WASHINGTON — Washington--"Peter and the Wolf" has long been a delightful way to introduce children to classical music. American Ballet Theatre's production of Michael Smuin's ballet of the same title that opened the company's weeklong engagement at the Kennedy Center Opera House last night cleverly brought the visual to musical exposition.
In addition to this lighthearted ballet, the program featured the area premiere of Ulysses Dove's "Serious Pleasures" and other dances by Jerome Robbins. "Peter and the Wolf," narrated by humorist Art Buchwald, was a fanciful adaptation of the well-known Russian tale. Librettist Larry Gelbart updated the story of Peter, his grandfather, the wolf, the cat, the bird and duck with great humor. Mr. Smuin's choreography provided a compact, linear and easy-to-follow ballet.
Peter, danced with all the enthusiasm and bounce of an 8-year-old by Gil Boggs, charmed the audience with his bounding jumps and spins. When he mimicked the dire warnings of his grandfather (Victor Barbee), his youthful enthusiasm deliciously contrasted his elder's concern.
A great deal of this ballet's charm was framed by the bright scenery designed by Tony Walton and the inventive costumes by Willa Kim.
Although each of the characters had his, her or its own endearing quirks, Kathleen Moore as the duck stole the show with her yellowed flipper feet, striped tights and pink bill.
By the end of the story, the wolf was caught and the children and adults in the audience were beguiled and charmed by the performance.
Jerome Robbins originally created "Other Dances" to Chopin's music for Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov to perform in a gala benefit. However, the work has proven more than just a showcase for company stars. ABT dancers Alessandra Ferri and Julio Bocca received well-deserved bravos for their performance. Beginning with a refined and understated duet, the couple hinted at future accomplishments. When Mr. Bocca began his first solo, he produced leap after leap after jump, ending each phrase with a delightful flourish of his hands.
When Ms. Ferri took the stage, it was both the fluid grace of her arms and her delicate sensitivity of phrasing that was decidedly noticeable.
Ulysses Dove's adult work "Serious Pleasures" brilliantly closed the program. Mr. Dove's work for the company is as slick and cool as stainless steel, and is as terrifying as a switchblade.
The dancers first enter the space full-tilt as if being chased. Their movements are chopped, disjointed, exaggerated, overblown. Arms swoop, legs fully extend, bodies are contorted, and yet a sculptural clarity is still present. The men and women connect physically, but they feel and look remote. Bodies clash and clutch, but never quite connect.
"Serious Pleasures" hints at the style of Mr. Dove's mentor, Merce Cunningham. But this dance is a surreal vision, a startling prophecy and totally adult in nature.