David H. Koch Theater, New York, NY; October 25, 2014 (m)

Colleen Boresta

American Ballet Theatre’s second fall season at the David Koch Theater also marks the beginning of the company’s 75th anniversary.

The afternoon began with “Raymonda Divertissements”, a short form of Marius Petipa’s 1898 three-act “Raymonda” to a score by Alexander Glazunov that is glorious and extremely danceable. ABT has produced many versions of “Raymonda” over the years – full length and one act – with this one staged by Irina Kolpakova and Kevin McKenzie.

As much as I love the ballet’s choreography and music I was disappointed by much of the dancing. The male pas de quatre danced by Joo Won Ahn, Blaine Hoven, Calvin Royal and Sun Woo Han was somewhat rough around the edges. Several times at least one of the foursome was out of step with the others. Alexandre Hammoudi was a good partner for Gillian Murphy but he struggled throughout his solo, and his leaps at the end of the piece lacked elevation.

The only female dancers deserving special recognition are Devon Teuscher and Gillian Murphy. Teuscher stood out for the speed of her whirling turns and the joy she brought to every movement. As Raymonda, Gillian Murphy was magnificent. Her footwork was dazzling and the way she played with the tempi of the music was enchanting. As befits this role, her manner was that of the grandest ballerina. With time and plenty of practice I only hope this “Raymonda Divertissements” will be less disappointing.

Alexei Ratmansky’s superb “Seven Sonatas” is set to the piano music of Domenico Scarlatti. It is not a narrative ballet as such although the stories of three very different couples shine through the choreography.

The first pas de deux, danced by Stella Abrera and Calvin Royal III, is full of sorrow and yearning. What has happened to this couple? Are they trying to say goodbye? The next duet is playful, performed here by Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo. It hardly seems possible, but Cornejo gets better every time I see him. His exciting leaps and perfect double air turns are combined with a love of dancing. He put a huge smile on my face. Reyes impressed with her quicksilver pointe work and lovely leaps. Her flirtatious ways were a joy to watch. As the final couple, Julie Kent and Joseph Gorak were also a delight. Kent’s dancing is full of poetry and refinement, while Gorak reminds me of a young David Hallberg. He has an elegant line and dances with effortless ease. There is a natural flow to his every movement.

“Seven Sonatas” is a rapturous jewel of a ballet. I wish ABT would perform it more often.

The afternoon ended with “Fancy Free”, which Jerome Robbins created for ABT in 1944. It is as fresh as if it had been made today. The jazzy score by Leonard Bernstein fits Robbins’ choreography seamlessly. It is the tale of three sailors on leave in New York City during World War II. They meet two women and therein lies the problem. The sailors stage a dance-off to see who gets the ladies and who has to spend his leave alone.

As the first sailor Daniil Simkin was a high-flying virtuoso wonder. Eric Tamm was excellent as the dreamy middle sailor. He shares a very natural rapport with Isabella Boylston, who was the second passer-by. I don’t understand why he has not been promoted to soloist. As the rumba dancing third sailor, James Whiteside stood out for his playful sensuality and flawless comic timing. The camaraderie between the three sailors was also quite enjoyable. It was a great way to conclude an afternoon at the ballet.