On Friday and Saturday night, NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts presented an exciting collaboration between American Ballet Theatre Studio Company and the Royal Ballet School. With two of the world’s most prestigious ballet institutions at its forefront, the evening was a first look at the stars of tomorrow with choreography by the stars of today. The program featured a mixed repertoire presenting works by each individual institution and culminated in a final piece danced by both.
An excerpt from Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Birthday Offering” opened the program. Performed by graduates of the Royal Ballet School, the highlights of the piece — the dancers’ pristine facilities and technique — were unfortunately obscured by underwhelming choreography and distracting costumes. Aside from these pitfalls, the graduates, with their beautiful legs and feet, were very clean and seasoned in their execution of the steps.
The men were impressively strong, pressing their partners into the air with extreme ease. The women were very adept, dancing passages in perfect unison. “Birthday Offering” set the tone for the talent to come.
ABT principal dancer Marcelo Gomes choreographed the next piece, “Kabalevsky Violin Concerto.” The concerto, which musically alludes to Igor Stravinsky, featured two couples at its core. Both couples exhibited exemplary partnering skills and mastery of the choreography. Zimmi Coker, who danced with Luigi Crispino, was the true standout of the piece — and evening — with her natural stage presence. Coker seemed the most comfortable on stage. She grinned widely, locked eyes with audience members and finished steps with a flourish.
The most exciting pieces of the evening were “Concerto Grosso” and “Chromatic Fantasy.” The former showcased an all-male cast of outstanding Royal Ballet School graduates. Helgi Tomasson’s high-energy choreography shed light on the athleticism and endurance of male dancers, breaking ballet stereotypes of femininity and men in tights.
The latter featured a cast of ABT dancers garbed in monochromatic leotards and tights with matching pillbox hats and pointe shoes. The six dancers showcased camaraderie on stage with group partnering, friendly competition and onstage laughter. The piece began with all six dancers in a moonlit huddle center stage and ended with the same formation slowly branching out to different sides of the stage.
The inspiring evening ended with the world premiere of a piece by famed British choreographer Liam Scarlett. Incorporating dancers from both institutions, the unnamed Scarlett piece was a crowd favorite and received a thunderous applause. The piece featured a woodwind-heavy score by Phillip Glass, all-white costumes and dappled lighting reminiscent of a forest clearing. Scarlett’s choreography placed an emphasis on partnering, with a noteworthy couple being — once again — the exquisite Coker and her bright-eyed partner Mattia Santini. The chemistry between Coker and Santini was the most en pointe of the evening.
Both the ABT Studio Company and the Royal Ballet School are known for producing the leading artists of the modern dance world such as Misty Copeland and Herman Cornejo from ABT and Christopher Wheeldon and Steven McRae from the Royal Ballet School. With this exceptional track record, the dancers featured in this weekend’s showcase have a promising future ahead of them.
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