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BalletNut

Lincoln Center: Reviews & Impressions

72 posts in this topic

The NYC Opera orchestra, under SFB Music Director Martin West, again distinguised itself (take note, ABT Orchestra, it is possible for horns and brass to play in humid weather).

Funny you mention that! I almost said the same thing to the SFB orchestra after seeing ABT’s Stravinsky program in early June!

Just out of curiosity, did Martin West conduct all three Sylvias? West and Gary Sheldon alternated during the home season, and while Sheldon has almost always been my reliant conductor through the years (he makes the orchestra sound different/better than on alternate nights), West is very accommodating towards the dancers (also mentioned somewhere in program notes). I mention this b/c Act II can be drastically different if the tempo is faster – which happened on the third show in SF, I think? – where the humor was lost. :clapping: But seeing the reviews, I take it that Act II was as hysterical as it could be!

The adagio was really magic. This was an Aminta who really partners, presenting the ballerina by gazing at her with such a sense of awe that we must look at her. He evokes Malakhov partnering Vishneva. I can give a danseur no higher praise. What ballerina would not dance for such a partner? His variation was a symphony of renversees, who could care that others might have more and faster pirouttes?

I’ve really enjoyed your thorough posts – thank you! And I am so happy that you got to experience Guennadi’s Aminta… *sigh* I wish I could’ve seen it again. I'm also a huge fan of his pirouettes -- the suspension is effortless, non-chalant, natural -- truly my favorite! I think faster turns are just spins...

And I agree with you whole-heartedly on Muriel and Katita’s differencet portrayals of Diana (from your earlier post) – I just couldn’t articulate it on my SFB post, but you captured it perfectly!

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There are a number of people in San Francisco who feel as Michael does about Mark Morris's choreography. I've found, however, that seeing ABT's Sylvia in LA this Spring made me appreciate Morris for the ways he is not Ashton, even though I prefer Ashton's Sylvia overall (Paloma, by the way, was a wonderful Sylvia in California).

Thank you jps; you, drb and others are making me more eager to see Ashton’s version (while I continue to like Morris’). Reading reviews of the home season, it was interesting how some viewers were clearly uncomfortable with Morris’ choices -- Eros’ ambiguous character, nude boy in Act 3, gay-ness anywhere. But in so many ways Morris took risks and brought out things that are normally not addressed in classical, full production ballets. Hence, I’m a fan of drb’s comment:

...I especially looked at what I didn't like. Clearly Morris likes to play "naughty." So just accepted that (why not, it works for his company and this is his ballet).

:clapping:

Many who were outraged by Morris’ version seemed to forget that he is not a classical, but a contemporary ballet choreographer, thus utilizing different “vocabulary.” Some phrases/poses in Act 1 are actually more difficult, in my opinion!

Balletchic101 – I agree with you re: the corp’s lack of cohesiveness, esp in Act I. Re:Heralds, I wonder if you would’ve liked the match up of Ruben Martin and Garen Scribner, who were beautifully paired, musically and stylistically in SF. Garen also danced well with Rory Hohenstein.

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Based on all of the CPYB dancers that I've seen dance professionally, I'd say the opposite is true, and that this was the exception to the rule.

What does CPYB stand for and who are some of its alums? Were Tina LeBlanc, Kristin Long and Brooke (Taylor) Moore CPYB dancers? What is it about Pennsylvania that produces such great dancers? (sorry, slightly off-topic)

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Many who were outraged by Morris’ version seemed to forget that he is not a classical, but a contemporary ballet choreographer, thus utilizing different “vocabulary.” Some phrases/poses in Act 1 are actually more difficult, in my opinion!

Exactly. So why does he insist on essaying this classicism? Wouldn't it have been much more interesting to see what he did with a full length Sylvia on his own company? That I'd pay to see.

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Thanks for these posts. They make me wish I were there -- or in San Francisco. :flowers::clapping:

Based on primarily older works, I'm a huge Morris fan. But it seems I'm hearing more criticism of Mark Morris's work -- esepcially for unevennes and misjudgments -- than was once the case.

Is it possible that, with all his commitments involving his dance center, school, company, and extensive guest commissions, he has taken on more than he can handle? Maybe fewer projects, and getting back to some kind of central core, might be a good thing?

