I elected to see this show, billed as the Fall Family Matinee, because it paired the young apprentices and members of the ABT Studio Company with the dancers of American Ballet Theatre. The Studio Company puts on its own shows and they are generally of very high caliber but there’s something to be gained from seeing both groups in the same performance. You get to see a sampling of what the future holds and compare it to the current roster. This show was put together to appeal to families with kids and there were plenty of them in the house. The intermission was set up as sort of a balletic Halloween for kids. Most of the children were in dance costumes and the mezzanine was set up with stations where they could meet the dancers, have photos taken, buy the usual merchandise and even, believe it or not, visit the Shoe Petting Zoo. Who knew that children were subject to shoe fetishes? The meet and greet was a hit and less chaotic than might have been expected given how many children were involved.

Scene from Lovette's <i>Le Jeune</i> © Marty Sohl
Scene from Lovette's Le Jeune
© Marty Sohl

The Studio Company and the apprentices opened with Lauren Lovette’s Le Jeune, set to music by Eric Whitacre. It is an attractive but not memorable piece of choreography. Mainly, it serves as a reminder that ballet is and always has been about beauty. The dancers were all very well trained and gorgeous. The JKO school’s curriculum is producing great dancers with a unified sense of style. In previous years I’ve seen bona fide future stars such as Zimmi Coker, now a notable member of the corps de ballet, in the junior company’s shows but there was no dancer of quite that level here. The two most impressive youngsters were Léa Fleytoux and Melvin Lawovi. Fleytoux, an apprentice, was lyrical and moved with very nice clarity. She should have a solid professional career. Lawovi is more of a wild card, and potentially has a stronger upside. Notably, he is not a flashy dancer. His jumps aren’t that high and he’s not a strong turner – something that is de rigeur in today’s major dance companies. On the other hand, he moves with a soft beauty that is reminiscent of David Hallberg. His legs are long and mesmerizing. It will be interesting to see what happens with him over the next couple of years.

Sarah Lane in Ratmansky's <i>The Nutcracker</i> pas de deux © Gene Schiavone
Sarah Lane in Ratmansky's The Nutcracker pas de deux
© Gene Schiavone
The middle of the program was filled by Alexei Ratmansky’s Nutcracker pas de deux, danced by Sarah Lane and Aran Bell. Ratmansky’s pas de deux is a sweet dance of youthful romance as opposed to Petipa’s somewhat cold and formulaic bit of pageantry. This pairing was a perfect example of the present and future state of the company. Lane is a principal at her peak while Bell is a young corps de ballet dancer who has recently been given opportunities with principal roles. They made a convincing pair for all the years difference between them. There were noticeable hitches in their partnering, small hand fumbles, suggesting that they needed more rehearsal. Fortunately, their tender moments outweighed any technical shortcomings. Their solos were much better, especially Bell’s. He looks every inch the prince and is pretty much guaranteed a promotion to soloist sooner rather than later. With only three male principals right now, there’s plenty of room at the top. He’ll be in the mix. Seeing this reminded me of what a grievous loss it is that ABT is no longer presenting its Nutcracker in New York.

Calvin Royal III, Thomas Forster and Arron Scott in Robbins' <i>Fancy Free</i> © Rosalie O’Connor
Calvin Royal III, Thomas Forster and Arron Scott in Robbins' Fancy Free
© Rosalie O’Connor
Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free closed out the show with a workmanlike performance from the whole cast. Arron Scott was rough and tumble with macho swagger. Thomas Forster was a winning naïf who keeps getting duped into paying for all the beers. Calvin Royal III danced with jazzy self-assurance. Luciana Paris, as the first love interest of the sailors was again definitive. She always delivers a faultless performance in this role. Isabella Boylston danced a very nice pas de deux with Forster in the bar after the other two sailors ran off after Paris. The dance-off was nicely done. Scott was fun in his galop while Forster charmed in the waltz. Royal had the best grasp of Robbins’ loose-limbed Caribbean danzon that I’ve seen recently. It was syncopated and full of rubato. Royal is a strong candidate for promotion to the currently thin principal ranks. 

ABT’s short fall season at Lincoln Center is at an end and I’m sorry that I didn’t get to see more shows. 

***11