American Ballet Theatre to make its first tour to Australia

American Ballet Theatre will perform in Australia for the first time next year.

The company’s season, from 28 August until 7 September, 2014, announced today in Brisbane by the American Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey L. Bleich, will take place at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane.

This will be the third in QPAC’s International Series, following the Hamburg Ballet season last year and the Bolshoi Ballet’s this year.

Leo Schofield and Ian McRae, co-producers of the series, have also presented the Paris Opera Ballet and the National Ballet of Cuba in Australia in recent years.

ABT’s Australian repertoire represents a snapshot of the company’s 73 year old history, opening with the perennial box office draw of a Swan Lake, in this case the 2000 production by ABT’s artistic director, Kevin McKenzie, (nine performances), followed by a triple bill of Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, Twyla Tharp’s Bach Partita, and Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas (four performances).

ABT has a glamorous roster of principals and guest stars from around the world and let’s hope that many of them will travel to Australia, in particular, David Hallberg. An injury meant he was not able to guest with the Australian Ballet, as planned, last November.

It would be an added bonus if ABT principal, Gillian Murphy, could perform Odette/Odile in Australia. Her recent Swan Lake performances in New York have been highly praised but the dancer now has commitments in both the US and at the Royal New Zealand Ballet so it remains to be seen if her partner, Royal New Zealand Ballet artistic director, Ethan Stiefel, can spare her for the ABT’s Australian season.

While Swan Lake will ensure the financial success of the Australian tour, I’m glad to see the addition of the Robbins, Tharp and Ratmansky triple bill, a program that encapsulates three different decades of ABT’s repertoire.

Fancy Free, a collaboration of Robbins, Leonard Bernstein and Oliver Smith, premiered in New York in 1944.

Starring Robbins himself, Harold Lang and John Kriza as sailors on shore leave in New York, Fancy Free was a huge hit for ABT, later becoming the basis for the musical comedy and movie, On The Town.

Marking the 30th anniversary of its world premiere at the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, Tharp’s Bach Partita is returning to ABT’s repertoire next November.

The company describes the work as “an ambitious, pure-dance ballet…starring six principal dancers and a corps of 30, performed to a pinnacle of solo violin repertoire, Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor, which includes the spiritually powerful Chaconne”.

Seven Sonatas, by ABT artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky, represents ABT’s 21st century repertoire in the touring triple bill.

Danced to Scarlatti keyboard sonatas the work is a showcase for six dancers.

Following its premiere in 2009, the American dance writer, Robert Gottlieb wrote in The New York Observer that Seven Sonatas “isn’t a wham-banger: It has no narrative, and doesn’t demand much virtuoso stuff. It’s a quintessential company piece, deploying six dancers in more or less equal roles, and showing them off to their great advantage….

“The changing moods of the music lead him [Ratmansky] to alternate happy and dark encounters between his couples. There are hesitations, confrontations – whatever is happening is implied rather than stated.

“But that something is happening is never in doubt. Seven Sonatas, with its flowing series of meetings between men and women in an identifiable emotional world, is in the mould of Jerome Robbins’ glorious Dances at a Gathering”.