to prove that he is worthy or innovative. He speaks clearly in his own unique voice while taking thoughtful cues from the music and the dancers.
While Abrera and Gomes were standouts, so too was Daniil Simkin. He’s more than a dancer, he’s also a gymnast. And Millepied created a crackerjack solo for this phenomenal performer who nailed every trick in the men’s arsenal of difficult moves. Needless to say, the audience went crazy for him.
Also impressive was Veronika Part and Gomes in Robbins’ “Other Dances” as staged by Isabelle Guerin. Part was ethereal, as light as her chiffon skirt. Gomes was her ideal foil as the brash but gentlemanly counterpart.
Sadly, Ratmansky’s “Seven Sonatas” was a disappointment. The dance for three couples had its tender moments but looked under-rehearsed and sloppy.
Misty Copeland, as the girl in the short skirt, kept eyes interested in Barton’s “One of Three.” So too did the men, dancing en masse, with Paloma Herrera. Yet the work did not coalesce into a single vision.
ABT will dance again today at 3 p.m. at the Fisher Center at Bard. More information is available at 845-758-7412.