ABT/The Dream/The Seasons
November 1, 2022
The curtain rises on a mystical forest, designed by David Walker and reminiscent of an 18th century, airy lithograph. To the skittering strings of Felix Mendelssohn's score, dancers issue forth in bejeweled, diaphanous gowns in Frederick Ashton's The Dream -- an exquisite adaptation of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream.
Every second of this ballet enchants, particularly with the commanding cast led by a radiant Gillian Murphy (Titania), and David Camargo (Oberon); the comical Tyler Maloney (Bottom); a sensational Herman Cornejo (Puck); and the zany Courtney Shealy (Helena), Claire Davison (Hermia), Duncan Lyle (Demetrius), and Lysander (Roman Zhurbin).
Intent on claiming the Changeling Boy for his entourage, Oberon tangles in a challenge of wills with Titania. Determined to win, Oberon's large arabesques and leaps of masterly domination manifest his rule. Assisted by the mischievous sprite Puck, Oberon commands Puck to create havoc in Titania's Fairyland and set right a pair of matched and mismatched lovers.
For all the merriment, the glory is in the dancing and in the characterizations instilled by Ashton. With a droll hand, Ashton expertly personalizes each role like the pantomimic gestures enlarging the angst, love and confusion knotted between the two pairs of lovers.
Puck's countless runs resemble Hermes in his winged sandals racing from between heaven and earth -- always intent on causing mayhem. Suspended in the air, Puck's feet flutter. His legs connect in a battery of beats that split into effortless whirls and springy arches unsettling everyone with his antics.
In one of literature's great pranks, Puck puts a spell on Titania with a magic flower that causes her to fall in love with the first thing she sees upon awakening.
First Puck alters an actor into a man with an ass's head, then pushes him next to Titania. When her eyes open, Titania falls madly in love with the ass. This conceit produces one of the most touching duets in ballet. She scratches his ear and Bottom paws with point shoes at the earth angling for sweet grass. And, let it be said, Maloney's paint work is impeccable!
The lovely Titania airily pivots into Bottom's arms and just as lovingly, releases her body into Oberon's supportive embrace.
One could easily see The Dream become the Spring season version of winter's Nutcracker. I defy anyone to dislike it.
After the succinctness of The Dream, Alexei Ratamnasky's The Seasons to Alexander Glazunov's voluminous score, looks overstuffed. Ever-inventive, Ratmansky appears to never suffer from "choreographer's block." As a result, the constant influx of choreographic permutations starts to wear.
One longs for cleaner, more delineated lines and steps.
Granted, not unlike Balanchine, Ramansky's choreography challenges the dancers, making them better interpreters. Each season-- winter, spring, summer and fall -- is marked by a specific ambiance, elevating the ensemble of dancers nurtured over the past decade. A grand example of new ballet rooted in the arc of Petipa, The Seasons continues to awe even when it tires.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis