REVIEW by Willard Manus

LOS ANGELES--The ABT's touring production of LE CORSAIRE checked into the Music Center this past summer and set off some July Fourth-like fireworks, thanks to bravura performances by such principal dancers as Nina Ananiashvli, Julio Bocca, Angel Corella, Jose Manuel Carreno, Gillian Murphy and Joaquin De Luz. On other days, such other ABT luminaries as Marcelo Gomes, Ethan Stiefel and Herman Cornejo substituted, with equally spectacular results, judging from the rave reviews and sold-out box office on all four dates.

Based on Marius Petipa's 19th century choreography, the ABT's production is a much-altered and -revised affair. Konstantin Sergeyev redid LE CORSAIRE for the Kirov in the 60s and his work
was later reconfigured for the ABT by director Anna-Marie Holmes. Considering that the ballet also has music by five different composers and calls for a huge cast, you'd think that it would be something of a mess, especially in light of its kitschy, outdated, politically incorrect story about pirates, Muslims, harems, eunuchs and beautiful slave girls yearning for love and freedom.

Yet LE CORSAIRE was made glorious by the sheer force of its spectacular dancing, which exhibited a variety of styles and techniques. Ananiashvli exuded classical purity, grace and nobility as Medora, the young Greek girl. Boca (as a pirate), Corella (slave) and Carreno (bazaar-owner) opted for Baryshnikov-like leaps and kicks, eliciting roars of awe and approval from the audience. Murphy cut loose with ferociously fast footwork which was matched--and even topped at times--by De luz.

In short, what we had was an exhibition of showpiece dancing-- which is to ballet what the home-run derby is to baseball. Forget story, drama, suspense--the game itself. All that counted was the solo work, the competition between the principal dancers: who could fly the furthest, stay on pointe the longest, win the biggest cheers.

It didn't make for a memorable production, but it did make for great dancing. Ananlashvli was magnificent, but she was overshadowed by the sheer bravura and muscularity of the ballet's four male principals, who put the ball in the seats time and time again.

ABT's artistic director Kevin McKenzie (a high-flying dancer in his time) oversaw the production, which was conducted spiritedly by by David LaMarche. The gaudy sets and costumes were by the Bolshoi's Irina Tibilova, the lighting design by Mary Jo Dondlinger.

For tickets and tour information call Ticketmaster or visit