>reviewed by ma shaoling

>date: 25 sep 2000
>time: 8pm
>venue: kallang theatre
>rating: ****1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


Once in awhile, our wishes do come true.

Every now and then, some great artistry passes our way.

It is no surprise that when the American Ballet Theatre performed for the first time in Singapore last week (requests for ABT to perform in Singapore have been turned down repeatedly in the past) those three evenings were the most talked-about among dance and non-dance lovers alike.

The American Ballet Theatre, at the zenith of its repute having just celebrated its 60th anniversary gala at the Metropolitan Opera House, presented a programme of mixed repertoire, something that has always been central to the Company's aesthetic. The programme consisted of four pieces, each living up to ABT's reputation, and one that added a new dimension to their dancing.

The first piece was 'Theme and Variations', obviously picked for Balanchine's pure brilliance and its long and familiar history with the Company since its debut in 1947. The opulent setting and courtly classical costumes, though visually resplendent, admittedly accompanied a ballet so comfortably executed that it provided little spectacle. Paloma Herrera, who has been critically acclaimed in roles like La Bayadere and has been compared to the likes of Ashley Tuttle, did not seem to be at her best. Nevertheless, her impeccable balances and perfectly articulated feet still made the pas de deux with Jose Manuel Carreno a joy to watch.

>>'Every now and then, some great artistry passes our way'

To Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 3 for Orchestra, the curtain was raised to a scrim veiling the stage and the soothing sounds of Schubert flooded the stage. 'Meadow', one of ABT's newer pieces by New York-based choreographer Lar Lubovitch, was a truly splendid surprise. Dance companies, like all theatre companies, have the tendency to be categorised. And 'Meadow' beautifully broke that pigeon-holing by showcasing ABT's agility in defining contemporary styles. In addition, the title of the dance would conjure an image of sunshine and lightness whereas the dance's three acts provoked an intensity that was neither.

The first act, 'Night', was performed by 10 dancers dressed in minimalist costumes, feet bare and hair loose, almost fairy-like, and yet fiercely possessed. They rose and fell in sequence, as if caught in a trance superimposed onto graceful lines. Visually stunning in its paced choreography, 'Night' could only be outshone by the second act - 'New Star'. Sandra Brown and Marcelo Gomes presented a breathtaking pas de deux that could only have been the result of a seamless partnership. The Kallang Theatre was silent as the spotlight was shone on Marcelo Gomes' effortless lifts and Sandra Brown's flexibility. It was simply poetry in motion. 'Meadow' drew to an end just as majestically as it had begun. Like magic, Brown was propelled upwards while her eternal gazes up to the sky seemed to drawing salvation from the very air itself.

Hardly giving the audience a chance to breathe, the third ballet 'Le Corsaire' followed on like rapid fire. It was a world-famous legacy from the Fonteyn-Nureyev partnership of the 1960s. Watching them dance on a video-recording when I was young was enough to make me gasp. Then I saw Angel Corella dance in New York - and once again he was dancing before me here in Singapore. I still could not believe how fortunate I was, and apparently I was not the only one. While Corella executed multiple pirouettes and effortless ballon in high split jumps, I heard a Frenchman exclaim "Tour de force!" and an American repeating to her partner, "Jesus Christ! Did you see that?"

Corella is one of those dancers blessed with spot-on technique and square-jawed good looks, and is surely a fast-rising star to look out for. The pas de deux from 'Le Corsaire' is famous for highlighting the virtuosity of the male dancer, often at the expense of the female dancer. Thus, although Julie Kent, one of America's favourite ballerinas, handled the demanding role with her usual mature refinement, it was still her partner that got the 'bravos' from all corners of the theatre. The evening came to an end with 'Don Quixote', suitably chosen to demonstrate the magic of a truly timeless piece. The role of Kitri fit Ukraine dancer Irina Dvorovenko like a glove. She was dazzling not only because of her lively jetés, but also because of her electrifying connection with the audience. While sustaining the demanding fouettés, she flirtatiously played with her red fan. The role of Basil was equally filled out by Maxim Belotserkovsky, who presented the audience with generous tours en l'air. The solos by the two flower girls were also worth mentioning for their competence.

The American Ballet Theatre will continue to charm Shanghai and Hong Kong as it did Singapore. Through its classic story-telling; with its amazing top talents; by living up to its name; and simply, by dancing on.