Reprinted from yesterday's late edition.
Wednesday was American Ballet Theatre's night for showing off the glories of its modern repertoire.
The program at the Kennedy Center ranged from Alvin Ailey's poetic suite, "The River" through the psychological convolutions of Eliot Feld''s "At Midnight" and ended in Glen Tetley's beautiful "Voluntaries," with its suggestion of pain transcended through the sheer pleasure of movement.
"The River," though it got off to a rather unsteady start, has an integrity of tone and concept missing in many of Ailey's other pieces, and stands as a confirmation of his mimetic genius. The weak performances at the beginning were redeemed by Kirk Peterson's appearance as the river's own jazz-age nymph, and the moving duet by Martine van Hamel and Gayle Young in the "Two Cities" passage.
Van Hamel brings a completely personal combination of warmth and dignity to her roles. One can easily imagine her as the mythic Mother: She emits a splendid sense of weight and solidity. By contrast, Gelsey Kirkland, who followed her, dancing with Ivan Nagy in Kenneth MacMillan's "Pavanne," presents such a wispy, ethereal persona that she seems at times hardly to be there at all, or to be there only in spirit with a frail aura of body floating after.
Her dancing is so completely muscial she is the music, and when she arches, you think she'll never stop. Nagy was the consummate romantic partner in this melting construction of lifts and swoops.
Cynthia Gregory gave a compelling portrayal of twisted and tormented passion in "At Midnight," and William Metcalf's performance of the Mahler songs lent another mysterious presence to the haunting images on stage.