American Ballet Theatre, City Center, New York

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A sparkling gala managed to convey the range and talent of the company in a programme that was nicely varied. But things really got down to business in the following performance, with the premiere of Glow-Stop by the Finnish-born choreographer Jorma Elo. He is viewed by many as the choreographer de jour and his busy schedule includes six new ballets for various companies besides this, his first for ABT, by the end of the 2007 season. Speed energises his new piece, a ballet for 12 dancers to the fourth movement of Mozart’s Symphony No 28 in C and the second movement of Philip Glass’s Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra.

Dancers in Zack Brown’s crimson mini-dresses for the women and unitards for the men streak across the stage. Choreographically, it’s a slick hybrid of classical ballet and contemporary movement, with the ultra-gymnastic look currently so popular with choreographers. Indubitably Elo has the talent to create a sophisticated dance vocabulary that is a challenge to perform, or so it looked with this piece, which rarely glowed and never stopped in its physical demands.

The dancers, courageous all, included Gillian Murphy and Julie Kent, who stood out, along with Herman Cornejo and Marcello Gomes, all of whom managed to infuse some humanity into an otherwise stainless steel piece. Indeed the company is in top form, as could be seen in a tantalising taste of Balanchine’s Symphonie Concertante (first movement) on opening night and Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Suite,a sophisticated and entangling tug of war between the sexes to five of Sinatra’s best-known songs, superbly danced by Luciana Paris and José Manuel Carreno, and Sarah Lane and Herman Cornejo for the gala. But for sheer power nothing can surpass Kurt Jooss’s “Dance of Death in Eight Scenes” The Green Table, revived to great acclaim last year and presented now with the identical cast but with even more devastating impact. David Halberg, ordinarily the epitome of a danseur noble, has perfected his portrayal of Death as a terrifying automaton.

The rest of the cast in this classic indictment of war is no less superb: Marian Butler as the frail Old Mother and Jennifer Alexander as the Young Girl are particularly poignant, and Patrick Ogle as the Standard Bearer and Jared Matthews’ Young Soldier both shine as examples of heroes sacrificed by war’s demands.

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