A big noise was made about James Kudelka’s Cruel World when American Ballet Theatre premiered the dance in the spring of 1994. This Canadian choreographer is notable in part for the gloomy issues he tackles: he’s been described as a “kinetic poet of loneliness, isolation, misunderstanding and repression,” and Anna Kisselgoff of the New York Times called him the Harold Pinter of dance. Only 39 years old, he’s the son of a Hungarian immigrant and grew up in a small farming community, entering the National Ballet School of Canada at the age of ten, where a fellow student recalls that Kudelka wore thick glasses and carried a briefcase (one of his dances, performed in kilts, is said to reflect the “oppressive atmosphere of a ballet school”). The dance Kudelka made for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago–Heroes, a strange, militaristic quintet–was no great shakes. But maybe he was having an off month. At any rate his works promise more than the usual lighthearted, light-footed romps of so many ballets. Set to Souvenir de Florence, a Tchaikovsky string sextet, Cruel World appears on ABT’s all-Tchaikovsky mixed-rep program, which also includes the White Swan pas de deux and Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake and George Balanchine’s 1947 Theme and Variations, set to the final movement of Tchaikovsky’s Third Suite for Orchestra, and his 1960 Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, set to music from the Swan Lake supplement. Thursday, September 21, at 7; next Friday and Saturday, September 22 and 23, at 8; and next Sunday, September 24, at 3. ABT performances continue with Romeo and Juliet September 26-October 1. At the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress; $15-$65. Call 902-1500 for tickets, 431-2357 for group sales.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Martha Swope.