Like an avalanche, "La Bayade re" gathered force during American Ballet Theatre's week at the Kennedy Center. A polite performance of the Shades Scene opened the season last Tuesday. A passionate performance was on the company's final program yesterday evening. The dancing of Martine van Hamel and Patrick Bissell, in the leading roles, was on a scale in which gestures generated space and steps consumed vistas.
Van Hamel and Bissell were not flawless. She dropped a few stitches in the intricate footwork of a solo and her leg suddenly suffered a brief arrest during an adagio. Bissell took a bad spill in a final set of air-devouring turns. Such accidents would have ruined a rational performance, but yesterday they were of no matter. Passion is what "La Bayade re" is about, and it was passion--plus dancing of awesome dimension--that van Hamel and Bissell gave us.
Jerome Robbins' "Other Dances" was the only work not previously seen this season on yesterday's two programs, but there was a whole gallery of cast changes in the other pieces. At the matinee, Cheryl Yeager and Peter Fonseca danced ABT's superfast version of "Theme and Variations" as if they were the stars of a spelling bee. Yeager relished the rhythmic variety of the rich step vocabulary, although the speed of her attack twice briefly upset her balance. There were no lapses in Fonseca's smooth footwork. But this ballet is about courtship, not about steps, and that is an aspect which these two have yet to add.
Nancy Raffa and Johan Renvall rescued "Fille Mal Garde'e" from coyness. Renvall, arguably ABT's most perfect classicist, danced true to form. Raffa, endowed with a noble carriage, has not shown her best footwork this season. Also in the afternoon, Danilo Radojevic sported his wicked streak in a caricature of Mikhail Baryshnikov, his predecessor in the leading role of "Push Comes to Shove."
Kim Highton, known for her nostalgic "walk-through" part in Antony Tudor's "The Leaves Are Fading," danced in "Boure'e Fantasque" yesterday evening and evoked the same wistful "Leaves" quality that has lingered in the memories of fans since her last appearance here quite some time ago. In the "Other Dances" revival, Kevin McKenzie toyed subtly with the duet's allusions but should have mustered more energy for the dancing. Cynthia Gregory, splendidly strong, was heavy-handed with the drama.