Like other audience members, I bet, I was waiting for the “Sabre Dance.” It came at 9:30 or so, two hours after curtain. We were attending Of Love and Rage, a new ballet, performed by the American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House on Monday night.

The choreographer of this ballet is Alexei Ratmansky, the mighty, and mightily gifted, Russian. He is ABT’s artist-in-residence. Of Love and Rage had its premiere in California two years ago. The music is by Khachaturian, who wrote a great deal of music, but whose enduring hit is that “Sabre Dance.” No. 2, probably, is his waltz—that spooky, haunting, marvelous waltz—from Masquerade.

Masquerade is a play by Lermontov, for which Khachaturian wrote incidental music. The “Sabre Dance” comes from Gayane, one of Khachaturian’s ballets, composed in 1939 or so (and revised several times). His other ballet is Spartacus. The Bolshoi brought it to New York in 2014, and I wrote about it under the heading “Swords, sandals, and slippers.”

Of Love and Rage? Its score is drawn primarily, or exclusively, from Gayane, as I understand it. Thus Khachaturian has a new ballet with an old score—a score that works very well, for the purposes of the new work. That score is colorful, exotic, Orientalist (bad old word). It is sometimes masterly, beguiling, and exciting. It is sometimes bombastic and kitschy. “It is what it is,” goes a modern saying.

Conducting the orchestra was Ormsby Wilkins, the music director of ABT. He has an enviable shock of white hair, reminiscent of another maestro, Christoph von Dohnányi. On Monday night, Wilkins was workmanlike and competent, at a minimum. Often the music-making rose above that to the excellent and inspired. The “Sabre Dance” was probably the shakiest moment of the whole night. It barely held together—but it held.

Khachaturian gives the woodwinds a lot of slinky lines, and the orchestra’s players handled them ably. The sax, coming out of nowhere, has a startling, pleasing effect.

Of Love and Rage—its story—is based on the legend of Callirhoe, a young woman of ancient Greece who is so beautiful, the world goes crazy around her. There are Shakespearean touches in this story (although when I say “Shakespearean,” I am surely being anachronistic).

Callirhoe and her true love, Chaereas, come from rival, warring families. Unlike the Capulets and the Montagues, the families, the fathers, eventually give the okay.

In Othello, Iago makes much mischief with a handkerchief. What a relief when his wife, Emilia, who is also Desdemona’s maid, blurts out the truth. In Of Love and Rage, a mischief-maker makes mischief with a bracelet. More quickly than Emilia, Callirhoe’s maid blurts out the truth.

At one point, Callirhoe is dead (seemingly) and buried—yet she wakes up, so that the drama continues. Remind you of anyone, or ones?

Dancing the role of Callirhoe was Catherine Hurlin, a native New Yorker. Callirhoe must be an astounding, world-shaking beauty. Ms. Hurlin was beautiful in every way conceivable. At the beginning of the story, she was girlish, winsome. As the story progressed, she was womanly, elegant, queenly. Though the story can be silly, Ms. Hurlin never was.

As I have mentioned Shakespeare, I would like to give you an aside: the bad boys in Of Love and Rage can remind you of the Sharks and the Jets (those gangs in West Side Story, the musical based on Romeo and Juliet).

I have some more asides, or footnotes. Two notes in ABT’s program booklet were indicative of our culture as it stands today. The first read, in part,

American Ballet Theatre dedicates today’s performance to the commemoration of Juneteenth: acknowledging the day in 1865 when the last American slaves in Texas found out they were free—more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

A great day, Juneteenth. And the second note? It read, in part,

There is challenging subject matter depicted in Of Love and Rage: slavery, piracy, and the subjugation of women. The story, set in 400 B.C.E. Greece, is particularly poignant in today’s America, as we are still dealing with the same subjects. American Ballet Theatre would like to acknowledge that this narrative and elements of its subject matter may be difficult for some viewers.

Has it come to this? Do people need such a disclaimer, or warning, or apology? Maybe they do. But virtually every work of art has elements that someone, somewhere, will find disturbing—or that we all will. Art is like that. Maybe a certain degree of maturity should be assumed? (Maybe not.)

A final footnote, concerning Alexei Ratmansky. Chances are, he will not be going back to work in Russia for a long time. He is an outspoken opponent of the Russian government’s assault on Ukraine. Such people uphold Russian honor. They did so during the long, murderous decades of the Soviet Union. They are doing so now.

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