Le Corsaire

The American Ballet Theatre at Lincoln Center on Wednesday, May 28.

Other than the dancing, Le Corsaire has absolutely nothing to recommend it. The story is ludicrous at best, and worse, the music is hopelessly prosaic, a hodgepodge of paint-by-numbers early Romantic filler. It’s tragic, really, how nineteenth-century ballet companies that established the canon gravitated toward wallpaper music. Were it not for Tchaikovsky (Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker) and Prokofiev (Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet), the repertory music for full-length ballets would consist almost entirely of watery pastiche.

I know that the primary reason to go to the ballet is to see the dancing, but a striking score elevates a work. Without Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous music, for example, Swan Lake wouldn’t be such a paragon, and a lack of such keeps the otherwise exemplary Giselle from achieving real greatness. As for the dopey Le Corsaire, it probably wouldn’t be top-tier even with music by one of the Russian masters, but a score with some substance certainly couldn’t hurt.