How often to you see the audience stop the show and make it start over?
That's what happened tonight when the theatrical smoke in In the Upper Room went bonkers and billowed out into the audience. The Mezzanine section revolted and began clapping and hollering to stop the performance. The music stopped. The curtain came down. A lady's voice came over the PA apologizing for the technical difficulties – not for gassing the audience – but for "technical difficulties" and a few minutes later the performance started again. Pretty cool, indeed. Pretty hot performance, too.
Well, the Tharp Bombers are back. Tonight Nicole Graniero and Skylar Brandt brought back those ballistic pointes that Luciana Paris, Yuriko Kajiya, Laura Hidalgo, and Maria Riccetto made famous. An absolutely fab job. Nicole and Skylar knew the steps and were joined at the hip every step of the way. Their male counterparts, Eric Tamm and Joseph Gorak, went toe to toe with the ladies in precision and energy.
A highlight though was seeing Herman Cornejo and Sarah Lane claim ownership of the lead PdDs with such pronounced authority. The partnering, hazardous as it is, came off without a hitch . They are heavenly handsome together and possess so many of the same lyrical qualities and clean footwork. It has also become a trusting partnership. The greatness is there to grow. Hopefully, they will get more chances and more meaningful chances to cultivate that greatness.
Herman, Eric Tamm, and Joe Gorak executed some superb ensemble work. A couple of times while dancing with Herman, Gorak got caught "thinking" at the end of a phrase and held it too long which threatened to stove Herman's momentum. As he was dancing around the stage with Herman, Gorak had a "Is this for real?" look on his face. Awestruck. Well, who wouldn't be. Just don't mess up Herman's timing.
The main Stomper ladies, Luciana Paris and Simone Messmer, had all the requisite sass and weight in their movement. Devon Teuscher as the third Stomper lady and Katherine Williams as the Stomper turned Bomber lady have a ways to go to find the curves and edges in the Tharp style. The Stomper guys, Cory Stearns, Jared Matthews and Roddy Doble, were nicely synchronized but Cory and Jared came off as too balletic with their weights high and light instead of being into the ground. Stearns totally missed the seat lift toward the end. He simply didn't have the strength to lift little Luciana Paris into the air. This doesn't bode well for his lifts in Act II of Giselle which are coming up in 2012. These ongoing upper body strength problems in some of ABT's men are so unnecessary and addressable.
Tonight's program opened with Black Tuesday which in some ways felt more authentic than earlier in the week. Simone Messmer's Boulevard of Broken Dreams solo conveyed the heartbreak of broken dreams whereas Misty Copeland's interpretation on Tuesday, while beautifully danced, lacked the character's disappointment or angst.
Herman Cornejo was pure genius in Brother, Can You Spare a Dime. "Half a million boots went slogging through Hell, and I was the kid with the drum!" brought Herman's knees marching high to his chest with his head raised toward the sky desperate for recognition. The desperation and struggle permeated his posture. At Wednesday's performance, Daniil Simkin's desperation didn't register in the body although the dancing was magnificent from a technical standpoint.
The standout on Wednesday was Gemma Bond as the smallest, most grimy Dickensian creature you could imagine who stole the show with her solo in I Went Hunting and the Big Bad Wolf was Dead. You could see her on the dusty streets of any big city during The Depression picking pockets and scheming her way through daily survival. Nicole Graniero was outstanding in the role in tonight's cast as well. It was terrific to see these two ladies step out for some well deserved solo work.
Also on Wednesday, Sean Stewart and Julio Bragado-Young in their duet to Underneath the Arches neatly conveyed two downtrodden chaps trying to make the best of a bad time in their lives. All they had left in their lives was their own manufactured joy. Stewart exemplifies the Paul Taylor dancer and is one of the best dance chameleons in the company when it comes to manuevering back and forth between classical and modern repertory.
The other piece on tonight's program was Volpi's Private Light which just gets worse with each viewing. While it's true that failure is a large component of innovation, the companies who live and die by organic innovation know that in the innovation process you want "to fail early, fail fast, and fail cheap" as Proctor & Gamble's CEO once said. You don't drag it out and keep spending money while trying to persuade people how wonderful your crappy product is. This piece by Volpi should never have made it to ABT's main stage.
Tonight's Norma Kamali First Position Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon the Bombers for resurrecting the spirit of Tharp's masterpiece: