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Nilas Martins Comes to Patchogue


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#1 Klavier

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Posted 12 November 2006 - 08:02 PM

Now that the Heads Up! over this is over, I suppose any reviews properly belong in the Other Ballet Companies area, so here I am. Did anyone else from the group go last night? It was not a full house, maybe 2/3 full, but the audience (including quite a few young people) made up in enthusiasm whatever they lacked in numbers. After all, how often does central Long Island get seven principals from the NYCB plus three members of Complexions Contemporary on its own doorstep? Not often at all to my recollection. I'm grateful for the Patchogue Theatre to have brought them here, and hope this won't be the last time.

The seven NYCB principals - Nilas, Askegard, Bouder, DeLuz, Evan, Megan Fairchild, and Ringer - plus Monique Meunier, Ebony Haskell, and Matthew Prescott, did a mixed bill of six numbers, as listed by zerbinetta on the Heads Up thread. Who Cares? by Gershwin/Balanchine started the night, with Nilas partnership Ashley, Jenifer, and Ebony. No scenery, just changes in lighting, but it worked fine nonetheless with the differing styles of the three girls: Bouder extrovert and charismatic, Ringer more elegant, and Haskell lithe and athletic. On the prior occasions I've seen Martins fils himself, I've had mixed feelings about him; his work in the MND pdd last year seemed lacking in crispness and energy, yet he did quite well as a partner in Vienna Waltzes and quite well as a comedian in Union Jack, a ballet I in general loathed. I felt about the same way tonight, especially when DeLuz and Evans came on later to show what more technically gifted male dancers can do with their material. I can't help feeling that Martins has risen to principal on something other than the strengths of his own merits - is it possible he knows someone? - but I suppose he does alright so long as he doesn't push his limits.

Meunier and Evans were paired for two pdd's, the Barber/P. Martins violin concerto 2nd movement before intermission, and the Herman Schmerman duo after. In both they were outstanding, fully realizing both the rhapsodic romanticism of the Barber and the comic touches of the Forsythe. The audience didn't seem quite as with them following the Herman Schmerman; at least the applause here was more perfunctory for this piece than for any of the others. I guess seeing Albert coming out in just a short yellow pleated skirt was a bit disconcerting.

There were two other classic pas de deux, again one before and one after the break. First Fairchild and DeLuz set off fireworks in the Corsaire PDD; then Ringer and Askegard provided mature elegance in a Tchaikovsky/Balanchine duet. I'm guessing this was from Sleeping Beauty since I think I'd recognize the other two Tchaikovsky ballets; but correct me if I'm wrong.

This very symmetrical program - two classic and two modern pdds, framed by two longer ensemble pieces based on great American songwriters - ended with A Fool for You to music of Ray Charles. Zerbinetta has written that "Nilas has re-arranged the order, dropped two pieces, re-choreographed the finale and created original choreography for "Georgia" which was never set in Peter Martins' original." I can't speak to all that, as the NYCB website lists the songs used as "Georgia on My Mind, Ain't That Love, Don't You Know, It Should've Been Me, Hit the Road Jack, Rockhouse, Mess Around, A Fool for You, I've Got a Woman, Drown in My Tears, What'd I Say, Ol' Man River, America the Beautiful." The last two of these were certainly not used, in their place was a more up-tempo finale to a Ray Charles song I've heard often but can't identify by name. As for "Georgia," assuming this was a Nilas original, it was for me the most puzzling piece of the evening, as it was set as a pdd for two men, Nilas and Matthew Prescott, but it was uncertain how much of a gay relationship was implied, and in any event this pairing was not developed in any way later in the ballet, which featured three boy-girl pairs - Martins with Fairchild, who had let down her long hair for this piece, DeLuz showing unexpected comic talents and paired with Bouder, and Haswell with Prescott. Perhaps someone else has some thoughts on this; I was glad to hear the music but was baffled by this particular choreography, and also because Martins introduced quite a few rapid pirouettes (right word? for both dancers that seemed at variance with the slow, languid music.

But on the whole I was delighted to have gone to this, and all the more because it was only a 20-minute drive from home, for once letting me see outstanding dancers without the time-consuming, expensive, and stressful experience of a trip to the city and back. Hope some other Ballet Talkers had a chance to get to this as well.

