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Morphoses-Wheeldon NYCC First Program


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#1 drb

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Posted 17 October 2007 - 08:09 PM

Wednesday October 17, 2007

Darcey Bussell and her long-time partner Jonathan Cope got the program off to a roaring success. Unfortunately, their PdD from Tryst lead off the program's second act. Something about the unfortunate opening piece later. Each of the four short works in the middle of the program was preceded by a short film of Mr. Wheeldon preparing the dancers. It was very effective. Ms. Bussell was her charismatic self, very beautiful of course, still with her great flexibility, lyrical yet so modern, so Balanchine. For me she is in the first tier of post-Farrell Balanchine dancers and it was a very great honor to have a chance to see her one more time, especially when so grandly presented by Mr. Cope, who conveys his adoration of Ms. Bussell with his special combination of restraint, service, and nobility. This looked like high-quality Wheeldon, but I might say the same if Darcey just brought out a chair and sat on it. For me this was worth the price of admission.

Next came Wendy Whelan and the much-missed Edwaard Liang in the NYC premiere of William Forsythe's Slingerland PdD. This looked like Mr. Forsythe was playing with Balanchine technique, with a dollop of the Master's eroticism as well. Ms. Whelan wore the familiar "flat" tutu that the American choreographer sometimes favors. By the way, Philip of Oberon's Grove has posted an outstanding, in-depth interview with Mr. Liang. For those of us who have admired his many peak moments at NYCB, it was wonderful to learn the whys and whats of his frequent comings-and-goings. And even more special to see the power of his present level of dancing--what skill in displaying a ballerina.

Third was Wheeldon's Prokofiev PdD, that we got to see being created on Johan Kobborg (who had to miss this engagement due to a sprained ankle, as reported in the press) and Alina Cojocaru. Since Ms. Cojocaru danced at the Royal last night her role was danced by the National Ballet of Canada's Tina Pereira, who shares of bit of Alina's loveability (a recent subject of discussion elsewhere on BT). NBOC's Nehemiah Kish partnered Tina, as he will Ms. Cojocaru the next two days. Still, this has the look of a piece d'occasion, that probably needs its creators to make its point.

The middle portion ended with a fortuitous recent change in program, Wheeldon's Dance of the Hours, created for the Metroplitan Opera last year. This excercise on the fun side of Petipa, was lead by Ashley Bouder and new NYCB Principal Gonzalo Garcia. This was Ms. Bouder in comic mode. She dazzled as did her partner, evidently a fine turner, and such a match with Ashley that one can only hope they will often partner at NYCB. I'd love to see them together in the serious side of Ms. Bouder's Petipa, Sleeping Beauty, where Ms. Bouder has already gifted me with the Aurora of my lifetime, and Swan Lake, where she's my all-time favorite O/O in the Peter Martins production. The can-can corps of eight ballerinas included Gina Artese of Suzanne Farrell Ballet, and, since Ms. Bouder was the only debutante in this dance, I assume seven dancers from the Met: Cecile Girard, Anna Laghezza, Emery LeCrone, Melissa Sadler, Denise Small, Beatrix Eugenia Stix-Brunell and Miku Tsuji.

After the second intermission the final Wheeldon work, Fool's Paradise. This turned out quite a winner. Beginning with a duet for Craig Hall and Mr. Garcia, with Wendy Whelan quietly observing from center back. Then Ms. Whelan joined them for a trio, with Aesha Ash (WELCOME HOME!) soon joining in as well. Various duets, including a very muse-driven PdD for Wendy and Craig. What a miracle for Ms. Whelan, so soon after her monumental partnership with Jock Soto ended with his retirement, to find a new partnership of comparable grandeur with Mr. Hall. A miracle for us viewers, of course, but more importantly for Mr. Wheeldon to have such continuity in inspiration. This was thrilling. Subsequently Tess Reichlen, on fire with her sexy, Farrellesque command, so noticed in her recent Queen of the WRENS (Mr. B's Union Jack), was partnered by Adrian Danchig-Waring and Tyler Angle.
A final peak for Mr. Wheeldon: his PdD for Maria Kowroski (in pinker tights than the others, and with those legs, why not?) and Mr. Liang. This was very remiscent of the PdD choreographed on her by Mr. Bigonzetti at the last Diamond Project. I think we are in the midst of seeing this ballerina at the summit of her considerable powers. Magnetic intensity, focus buried so deeply in the music, fully worthy of Edwaard's devotion. Only the ovation for Bussell/Cope exceeded the powerful response of the audience for this final ballet.

