American Ballet Theatre opened its season and two-week engagement last evening at the Kennedy Center with few hints of the financial and artistic troubles that nearly toppled this esteemed and talented company.
Company directors Jane Hermann and Oliver Smith, who took over the reins from Mikhail Baryshnikov in September 1989, wisely delved into ABT's vast and eclectic repertoire and pulled out works that have served the company well in the past.
Opening the program was George Balanchine's "Ballet Imperial," a single-act ballet that pays homage to the St. Petersburg Ballet style that the choreographer knew so well. ABT's rendition of this classic work was plodding at best. Both principal dancers Susan Jaffe and Amanda McKerrow turned in uninspiring and inconsistent performances. Despite the inherent glitter and grandeur of the dance, both women missed steps, lost positions and generally were wooden in their demeanor.