#2 bart

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Posted 13 November 2006 - 09:17 AM

Many thanks, klavier, for your report on what appears to have been quite an interesting program. 2/3s of a rather sizable theater seems like quite a good beginning. And YOUNG PEOPLE! Great !!!

There's definitely an audience on Long Island. I hope this is the beginning of new and much-needed ballet presence -- and perhaps even a series -- on the South Shore. :)

On the other hand, I'm sorry that this had to start after I moved away from the area. :(

Did anyone try the LI Railroad option?

#3 zerbinetta

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Posted 13 November 2006 - 06:17 PM

There were others of us there, yes. The LIRR is an OK option &, had a kind lister not given us a ride back to Manhattan, there would have been plenty of time to get the 10:35 train back, as the timings turned out to be very accurate.

Klavier, although Nilas has never been a favorite of mine, it's probably unfair to consider his Principal status as being due to nepotism. If one considers it in its historical context (usually a good idea), when Nilas was promoted, there was a serious lack of danseur noble types at the principal level. Peter Boal was about it. There was Damien, Jock & Albert, all wonderful, but not noble, at least not to Peter M. Peter M had brought in Hubbe & promoted Philip Neal, but the two of them were missing in action more than not. Nilas filled a very large gap & filled it dependably.

As far as the Georgia section of Fool for You, Ray Charles played it without choreography. Perhaps Peter M felt, like Balanchine about Mozart, that this would be gilding the lily. Wise of him.

I saw no homoeroticism in the choreography here. It seemed to be two guys bemoaning the loss of their girlfriends & occasionally consoling one another. That Nilas doesn't always make the obvious or easy choice of step/mood to music I consider one of his virtues.

The Tschai Pas is just that, a stand alone pas de deux using music originally composed for Swan Lake Act III. I would not have thought to cast Ringer & Askegard in this but they were quite wonderful. Another example, perhaps, of Nilas not making the obvious choices.

And then there was Monique .. sigh ..

You'll be happy to know that it looks like NMDC will return to Patcogue next year.

#4 Klavier

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Posted 13 November 2006 - 07:38 PM

There were others of us there, yes. The LIRR is an OK option &, had a kind lister not given us a ride back to Manhattan, there would have been plenty of time to get the 10:35 train back, as the timings turned out to be very accurate.

Klavier, although Nilas has never been a favorite of mine, it's probably unfair to consider his Principal status as being due to nepotism. If one considers it in its historical context (usually a good idea), when Nilas was promoted, there was a serious lack of danseur noble types at the principal level. Peter Boal was about it. There was Damien, Jock & Albert, all wonderful, but not noble, at least not to Peter M. Peter M had brought in Hubbe & promoted Philip Neal, but the two of them were missing in action more than not. Nilas filled a very large gap & filled it dependably.

As far as the Georgia section of Fool for You, Ray Charles played it without choreography. Perhaps Peter M felt, like Balanchine about Mozart, that this would be gilding the lily. Wise of him.

I saw no homoeroticism in the choreography here. It seemed to be two guys bemoaning the loss of their girlfriends & occasionally consoling one another. That Nilas doesn't always make the obvious or easy choice of step/mood to music I consider one of his virtues.

The Tschai Pas is just that, a stand alone pas de deux using music originally composed for Swan Lake Act III. I would not have thought to cast Ringer & Askegard in this but they were quite wonderful. Another example, perhaps, of Nilas not making the obvious choices.

And then there was Monique .. sigh ..

You'll be happy to know that it looks like NMDC will return to Patcogue next year.



Zerbinetta,

Thanks for setting me straight on the historical background. Regarding the Georgia duet, your interpretation may well be the right one. But I'd like to think I'm not completely dense, and I didn't get that reading when I saw the pdd. Nor, as I said, did I get anything definitely homoerotic. But if your sense of this choreography is the right one, I wonder if that could have been made more explicit so that even someone like myself wouldn't have missed it.

