Sunday, March 19, 2006

Le Corsaire (American Ballet Theatre)

American Ballet Theatre’s ‘LE CORSAIRE’ fine, but not wonderful

American Ballet Theatre is one of the finest dance companies in the country. Over the past four years they have become fixtures in the Ballet Series at Playhouse Square Center. Their ‘GISELLE’ was breathtaking. ‘WITHIN YOU WITHOUT YOU: A TRIBUTE TO GEORGE HARRISON’ and ‘PILLAR OF FIRE’ were what ballet should be. “SWAN LAKE’ was exciting beyond description.

With that said, I was less than enraptured by “LE CORSAIRE, THE PIRATE.,’ ABT’s most recent Playhouse Square offering. Maybe it was due to the light-weight story line, maybe it was the overly stylized concept, maybe it was the bows after every solo which broke the flow of the story, maybe it was the confusing costuming which found tutus mixed with pirate and Arabic costumes, maybe it was because the male lead (on opening night) did not have the charisma and sensuality required for the swashbuckling image of a pirate. Whatever, ‘LE CORSAIRE,’ though perfectly acceptable, and if presented by a company other than ABT might have been declared as “good,” simply wasn’t up to ABT standards.

On the plus side, Irina Dvorovenko was lovely as Medora, the young Greek woman with whom Conrad, the pirate, falls in love. Her toe-work was impressive as was her ability to make the role her own. Equally rapturous and proficient was Stella Abrera as Medor’s friend. Jose Manuel Carreno, though he was overly dramatic to the point of upstaging the lead dancers as he wandered the stage while others danced and exaggerated his gestures while standing still, was magnificent when he danced. He literally threw himself around the stage while doing his circle turns and captured the audience with his fluid body control. Also impressive was Gennadi Saveliev as Lankendem, the owner of the bazaar.

On the other hand, Maxim Berloserkovsky just wasn’t physically commanding as the pirate. Though his second act pas de deux with Dvorovenko, his real-life wife, was captivating, most of his other dancing was simply acceptable. The same can be said for Hector Lopez, as Conrad’s friend and betrayer. Veronika Part, one of the Odalisques, was consistently out-of-time with her partners and had trouble holding freezes.

A wonderful addition to the proceedings was the inclusion of many local young ballerinas who were impressive in their concentration and dancing abilities.

Conductor Ormsby Wilkins’ full orchestra was excellent.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: Though quite good, American Ballet Theatre’s ‘LE CORSAIRE, THE PIRATE’ did not capture the local audience as other ABT presentations have done. There was strong applause, but not the leaping and screaming standing ovations the company has received here in the past.