Les Sylphides, American Ballet Theater (photo by Rosalie O'Connor)
American Ballet Theater is back at the Kennedy Center Opera House this week, only one year after its last visit. Before its main offering, Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky's choreography of Minkus's Don Quixote (April 17 to 20), the company is dancing a far more interesting triple-bill, seen on Tuesday night. It paired two classics of different kinds, Michel Fokine's Les Sylphides and Frederick Ashton's The Dream, with a brand-new work choreographed by ABT principal dancer Marcelo Gomes called Aftereffect. Of course, Don Quixote is fine and all, but I was really hoping to see the company's new choreography of The Tempest by Alexei Ratmansky.
Les Sylphides is a plot-less ballet blanc that Fokine created first in St. Petersburg, where it was known as Chopiniana -- in which form it was danced here by the Mariinsky Ballet in 2012. It is mostly about the corps de ballet, and thus it featured the outstanding discipline of the ABT's women, who moved with impeccable unity and precision through every graceful move and arboreal formation, down to the smallest arch of the back or port de bras, much of it en pointe. Relatively new principal dancer Hee Seo stood out among the soloists for her delicate solo in the Prelude (Chopin's Prelude in A major, op. 28/7). Stella Abrera, although lovely in the first Mazurka, was inhibited somewhat in the pas de deux by being paired with the less accomplished Joseph Gorak as the Poet, the only male dancer in the ballet. Fokine originally used an orchestration of these Chopin piano pieces by Glazunov, but ABT has reconstituted the orchestration by Benjamin Britten, which it commissioned in 1941 and was long thought lost. While perhaps not a masterful orchestration, it has lots of effects involving the harp, which added to the dreamy nature of the choreography.
Mendelssohn, Ein Sommernachtstraum, La Chapelle Royale, Collegium Vocale Gent, Orchestre des Champs-Elysées, P. Herreweghe (Harmonia Mundi, 2012)
Sarah Halzack, American Ballet Theatre puts on enchanting ‘Dream,’ but ‘Sylphides’ is lacking (Washington Post, April 17)
American Ballet Theater's production of Don Quixote opens tonight and continues through Sunday afternoon.