War and Mozart

American Ballet Theatre
“Symphonie Concertante”, “Glow-Stop”, “The Green Table”
City Center
New York, NY
October 25, 2006

by Mary Cargill
copyright 2006 by Mary Cargill

Balanchine’s lucid and shimmering “Symphonie Concertante” to Mozart’s music opened the mixed program—mixed indeed, with two great ballets surrounding a twitchy piece of mush. Veronika Part was injured, so the viola in “Symphonie Concertante” was danced by Paloma Herrera, accompanied by Michele Wiles and Maxim Beloserkovsky in his debut. Herrera and Wiles were better matched than Wiles and Part, but that really meant that both danced like extremely well-trained and dutiful students, with many moments of pure technical beauty but with little connection to the emotional undercurrents of the choreography. Beloserkovsky’s dancing suited this more idealized approach. He danced as if he were a partner in a dream, supporting first one woman, and then the other with a dignified diffidence and purity.

Jorma Elo’s “Glow-Stop” was as incomprehensible and as pretentious as the irritating title. He, too, chose Mozart, but where Balanchine echoed and amplified Mozart’s sophisticated intricacy, Elo just used him as a brand name. His energetic twitchings and chaotic and arbitrary entrances and exits bore no relation to the score, and his anonymous and sullen butt-sprung choreography made even the vibrant and individual Julie Kent, Gillian Murphy, Marcelo Gomes, and Herman Cornejo, along with all the others, look like unrecognizable cogs. There was certainly no Glow about the first half. The second, to a chunk of Philip Glass, was a bit more pleasant, if only because the Glass sounded like music to make a laundry list to, and Elo’s assaults were less damaging.

However, the Elo did highlight the supreme genius of Kurt Jooss’ “The Green Table, which showed that structure and craft, combined with powerful, committed, and imaginative performances, will produce powerful and unforgettable images. David Hallberg’s Death is more nuanced than his performances last year, magnificent as those were. He seemed to react to each victim in a different way, without losing his inhuman implacability. He was triumphant and greedy as he grabbed the young soldiers, yet almost comforting as he took Marian Butler’s sorrow-filled Old Mother.

The other roles were equally fine. Jennifer Alexander’s Young Girl was especially striking in its simplicity. Every thought could be seen, but she wasn’t an individual in the sense of say, Robbins’ soldiers in “Fancy Free”; looking at her we don’t think about the porch on the house she grew up in, we see legions of young women whose lives have been ruined by war. Her classic and timeless beauty and fragile vulnerability make her stylized erotic dance with Death absolutely shocking and heartbreaking.

Carmen Corella’s Woman, too, is, if possible, stronger this year. Every gesture is absolutely clear. Though Jooss clearly shows that they were pointless (we don’t even know which “side” she fought for), her fierce determination to attack the enemy, her defiant pride when facing the firing squad make her sacrifices seem almost honorable. She approached Death almost like a kindred spirit, and Hallberg seemed to greet her as an equal.

Though the prissy pontificating of the stripped-pants diplomats open and close the ballet, they are more ineffectual than absolutely evil, since their useless maneuverings have no effect on the eternal suffering that individuals can inflict on each other.

Front page photo: David Hallberg as Death in "The Green Table." Photo: Marty Sohl.

Volume 4, No. 39
November 6, 2006

copyright ©2006 Mary Cargill



©2006 DanceView