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Just out of curiosity, did Martin West conduct all three Sylvias?

He has been the listed conductor on all four programs, and is the only conductor included in the description of artists in the Playbills.

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CBYB = CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA YOUTH BALLET

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Based on primarily older works, I'm a huge Morris fan. But it seems I'm hearing more criticism of Mark Morris's work -- esepcially for unevennes and misjudgments -- than was once the case.

Is it possible that, with all his commitments involving his dance center, school, company, and extensive guest commissions, he has taken on more than he can handle? Maybe fewer projects, and getting back to some kind of central core, might be a good thing?

I don't know of any long-time choreographer who hasn't been criticized through various points of his or her career. "Balanchine's best days are behind him" was an often-expressed belief in his later years, sometimes expressed through wonder that his latest was so good. "Robbins is the future; he's so natural."

I think Morris' version of Sylvia is fantastic, and only other commitments kept me from returning to San Francisco and traveling to NYC to see it again. I don't expect anyone else to, and any day now I expect to hear a knock at my door to take back my New Yorker card :clapping:. But apart from the character of Eros, which was so clearly made for a young Morris, and the villagers dance at the end of Act I (which I thought was the weakest part of the whole ballet), I didn't see all that much "contemporary" Morris in vocabulary, although clearly the sensibility was 21st century, not 1950's. I thought he took ballet on its own terms.

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Excuse me. . . Helene?

New York just called.

It said no, you can't finish your bagel and it wants its card back now.

My review will be in Danceview Times this week, but I'm afraid you'll have to count me with Michael among the naysayers. I found the choreography very thin.

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Excuse me. . . Helene?

New York just called.

It said no, you can't finish your bagel and it wants its card back now.

:clapping:

But I forgot -- my card and bagel were taken away from me mid-bite the last time I visited and stood at the corner waiting for the traffic light to change...

I look forward to reading your review.

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I left the opening night gala with very mixed feelings about what I’d seen and after 2 nights of Sylvia (the first 2) I still have mixed feelings.

The Gala-

Imagine my surprise when I read Rockwell’s review in the NY Times and found myself agreeing with him about the opening & closing pieces. I love Vertiginous Thrill and I enjoyed the SFB dancers in it but having seen the Kirov perform it a month ago I have to say that this performance just wasn’t on the same level. While I can believe that the SFB’s off center and exaggeratedly flung movement was more in line with the choreographers intent than the Kirov’s more classical approach the technical skill, speed & elan that the Kirov brought to it just wasn’t apparent here. True, the Kirov dancers are among the best in the world and some may find the comparison unfair but when your advance publicity heralds you as the best ballet company in North America I think it not only invites comparison to the best in the world, it demands it.

I also love Robbins’ Glass Pieces and was really looking forward to seeing the 3rd movement - but I found it flat and was stunned at how a piece that I recall primarily for it’s relentless pulsating energy could feel so low energy...

Interesting that Yuan Yaun Tan provided me with both highlights and lowlights of the evening - I really disliked her in the Swan Lake pas de deux. I don’t know if what we saw was her interpretation or Tomasson’s but one of them needs to write both “Odette is not a bird” and “Swan Lake is Petipa/Ivanov, not Balanchine/Eifman” at least 1000 times. The jutting elbows, angular arms and bird head shakes just didn’t cut it for me.

Then, after deciding that she was not a dancer I was going to like very much she totally won me over in Fifth Season, I thought her line and phrasing were gorgeous here, and this was my favorite of the new choreography I saw at the gala, I found the rest fairly forgettable.

Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun was very impressive, I would love to see more of her. I also really enjoyed Tina LeBlanc in the Harlequinade pdd.

On opening night Pascal Molat was my favorite of the men who, again, I thought were a mixed bag. Helimets, Smith, Martin all looked like very elegant “dancers noble” and wonderful partners but I don’t recall being impressed with their technical abilities. The virtuoso dancers like Boada and Garcia were impressive, but I found them a little sloppy and lacking in refinement. I know it’s unfair to form such strong opinions on the basis of so little exposure (and my opinions of Garcia & Molat kind of reversed after seeing each of them in Sylvia), but that’s the only perspective the gala program offered.

