American Ballet Theatre is recognized as one of the great dance companies of the world. Few companies equal ABT for its combination of size, scope and outreach Recognized as a living national treasure since its founding in 1940, ABT annually tours in the United States, performing for more than 600,000 people, and is the only major cultural institution to do so. It has made more than 30 international tours to 42 countries as perhaps the most representative American ballet company and has been sponsored by the State Department of the United Sates on many of these engagements. ABT has commissioned works by all the of the great choreographic geniuses of the 20th century: Mikhail Baryshnikov, George Balanchine, Andy Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp.” Presently, award winner Kevin McKenzie serves as Artistic Director and Rachel S. Moore as Executive Director.
The program began The Brahams-Haydn Variations. The piece features 30 dancers, performing a stunningly graceful and rhythmic ballet with choreography by highly acclaimed choreographer Twyla Tharp. Tharp has been one of the world’s top choreographers since the opening of her own company, Twyla Tharp Dance. Her accolades include one hundred thirty five dances, five Hollywood movies, directed and choreographer three Broadway shows, written two books and received one Tony Award, two Emmy awards and nineteen honorary doctorates. In 2002 her dance musical Movin’ Out, featuring the music of “Movin’ Out”, ran for three years and received the 2003 Tony Award.
The second piece, entitled Company B, was a ballet set to the music of The Andrews Sisters featuring popular songs of the WWII era including Bei Mir Bist du Schon, Pennsylvania Polk, Tico-Tico, Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh! I Can Dream, Can’t I? Joseph, Joseph! Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Campany B), Rum and Coca-Cola and There Will Never Be Another You. The dance premiered at the Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C, by The Houston Ballet in 1991. Company B featured authentic 1940’s costumes by Costume Designer Santo Loquasto and brilliant choreography by most sought after choreographer Paul Taylor. This Julliard graduate has been active for over six decades, bringing his modern style to college campuses and small towns all around the United States through the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation. His company premiered in 1960 and since has performed in 520 cities and 62 countries and were even subject of the Oscar nominated film “Dancemaker”.
The last number, my personal favorite, was Fancy Free. Reminiscent of An American in Paris, the piece, taking place in 1944 New York City, tells the story of three sailors pursuing two young women. The mood, playful, upbeat and fun loving, is created by the music of the great Leonard Bernstein. Creating dance for the fantastic musical numbers was celebrated choreographer, the late Jerome Robbins (1918-1998). This piece, his first choreographic hit, was created just for the American Ballet Theatre and was first performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1944. After the success of Fancy Free, Robbins took the dance world by storm, choreographing dozens of Broadway plays and musicals including “On the Town”, “West Side Story”, “Fiddler on the Roof”, “The Pajama Game” and “Peter Pan”, to name a few, as well as Aaron Copland’s opera “The Tender Land”. Over the past five decades, Robbins has received numerous awards for his remarkable work including the extremely prestigious National Medal of the Arts.
To see the work of so many renowned artists is a rare privilege, and one that should be taken advantage of! I can hardly wait for their production of Swan Lake (Thursday, April 15-Sunday, April 18)
American Ballet Theater presents Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Thursday through Sunday. www.ticketmaster.com ; 800-982-2787.
Civic Opera House
20 North Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60604
Photos: Courtesy of ABT