Magazine article Pointe

ABT's Spring Season: When Blockbusters Walked the Earth

Magazine article Pointe

ABT's Spring Season: When Blockbusters Walked the Earth

Article excerpt

ABT's Spring Season: When Blockbusters Walked The Earth

American Ballet Theatre is known for full-length story ballets. Every spring, at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, the company presents conservative renditions of 19th-century classics, plus more recent blockbusters.

Lately, critics have complained that there are not enough excellent narrative ballets-and choreographers capable of making new ones-to justify a season's worth. They may have a point. Of the seven evening-lengths that ABT trotted out this spring, only four rewarded repeat viewing.

It's not the plots that make keepers of Giselle. Swan Lake, Frederick Ashton's 1952 Sylvia and Kenneth MacMillan's 1965 Romeo and Juliet. After all, MacMillan's tawdry Manon and the stuntladen Le Corsaire have plenty going on. It's the transformation of the characters, and the fact these transmutations lend themselves to movement.

In Swan Lake, Odette changes not only from bird to person, but also from fear-some leader of the swans to submissive lover to a stoic resigned to her fate. As a winged creature, the dancer gives visible form to mutable feelings.

It's thrilling to watch a dancer invest herself in steps and then change those steps and that self, as Diana Vishneva, on loan to ABT from the Kirov, did in Swan Lake. Romeo and Juliet and Giselle.

As Giselle, Vishneva didn't just tone down her dancing when the maiden goes mad, she barely moved at all. She stood with her head and arms pointing in one direction and her feet in another, and shuffled sideways. …

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