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This article originally appeared in the Culture section of Bloomberg News on May 19, 2006.

May 19 (Bloomberg) — What do you want to see at the ballet? High flyers and gyroscopic turners? Unforgettable characters embodying larger-than-life fates? Gorgeously honed bodies obeying the rules of classical dance with impeccable form?

American Ballet Theatre will be at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House from May 22 through July 15, with a storybook repertoire and a roster of 17 principal dancers who will virtually guarantee all these thrills. Each of these artists is unique — singularity being essential to stardom.

Gillian Murphy and Michele Wiles represent a distinctly American type of ballerina: frank and forthright. Murphy is a bold dancer with steely technique, a flair for drama and a sense of humor. Wiles, a standout for sheer athletic prowess, is a leggy blond who reminds you of the girl next door.

Julie Kent is the one you fall in love with, a porcelain beauty who infuses even abstract roles with tender feeling. Darker and more fervid portrayals are the province of Alessandra Ferri, an expert at heroines in trouble.

A number of ABT’s principals were trained in their native Russia. Irina Dvorovenko, from Kiev, is an old-school Russian type who revels in displaying her fluid line, ravishing poses and diva glamour. By contrast, her husband, Maxim Beloserkovsky, also from Kiev, is a fastidious, reticent lyric dancer.

Another member of the Russian Diaspora, the Kirov-trained Vladimir Malakhov, is long and lanky, with a troubled air; he makes you think of a haunted poet. Diana Vishneva, on loan from the Kirov Ballet, is the woman for whom no step is too difficult, no style impossible to master.

Latin Stars

An even larger constellation of ABT’s stars grew up speaking Spanish — outside the United States. This group contributes most heavily to ABT’s reputation for having a roster of male virtuosi unequaled anywhere. It also supports the argument that, today, men are stealing the limelight from the ballerinas.

The Cuban Jose Manuel Carreno is the sexiest of these guys, all gallantry and adoration in his partnering, sensuous in his most daring solo feats. Angel Corella, a technical dazzler from Madrid, is engagingly boyish and, as his first name implies, radiant with joy.

Noble Looks

Marcelo Gomes, from Brazil, is proverbially tall, dark and handsome. With those looks and his fine classical technique, he’s perfect in noble-prince roles. His secret ace is his delight in villain and comic parts.

Herman Cornejo, a native of Argentina, isn’t tall or gorgeous enough to be a natural for princely type-casting. Yet he may be the most gifted mover of them all.

Another Cuban, Carlos Acosta, is the “wild man” of the group. His dancing is huge in scale, raw in its daring, barely held in check by the dictates of classicism.

Julio Bocca (about to retire from ABT) and Paloma Herrera, both from Argentina, along with the Cuban Xiomara Reyes, complete the “Latin” contingent. The stellar American virtuoso Ethan Stiefel, recuperating from knee surgery, will be absent this season but back on board in the fall.

At least three dancers at the soloist level are as compelling as the officially designated stars. David Hallberg, the epitome of classicism — he looks like Prince Valiant and dances like a dream — is already cast as if he were a principal. He’ll get the official title he deserves on opening night.

Potential Principals

The Kirov-bred Veronika Part, with her lush dancing, seems destined for the top. She needs only to curb her tendency to laziness on the one hand and willful stylistic exaggeration on the other. Erica Cornejo (like her brother Herman) lacks the ideal physique for classical dancing yet represents its very spirit.

The corps de ballet, 60 strong, abounds in vivid dancers and potential stars. Dance-goers enjoy spotting promising favorites among them. For all that the Metropolitan Opera House is a temple of high art, this indoor sport is irresistible.

As usual, ABT’s spring season will be heavy on the multi-act narrative ballets the public prefers. The novelties here are the company premiere of the Canadian choreographer James Kudelka’s version of “Cinderella” and a revival of Kenneth MacMillan’s turbulent “Manon.”

Kent, celebrating her 20th anniversary with the company, is cast to type as the wistful, tender heroine of the fairytale piece, while Ferri is celebrated for her impassioned Manon.

But these ballets and familiar favorites boast many alternating interpreters. The season offers seven different Swan Queens, six Juliets, and five Giselles, each scrupulously matched with the male partner who’s her Mr. Right.

“Le Corsaire” brings out the virtuosi — men and women alike — in droves, while the company premiere of John Cranko’s “Jeu de Cartes” showcases those with a gift for comedy. In the course of the eight-week run, a given principal dancer will portray an astonishing range of types. Today, the name of the game is versatility.

© 2006 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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