On March 12th, 2020, mandated by the state, The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion closed their doors due to Covid-19. Four Hundred and forty- seven days later, on June 2, 2021, at 7:30pm, they reopened live ballet with an outside stage located on the plaza level. Finally, all smiles bursting through her mask, President and CEO Rachel S. Moore, pulled off an exact model of state social distancing restrictions. Everyone wore masks while entering, talking to each other and being seated. Then, four plastic chairs were arranged in a square formation, each square separated throughout the entire space with a bottle of water set next to each chair. Due to presenter Gloria Kaufman’s generosity, the intimate separated crowd appreciated Jazz to Contemporary tunes from Jens Lindemann, Matt Catingub, Kevin Axt, and Christian Euman. It was nice to hear live music again and to congregate. We all want to feel somewhat normal again which includes the prospect of enjoying live performance art. The audience members seemed very happy to be there and one felt like a group of Dorothy Chandler inner circle of guests. The evening temperature was chilly, which everyone seemed to appropriately dress for, much like people do for the Hollywood Bowl. After over a year without live ballet the American Ballet Theatre ultimately opened this fortunate Dance at Dusk series with some dancers struggling early in the program but the night finished sensationally strong.
Los Angeles is grateful that American Ballet Theater comes to perform. It is a highlight of the dance season and audiences love that this New York based Company makes its way West. The Artistic Director of ABT Kevin McKenzie presented a nice array of classical and contemporary ballet for the opening night lineup. The first classical sections were a little shaky with some slight hiccups, but that is why we go see live work, for the surprises. The classic Don Quixote 3rd Act pas de deux opened the show. Originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and restaged by Alexander Gorsky, it was performed by Christine Shevchenko in the role of Kitri and Joo Won Ahn as Basilio. The music by Ludwig Minkus was prerecorded and unfortunately, Ms. Shevchenko struggled to stay on the music several times and at a few key moments of her variation. She also had trouble staying in character as her smile clicked on and off. Joo Won Ahn is appealing on stage, charming and maintained his performance quality, however he was having some difficulty keeping Ms. Shevchenko on her leg during turns. They both then pulled it together at the coda for fun virtuoso fouettés, leaps and tricks that always bolster applause.
The next couple performed the 2nd Act pas de deux from Swan Lake. Devon Teuscher interpreted Odette – White Swan and Cory Stearns portrayed Prince Siegfried. Again, another traditional ballet, choreography after Lev Ivanov and music by Peter llyitch Tchaikovsky, Mr. Stearns convincingly played a romantic prince and skillfully kept up with Ms. Teuscher’s interpretation of the music. I appreciated her engagement in the role and she has a lovely sinuous quality, however it ignores often-key finishing moments, which put her off the music. I knew what she was trying to achieve but it just got lost in translation.
Romeo and Juliet followed, played by Hee Seo and Thomas Forster. Kenneth MacMillan choreographed this timeless balcony scene with music by Sergei Prokofiev. Hee Seo is a visually perfect Juliet. She exudes fragility and innocence and was desperately trying to connect with her partner. I would have liked to have seen just a little more in return from her partner Mr. Forster. The lifts were all done well with a few areas of hesitance, but all in all, a light enjoyable duet.
As the night drew upon us, the stars of the evening appeared. Katherine Williams and Blaine Hoven were a delight in the fourth program piece of A Time There Was. Strong, bold and confident these two stole the show. Their dancing elements were soft & fluid, definitely the seasoned dancers we come to expect with ABT. In this piece, choreographer Gemma Bond picked fun lighthearted music by Benjamin Britten and simple sexy costumes by Sylvie Rood. What can we say; Ms. Bond has an excellent sense of beauty, effortless musicality and an appetizing palate of visual movements.
The full program couldn’t go wrong with the fifth and final jazzy ballet. A strong packaged ending dance from choreographer dynamo Jessica Lang and flirtatious music by icon Tony Bennett, dancers Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell were playful, entertaining and humbly adorable in Let Me Sing Forevermore. A standout Aran Bell really shined and Catherine Hurlin, in jazz shoes, was sassily high-spirited. A fun all smiles cheerfully upbeat performance finale, that left us all in uplifting spirits.
The Lighting Designer for the entire evening was Brad Fields. Overall Mr. Fields’s lighting was simply adequate. I do not know, however, how much time he was allowed or what his limitations were regarding lighting instruments.
Our spirits kept high, while the night really flew by, keeping us wanting for more. A huge thanks to presenter Gloria Kaufman, ABT and all those that are continuing dance shows in Los Angeles. It is such a fantastic realization that we can start to feel safe about viewing a live performance again. The entire series officially opened May 26th, 2021, with tap sensations The Super Villainz: A Tap Dance for the Modern Age. American Ballet Theatre still has a weekend of performances and the series later brings in heavy hitters such as the Paul Taylor Company (June 16-20, 2021) and Alonso King Lines Ballet (July 14-18, 2021) . Dance at Dusk is pretty much sold out, however free on each companies final Sundays, at 7:30pm, the exclusive ABT section will Livestream via web. Hopefully, though, you dance lovers out there will get a chance to view live performance dance soon!
American Ballet Theatre’s performance at The Music Center’s Dance at Dusk will be livestreamed FREE Sunday, June 6, 2021, at 7:30pm. Click HERE for details.
To visit The Music Center website, click HERE.
To visit the American Ballet Theatre website, click HERE.
Written by Alice Alyse for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: American Ballet Theatre – Hee Seo and Thomas Forster in Romeo and Juliet – Photo by Denise Leitner