"Swan Lake" aside, the heart of American Ballet Theatre's repertory is the collection of works by Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille and Antony Tudor that the company acquired in the 1940's. In the recent past, these ballets have been perfunctorily performed, but on Saturday at Kennedy Center's Opera House both Robbins' " Fancy Free" and Tudor's "Jardin Aux Lilas" were revitalized by dancers who are still soloists and members of the corps de ballet.
"Jardin" is often danced as a domestic light tragedy, but at the matinee Leslie Browne and George de la Pena led a small cast that charged the ballet with passion and urgency. If there have been more technically polished performances of "Fancy Free," few could have been more exuberant than Saturday evening's, when Joseph Carman, Ronald Perry and Robert La Fosse danced the three sailor buddies on the prowl and Michaela Hughes and Elaine Kudo were the objects of their affection.
Virtuoso pas de deux from 19th --century ballets are also ABT repertory staples and serve to showcase stars and stars-to-be. Saturday evening, Kristine Elliott and Johan Renvall were well-matched in the pas de deux from "La Fille Mal Gardee." Elliott, who sometimes sacrifices scale for percision, gave a performance of ballerina caliber with crisp footwork, high smooth jumps, and shipping turns. Renvall had trouble with some finishes in his solo, but more than made up for this with fluid, dazzling leaps and turns in the coda.
Marianna Tcherkassky's wispy, pretty Romanticism was the best thing about the evening's "Les Sylphides"; the others danced as though they were in a chapel rather than a forest. At the matinee, Magali Messac's musicality and elegant warmth were wasted on Perry's lax cavalier in "Theme and Variations."