Story & Photos by Lieba Nesis
The American Ballet Theatre (ABT) celebrated its 76th year at the Metropolitan Opera House on Monday May 16th for a Spring gala that began at 6:30 PM. Ballet as recounted to me this evening by artistic director of ABT, Kevin McKenzie, “is an expressiveness of an art form, and a primal form of communication,” one of the reasons McKenzie, a former dancer, loves the ballet so ardently. I myself am a former dancer of the Joffrey Ballet and enthusiastically await this “happening” all year. However, this ballet which usually contains vignettes of what we will be viewing during the season, contained longer produced ballets with less elaborate costumes and more intense focus on the male dancers. McKenzie said “he wanted to invite the public to see a whole thing, to put everything in context.” While I enjoyed the snippets he used to provide enticing me with small bits of creativity so that I showed up a couple of days later to view the dances in their entirety, tonight was a smash success judging by the reaction of the crowd. Firstly there were wall-to-wall stars, socialites, businessmen and artists including: Designer Diane Von Furstenberg, artist Anh Duong, Editor Hamish Bowles, writer Amy Fine Collins, mogul Steve and his wife Christine Schwarzman, philanthropists Jean and Martin Shafiroff, CEO Charles Phillips, socialites Fe Fendi and Kalliope Karella, Gillian and Sylvester Miniter, Muffie and Sheryl Aston, Susan-Fales Hill, Star Jones, Co-chairs Mary Snow and Sutton Stracke, designer Prabal Gurung, model Garrett Neff, actresses Jennifer Tilly and Nell Diamond, philanthropist Susan Rockefeller, editor of Teen Vogue Amy Astley, and legendary Producer Tommy Tune. I was nearly blinded by all the beautiful jewels and glamour that overtook the Lincoln Center promenade and yet everyone was there to applaud these spectacular dancers and support the arts. Moreover, McKenzie informed us that Alessandra Ferri was coming back at the age of 53 to perform in Requiem after temporarily retiring in August 2007. This evening was also a celebration of ABT’s Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky who is now in his eighth year at ABT; the centerpiece being a World Premiere set to Leonard Bernstein’s “Serenade after Plato’s Symposium.”
The opening of the Ballet began with “Sylvia” choreographed by Frederick Ashton and starring Gillian Murphy, who is celebrating her 20th anniversary and contained young beautiful dancers. Next we were treated to an excerpt of “Sleeping Beauty” choreographed by Marius Petipa with additional choreography by Alexei Ratmansky with Veronika Part, Hee Seo and Cory Stears dancing the principal roles. These ballets were pleasant and light and followed up with “La Fille mal gardee” choreographed by Frederick Ashton and containing some ribbons and a pas de deux with Isabella Boylston and Jeffrey Cirio. Then we were awed by the physical prowess of 53-year-old Alessandra Ferri who danced in Kenneth MacMillan’s “Requiem” (Pie Jesu) with accompaniment by Soprano Ying Fang and conductor David LaMarche.