Home Art & Culture Review: How Deep Is Your Love? A Ratmansky ballet dives into

Review: How Deep Is Your Love? A Ratmansky ballet dives into

by YAR

“Of Love and Rage,” Alexei Ratmansky’s narrative ballet based on an ancient Greek romance novel, is having a “Sleeping Beauty” moment. The play premiered in California in March 2020, just before the pandemic shutdown, when much of the world was forced into a stillness that, in a way, felt like a long, deep sleep.

But on Monday it was as if the spell had been lifted when this ballet, ambitious and daring with luscious, full-bodied dance, had its New York premiere with the American Ballet Theatre. In doing so, he also woke up the company. Last week, Ballet Theatre’s first performances in residence at the Metropolitan Opera House since 2019, dancers found themselves trapped in a musty production of “Don Quixote.” With “Of Love and Rage,” they were transformed with a renewed sense of purpose and promise.

Although the ballet is inspired by “Callirhoe”, one of the first Greek prose works of Cariton of Aphrodisias (written between the 1st century BC. great dance that does not overlook the delicacy of the position, be it a relaxed doll in a arm raised or the low lunge of a sprinter about to take off. There’s a lot of story, maybe too much, this isn’t the time to skip the show’s synopsis, but Ratmansky is relying on the dance to carry it forward, not a fake acting and too choreographed.

“Of Love and Rage” is rarely static. when there it is pampering, it develops as a rich extension of the body. When the dance is smooth and graceful, it extends beyond the tips of the fingers. And when it’s fiercely masculine, bodies ignite and burn on stage like a turbulent, raging fire. With pirates, prisoners, and war, this ballet is an adventure in flux, like a ballet from “The Island of Peril” or, really, any classic swashbuckling movie, but underneath it all, “Of Love and Rage ” is a meditation on love, loss and forgiveness.

Set primarily to Philip Feeney’s musical arrangement by composer Aram Khachaturian of “Gayané,” a luminous, animated ballet score, “Of Love and Rage” reflects Ratmansky’s fascination with Greek artistry in choreographic formations and positions, as well as in its light Greek-style sets and costumes by Jean-Marc Puissant, who transported the ballet from Syracuse, an ancient Greek city in southern Italy, to Babylon. In the background is glimpsed Aphrodite, the goddess of love, whose head occasionally hangs over the back of the stage.

In Ratmansky’s portrayal of the ancient world, jealousy leads to an impulsive and devastating lapse in judgment when a young bride is murdered by her husband. At least that’s how she first appears. The story, with its parade of characters, can get a bit complicated. (Say yes to reading the book, not just to better follow the plot, but because, aside from the violence, it’s kind of a wacky romp.)

At its core, it is the story of Callirhoe (Catherine Hurlin), a woman so beautiful that people assume she is the goddess Aphrodite, and Chaereas (Aran Bell). They meet, they get married. But other men love Callirhoe too; At first, three Suitors hatch a plan to separate the couple. It works, and the effects are devastating.

The young lovers have matching gold bracelets; a replica is used to make it look like Callirhoe is tricking Chaereas. Boiling Chaereas bursts into Callirhoe’s chambers; when they carry her out, her body is lifeless. (In the novel, he kicks her; Ratmansky and her playwright, Guillaume Gallienne, have omitted that detail.)

Chaereas is horrified and Callirhoe is buried, although she is not actually dead; she wakes up just as a pirate and her men are robbing her tomb. She is taken away with her loot, and this is where the ballet suddenly turns into a big chase: Chaereas, with Polycharmus (Andrii Ishchuk), his loyal friend, set off in search of Callirhoe, who has been sold to Dionysus ( Daniel Camargo), nobleman and widower. This is Callirhoe’s fate, over and over again: a man looks at her and boom! he is in love

After she discovers that she is pregnant, by Chaereas, Callirhoe decides to marry Dionysius to keep the baby safe. Meanwhile, while searching for Callirhoe, Chaereas and Polycharmus are arrested and taken to the palace by Mithridates (Jarod Curley, a corps de ballet member who replaces an injured Cory Stearns), who also falls in love with Callirhoe and fights. with Dionysus. The King of Babylon is called to rule. But then who shows up? You want, of course.

If Bell, with his youthful enthusiasm, and Curley, sharp and authoritative, are good, Camargo is great: authoritative, heroic, kind, sad with a destiny that almost deserves a sequel. But Hurlin as Callirhoe is divine, showing us how she grows from a beautiful girl to a woman who sees her affliction: the kind of beauty that makes men, all men, want to possess her like a shiny object. .

Will the other Callirhoes measure up? (There are several models.) The simple serenity of Hurlin’s face, framed by cascading curls, is mesmerizing, as is the bold breadth of her singular and expressive dance. She jumps with the agility of a cat into Bell’s arms; the breadth of her statuesque, supple upper body, especially in the turns where her arms spread like flowers, allows for no awkward moments or overly embellished theatrics.

She it is Callirhoe: Beautiful, yes, but also wry, smart, and exasperated at the way her life is falling apart before her eyes. Hurlin brings naturalness to an unnatural role.

After winning a war, Chaereas, the battle scene between him and Dionysus, set to Khachaturian’s bracing “Sabre Dance,” is a thriller of choreographic sound and texture, finds its way back to her. His remorse is almost heartbreaking. When they renew their bond, it begins tentatively, but Ratmansky gradually relives moments of his initial enthusiastic choreography when his love was pure and simple. Twisting their wrists, their gleaming bracelets flashing together then apart, their bond is palpable. And the strangest thing happens to Hurlin’s face and body: the tension fades and her wet glow is restored.

“Of Love and Rage” shows that while envy can infect a relationship, it doesn’t always destroy it. Ratmansky, who was born in Russia and grew up in Kyiv, has been devastated by the war in Ukraine. In an interview with The New York Times, he said that ballet is “definitely not me right now.”

Yet in “Of Love and Rage,” created before the horror began, Ratmansky seems to be examining the current world as well. It all boils down to one word in the title of the ballet: Rage. Its toxicity, its omnipresence and anger, is another epidemic of our time. But in Ratmansky’s adventure it is not rage that triumphs. Forgiveness and redemption yes. And love.

of love and rage

Through Saturday at the Metropolitan Opera House, abt.org.

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