Hustle and Glow

ABT offers modern ballet gems in its fall season

Here comes Herman Cornejo with Misty Copeland! Or is that Renata Pavam? Who's that with Cornejo at the back of the stage? Probably Sascha Radetsky, who, with Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes, begins Jorma Elo's world premiere Glow-Stop. As the ballet progresses, I feel like a beginner in an advanced conversation class in Hungarian. I recognize some of the lingo—arabesque, développé, grand jeté—but can't follow the top-speed idiomatic kinks that precede, follow, and accompany them. In the rush of dancing, it's not always easy to pick out individuals. The six women are all dressed alike, as are the six men, in handsome red velvet outfits by Zack Brown, and Brad Fields's lighting is unusually dark for an upbeat work.

Elo is hot these days. In 2006–2007, he'll make new ballets for six companies, and three others will stage existing works. Dancers love working with him. And while a piece like Glow-Stop doesn't bring out the ABT dancers' individuality, it reveals how phenomenal, how dazzling, they are as a tribe.

The Finnish choreographer is prodigiously fluent in his eclectic language. The dancers seem always to be dodging and blocking—not one another, although they do that too, but the organic flow of the steps. Amid the ballet moves, they'll suddenly appear to pull something out of their ears or flick oddly placed switches or smack someone. Their heads, arms, torsos, and hips crank and crane around. They jerk and jitter. William Forsythe is one of the influences Elo acknowledges. That would be Forsythe on amphetamines.

Red velvet day: Gillian Murphy and Sascha Radetsky dance Elo
photo: Gene Shiavone
Red velvet day: Gillian Murphy and Sascha Radetsky dance Elo

Details

American Ballet Theatre
City Center
155 West 55th Street
Through November 5
212-581-1212

The effect of this virtuosically hyperactive dancing—first to the fourth movement of Mozart's Symphony no. 28, then to the second movement of Philip Glass's Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra—is curiously static. Dancers come and go, individually or in flocks; they embark on mini-duets. The moment-to-moment rate of change is rapid, yet Glow-Stop as a whole hangs there, vibrating in space,going nowhere. The audience rises cheering— empathically high on the adrenaline the powerful, quick-witted dancers muster to get through this marathon.

Glow-Stop premiered on a bill with Twyla Tharp's Sinatra Suite and the "Junk" duet from her 2001 Known by Heart. Tharp has her own brand of quirkiness, but her works resonate with humanity. Even as she displays virtuosity, she downplays it, making it either casual or related to an urgent dramatic mission. These two pieces can't match her 1986 masterpiece In the Upper Room (also on view during ABT's season), but they're gems. Jose Manuel Carreño and Luciana Paris slide elegantly and wittily through the silky ballroom moves and moods that accompany recordings of five Sinatra songs. Carreño is charming and relaxed in the final rueful solo, "One for My Baby." Paris, cautious in the beginning, warms to the charged tenderness embodied in Sinatra's voice and Tharp's steps. Maxim Beloserkovsky and Irina Dvorovenko rise to the challenges of Known by Heart. Here dodginess and sudden odd gestures serve anger-laced affection. It's fine to see Beloserkovsky get tough and colloquial and Dvorovenko gradually let a contagious pleasure in the terrific steps replace flirting with the audience.

Kurt Jooss's great The Green Table is as chilling in 2006 as it was in 1932. And as relevant. The smug old men around the conference table unleash war, and Death (superbly played by David Hallberg) stalks the battlefield and the villages—tender with some he mows down, but always implacable. There's no dross in this dance; every gesture is telling. F.A. Cohen's brilliant two-piano score (played live by David LaMarche and Daniel Waite) drills Jooss's vision into your heart. The audience cheers the beautifully mounted performance with something deeper than the usual applause.

 
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