|Boylston and Whiteside, photo @ Alan Alejandro|
|Act One scene design, photo @ Rosalie O'Connor|
|Pavlova and Fokine. Look at that hat of hers.|
Colombine and Pierrette's solo variations all involve long sequences (often complete stage diagonals) of hops on pointe. This shows their bossiness, their take-charge personalities, their toughness. One solo for Colombine has her do a complete backwards diagonal with hops on pointe in different directions -- first with her free leg facing the left, then hops in arabesque, etc. Those hops on pointe after awhile was giving me anxiety blisters by proxy. The fact that they do it all night means they are women not to be trifled with. The choreography also reveals how technically strong the dancers in the Imperial era were.
I also admired the way Petipa structured his ballet. The first act has as much mime as dancing -- the Good Fairy is a pure mime role, and Harlequin's mandolin solo also starts off with a long mime sequence. The second act after the resolution of the conflict (spoiler alert: Harlequin's magical slapstick also can create money out of thin air) is all formal academic classical ballet. It starts with throngs of adorable children dressed up as mini-Harlequin/Colombine/Pierrette/Pierrot sort of making a pure-dance cliff notes of the first act drama. The JKO students were neat, clean, crisp, with tight fifth positions, except for an unfortunate spill the second night. Bodes well for the future of ABT.
|The larks in the Wedding pas d'action, photo @ Andrea Mohin|
The biggest revelation choreographically is the wedding grand pas de deux. Here the choreography turns into stuff I've never seen before. It features a corps de ballet made up of feathery "larks" and the major theme (maybe the most beautiful of the night) has Harlequin repeatedly carrying Colombine in a "flying" lark lift over a bird's nest formation from the corps. It is stunning in its abstract beauty. Harlequin's solo for this pas de deux should be very familiar for those who know the Balanchine's version -- basically lots of petit batterie and beats followed by sudden fast turns a la seconde that of course acted as a big applause machine. It's basically identical to the solo that is at 6:56 in the video below. (I should add that Harlequin's solo variations in the ballet are so similar between Petipa and Balanchine as to be almost identical.) Colombine's variation is beautiful -- gentle backwards hops on pointe accompanied by exquisite bird fluttering arm and hand gestures. It's very different from the famous Serenade Balanchine made for Patricia McBride which ends with her blowing a kiss to the audience (see below). Petipa's version is less audience facing, more abstract. The final very formal ballroom quadrille was jarring -- it seemed less commedia dell'arte than Imperial Russia.
As to the actual production, Alexei Ratmansky has become (in)famous for how much rehearsal time and commitment he demands for his projects. But whatever he does, he gets results, because the ABT corps that can look so sloppy in Giselle and La Bayadere truly dance as one in his productions. Their arms are in the same positions. They are musically in sync. Their legs are raised to the same height. In other words, they actually dance like a world class ballet company. Ratmansky has eased his insistence about dancing in the style of the Imperial Ballet -- this time, passé/relevé are allowed to go high, all the way up the calf. Arabesques can sneak a few degrees above 90. Pirouettes no longer have to be done with the leg so close to the ankle. These allowances for modern technique and aesthetics don't take away from his achievement -- the cohesion he's able to get out of the company is something to be treasured.
|Boylston and Whiteside, photo @ Andrea Mohin|
Gillian Murphy was also more dramatically engaged than I've seen in a long time -- her shrewish Pierrette provided many of the evening's laughs and wow at her hops on pointe. Forster was an appropriately pathetic Pierrot, although his role is maybe 95% mime.
|Forster and Murphy at curtain calls|
|Cirio, Lane, Ratmansky, Abrera, Hallberg, from Sarah's IG|
|From Hallberg's Instagram|
Is Harlequinade on the level of Sleeping Beauty or La Bayadere? No, but it doesn't make the reconstruction any less valuable. Since Petipa's death there's been a heavy emphasis on reviving his huge, grand spectacles. It's instructive to see Petipa's smaller, more intimate efforts (the ballet is very short -- about an hour and a half of dancing). A century from now it would be a shame if all that was left of Balanchine was, say, his leotard ballets, and it was totally forgotten that in 1965 he had created his own "reconstruction" of Petipa's Harlequinade.