Sylvia - Wednesday Tan/Garcia/Possokhov/Castilla & Thursday Miner/Molat/Vilanoba/Sofranko

Well, first things first. San Francisco Ballet does style itself as a ballet company, and as a ballet this just didn’t cut it for me. The beautiful score is intact but IMO the costumes, scenery and most especially the choreography compares very unfavorably to the Ashton version. I see there have been lots of people, both in the audience and on this board who disagree with me but to my eye for most of evening it just looked like Morris took modern dance choreography and stuck point shoes on the women. And the women were far the worse for it. Much of what he created for the men looked ok but for most of the evening the women looked awkward and ugainly. I don’t care if the steps are hard to master (they looked hard), I found it ugly. I had no problem with the gender bending, the overt sexual references or the near nudity but those dryads in the beginning just looked like pelicans on pointe, and anyone who objected to Wheeldon’s ballerinas bending over in Evenfall should see the way Morris has these dancers sticking their butts out here.

That said, though I didn’t really like this Sylvia I didn’t hate it either and taken as a dance drama (or comedy) rather than a ballet the piece had it’s pleasures. I liked the use of the swing in the first and second acts and thought the 3rd act pdd was very inventive in it’s use of the veil to restate Sylvia’s character transformations and her relation to Aminta. I liked it’s subsequent change into a scarf and the reference to La Bayadere. I liked the ending to their pdd with the exuberant swings and high five symbolism and I loved (yes, loved) Aminta’s 3rd act solo. This was a beautiful, musical, inventive variation - too bad the rest of the choreography wasn’t at this level.

Having a generally negative reaction and then liking aspects of the 3rd act so much is what made me decide to see it a second time. While Tan is a far more technically accomplished dancer than Miner I didn’t like her interpretation as much. She seemed very tomboyish and almost peevish ( I seem to recall a lot of head shaking & foot stomping) as opposed to Miner’s more expansive, Amazonian take on the role. Yet Miner’s line & technical skills didn’t impress. Like drb, seeing Miner made me wonder what Mearns would look like in the role. Maybe it’s just the blond beauty connection but somehow longing for Mearn’s gorgeous line and musicality while watching Miner isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of her interpretation.

I hadn’t been overly impressed with Garcia at the Gala but I liked him very much as Aminta (I had seen Rasta Thomas in the Brubeck solo recently so perhaps Garcia was the victim of another unfavorable comparison at the gala). His dancing in Sylvia was very elegant and his solos both virtuosic and refined. Molat, who I loved at the gala struck me as being a little more rustic in his characterization and also a bit less elegant in his dancing, though also enjoyable.

The houses have been very full, though not completely sold out. The curious thing is that the audience seems very different from the typical NYCB or ABT crowd. Morris devotees, perhaps?

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I think one reason why the audience seems different is that so many of the people we're used to seeing on stage are now occupying the seats!

But seriously, the whole feel of the audience is very different, and almost everyone I've spoken to who's been there has mentioned it. Consistently, the ovations are brief but somehow very appreciative, and the crowd has shown better than usual theater manners in terms of chattering and candy unwrapping, etc.

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This is a Lincoln Center Festival production. There's a core crowd that subscribes to the festival, whether it's music, drama or dance. I noticed the difference in 2002 during the Kirov's La Bayadere. Anyway, this might have something to do with it.

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nysusan, huge fan of your post, as I have been wondering if I’m the only one who ponders this:

True, the Kirov dancers are among the best in the world and some may find the comparison unfair but when your advance publicity heralds you as the best ballet company in North America I think it not only invites comparison to the best in the world, it demands it.

Also agree in regards to Yuan Yuan Tan. Her performance/portrayal in Swan Lake this year in SF wasn’t what I had hoped, but she has been outstanding in contemporary pieces. I hope you get to see her in Quarternary.

The virtuoso dancers like Boada and Garcia were impressive, but I found them a little sloppy and lacking in refinement. I know it’s unfair to form such strong opinions on the basis of so little exposure ...
No, I think you’re right on. And I say this as an avid SFB goer. It depends on the piece obviously, but I find some (including principal) dancers consistently sloppy… :huh:

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Michael, I’d love to check out what Morris would create on his co., too. And sure Act I choreography isn’t as exciting as III or comical as II, but I enjoy Morris’ Sylvia esp since I’ve been disappointed by some other full production ballets (Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet, Swan Lake) SFB put on recently. Sylvia highlights a couple of beautiful, classically-trained dancers who should be shown more, so I ignore the rest.

