Choreography: Agnes de Mille
Composer: Aaron Copland
Directed by Christine Sarry
Staged by Anita Paciotti
World Premiere: October 16, 1942, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Metropolitan Opera House; New York, NY
Helgi Tomasson’s new ballet, “On Common Ground”, which debuted at the Opera House on April 4, is a kind of Stravinsky/Balanchine effort without the off-kilter brilliance these two artists always created. The music, Ned Rorem’s String Quartet No. 4, was jarring and dynamically varied, like all “serious” 20th-Century music, but the ebb and flow of the choregraphy was weakened by the sonic punctuation of this score, which offered phrases that stopped and started, like sentences in a story. Not that there was narrative content here.
A Balanchine/Stravinsky collaboration, such as “Agon” had the dual audacity of movement to match the often atonal qualities of Stravinsky’s score. Here, the Rorem music is suitably strident but Tomasson never comes up with anything particularly winning, in terms of spatial dynamics, pas de deux, or steps. Perhaps the stripped-down casting of two main couples and a trio-corps created too many constraints for the choreographer who has seemed particularly good at matching movement to masses of dancers in other pieces. It could have been a budget thing.
Tina LeBlanc and Lorena Feijoo were clearly inspirational to Tomasson, who used the qualities of the pixie-clean LeBlanc and the more extravagant Feijoo to inform the movement choices. Joan Boada and Davit Karapetyan, however, who danced by themselves as well as performing their partnering duties, were asked to be more generically male—bravura jumps, lots of partnering, the usual. Elana Altman, Jennifer Stahl and Rory Hohenstein (who also landed a plum role in “Rodeo”) from the chorus, became a skittering, quick-moving, dynamic trio with individual opportunities to shine.
Night was a first for choreographer Julia Adam, who had just begun to make the transition from performer to choreographer in 2000, and who has received a lot of work on the basis of this one piece. A dreamy trip through the subconscious of the main female dancer (Vanessa Zahorian) with a bed made out of folded-up males, there were nice images, but an overall whimsy that needed some darkening. Good dreams, after all, aren’t the ones we remember.
Rodeo, from 1942, reminds us that Americana is a lost art. De Mille’s piece is almost like a Broadway show (Oklahoma) with a chorus of townfolk always milling or traveling. Kristin Long as the tomboy Cowgirl, was perky and persistant, and the cowboys in question, Aaron Orza and Hohenstein, lead the male contingent. In this world, men always move like hulks. All of this is sweetly met (and surpassed by the famous score by Aaron Copland). This might be the perfect ballet for little boys.