The central couple in Anthony Tudor's lyrical "The Leaves are Fading," which received its first performance of the current American Ballet Theatre season Friday night at the Opera House, is set apart from the others by the very structure of the ballet, and Kristine Elliott and Kevin McKenzie's interpretation made them seem even more separate.

More mature, their relationship was more complex than that of the others. While the other pas de deux were danced in one key -- angry love, dependent love -- Elliott made her character a woman of many moods: sometimes violently passionate, sometimes clinging, sometimes just plain difficult. Although both danced their solos cleanly, bumpy partnering belied the close and trusting nature of their relationship.

Partnership problems continue to beset Cynthia Harvey and Ronald Perry in Balanchine's "Theme and Variations." As Harvey's technique strengthens from performance to performance, Perry seems more relaxed, less taut, less in control.

One partnership that did work Friday evening was Rebecca Wright and Johan Renvall's in the pas de deux from "La Fille Mal Gardee." Wright, making her Washington debut, danced her difficult variation with a charming lightness. Renvall has conquered the technical demons in his solo, soaring and bounding fearlessly about the stage.