Added later:

Before the opening curtain Mr. Wheeldon spoke of his company's successes in Vail and London. He thanked a number of people, saving his greatest thanks for last: his gratefulness to Peter Martins.

The opening ballet was There Where She Loved, sung to alternating songs of Chopin (sung in Polish) and Weill (sung in German and French). It was obviously very programatic, relating to the sung words. But one needed to be fluent in three languages. A Polish friend was quite familiar with the first song, a woman singing of her love for a man currently far away. Along the lines of if I were the sun I'd find you wherever you are and shine my light just for you,...if I were a bird my song would be sung only for you etc. Yet it was a dance for a woman and four men (she was certainly fickle, unlike Chopin's woman). The singer's Polish was otherwise so broken that my friend could not make out the other Chopin songs. So this was like going to a play where the actors neglected to speak (in an understandable way). Lots of star power in the casting, but... It was not received with enthusiasm.

#2 Dansuer85

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Posted 17 October 2007 - 09:34 PM

I just wanted to say, I agree with most of what you said drb! I have some different opions on a few things, but I will share those at a later date! I need to sleep! I will say, I very much enjoyed the whole evening and was VERY glad to see Darcey perform! She was on my list of Ballerinas I wanted to see before they stopped performing!!! :)

#3 Haglund's

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 03:04 AM

I left at the second intermission having had way too much pas de deux with way too much sameness. So much of it seemed to be the same soup in a different bowl. There was so little horizontal movement in most of it that it could have been performed on a postage stamp. This type of programming will not only never build new audiences, it could well drive existing audiences away.

Wheeldon has the pretzel pas down pat. I just hope he's not trying to build a company around it.

What I liked:
-- Maria Korowski and Michael Nunn in the final pas de deux from There Where She Love. Both were determined to make some dance out of it, and that was much appreciated. I'd not seen Nunn before in performance, and was struck by the strength of his stage presence.

-- Seeing Darcey Bussell again. I kept saying to myself, "I wish she would dance. I wish she would dance." But no, it was more pretzel pas (Tryst).

-- Seeing National Ballet of Canada's Tina Pereira. Another dancer determined to make something out of her pretzel pas (Prokofiev). She is an extremely warm and giving performer. Immediately likeable. There was the hint that, if allowed, she would dance up a storm.

Rob Fisher conducted the Orchestra of St. Luke's. The music sounded superb

#4 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 04:38 AM

I left at the second intermission having had way too much pas de deux with way too much sameness. So much of it seemed to be the same soup in a different bowl. There was so little horizontal movement in most of it that it could have been performed on a postage stamp. This type of programming will not only never build new audiences, it could well drive existing audiences away.

Wheeldon has the pretzel pas down pat. I just hope he's not trying to build a company around it.


Haglund's -- almost exactly my response, although I did stay for Fool's Paradise (which I did mostly like and parts of which I loved -- more later today or tomorrow). "Get them in the air!" I wanted to shout, "Move their feet!" It was hard for me to tell if my frustration was a function of the choreography, poor programing choices, or the limitations of the hall. The steep rake of the rings combined with their being way too close to the stage puts everything in an oddly foreshortened perspective, no matter where one sits. (The steep rake does nothing to improve the sightlines: I was in row B of the grand tier and had my view partly obstructed by the head of the rather petite woman sitting in front of me.) So, I couldn't tell if the choreography seemed earthbound because it was or because of my angle of view. Based on Slingerland and Dance of the Hours -- where the dancers actually did move their feet -- I'm inclined to think the former, but dreary City Center didn't help. If Wheeldon has any fundraising mojo at all, he needs to use it to extract a better venue from someone pronto.

