On March 5-8, 2020, The Segerstrom Center for the Arts, presented American Ballet Theatre’s ‘Of Love and Rage’ choreographed by St. Petersburg born, Russian-American choreographer, Alexei Ratmansky . This well seasoned artist brought a taste of Petipa to ABT in this new epic story of love, jeopardy and power.  It was written by the Greek, Chariton of Aphrodisias in the First Century BC and known to be the oldest surviving novel.

Ratmansky’s choice of Catherine Hurlin, in the prima position, was a wise one. Her portrayal as Calirhoe (KaLeer-ō-way) was impressive. Her delicacy and lyricism; her endurance and strength, her dramatic choices, always subtle; her loves and indecisions were done with such a beautiful internal understanding that it made her portrayal of the Hellenic beauty somehow contemporary and recognizable.

ABT's "Of Love and Rage" - Catherine Hulin as Callirhoe - Photo @Gene Schiavone

ABT’s “Of Love and Rage” – Catherine Hulin as Callirhoe – Photo @Gene Schiavone

Aran Bell, the young lover, while beautiful physically, and technically quite proficient, never once seemed to connect nor communicate the feelings of the woeful Chaereas (Ky-ā-reah), Calirhoe’s lover and husband. His lack of connection appeared more like the terror of his debut performance.  On the other hand, Tyler Maloney who played Plycharmus, Chaereas’ sidekick and advisor, showed much élan and intelligence over his trusty friend.

Callirhoe, whose misadventures challenged her future after being stolen away from her lover and family by Pirates. She is bought as a slave by Dionysius, who is crestfallen after the loss of his wife. He finds the delicate beauty too much to resist and falls madly in love with her.  His powerful and sensual presence, exquisitely played by James Whiteside whose effortless leaps, turns and attentive partnering made for a striking pas de deux between the two, and seals his devotion to her. With a final resolution, Dionysius’ mature, emotional denouement and gift is both stunning and moving, against the backdrop of war, conflict and victory.

ABT's "Of Love and Rage" - Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell in Act I - Photo @Gene Schiavone

ABT’s “Of Love and Rage” – Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell in Act I – Photo @Gene Schiavone

Among the male characters, each stood out, even though a bit confusing, particularly between Dionysius, the moody warrior Mithridates (Cory Stearns), and the compelling King of Babylon (Roman Zhurbin), all very strong male figures, all wearing regal caftans with their own desires for Calirhoe made it necessary to check who and why. Obviously this was made clearer if one read the program prior to the start of the ballet, since the complex weaving of the characters and action moved swiftly to drive the tale.

ABT's "Of Love and Rage" - Chorus Ladies in Act I - Photo @Gene Schiavone

ABT’s “Of Love and Rage” – Chorus Ladies in Act I – Photo @Gene Schiavone

Throughout this challenging work, the corps, so beautifully rehearsed, and so technically skilled, rivaled many a dance company and their soloists. They interpreted the sumptuous music of Aram Khatchaturian’s beautiful “Gayane” in a kind of Greek Chorus to his “Ayshe’s Awakening and Dance.’ It lulled us into a euphoria of visions of mythical past. It then went on to the driving juxtaposition of the irregular beats of the Tabla, and the driving pulsating music of the “Sabre Dance”, most recognized to the audience.   The movements, juxtaposed between Russian Character dances and the classicism of ballet, created thrilling moments as we began to discover the families and factions as they divided before our eyes.  The clever integration of couples, trios, and group corps work, the angles, circles and levels were masterfully configured by Ratmansky.

ABT's "Of Love and Roses" - Catherine Hurlin (center) as Callirhoe - Photo @Gene Schiavone

ABT’s “Of Love and Roses” – Catherine Hurlin (center) as Callirhoe – Photo @Gene Schiavone

The costumes in brilliant peacock and mauves, rich velvets and silks with gold trim, deep earth tone linens, royal blues were designed by the brilliant Jean-Marc Puissant who also designed the minimalistic classic sets.

It is clear, with this sumptuous presentation, that this was being created to become a classic in the repertoire of this distinguished company so brilliantly run by its Artistic Director, Kevin McKenzie.

ABT can, without any doubt, truly boast being one of the paragon American ballet companies by reputation and execution.

Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle, March 10, 2020.

To visit the American Ballet Theatre website, click here.

Featured image: Act II of ABT’s “Of Love and Rage” – Photo @Gene Schiavone