In terms of choreography not fitting a company, this season’s Spring Rounds by Paul Taylor was disastrous. The piece was clearly Paul’s attempt to create a piece for ballerinas (more adagios, minimal crazy lifts); much of the choreography is uninteresting, if not just typical, recycled Taylor movements, and the SFB dancers looked messy. I’m glad they didn’t bring it to NY!

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In terms of choreography not fitting a company, this season’s Spring Rounds by Paul Taylor was disastrous. The piece was clearly Paul’s attempt to create a piece for ballerinas (more adagios, minimal crazy lifts); much of the choreography is uninteresting, if not just typical, recycled Taylor movements, and the SFB dancers looked messy. I’m glad they didn’t bring it to NY!

I'm enjoying your posts tikititatata, and am largely in agreement with you. Actually Paul Taylor brought Springs Rounds to San Francisco this spring and it looked great--on his company. I'm glad people are taking SFB at its word that it is a major league player, and is holding it to major league standards. (Im still crazy about it and its dancers, though). I hope Mark Morris will continue to make dances for SFB AND continue to bring his own company to Berkeley every year for a West Coast season. The net result has been incredibly positive for us in the Bay Area.

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But it seems I'm hearing more criticism of Mark Morris's work

IMHO this is par for the course. Extremely popular and successful initially, then time to bring him down a notch or ten.

Tiresome to say the least. :huh:

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I'm with Leigh and Michael here re Morris' Sylvia. Although it was fun and had many naughty Morris-isms, it is a ballet without a lot of meat on the bone. There was very little ballet choreography to fill/match the gorgeous music. Morris' Sylvia left you hungry but smiling at some of his charming, silly, nerve.

However last night, Forsythe again made this company look at its best in Artifact. A huge hit for SFB this NYC season. I wouldn't want to see this ballet every night, or every week, with its very contemporary, mechanical approach, but it worked, and worked very well as a large group piece. Forsythe knew how to use the females, made them look more uniformed, by putting them in black tights, colors on top, against a black backdrop. That sort of grouping gave the females a clean, tight power and uniformity that I don't think Forsythe would have gotten otherwise in lighter tights. There was a lot of black going on.... but it made the females function well together, and stand out where he wanted them to stand out. Among the two principal girls, Lorena was most outstanding. She's not a girly girl, but a rich, strongly feminine, fast, powerhouse when at her best, as she was last night.

The large groups of men were all in one solid color against the black backdrop in the second half of the ballet, and this gave the men a powerful, bright place in Forsythe's piece. The men were all at their highest energy and it was incredibly exciting to watch groups of spectacular men dance instead of one or two at a time.

Artifact went on a bit long for me.... started getting repititious, and I also didn't like the heavy thud of the black curtain falling to break the scenes three or four times in the first section of the ballet. Something slicker, a thinner black sliding door with stagehands running it from behind, hidden, might have worked better or perhaps just a thinner, lighter, black curtain dropped might have been less annoying. But the second half of the ballet had no such gimmicks and one could just get lost in the fantastic dancing of this well-oiled machine type of ballet.

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I attended the repertory program last night. wow was all i can say, the company was much more in its element and certinaly impressed! artifact suite was powerful - the corps danced fantastically and lorena fejoo out of the principal couples was especially great.

i also liked quarterney very much. the central pas de deux for muriel maffre was beautiful. simple lines but with intricate partnering...a bit like 'after the rain' but visually stunning.

and even though i though 7 for 8 was the weakest piece on the program, it served its purpose at showing off several dancers. (I love Rachel Viselli. I think her perfromance quality and elegant carraige of the upper body are truly stunning.)

Kudos to all. I thought is was a wonderful performance.

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I'm pretty much with the above on the rep program (interesting to see the beginnings of consensus on that - I think there was less on Sylvia).

Like a lot of Wheeldon, particularly for me his contemporary oeuvre, Quaternary looks a lot less glib on repeated viewing. Either I get used to it or the dancers find something personal in it - maybe both.

