After a less-than-scintillating series of performances earlier in the week, American Ballet Theatre hit its stride this weekend, when interesting programming and stellar performances combined to show the company at its best.
Saturday afternoon, Cynthia Gregory danced a perfect "Raymonda" in ABT's mishmash of divertissements from the full-length ballet of that name. She infused her formidable technique with an appealing warmth and turned her difficult variations into a frolic. Although he performed his solo cleanly, Alexander Godunov's step-step-leap way of dancing and grunt-grunt-heave way of partnering continue to make him a stylistic stranger to a company that sees itself as more Kirov than Bolshoi.
Yesterday afternoon, Cynthia Harvey (ably partnered by Ross Stretton) made an extraordinarily promising debut in the same ballet. "Raymonda" was created for a mature ballerina and Harvey is a bit young for the role, particularly the voluptuous second solo, but she was lyrical and giving in the pas de deux and danced her solos with strength and style.
In the season's first performance of Balanchine's "La Sonnambula," Chrisa Keramidas looked more womanly, Victor Barbee less self-conscious than last year, but the ballet still misses being the neo-Gothic horror story it should be. Johan Renvall's charming, rubbery Harlequin stole the show.
A new cast in Choo San Goh's "Configurations" changed the balance of that ballet. Kevin McKenzie met the challenge of stepping into Baryshnikov's shoes, dancing the difficult solos smoothly. Martine Van Hamel is larger than Marianna Tcherkassky in both body and projection and never fails to make her presence felt. When Tcherkassky dances the leading role in "Configurations," the ballet is mostly Baryshnikov's; with Van Hamel, it belongs to both dancers.
Cheryl Yeager and Peter Fonseca were suitably buoyant in the pas de deux from "Flower Festival at Genzano" and in the "Jardin Anime'" divertissement (a substitution for Paul Taylor's "Airs") Susan Jaffe and Christine Spizzo sparkled in their mini-ballerina roles.