For the third year in a row, the American Ballet Theatre briefly takes up residency at the Civic Opera House. On this tour, they’re presenting the crowd-pleasing comic spectacle “Le Corsaire” (“The Pirate”), in addition to an evening of pas de deux. “Le Corsaire” is something of a mongrel, with a story by Lord Byron and a score credited to five composers. Anna-Marie Holmes’s choreography, though, has provided ABT with one of the most consistently popular works in its repertoire. Chock full of harem girls, shipwrecks, mysterious bazaars and grand palaces, “Le Corsaire” is mostly an excuse for dazzling dancing, which this company reliably offers. Star performers Julio Bocca and Angel Corella will both dance in Thursday’s opening performance. This year’s tour will also mark the final appearance by the renowned Bocca, who is retiring later this year after twenty years with ABT. Soloist Jesus Pastor will dance the role of Birbanto at the Opera House. Pastor joined the company three years ago, after performing in his native Madrid and London. “It was like a dream come true” when the company asked him to join, Pastor says; as a young dance student, he was very much aware of Baryshnikov’s brilliant work as artistic director. But the company by no means rests on its laurels. Under current director Kevin Mackenzie, Pastor says, ABT strives constantly to find new ways of doing things. Ballet, like opera and classical music, struggles at times with a popular perception that it finds its orientation in the past, more a curatorial art than a source of new ideas. But Pastor insists that ABT’s mission is to “make people believe again” in the possibility of ballet; by consistently striving for new ways of dancing and by subtly altering the vocabulary of the dance, it becomes an art for the present, not just a record of the past. (John Beer)
“Le Corsaire” plays at the Civic Opera House, 20 East Wacker, (312)902-1500, though April 2. $20-$98.