I agree with sz on the length of Artifact. Even though I enjoyed it, there was a point about 10 minutes from the end where I thought "If this goes on much longer I'm going to go nuts." It's also bittersweet to watch it because it shows to me the Forsythe that might have been. Though the choreography date is 2004, it's composed from materials from the 80s, when Forsythe was grappling with ballet head-on and making works that were churning and dark, yes, but also works that tried to assimilate and develop classical dance. There might have been so much more he could have given before he lost interest in that.

A fond farewell to Yuri Possokhov - the Saturday night performance was his last. I only got the see the end of his career (except for seeing him in Caniparoli's Aria several years ago.) I'm sorry I never saw his Othello. To quote him from an interview we did this week (it will be forthcoming in the print version of Dance View) he did it with ABT once and laughed that there was no way his body could produce what Desmond Richardson's could - New York saw his "small, intimate" version of the role.

I'm seeing the rep program again this afternoon. I think the company's pulled off a PR victory. The buzz and the scene here is enormous - le tout New York dance is here. I stood next to Mark Morris for Quaternary since we both arrived too late to take our seats. Every critic and his/her mother is here. It feels like the company is being taken even more seriously than it has been before.

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I'm afraid I can't join the growing consensus.

tikitatata, I’m glad you enjoyed my last post and I hope I don't offend anyone with my negative view of this company's week in NY. I really wanted to love them, I’d never seen them before and was very excited about their visit. I didn’t think I was going to love their Sylvia but I expected to love their gala & mixed rep programs. In fact I was upset that a business trip wouldn’t allow me to see their mixed rep program twice, now I’m glad I’m not going again this afternoon!

For me SFB’s week in NY is ending the same way it began, leaving me with mixed feelings. Their rep program showed the dancers to much greater advantage than previous programs, and they do have some beautiful dancers. Tan, Feijoo, Possokhov, Garcia, Molat, LeBlanc, Boada & Maffre really stood out. However, I didn’t like the pieces they chose to present.

I actually thought 7 for 8 was ok, not great but ok . It gave the dancers something to sink their teeth into and was the first thing I’ve seen this week that showed them at their best. I figured the program would pick up from there. Unfortunately while Quatenary also provided a showcase for the dancers it now has the distinction of being the only thing I’ve ever seen by Wheeldon that I truly dislike. It seemed very derivative of his other works and went on way too long to keep my interest. Frankly, aside from the Maffre /Possokhov pdd I found it boring.

I liked Artifact and if I had enjoyed the 2 pieces that proceeded it I’m sure I would have liked it more but I was already so numb from sitting through 7 for 8 and then Quaternary that halfway through Artifact Suite I almost got up and left. Literally, I talked myself out of leaving 2 or 3 times during the last 10 minutes. I can't remember the last time I felt that way at the ballet. If this is the future of ballet I will run screaming back to the past. Fortunately, I know it is only ONE future direction out of many possibilities.

If SFB is a post modern ballet company, then so be it however if they consider themselves to be a classical ballet company then I really think they missed the boat with the type of rep they brought for this engagement.

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To quote him from an interview we did this week (it will be forthcoming in the print version of Dance View) he did it with ABT once and laughed that there was no way his body could produce what Desmond Richardson's could - New York saw his "small, intimate" version of the role.
:huh: I'm waiting with bated breath for this one.

Possokhov's Phlegmatic is one of my all-time favorite performances.

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Just goes to show that three people does not a consensus make!

nysusan - I agree with almost all of what you experienced (especially about Artifact), I just added up the score differently. It seems to me that SFB is in fact trying to set itself up as a major contemporary/postmodern force rather than a "high classical" one and also that the company was interested in showing us its dancers first and foremost.

When I saw Quaternary in SF I liked it a lot less - it may get better on a second viewing (I didn't love it, I just didn't feel the same negativity towards it).

Helene - with immense regret (because I loved it too) I realized afterwards that Phlegmatic was something we did not discuss (we were concentrating on choreography).

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Helene - with immense regret (because I loved it too) I realized afterwards that Phlegmatic was something we did not discuss (we were concentrating on choreography).
I'm glad that was the focus of the interview, and that SFB is diversifying house choreography.

