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"Onegin" at American Ballet Theatre

Monday evening saw the New York City premiere of American Ballet Theatre a new production (sumptuous sets and costumes by Santo Loquasto) of John Cranko’s “Onegin” with a mostly all-star cast including Diana Vishneva (Tatiana), Marcelo Gomes (Onegin), Natalia Osipova (Olga), and excellent soloist Jared Matthews (Lensky).

“Onegin” is hobbled by muddy music (bits and pieces of Tchaikovsky from anywhere and everywhere but the ballets and his opera of the same name) arranged by Kurt Heinz Stolze.

The plot is fairly simple: girl loves boy, boy rejects girl, girl marries another, boy comes back only to be rejected by girl. Cranko makes you know exactly who the characters are through well placed but boiler-plate hand gestures (we know Tatiana is an intellectual dreamer because she holds a book and that Onegin is a brooder because he puts his hand to his forehead a lot). The actual choreography is generally leaden in spite of many complicated lifts that often work against the dramatic flow. Sometimes the kinetic invention results in real embarrassments –– one ludicrous little push pull push pull pas de trois has Tatiana and Olga tugging at Lensky, begging him to come to his senses. This repeats itself almost verbatim just before the duel scene; I had to half close my eyes to get through this passage. But this is a theatrical mind at work –– there are imaginative uses of scrims, scenes-in-one, and dramatic entrances and exits that make us want to know what’s coming next.

Everyone danced beautifully (although the men’s necks were rather stiff; they could learn a thing or two from the Vishneva and Osipova) considering “Onegin” is such a hollow vehicle. Maybe someday the choreography that ABT presents will be of the same caliber as its dancers.

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Reader Comments (1)

I love your use of 'verbatim' when you refer to repeated movement. Only a dancer would put in in the language of words.

June 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

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