Stars of American Ballet on tour

Written by:
Lewis Whittington
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 Stars of American Ballet touched down in Philadelphia October 18-19, a co-presentation of the Annenberg Center/NextMove. The ‘Stars’ tour conceived by New York City Ballet dancer Daniel Ulbricht and with fellow ballet dancers from the company and special guests.  Ulbricht programs a wide range of vintage and contemporary ballet that showcases the versatility of NYCB dancers.

In the Oct. 19 performance, Ulbricht kicked things with partner Kristen Segin in George Balanchine’s ‘Tarantella’ set to music by Louis Gottschalk. A bit underpowered in the front half, they soon ignighted  this spirited folkloric duet full of quicksilver and flirty jumps and turns that make it one of Balanchine’s most flashy balletic gems.

Next was the dramatic atmosphere of Christopher Wheeldon’s ‘Liturgy’ scored to music by Arvo Part,and is one of the choreographer’s masterpiece duets. Teresa Reichlen stands downstage and her partner Ask la Cour several feet behind. Their bodies statuesque and in fluid unison slow motion, meanwhile, even at a distance, their chemistry immediate as they come together their bodies an entwined sculpture that keeps evolving as Reichilen slinks to deep spidery plie on pointe. Their stoic deportment nonetheless conveys unresolved drama. Is there a floating story to this? One can only guess, meanwhile, these dancers are spellbinding.

Balanchine established NYCB and came to define Russian-American contemporary ballet in America. But before Balanchine emigrated to the US he made his name with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and created his groundbreaking ballet ’Apollo’ scored by Igor Stravinsky. It was a stunner in 1928 and is just as stunning now.  The ballet’s central pas de deux  was danced by Sterling Hyltin as Terpsichore, goddess of dance and Adrian Danchig-Waring as Apollo. Hyltin’s musicality, exacting adagio pointe work, and regal characterization is hypnotic. Danchig-Waring bringing such clarity exacting technical and interpretive artistry that make his Apollo both earthy and Olympian. 

At the other end of the ballet spectrum is ‘Irresistible’  choreographed by ballroom circuit virtuoso couple Denys Drozdyuk and Antonina Skobina dancing to Michael Jackson’s hit Smooth Criminal. Their sexy leg jousting, mambo pulsations and sizzling salsa footwork burning the floor all the way.

Ulbricht closed out the first half of the show with ‘Tatum Pole Boogie’ his own choreography scored to music by jazz greatArt Tatum. Ulbricht jaunty jetes and breezy brisses on top of witty tap variants ala Gene Kelly, dancing across the floor and inside Tatum’s percussive piano rhythms.

Reichlen and la Cour were back for Balanchine’s Diamonds (from Jewels) pas de deux and as beautiful as they were together, their performance struck as a bit rote in this performance. ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ choreographed by American Ballet Theater artist in resident choreographer Alexei Ratmansky set to music by Modest Mussorgsky from his famous symphonic tone poem. Hyltin and Danchig-Waring dressed in silky gold dance togs, make the most of Ratmansky’s uninspired choreography, that looks more like a mid-draft studio session. Still, this couple makes the most of what is between the sketchy choreographic lines. 

Picking up the pace was the concert closer ‘Tres Hombres’ with Denys Drozdyuk, Daniel Ulbricht and Joseph Gatti (Boston Ballet, Corella Ballet) all credited as choreographers’ for some fireworks on steroids fueled by music by tango composer Astor Piazzolla. This trio fused  flamenco footwork, and tornadic unison turns, not to mention some show-off NYCB dance acrobatics that left this audience panting for more.

for upcoming tour dates | www.starsofamericanballet.com

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