|Front drop for Golden Cockerel, taken by moi|
Ratmansky's Golden Cockerel opened at ABT last night. Ratmansky's ballet is "inspired" by Mikhail Fokine's ballet for the Ballet Russes which starred Tamara Karsavina and Fokine himself (pictured below). Ratmansky first staged Cockerel in 2012 for the Royal Danish Ballet but supposedly added more dance for the ABT version. Richard Hudson's colorful sets and costumes are loosely based on the original designs by Natalia Goncharova. The auditorium was fairly full but I think audience reaction was mixed at best and muted at worst. There was an angry heckler at the end of the ballet, who kept shouting "EVIL," seemingly impervious to the fact that the whole ballet was, in fact, a satire of Russian rulers.
|Skylar Brandt as Golden Cockerel, photo @ Fabrizio Ferri|
|Mikhail Fokine as the Astrologer|
The good is that Ratmansky inspires some ABT dancers to "think different," as Steve Jobs would say. Or rather he demands that they go outside their comfort zone. Former Joffrey Ballet dancer Gary Chryst was hysterical at the Tsar -- simple, foolish, vain. Veronika Part in other ballets can really put on a masterclass in Russian Diva Mannerisms 101 but here she did a delightful self-parody of that persona -- the Queen is a siren and seductress, but one who can't help but giggle at her own behavior. Cory Stearns as the wily Astrologer was a revelation -- almost unrecognizable in a huge beard, robe, and wizard hat, but absolutely eating up the stage. Jeffrey Cirio and Joseph Gorak probably have the most actual dancing to do but again they trade in their prince-like personas for a vividly drawn portrayals of two lazy, spoiled sons. Also fantastic was Martine van Hamel as the Tsar's Housekeeper, who still has to tuck the Tsar into bed at night. The ABT corps were also inspired by Ratmansky to do their best -- the Warriors in particular were great, flashing their cardboard swords. Oddly the usually sparkling Skylar Brandt failed to make much of an impression -- I guess her role is too constricted and one-dimensional, as is her choreography.
|Veronika Part, photo @ Andrea Mohin|
As a side note I found this Youtube video of the original Ballet Russes production. It seems like the choreography for the Golden Cockerel was originally much more feral:
|A photo from the 4T's SAB workshop, photo @ Paul Kolnik|
But that's not the real reason why the workshops are such a joy to attend. The performances were filled with love. Love from the beaming parents, who could be heard either loudly cheering their children or nervously counting the steps of a sequence ("1, 2, 3, oh yes she got it! 1, 2, 3, uh oh .. well not too bad ..." ). Love from NYCB company dancers, some of whom were clearly there to support their friends in SAB. Love from ballet lovers everywhere. You saw Allegra Kent, hair still tied neatly in a bun chatting happily about the performance. A very pregnant Chelsea Clinton took the day off from the campaign trail -- on this day, she was just another balletomane. Most of all, the love the kids show for dance is evident and that love made the performances sparkle with joy. SAB is a premiere dancing school, but not everyone will advance to a major professional career. But that's okay. They love dancing, and we loved watching them dance.
|Danses Concertantes, photo @ Paul Kolnik|
What's great is how the soloists in both the afternoon and evening performances distinguished themselves by personality and by placing different accents on the same steps. They're already acting like unique dancers, and not just uber-correct students. Only the Sanguinic soloists remained the same. Ethan Fuller's Melancholic showed off his core strength and ballon. Nathan Compiano in the evening put more emphasis on the arm and hand movements of this complicated solo. The Phlegmatic solo in both performances were astonishing and so very different -- Kennard Henson was powerful and even a bit menacing, while Christopher d'Ariano, his handsome face a mysterious mask, used the suppleness of his torso and arms to great effect. Both of them were able to capture that off-center, contorted posture like professionals. It was also impressive to see how the girls of the Melancholic variation were able to power through those famously aggressive kicks in diagonal. Courtney Nitting of Sanguinic reminded me a little of Tiler Peck with her solid sense of balance and nonchalant security, and Gilbert Bolden III was able to lift Nitting in a complete circle around the stage, something I've seen NYCB dancers struggle with. The Choleric girls were very different as well -- Justine Flores more compact and with a bolder attack, Christina Clark leggy and sinewy. It's wonderful that Schorer allows such individuality while so carefully coaching all the dancers about the essence of the piece.
These kids really "got" 4T's, they "got" Balanchine, and now as they embark on their professional careers we wish them the best of luck. They deserve it.