Far, far from where I sit, American Ballet Theatre is back at City Center?and Tobi Tobias, whose blog ?Seeing Things? covers New York ballet like nobody?s business, is providing her usual thoroughgoing analysis. Writing about two ABT premieres, she?s pulled to an eternally vexing question:

?Should the subject of dance come up outside the tiny circle of certified aficionados, ?Have you seen?? or ?What did you think of?? is not likely to be followed by ?Theme and Variations,? ? Pillar of Fire,? or ?Les Sylphides,? though the Balanchine, the Tudor, and the Fokine are being showcased during American Ballet Theatre?s three-week autumn season at City Center. No, the ?news? consists of Christopher Wheeldon?s remake for the company of his VIII (about King Henry and the first two of his six wives, created for the Hamburg Ballet in 2001) and Pretty Good Year, commissioned from Trey McIntyre. Each in its own way is a decent effort, but surely unlikely to survive five years, let alone 57, 62, or 95. And what gets reviewed? First and foremost, the new. See below.?

She?s evenhanded about the McIntyre, an overrated choreographer in my book:

?Pretty Good Year, set to excerpts from a Dvor?k trio for piano, violin, and cello, lives up to McIntyre?s reputation for a certain competence . . . The ballet?s opening section creates a good-humored atmosphere, one full of genuine sweetness, with the dancers going through their paces like children at play, all bounce and verve. Even this early on, though, the busyness of the choreography?a step for every note, it would seem; lifts that are too coyly devised; an almost complete absence of stillness?threatens to exhaust the spectator . . .

And rather less than impassioned about the Wheeldon:

?As a whole, VIII has the air not of a dance or dance-drama but of a pageant.?

What really stirs her is the promise of ?Les Sylphides? and ?La Spectre de la Rose,? and she pledges to cover both next Monday. A good read and a lot cheaper than a plane ticket . . .

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