On any given weeknight at the ballet, the typical audience member who plops his tush down in a chair at 7:30 pm has already gone through about 12 hours of crappy day. Maybe it started out with a late train or a fight with the boyfriend or wife. Then eight hours of crappy office work - if he's lucky. It may have rained at lunchtime. His stocks probably declined. He might have arrived home to see that the cat heaved up a hairball on the couch – hours ago. He's hungry but there's no time to sit down and eat before getting to the performance; so, he chews on a bagel while traveling to the theater.
The point is that on any given weeknight at the ballet, the dancer on stage has to start by dragging the audience out of a hole. He has to overcome the effects that 12 hours of crappy day have had on his audience – and he has to do it fast. Few do it as well as Marcelo Gomes. He is like that strong cocktail you want at the end of the day. He's the soothing cucumber compress for the tired eyes. He's the one who will hold up both ends of the conversation so you don't have to struggle for words. He is – r.e.l.i.e.f.
Last evening, Gomes along with Paloma Herrera, David Hallberg, and Gillian Murphy led a high energy cast of some of ABT's most talented dancers in the opening performance of The Bright Stream, Alexei Ratmansky's ballet about a Soviet farm collective that has its stook shaken up when an artist troupe comes to visit. This production requires ensemble work like none other in the repertory. Not only does each artist have to dance spectacularly, he has to make every minute seem spontaneous and he has to contribute energy to everyone else's performances.
Craig Salstein as the Accordion Player was, if anything, operatic in his very funny and marvelously danced pursuit of the schoolgirl, portrayed as a naughty innocent by Maria Riccetto. How are we going to get by a whole year without Maria Riccetto while she's starring in Julio Bocca's company in Uruguay? How is ABT going put on Balanchine's Symphony in C next year without Maria who has some of the fastest, cleanest legs and feet in the company but never looks hurried? Oh heck, maybe she'll fly back as a guest artist.
Misty Copeland as the Milkmaid and Jared Matthews as the Tractor Driver charmingly and fully held the stage during their turns. Alexandre Hammoudi and Joseph Phillips led the Highlanders and Fieldworkers in fabulous folk-inspired corps dances.
But it was the close knit principal cast that most spectacularly pulled off the pranks, jokes, and "drama" and delivered it all with superlative dancing. Hallberg as the Sylph ballet dancer was at his most hilarious when playing off Victor Barbee's Old Dacha Dweller and Martine van Hamel's Dacha Dweller. Her slap of Hallberg's face with her Kitri fan was awfully funny. Gillian Murphy's Ballerina and Paloma Herrera's Zina characters were portrayed warmly and danced eloquently. Marcelo Gomes as Zina's husband, who has a wandering eye and finds some playtime with the Ballerina, was masterfully danced and acted. Duplicity, Gomes style, is always a wrong that feels so good to watch and then forgive.
This cast repeats on Friday night, and there are plenty of tickets available. The only other hometown cast is today's matinee which should be another great performance. See this ballet today or Friday. It's cute, funny, harmless, without violence or drugs, and has very little crime. In fact, it would be a crime to miss it. The orchestra actually sounded pretty good last night, especially the cellist who delivered a gorgeous solo.
The Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon Marcelo Gomes, who is carrying an awfully heavy workload again this season, but we're loving our comrade for it.