Mixed Bill (Programme One) – American Ballet Theatre: Sadler’s Wells, 3 Feb 2011

If only every night at the ballet was as well thought out as this

Ratmansky's 'Seven Sonatas': Aw shucks, ain't it beautiful!

A very impressive Mixed Bill from one of America’s finest companies including no less than two UK premieres. The first of these, from ABT’s resident choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, was granted its world premiere in 2009. The gorgeous ‘Seven Sonatas’, set to exquisite keyboard music by Domenico Scarlatti, is quite the most beautifully put together ballet I’ve seen in recent years. Defiantly classical it was elegant and unhurried but a constant variety of solos, duets and ensemble pieces ensured it never dulled. The ladies simple white dresses floated ethereally and, despite the occasional wobble from the dancers, the choreography achieved that rare symbiosis of perfectly complementing the music. A joy to watch.

   Twyla Tharp’s Junk Duet’ is a different kettle of rusted fish. An unorthodox pas de deux taken from the longer work ‘Known by Heart’, it’s danced to the thump-clack music of Donald Knaack. It could have been a disaster but the junkyard sounds have a rhythmic and melodic vigour, matched by the excellent leads Maria Riccetto and Marcelo Gomes, that made it rather enjoyable.

   The mood switched again to the nostalgia of Balanchine’s 1972 ‘Duo Concertant’. This featured the weakest performances of the night; Misty Copeland was a little too tentative and Alexandre Hammoudi was left chasing his own feet at times but they danced with enough tenderness together to allow the melancholy of Balanchine’s work to shine through.

   The finale was Benjamin Millepied’s Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once’, the second UK premiere of the evening. Millepied is still dancing with ABT and this shows prominently in the choreography he created in 2009 for this piece; it looks great fun to dance. Set for a large ensemble, and dressed by Karen Young in slicing black costumes, their bodies form countless shifting shapes and patterns that are constantly mapping out across the floor like a hyperactive Cubist hoe-down. David Lang’s music, after a ponderous start, is soon bouncing along merrily and the whole thing is a feast for restless eyes. Great fun and a great ending for an entertaining night, US-style.

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