I suppose I should have expected a slap for implying that Nilas's position at NYCB had anything to do with nepotism. And yet I can't think of a male principal - or any principal - in the current company who has disappointed me as much as he has. Remember, I'm new to ballet, having been attending for only a couple of years. But even I could sense Nilas's inadequacy compared to most other men in the company. And it takes a lot for me to find a dancer inadequate; some of you others have found a lot more fault than I would with dancers who seemed to me quite fine or better. I tried to be balanced by saying Nilas partners well and has a good comic sense. But even if his appointment to principal however many years ago had nothing to do with his famous and well-positioned father, why is he given assignments today for which he is not suited? If that seems harsh, so be it, but that's how I sas things. On Saturday night De Luz and Evans danced rings around this guy.

However - sigh indeed for Monique, good to know the rest of you got safely home, and very nice to know NMDC will make another trip to Patchogue. I'll be there.

#5 carbro

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Posted 13 November 2006 - 09:25 PM

I traveled out and back with zerbinetta. This is actually my fourth try at posting my review. Computer's been very unccoperative lately. Here goes. :(

Yes, there was Monique, a goddess who almost managed to draw real drama from the trite adagio from Barber Violin Cto. I wish she'd succeeded as well in the Forsythe, but it was a pleasure to see her with Albert Evans -- a great pairing more for their similarities than their contrasts. In body type, in sensibility and temperament, they seem more a unit than a duo.

One of the unexpected highlights was Megan Fairchild's Corsaire pdd. Her classicism was very pure, and the use of her hands and wrists -- subtly decorative -- did not detract from the frame her arms made around her movements. Joaquin de Luz partnered her decently and had a few trouble spots in his variation and coda.

And of course, Ashley Bouder in the Morris role in Who Cares. Always brings such spontenaiety and electricity when she takes the stage. My pulse sped up.

And I have to mention the sharpness of Ringer's legs cutting through the air -- very McBride-ish -- in the Man I Love pas.

It was a very enjoyable evening, despite not always great ballets. After all, with Ringer and Meunier and Bouder and Fairchild -- well, that's a list of ballerinas that some "world class" companies would envy.

I suppose I should have expected a slap for implying that Nilas's position at NYCB had anything to do with nepotism. . . On Saturday night De Luz and Evans danced rings around this guy.

As did his Georgia partner, Matthew Prescott, in A Fool for You. I don't know whether he would under the best of circumstances. but in fairness he also bore sole responsibility for selecting the dancers and rep and coaching. Judging from the results, if he had to shortchange one aspect, just as well that it was his dancing, although I thought he was pretty cute in Who Cares -- a more extroverted Nilas than we're used to.

I'm used to seeing most of these dancers at Lincoln Center, but they brought an extra dose of freshness to their dancing on Saturday. Maybe because they were coached by a different eye, maybe because it was a smaller venue, smaller company; maybe because I was sitting closer than usual, or maybe because they've been away from the stage and hungry to perform again. All I know is I had a terrific time, and it looked like they did, too.

#6 nysusan

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Posted 20 November 2006 - 11:35 AM

Sorry I’m late coming to this thread, a crazy work schedule is interfering with the rest of my life yet again. My husband and I actually did take the LIRR there and back. There was more than enough time to catch the train back to the city, but though the walk to the train station was short (maybe 10 minutes) it was deserted. Fine for the 2 of us but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing it alone. Next time we’ll rent a car!

Despite the length of the trip the excursion was very worthwhile. I agree with most of the comments by other posters – the chance to see MM was what got me out there but seeing the rest of the dancers in such an intimate setting was also a factor.

Who Cares is so much fun. I always love it but often when I see it performed by other companies the phrasing & movement is all smoothed out and it can take on a very sugary sweet feeling. Not with these guys – it retained the sophistication and tartness that sets it apart for me. Everyone looked great but I was particularly fascinated by Ashley Bouder’s performance in it. Has her polish, the finish and flourish to the her use of her arms and upper body grown exponentially in the handful of times she’s been on stage since her injury, or was it just the intimate setting that allowed me to see it so clearly? I really feel like she is developing from a prodigy to an artist right in front of my eyes. Pert & efficient indeed!

I enjoyed the entire program with the exception of the Ray Charles piece. It was fun to watch Joaquin de Luz cut loose in “It should have been me” but the rest of it was so banal that I can see no reason to ever sit through it again. I also found the choreographed bows within the piece to be a very strange and anti climatic way to end the evening.


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