Look, I like Wheeldon's choreography well enough and appreciate the scale of the show he's managed to pull together in a relatively short time, but the evening was hardly a grand eclat. There was a lot of the same-old same old and nothing suggested that Wheeldon needed to start Morphoses to put on the program that he did. (And in fairness, these initial evenings may be more about just getting the damn thing up and running to create the growing medium for what is to come next.)

My big take-aways from the evening: 1) this isn't Cunningham, Cage, Rauschenberg and six dancers in a VW bus taking challenging art to the heartland and 2) ballet in Wheeldon's hands really isn't particularly sexy, although it can be very tender when he gets more than two dancers on the stage, and that's a pretty special thing.

More later. I'm going again Sunday and a second look may help me see more.

#5 Haglund's

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 05:16 AM

Slightly off topic . . . a happy result of leaving at the second intermission was that I got home early, flipped on the T.V. to see NYCB's Kristin Sloan starring in an Apple iPhone commercial and plugging thewinger.com. Very cute!

#6 nysusan

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 07:13 PM

I enjoyed the first piece, and I really liked the last piece - the middle section with all the pas de deux was the problem for me.

I felt the opener,There Where She Loved was Wheeldon's take on an episodic, lyrical ballet like Dances at a Gathering, Leaves are Fading, Diversion of Angels etc. Although not in the same league with those masterpieces I enjoyed what I read as his exploration of the many different facets of a woman's relationships with the men in her life as guided by Chopin and Weill.

As for those pas de deux - there were some beautiful moments in each of them and if each one had been seen on it's own I might have liked them all but back to back the similarity became monotonous. Plus, even though I liked the two end pieces both of them were really constructed of a series of pas de deux and pas des trois and as the evening went on the effect became cumulative and the monotony grew. The fact that with the exception of Dance of the Hours the costumes and color palette were similar throughout the evening didn't help either.

The last piece, Fools Paradise, seemed like one of his best efforts – rich in visuals with several series of steps repeated, expanded and resolved or refracted through various groupings of dancers. There were wonderful roles in it for all of the dancers but especially Whelan & Kowroski. I didn't see a story or the significance of the title but I definitely found it very enjoyable & thought provoking and am looking forward to seeing it again.

I have mixed feelings about the evening. I love Wheeldon's work and enjoyed much of what I saw but the bottom line is that the work that was presented in program 1 was just all too similar. I respect the fact that Wheeldon didn't want to repeat works that had been seen in NY recently, and understand that he is working under extreme financial constraints but I think the fact that none of the ballets he presented used a corps contributed greatly to the "sameness" of the evening. If something like Evenfall or Scenes de Ballet or Shambards had replaced the series of pdd or one of the other pieces it would have been a much more enjoyable evening for me.

#7 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 08:45 PM

I think there's a consensus here -- I also felt over pretzel pas-de-deuxed. A friend referred to "There Where She Loved" as "Dances at a Gathering" for depressives.

Maybe if the program began with "Dance of the Hours," it would get everyone "up" and the long series of serious pdd's would not feel so same same. Even the lighting was same same. If there had been some brightness, some color, the dances might have been distinguishable. That said, I thought Tryst pdd was beautiful, and that Darcy B out-Wendy'd Wendy! I felt that the Forsythe and Liang were much weaker than Wheeldon's work. I was grateful that he let Ashley Bouder shine in "Dance of the Hours" as she does best, being joyful and flirtacious and fun.

Wheeldon's visuals in "Tryst" and "Fools' Paradise" were exceptional. I've always liked his visual concepts in pieces like "Mercurial Manoeuvres," "Variations Sérieuses," etc. He certainly knows how to choreograph good, clean footwork and large ensembles -- I do find it disappointing that he didn't DO those things. [Off-topic, sort of: my friends and I had the same problem with the Miller theater's program last year, which is why we felt Tom Gold's piece was such a delight and welcome relief. I know not many others liked it.... but wouldn't it have been a terrific contrast in this program?]

