Those who say ballet is a dying art form would have had to bite their tongue Tuesday night as the Stars of American Ballet performed to a packed house at the Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts in Richardson. Ballet celebs Daniel Ulbricht, Sascha Radetsky, Robert Fairchild, Jared Angle, Lauren Lovette, Stella Abrera, Rebecca Krohn and Tiler Peck took the stage to loud applause, performing in some of ballet’s most beloved works, including George Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes Pas de Deux and Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free.
The program opened with Balanchine’s saucy Rubies Pas de Deux (excerpted from Jewels) to music by Igor Stravinsky. Balanchine preferred his ballerinas long and slender, but he made an exception with the female lead role in this piece, performed by Lovette. Lovette’s beautiful curves only enhanced the sultry hip twists and shoulder rolls the piece demanded. Her point work was also clean and fouette turns flawless. Ulbricht oozed confidence, but was also a very giving partner.
The second Balanchine piece, Stars and Stripes, was a big crowd pleaser. This ode to America was a nonstop movement marathon that tested both Peck and Fairchild’s stamina. Fairchild commanded our attention with his gravity defying toe touches, double tour en l’airs and quadruple pirouettes. Peck was equally captivating with her rapid chaine turns and playful personality. John Philip Sousa’s patriotic composition added to the uplifting tone of the piece.
Antony Tudor’s The Leaves Are Fading Pas de Deux featured classical lines, clean technique and beautiful partnering between Abrera and Radetsky. Abrera was the epitome of grace with her willowy frame and supple feet. Radetsky was everything you expect in a male lead: strong, supportive and sensual. Then, in Servy Gallardo’s Piazzolla Tango, Ulbricht’s performance was an explosion of athleticism and artistry. It is extremely difficult to execute multiple pirouettes into a front forward roll into a slow slinky walk, but Ulbricht did it with ease.
Christopher Wheeldon’s Liturgy showed just how much ballet has evolved over the last couple of decades. Gone are the tutus and men’s white tights. Gone is the featured female role. In Liturgy Krohn and Angle were equally matched in terms of strength and control. They had to be in order to pull off some of the contortion movements and counter-balance shapes featured in the piece. Liturgy begins with Krohn in the foreground and Angle a couple of steps behind performing a series of hand gestures and upper body rotations to the staccato sounds of composer Arvo Part. As the music changes to a smoother melody the dancers come together in a number of edgy and unexpected partnering skills. One minute Krohn and Angle are locked in an embrace and the next Krohn’s head is inches from the ground in a reverse ponche arabesque.
The second half of the show was dedicated to Robbins’ Fancy Free, with music by Leonard Bernstein. This theatrical ballet follows three sailors on shore leave in New York City and was the inspiration for the movie On The Town with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Robbins’ choreography is very character-driven. Every movement down to the way the dancers lifted their eyebrows was meticulously choreographed. Fairchild depicted the bad boy, frequently swirling his hips and slapping his knees. Radetsky played the sensitive guy, with softer, more balletic movements. Ulbricht was the clown. His movements were extremely athletic and grandiose. They meet two ladies (Peck and Abrera) and take them to club where the sailors battle for their affections with three technically brilliant solos. In the end the ladies walk out and the pals are on the prowl again.
The audience was wowed by these notable professionals performing a diverse, well-thought-out repertoire that really encompassed ballet’s evolution over the last 50 years.
◊ Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com