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American Ballet Theatre

'Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes', 'Symphony # 9', 'Rodeo'

by Colleen Boresta

October 20 (m), 2012 -- City Center, New York, NY

At the Saturday, October 20th matinee, American Ballet Theatre performed one new work and two company staples. The new piece is Alexei Ratmansky’s ‘Symphony #9’ and the other works are Mark Morris’ ‘Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes’ and Agnes de Mille’s ‘Rodeo’.

‘Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes’ is a light, playful work set to piano pieces by Virgil Thomson. It is a wonderful piece which allows soloists and corps members to shine. The two standout performers in ‘Drink’ are soloist Yuriko Kajiya and corps member Joseph Gorak. Kajiya dances with lyrical delicacy and shows beautiful use of her hands. Gorak amazes the audience with his great leaps and super soft landings. I hope he becomes a soloist in the near future.

The new work is Alexei Ratmansky’s ‘Symphony #9’ set to a score by Dmitri Shostakovich. There is much to admire in this ballet. Ratmansky has matched his choreography perfectly to the ever-changing moods of Shostakovich’s music. Soloists Craig Salstein and Simone Messmer dance with twinkling good humor. Marcelo Gomes and Polina Semionova’s many pas de deux show off the darker sides of Shostakovich’s notes. Herman Cornejo performs one electrifying virtuoso solo after another. Much of the piece is danced at such a breakneck pace that I thought I was watching New York City Ballet perform a Balanchine ballet. There is so much to see in this work that I really need to watch it several more times.

The most amazing dancing, as already mentioned, comes from Herman Cornejo. He performs more entrechat sixes than I ever seen danced at one time. Unfortunately Cornejo was injured while dancing this role at the Saturday matinee. Jared Matthews finishes Cornejo’s role. Matthews performs a dizzyingly series of turns a la seconde at the conclusion of ‘Symphony #9’.
Cornejo did not take his bow at the end of the ballet. I hope Cornejo will be all right, but I have to say it is the best dancing I have ever seen from Jared Matthews.

The afternoon ends with the perennial favorite, Agnes de Mille’s ‘Rodeo’, danced to a commissioned score by Aaron Copland. De Mille created her cowgirl ballet for the Ballet Russes 70 years ago. ‘Rodeo’ is set on a ranch in the American Southwest. A Cowgirl (Xiomara Reyes), trying to make her way in a man’s world, is in love with the handsome Head Wrangler (Jared Matthews) at the ranch. Her best friend and mentor is the Champion Roper (Sascha Radetsky). The Head Wrangler prefers the beautiful daughter of the ranch’s owner (Kelley Boyd) to the tomboyish Cowgirl. When the Cowgirl changes out of her jeans and into a dress for the Saturday night hoedown, both the Champion Roper and the Head Wrangler show their interest in her. The Cowgirl realizes, however, that the Champion Roper is the man she really loves. And they live happily ever after.

Xiomara Reyes and Sascha Radetsky are adorable as the Cowgirl and the Champion Roper. De Mille has created real flesh and blood characters the audience can root for even 70 years after they were introduced. Radetsky’s tap dancing is wonderful, even though he has to do it without music. Jared Matthews and Kelley Boyd are delightful as the Head Wrangler and the Ranch Owner’s Daughter. My fondest wish is that American Ballet Theatre dances ‘Rodeo’ for 70 more years.

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