But the reality of fund raising, designing a program, order of ballets, casting, selecting costumers and costumes, bookings, finding out which theaters would be best for your ballets (NOT CITY CENTER!), publicity, etc., etc. will all pull Wheeldon in different directions, when surely what he wants is to do choreography.....

I wish him and his artists the very best. It's a hard road.

#8 SingerWhoMoves

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 08:55 PM

Just returned from the "Gala" performance- where I got to meet Phillip AKA "Oberon".. what a delight!
I can't claim to know that much about Ballet- but I agree with what has been said about the monotony- and the fact that I wished the dancers had a chance to MOVE!
I too am honored to have seen Darcey B.(having only seen on TV) and I actually liked that PDD a lot, but still- combined with the rest of the program it was more of the same. What amazing presence she has though!
I did love Sterling Hyltin's little PDD in "There where she loved" and that little bit with all of the dancers in a brief moment of joy (and MOVEMENT!) before the final PDD.
The Dance of the hours got a great audience response, I think not only because of the great dancing and Ms. Bouder and Mr. Garcia, but because there was MOVEMENT! (sensing a theme)...
I was very intruiged and mesmerized by "Fool's Paradise". I Have never seen Craig Hall before, and I'm now a huge fan. He and Wendy are amazing together- and I love the contrast their skin makes (as well as Aesha/ Adrian). There was a sigh when this one finished, and I felt it was pretty magical.
I'm going to try to go to the open house rehearsal tomorrow- and will report if I make it there.

#9 oberon

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 03:45 AM

Violin Concerto: You refer to the Liang ballet but it has not appeared yet...perhaps you were misreading the programme which listed all the works the Company is performing. Liang's piece makes its City Center debut tonight (Friday).

It's a little unfair to compare Liang's work unfavorably to Wheeldon's when it hasn't 'arrived' yet...unless you saw it out-of-town.

#10 Farrell Fan

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 09:53 AM

I thoroughly enjoyed the gala performance, without quite understanding what made it "gala." Usually gala means higher prices, but that did not seem to be the case last night. Nor did the audience look particularly dolled up. At any rate, three of the greatest ballerinas since Farrell were on the program -- Bussell. Whelan, and Bouder, so what was not to like? All the pieces were sufficiently different from each other, IMO, so that I failed to detect any monotony. "The Dance of the Hours" is a hoot, especially to those audience members who remember Allan Sherman's "Hello Muddah, "Hello Faddah." In at least one respect, the Wheeldon company is ahead of the game. All the music is played and sung live. Even some long-established dance companies can't say that.

#11 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 10:10 AM

I wonder if the predominance of pdd's are because it's hard to rehearse more than 2 people together at once time if you don't have a home and a company.

#12 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 06:45 PM

Definitely. It's going to take a while, some hard work and lots of money for Wheeldon and Friends to become Morphoses.

#13 vipa

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 08:52 PM

I was at tonight's performance, and for what it's worth my impressions:

There Where She Loved - worked overall, a bit too long, Sterling Hyltin looked wonderful, the singers were excellent

Vicissitude - a pas that seems to me very dependent on performance but can be enjoyable (as an aside, a possibly good subject for this board - ballets that work vs ballets that work only with exceptional performers.) T. Angle and M. Kowroski were very engaging. I really like his masculinity and it works well with her sensual quality.

Slingerland - I could have done without this one and the program was a bit too long.

Prokofiev - my favorite of the pas de deus. It was also my first Alina Cojocaru. Her warmth is enveloping. The shapes and lines bring to my mind beautiful "ringing tones" in voices. I'd love to see her in a full length ballet.

Dance of the Hours - Nothing is more fun than seeing Ashley B in something like this. You have to smile.

Fool's Paradise - I have to admit that I was tired by then. I think I liked some of it. I'd like to see it as an opening ballet.

Overview
I still think Wheeldon is strong on Pas de Deux and very week on groups. A group meaning more than 3.
The program was too long. Many people left before the last ballet.
I wish this endevor well but right now it is built on stars and pas de deux. We'll see what happens
One more thing - It was an enjoyable evening.