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The Last Dance, Sunday July 30

The seven movement Tomasson/Bach 7 for 8 started with Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun and Pierre-Francoise Vilanoba. As on opening night, she maintained her continuous flow of movement. Kristin Long and Gonzalo Garcia followed, and as in Sylvia he projected a warm-hearted virtuosity. Then came Frances Chung, Elizabeth Miner and Pascal Molat. Next Jaime Garcia Castilla joined Garcia, Long and Miner. So far a pleasant show piece, and each dancer was pleasing. Pascal Molat came on for a very well-danced solo, I feel it was significantly better danced than his Aminta, making it a bit easier to understand why he is such a well-regarded principal.

The sixth movement featured a return of the lead pair, Pipit-Suksun and Vilanoba. There was a moment when she let go of his hand and managed to simultaneously move toward and away from him. Maybe she didn't move at all. But it was the moment of poetry in this ballet. As on opening night, there is something very special about this dancer. She delivers those you-gotta-be-there moments, yet so quietly that you wonder what other you may have missed with the blink of an eye. There is something subtle about her fluid movement that transcends even direction. All the dancers were enjoyable in the finale. Choreographically light, but showing each dancer pleasingly, if not sufficiently challenging them.

Poor Mr. Wheeldon. When you are called "the best young ballet choreographer" everyone expects an almost Sleeping Beauty or a Symphony in C or an After the Rain. So Quaternary isn't it. Still, it has its merits.

Winter (Cage) gave another chance to see Yuan Yuan Tan, here partnered by David Smith. Solists were Elana Altman, David Acre, Lily Rogers and Quin Warton. Maybe because I like Cage's music for prepared piano I liked this. Maybe a better reason is that I really enjoyed Tan this season, she has such fine amplitude and presents the choreography in such a crystaline way.

Spring (Bach) featured Lorena Feijoo, Joan Boada, Tina LeBlanc and Rory Hohenstein. Although anticipating looking at the first pair, I was drawn to Tina, whose dancing explained the title of the section. At least for me, Wheeldon's invention seemed to flag by mid-movement.

Summer (Part). Here's Wheeldon! Muriel Maffre and Tiit Helimets were the dancers. In NYC we've seen some extraordinary duets created by Wheeldon on Wendy Whelan and ultra-partner Jock Soto. One knew from the opening Gala that Helimets was a real partner, then he disappeared during the Sylvias. Why? Maffre brought her imagination, that gave such completeness to her Diana, to play in this more abstract scenario. She was riviting. The piano's notes plucked singly very slowly, but deeply, and the space between was filled by Wheeldon's completing, giving continuity to the seemingly discrete music. The music has an emotional heart, of course, the notes the beating of the heart and the dancers swimming on this quiet wave. Helimets created the vast and calm sea in which his secure partner could entrance. When he exits stage left she is left to sit onstage, alone. This was very well received, in the moment and substantially during the bows at ballet's end.

Autumn (Mackey, played by the composer on electric guitar) completed the seasons. Sarah van Patten and Ruben Martin, with Brooke Moore, Garrett Anderson, Jonathan Mangosing, Garen Scribner, James Sofranko. Liking this is probably highly correlated with how one feels about the music. Is there some meaning to van Patten's coming over to console, and then remove Maffre's gown? There is a lot of action for the corps. I note again, as in the Gala, that any emotion that Sarah projects does not involve facial expression.

Forsythe's Artifact Suite had a large number of dancers, plus leading roles for two couples, Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith, and Tina LeBlanc and Gonzalo Garcia, with Muriel Maffre as the Sentinal and William Forsythe as the Big Ego. The thudding curtain and that long pause as we were forced to sit in semi-darkness, awaiting breathlessly the next burst of divine creativity: For once I was not in a mood to shssss the restless talkers. When we were allowed to see some choreography and dancing it was as good as the season's given. When it was over you wouldn't have known that this was the company's farewell. Perhaps the audience felt too mistreated, and hadn't the heart left to pay proper honor to SFB's worthy dancers.

Favorites? One would be tempted toward a long list. But allowing two of each.

For the women:

Yuan Yuan Tan, she taught me much about what I was seeing, and had the amplitude and presence of a ballerina.

Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun, precisely because I don't know why.

For the men:

Guennadi Nedviguine, for going beyond technique and for gazing at his ballerina.

Tiit Helimets, perfect partnering for two totally different ballerinas.

Grand Prix:

Muriel Maffre, for being the season's Heart of Dance.

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