Although this show at the Joyce Theater was billed as the American Ballet Theater Studio Company it also had a significant number of students from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School that is affiliated with ABT. As the JKO School and the Studio Company are intended to feed into ABT it can fairly be looked at as a barometer of what the future looks like for the company. It looks great.  Franco De Vita is retiring as the Artistic Director of the JKO School and he is leaving behind a great legacy. Together with his partner, Raymond Lukens, the JKO School has established an ABT curriculum and teacher training program that builds better teachers and dancers. Its quite a legacy.

Ethan Stiefel’s Knightlife kicked off the night with good natured froth. His piece featured JKO students as knights and maidens. The knights were brave and daring until they met with danger and promptly morphed into unabashed cowards. The lovely maidens came on and cavorted which terrified the knights. The young dancers delivered the right amount of charm without going overboard. Knightlife is just the right thing for students to be dancing: the choreography challenging them within a safe framework. Stiefel may have been cheating by using two tiny tots from the Primary A class to play the baby dragons as they completely shattered my Adorablemeter™.

Xuelan Lu, Elias Baseman and Ilya Kolotov in Bond's <i>Third Wheels</i> © Rosalie O’Connor
Xuelan Lu, Elias Baseman and Ilya Kolotov in Bond's Third Wheels
© Rosalie O’Connor
 Gemma Bond's Third Wheels featured Studio dancers in a lovely piece that referred to the one who is on the outside when three people are present and two of them are a couple. Bond adroitly conveyed this through the action rather than forcing melodrama into the piece. It carried an implied narrative that alternated fun and awkwardness conveyed through subtle gesture that was beautifully danced by Xuelan Lu. With her supple, lyric dancing and surprising strength she will be snapped up quickly by a lucky dance company. Elias Baseman and Ilya Kolotov were similarly buoyant, dancing strongly and moving through the partnering smoothly.

Marco Pelle's Libera!, set to Bruckner’s Ave Maria, strained for significance with religious allusions and effective lighting that occasionally suggested the Florentine Mannerists. For all its drawbacks, it effectively showcased the strength and adroit partnering ability of Breanne Granlund and Satchel Tanner. Two more dancers with a bright future.

JKO’s Raymond Lukens clearly created his Danse Baroque to display the JKO students’ technique. While not especially memorable choreography, the quartet of Maria Clara Coelho, Abigail Granlund, Thomas Harrison and Shaakir Muhammad were very good. Their occasional bouts of nerves came through in tense facial expressions but they were still appealing.

Breanne Granlund and Satchel Tanner in <i>Libera!</i> © Rosalie O’Connor
Breanne Granlund and Satchel Tanner in Libera!
© Rosalie O’Connor
George Williamson’s Murmuration, a full length work set to Dobrinka Tabakova’s sonorous Concerto for Cello and Strings, closed out the show. The Studio dancers looked thoroughly professional in this piece. It was very physical and they all moved as well in unison as they did separately. Zimmi Coker was dynamic and powerful while Sierra Armstrong was elegantly poised. Among the young men, Aran Bell and Carlos Gonzalez were very good.

The JKO students and fledgling professionals of the ABT Studio Company look remarkably polished. They are so well rounded in their training and stage awareness, and display refined and un-mannered technique. Every year, JKO and the Studio Company train dancers who go on to careers with dance companies all over the world. They seem to do everything well and are prepared to take their places on a professional stage. These shows are a great opportunity to see the next generation of dancers at a crucial stage of development. They are learning how to express themselves in front of an audience and test the waters for a career in dance and it’s well worth seeing.

***11