#14 drb

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 10:19 PM

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tonight there was a sucessful new dance, replacing the Bussell piece, plus the chance to see the Princess of Love, Alina Cojocaru, in the work made on her and Johan Kobborg.

Edwaard Liang's Schubert (Death and the Maiden) dance Vicissitude ("Natural change or variation; alterations manifested in nature and human affairs.") made its NYC debut, having premiered in Vail in August. Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle were the dancers in this fascinating little ballet. Mr. Liang really allows one inside a complexly evolving relationship. While they start out together, neither wants to be very involved with the other. So, for instance, when it is time for his solo variation, where one might expect the man to put on a display to impress the woman, Ms. Kowroski turns her back on him, not seeing any of it, including some promisingly fine turns by Mr. Angle. Then, when it is her turn for display, he simply leaves the stage. They get together when she backs into him (at least he was looking, she not). But they've got back together. The relationship grows. It becomes a human affair. Nice work, Mr. Liang.

Unlike most everyone else, I agree with Farrell Fan in not finding the central four dances too alike. And the dancing of those superstar ballerinas! One of the reasons they are great is that they are, and cannot avoid being, unique. Alina Cojocaru's presence made tonight's Prokofiev seem as if it were a much longer version than opening night's. For there was the story! An engaged couple, having one of those special conversations, dreaming as one, anticipating joys of their mutual future. Might these have once been those school-yard children in first love, as created by Katie Morgan and Seth Orza in their own magical version of Wheeldon's Carousel? Special appreciation to Mr. Kish for enabling Ms. Cojocaru to dance with such freedom, allowing her lyricism to flow as if garlands of flowers from some endless garden.

Thank you to those above who suggested watching There Where She Loved as if a sort of Dances at a Gathering. While still annoyed at being kept in the dark by its multilingual secrets, there were some beautiful dance moments by the likes of Mlles Yatsenko, Bouder, Hyltin (with Mr. Garcia, out Romeo and Julieting last year's R+J), and Kowroski. And their suitors. Wednesday all the dancers were making debuts in their roles. They seemed better tonight. The audience response was far warmer, too.

Slingerland was still erotic, Mr. Liang taking advantage of Ms. Whelan's Potato Chip tutu. Dance of the Hours, again a delight, and giving respite to those who were "pretzeled out." Conventional choreography, perhaps, but what fun finishing with Gonzalo Garcia's tours a la seconde being twice circled by Ashley Bouder's tours chaines! We really liked the little rehearsal film that preceded each of the four short dances. Made by the "Ballet Boyz", Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, and not without humor.

After second sight, After the Rain excepted, Fool's Paradise is now my favorite Wheeldon ballet. It all seems so logical, so inevitable. And that endless finale: at first it looks as if it will be something akin to that of Four Temperaments, but a shift in the music and all dancers but one, in little groups, are onstage. The last comes on, and starts an ingenious process by which one dancer after another leaves till the ballet's opening trio of Whelan, Garcia and Hall are left. They reposition into their places at the dance's beginning, again with the two men advancing together as Ms. Whelan stays back center. The two begin to dance. But this time the other three men appear, watching. The other three women arrive. The finale is here, as they all dance, then form a kind of human mountain: Craig Hall thrusts Wendy Whelan skyward. Mr. Wheeldon's muse-pair has the final word. They've done their work. Mr. Wheeldon concludes this program with his inspiration.

#15 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 05:41 AM

Violin Concerto: You refer to the Liang ballet but it has not appeared yet...perhaps you were misreading the programme which listed all the works the Company is performing. Liang's piece makes its City Center debut tonight (Friday).

It's a little unfair to compare Liang's work unfavorably to Wheeldon's when it hasn't 'arrived' yet...unless you saw it out-of-town.



If you check the program, you'll see that Vicissitude was performed as part of program I on Oct 19th only. Probably for the Gala. Dr. B. also discusses this ballet. Part of my reaction was that it was too Maria Korowsky-specific. (I think it was also Dr.B who referred to her as "Legs" Korowsky last NYCB season.) The whole look of the ballet hinges on the length of her legs.


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