When the Mecca Shriners got kicked out of Carnegie Hall because their meetings generated too much cigar smoke, they built a new temple on 55th Street which today is the New York City Center. The building was completed in 1923, just a few years before Black Tuesday, and was lost by the Shriners following the stock market crash of 1929 when they could not longer afford the taxes. Toward the end of The Great Depression, the City of New York decided to turn the temple into a performing arts facility.
The crescent emblem of the Mecca Shriners has long carried the motto, “Robur et Furor” which means "strength and fury" and also includes a five-pointed star.
Perhaps without intending to be so, ABT's final performance today in City Center had to have been some kind of nod to the Shriners because there was a hell of a lot of strength & fury, smoke, and even a cigar. And there were stars – stars from one end of the stage to the other, across the back, and of course all over the ceiling of this extraordinary and breathtakingly beautiful theater.
Where modern architecture has become known for its engineering marvels, this theater is a prayer of craftsmanship and artwork. You can see and feel the pride of the artisans and craftsmen whose hands created the designs and moldings inside the theater. You can see and feel the pride of the art restorers who Q-tipped the arabesque ceiling and wood carvings along the walls back to their exquisite beauty. New York City Center is truly a Temple for Dance, which we have, in part, because of misfortune dealt by the bad times of The Depression.
Sunday's matinee performance opened with Ratmansky's Seven Sonatas performed by Julie Kent, Xiomara Reyes, Yuriko Kajiya, Alexandre Hammoudi, Herman Cornejo, and Gennadi Saveliev. Although Hammoudi does not have the technical gifts of David Hallberg, he had a more natural rapport with Julie. He's a handsome guy, although we don't see him smile enough. He was fairly charming as he went from handsome guy pose to totally clueless when Julie disappeared from the scene. Julie danced beautifully in this ballet which illuminates the exquisite lines of her legs and arms and encourages her playfulness. Saveliev had more energy than earlier in the week and delivered an enthusiastic duet with Kajiya. She was just lovely, but looked too young for Saveliev and too young for the group as a whole. Haglund prefers her as part of the alternate cast. Cornejo and Reyes were so spontaneous in their relationship on stage and enjoyed such high energy that Haglund has decided to see an extra one of their Nutcrackers at BAM. There are no princes who look better in white tights than Cornejo.
Seven Sonatas has grown more meaningful and valuable with each season it has been performed. The addition of Blaine Hoven and Maria Riccetto to the alternate cast has added new strength to it. Their PdD on Saturday night was the most beautiful that Haglund has ever seen either of them dance. There was a softness in Blaine's great strength that complimented Maria's strength in emotion. And wow, did they ever look comfortable dancing with each other. The splendid alternate cast on Saturday night was a tribute to the North Carolina School of the Arts which contributed to the development of four of the six dancers including Hoven, Riccetto, Joseph Phillips, and Jared Matthews. The luminous Christine Shevchenko and stunning Sarah Lane rounded out the cast.
Haglund hopes that Seven Sonatas remains with ABT as a proprietary piece. While Ratmansky may have a financial incentive to have his ballets danced by as many companies as possible, ABT has a need to develop exclusive and unique repertory which will draw audiences to see work they cannot see elsewhere that is danced by artists for whom it was made.
The second piece on the program was Paul Taylor's Black Tuesday. Once again, ABT delivered a fantastic interpretation with especially strong performances from Craig Salstein as the cigar-chomping chap in "Are you making any money" with Misty Copeland, Zhong-Jing Fang, and Elina Miettinen. Sean Stewart in "Underneath the Arches" with Julio Bragado-Young made us yearn to see him featured more in major ballets. While he seems to be cast a lot in modern choreography - not a complaint - he is a very fine classical dancer who we need to see more frequently. Gemma Bond gave a huge, endearing performance as the finger-gun shooting waif in (I went hunting) and the Big Bad Wolf was Dead.
Finally, the season came to a close with one fine ass kicking performance of In the Upper Room led by Mr. Kick Ass Sascha Radetsky. Sascha, Blaine Hoven, Patrick Ogle, Gillian Murphy, Kristi Boone, Misty Copeland, and Luciana Voltolini stomped themselves to the point where those guys in the white coats should have come in, wrapped them all up securely, and taken them away for a little rest. An unbelievably high energy performance today, and the theatrical fog behaved itself. Seeing Blaine finally cut loose and unleash such power today was pretty thrilling. And Patrick Ogle! No problem keeping up with Radetsky and Hoven. But he needs to get his face up more. His body and weight were down fabulously, but his face was, too.
The bombers were excellent today as well. Gennadi Saveliev found the energy of a 25 year old and was picking up his legs and feet like we haven't seen in a while. Craig Salstein nearly spun his a la seconde turns into orbit. He and Arron Scott are ready for Stomphood, but they were awesome bombers. Paloma Herrera as the lead bomber lady was in her element with the Tharp off center partnering and had a spirited engagement with Saveliev in the PdDs. The bomber twins, Maria Riccetto and Isabella Boylston, had more unity than earlier in the week although these dancers are not an especially good match up.
The fall season MVD Pump Bump Award (winged Adidas $306) goes to Herman Cornejo and Sascha Radetsky who led the company this week with their expected, but never taken for granted, high style and energy.