American Ballet Theatre: French garden, nightclub, locker room and heaven

Twyla Tharp’s “In the Upper Room” is performed by American Ballet Theatre through Sunday.

With the exception of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Seven Sonatas,” all the dances on American Ballet Theatre’s fall season are the work of modern choreographers.  The sole premiere, Demis Volpe’s “Private Light,” is from a young Argentinean who’s been dancing with Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet.

“Private Light” has its charms, including five bare-chested young men enthusiastically kissing five women in pointe shoes, manipulating them, and then showing off their own buff bodies. The overlong piece, performed mostly in shadows, features guitarist Christian Kiss playing nine different pieces on three instruments, while dancers skitter around in gray shorts.

Opening night also included dances by Martha Clarke, Robby Barnett and Felix Blaska (their enigmatic 1979 trio “Garden of Villandry”) and Twyla Tharp. Tharp’s “Sinatra Suite,” a reduction of her “Nine Sinatra Songs,” was given a jerky performance by Luciana Paris and Herman Cornejo.

The evening’s main course, Tharp’s 1986 “In the Upper Room,” is a bath of symphonic sound (by Philip Glass) and movement, on a stage swathed in glowing smoke, for an ensemble of 13 dancers in either sneakers or bright-red pointe shoes (by designer Norma Kamali). Also on view this week are dances by Paul Taylor and Merce Cunningham — but if you’re a fan of Tharp, Kamali and Glass, you won’t want to miss the revival of “Upper Room,” which is nothing short of heavenly. 


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