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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 25 FEBRUARY 2007— American Ballet Theatre presented a mixed bill in Paris in every sense of the term. In an attempt to prove that his company can dance everything, artistic director Kevin McKenzie  programmed  showy excerpts from Petipa's great nineteenth century ballets, followed by works created "between the wars" by European choreographers, Anthony Tudor and Kurt Joos, as well as 'typically American productions" from Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp and Mark Morris. Each evening there was a bit of this and a bit of that, and who you saw dance what and when turned out to be a matter of chance. Some spectators were luckier than others.

The programmes at the Chatelet were intended to present a panorama of ABT's repertoire and stars, but what was shown, at least on February 8th, was a demonstration of a lack of lyricism, musicality, and technical ability. Any hopes of seeing stars of the stature of a Jose Manuel Carreno, Angel Corella or Paloma Herrera quickly evaporated soon after the curtain went up on the third act of The Bayadère, which was judged an unmitigated disaster by all who saw it.

American Ballet Theatre in The Bayadère
Photo: Marty Sohl

Who advised Mr. McKenzie to bring that, and to Paris, where the Opéra company possesses what is probably the most beautiful female corps de ballet in the world? Since the death of Rudolf Nureyev in 1993, this particular piece, which is amongst the most spectacular white acts in the history of dance, has virtually become their signature tune. To see it performed in this way, with the soloists running on like schoolgirls to do their little bits, and the 24 Bayadères in unsuitable tutus, their spiky legs labouring with the difficult choreography under the harsh lighting, each one of them devoid of personality and mystery, was a huge disappointment. Drilled rather than coached for the occasion, they also had trouble keeping pace with the Orchestre Pasdeloup, conducted by Charles Barker, which galloped through the score.

Matters were not even partially saved by soloists David Hallberg and Veronica Part who had no idea as to why they were there and did not even give each other a second glance. Whilst Part possessed the technical ability for the role, Hallberg, a dancer who might show promise in a work more suited to his gentle style, lacked the nobility, elegance and power associated with Solor, who is, after all, an Indian warrior.

Mark Morris's choreography really does divide dance goers.  His work, Drink to me only set to studies for piano by Virgil Thomson, was pleasant enough, but after his success with British audiences who seem to adore him, his work fell a little flat here. The piece was composed of solos, duos and trios of dancers who came on and left at random. Most people  missed the point, if there was one, in the first part, but there were many beautiful passages in the second half, which also gave that night's audience the opportunity to see star dancer Herman Cornejo, sailing on and off the stage.

It wasn't until the third work on the programme that a disappointed audience finally saw something more like what it had hoped to see. Jerome Robbins' timeless and indestructible 1944 creation, Fancy Free, music Leonard Bernstein,  finally gave the kind of dancing, both classical and jazz, that one expected from this company. Sascha Radetsky, Marcelo Gomes and Craig Salstein gave a joyful interpretation of the three sailors let loose on the town. With its wonderful décor of an American bar with the skyscrapers of New York in the background, together with nostalgic echoes of Gene Kelly, it helped make the trip to the Chatelet worthwhile.

American Ballet Theatre in Fancy Free
Photo: Marty Sohl

However, it is difficult to give a fair assessment of a company on an evening which was evidently a most unfortunate choice. Warm and praiseworthy comments came from people who had seen, The Green Table, or Dark Elegies, and apparently, a fascinating Spectre de la rose was given by Hermann Cornejo. But reviewers, alas, cannot be present on every evening.

Patricia Boccadoro is dance editor at

Related CK Archives 

Rudolf Nureyev 1938 - 1993: Birthday Tribute

Kirov Ballet's Saison Russe: A Window Into Ballet History

La Bayadère: Backstage at the Paris Opera Ballet

The Paris Opéra Ballet Ten Years After Rudolf Nureyev

A Tribute to Serge Lifar (1905 - 1986)

Vive Les Ballets Russes! Thierry Malandain and Ballet Biarritz

Marie-Agnès Gillot: A New Star at the Paris Opéra Ballet

Agnes Letestu Ballet Star

Stars, but not Étoiles: Agnès Letestu and José Martinez still not elevated to Étoile at Paris Opera Ballet

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