Sir Frederick Ashton paid little mind to the preservation of his ballets, but thanks to the photographic memory of onetime corps dancer Christopher Newton and a hefty investment by American Ballet Theatre, Sylvia, Ashton’s three-act vehicle choreographed in 1952 for Margot Fonteyn, rises again, opening with a set as heavenly as the gods it quarters. Léo Delibes’s honey-like score saturates the scene as wafts of fog tumble from the wings and light shimmers against silver fountains and golden constellations. Herman Cornejo stands impressively frozen atop a pedestal as Eros, the god of love.
In the title role on opening night, Gillian Murphy enters as a huntress serving under Diana, Greek goddess of chastity, but as the ballet unfolds she evokes a clever, sensual prisoner and finally a blushing bride. Throughout her transformations, Murphy displays consistent command and exhibits as much strength in her warrior-like fist pumps as in her many fouetté sequences.
Maxim Beloserkovsky’s breathtaking line fails to mask his vapid presence as the shepherd hero Aminta. His presumed deaths (yes, there are more than one) lack significance, and his resurrections prove anticlimactic in the wake of Murphy’s dynamic duets with Orion, the evil hunter. Marcelo Gomes as the purple-skirted, tin-capped, alcoholic Orion offers welcome respite from the restraint of his Arcadian counterparts. While Orion holds Sylvia captive in his island cave, his cronies shower her with jewels, but even Gomes’s magnetism and solid partnering cannot win Sylvia’s devotion.
The stylized choreography and musical shifts within Orion’s lair convey an outdated concept of exoticism. The dancers cartwheel, rattle tambourines, flex their hands and feet, and wriggle like charmed snakes—not quite stereotypes, but blurry symbols of cultures outside Ashton’s whitewashed impression of ancient Greece.
In the end, the gods unite Sylvia and Aminta despite audience affinity for Orion. The ensuing celebration features two sprightly goats, played by Sarah Lane and Carlos Lopez, and a colorful mass of peasants, muses, gods, and goddesses. This revival of Sylvia reveals not a masterpiece, but a glowing relic of late Ashton and Fonteyn.
LightCurve Dance And Mixed Media
LightCurve’s delirious, site-specific Seeking Fantastic at a Broken Pace moves through three rooms. The acts read as stages of life—birth and infancy, busy-making middle years, and an analytical later phase. Or perhaps they reflect the evolution of an artist’s career, shifting from the jubilation of free expression through creating for industry’s sake to embittered social comment. Bryon Carr’s choreography caroms from infantile spazziness to delightfully refined Cunningham style. He furnishes the set with what looks like a plastic store’s curbside rubbish, plus some projections. Bubble wrap and Mylar underscore his critique of pervasive materialism, delivered cabaret-style at a piano. Meghan Schardt portrays a baby intoxicated by a sudden lack of supervision, and Janelle Abbott a hyper cheerleader who blurts “fantastic!” at random: two superb, elastic dancers in this giddy hallucination brought to life and fortified with lucid technique. Susan Yung