Granted the 2020 fall residency at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park (familiarly known as simply Kaatsbaan), American Ballet Theatre dancer Duncan Lyle’s company Duncan Lyle Dance worked with eight dancers over the course of two weeks to produce a performance showcasing five of his ballets. Tucked away in Tivoli, NY and artistically directed by former ABT principal Stella Abrera, Kaatsbaan is renowned in the cultural community as a peaceful haven to nurture the performing arts.
For this program which was performed live in November and available to stream in December, Jonatan Lujan joined seven of Lyle’s ABT colleagues – Anabel Katsnelson, Isadora Loyola, Betsy McBride, Luciana Paris, Patrick Frenette, Carlos Gonzalez, and Javier Rivet – as well as pianist Michael Scales to create the ballet bubble.
The selections from his portfolio make it clear that Lyle is a great storyteller, a choreographer that is in touch with both the human and ethereal characteristics of ballet. The diversity of the works also leads one to believe that he does not desire to be pigeonholed although even from just one viewing I am able to pick up on some tendencies.
The program opens with Twelve Waltzes, a pas de deux danced by Katsnelson and Gonzalez. It starts with a sweeping energy quite reminiscent of Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie followed by a series of solos and duets set to Johannes Brahms’ Sixteen Waltzes, Op. 39. The couple is lovely, both together and as individuals, extending energy to the very ends of their feet and through their fingertips. They appropriately project to a distant audience and withdraw in the more intimate, tender moments. There is stylistic epaulment, port de bras, and footwork from traditional Mazurka intermingled with the waltz which at times feels just right and at others a bit forced. Scales’ fine piano playing takes me back to days in the studio – any viewer who was at one time a ballet student will recognize the music from class. In fact, throughout the piece I find myself day dreaming about how nice it would be to dance it.