Nikolaj HubbeA moving farewell....
Posted 10 February 2008 - 06:56 PM
Nikolaj has been with New York City Ballet since 1992. He arrived as a vigorous young man with a perfect classical line and an appetite for challenges, and leaves 16 years later, more experienced, still vigorous, having come through injuries and adoration. He is older, but his line, his mastery and enjoyment of his work, and his warm, affectionate demeanor have held steady until tonight, his last performance a a dancer -- and teacher -- with New York City Ballet.
He was chosen to be the Artistic Director of the Royal Danish Ballet, and will soon assume that position (see this article from today's NY Times).
Today's performance was a Balanchine "hero sandwich" with Apollo and Western Symphony as the bread, enclosing Flower Festival in Genzano (the lovely Bournonville pas de2 which Nikolaj staged for the School of American Ballet), Zakouski by Peter Martins, and Cool from West Side Story Suite, choreographed by Jerome Robbins. There were loud and generous ovations after each ballet.
I will leave it to others (and I hope many will join me on this thread) to describe the technicalities of the performances, but I can only say that it was an exceptional event at the ballet, and a privilege to witness all the love and respect that his fellow dancers have for Nikolaj evident in every movement and expression. In the pas de 2 from Apollo with Wendy Whelan I could see and feel her sense of loss. I thought his line was perfect, and enjoyed watching him enjoy all those luscious leaps, the "kicking the soccer ball," and "Picadilly Square lights" hand movements. (And, in a foretelling of things to come, Damian Woetzel threw a large bouquet of yellow flowers to Nikolaj, from orchestra theater right.)
Kathryn Morgan and David Prottas practically floated through the Flower Festival pas de 2 with sweetness, grace, ease, and mastery of the Bournonville style. THIS was a performance of Kathryn's that I could wholeheartedly appreciate. So did everyone else.
"Western Symphony" was an all-out party, with dancers trying to out-kick, out-jump and out-turn each other. Maria Korowsky in particular had fun in the Fourth movement with her (Tanaquil Le Clerc's) solo diagonal kicks, and the turns where she whips around on point and almost k.o.'s him. Nikolaj was a good sport. He really, really enjoyed this last ballet, and laughed throughout that final movement.
Then came the applause, applause, applause, and then the bouquets..... from each female principal (including Kyra Nichols!!) and then Peter Martins.... and then the heavens opened up and sparkles, rose petals and confetti came raining down. AND THEN..... came the "flower throw," with dozens and dozens of bouquets thrown on to the stage from in front of the orchestra pit. Nikolaj was amazed and overwhelmed. It was wonderful. Wish you could have been there too!
Posted 10 February 2008 - 09:20 PM
Posted 11 February 2008 - 05:19 AM
Posted 11 February 2008 - 08:44 AM
Posted 11 February 2008 - 10:43 AM
I loved all of the pieces and partners Hubbe selected(?) to join him on stage. Especially Mr. B's Western Symphony and
Martins' Zakouski. Nobody, and I mean nobody, will ever come close to topping Nikolaj's performances in those roles.
I was in tears for most of Apollo watching Wendy Whelan and the other muses as they led Nikolaj towards the future. Then more tears, as you saw the heart-torn bows, all of the bows for each ballet, all showing how much his partners have loved working with Nikolaj, and he with them.
Then there was the delightful treat of Flower Festival with Morgan and Prottas(!!!!). I expected brilliant technique from him, but WOW! He also not only nailed the huge jumps and creamy, balanced-lots-of-control-needed turns (versus just whipping into them), but Prottas also has a flavor all his own, intense, kind of Russian, kind of Cuban, with the flare and cleanliness of SAB training.
I was expecting clean, but I wasn't expecting his variety of intensity. Prottas is an unusual dancer for NYCB, not looking all-American whatsoever in his style. Definitely an original. And I can't think of anybody better suited, being so strong and masculine, and fresh with brilliant technique, to soon take over some of Damian's full-of-tricks roles. Morgan was sweetness and grace and ease, but didn't quite match Prottas' full-of-surprises performance!!
But back to Nikolaj who was and IS a divine one of a kind. So full of life and passionate, generous love that shines in his dancing and personality always. It was an afternoon of great joy and great memories.
Posted 11 February 2008 - 11:35 AM
I was impressed by Prottas' ability to jump and beat, but he over-jumped. It's Bournonville, not Russian ballet and he was way too emphatic - you could see him whack to the edge of his extension on every jump and resonate slightly. He's certainly talented, he just needs to be coached out of that, at least in Bournonville. But many of the men on stage were dancing that way (Andrew Veyette in particular) - it's the current style of the company and the occasion was a very emotional one. Morgan was just lovely in this - beautiful and even relaxed.
I was impressed that Hubbe made it through the afternoon - he hasn't done more than one ballet in a performance for a while that I can recall - he did four. You could see how it was affecting him after the pas de deux in Apollo. In "Cool," where he had to sing, the lack of breath caught up with him.
This wasn't Hubbe's doing, but Western Symphony really needs to go into the shop badly for a tune-up. It does have steps.
To me, it wasn't his best dancing (I can think of a few Mozartianas, his Poet in Sonnambula, and his Onegin with NBoC that I'll remember him by even more) but to finally echo what the others were saying and give praise where it's more than due, it showed better than any other performance Hubbe's creed as an artist. He was a major talent, and took every risk, tried every dare, relied on resources he sometimes didn't have, and tried to give all of himself and more to his audience one last time.
Posted 11 February 2008 - 12:07 PM
Posted 11 February 2008 - 01:47 PM
I have to agree with you about Prottas, in that he didn't look Danish one bit. But that's what I liked about him!!
Then again, I've always hated the super sweetness and reserve of Flower Festival... I'd much rather see Prottas' talent used elsewhere. I wish they had put him in Tchai Pas, or Square Dance, or Theme, or Fall of Four Seasons!! But FF was the important debut for Prottas this season. He needed to make a big impression. And he did. Prottas showed he could handle lots of pressure. He showed he could surpass technical expections. He showed he could deliver a style fit for this generation, and different at the same time. And all of that is going to push Prottas forward at NYCB big time.
Btw, if you missed it, Prottas was far more elegant and relaxed in Gentilhomme. Which showed me that he knows not all ballets are the same.... He's so young, I wonder if he has ever seen any Bournonville... Career-wise, I think Sunday was far more important for Prottas to show his flashy best than his Danish training, if any.
And, yes, it was not at all Hubbe's best dancing ever. I don't think a last performance should be.... But we ran to see Hubbe's anyway, because of his full-hearted presence, attack, joy, passion, generosity, sexiness, meaty-masculine sensuality, playfulness, and golden-handsome looks, one more time!! And send him off with all of our gratitude. Did I leave any adjectives out??!!!
Posted 11 February 2008 - 01:54 PM
Posted 11 February 2008 - 08:34 PM
Leigh, I agree with you about Prottas, it didn't look Danish to me, in that it looked difficult. The beats were terrific, but the jumps were too strained, and I thought his upper and lower body looked like they were moving in different planes, which made him look a little uneasy. I didn't get the pure, unaffected, effortless joy that I have seen in others. But Morgan, that was a different story!
I hope Prottas' athleticism did not come from Hubbe's coaching, that it is not an indication of how the "grandson" intends to "run it now." [from Sunday's New York Times]:
"I love and adore August Bournonville," he said. "I have the greatest respect for him, but he is my great-grandfather. We have to exist in the world as it is now, and so I think the definition of the Royal Danish Ballet will have to fit the cloth that we are made of. We cannot be so dogmatic. It's terrible if the looming shadow of your great-grandfather becomes a crutch, or a cross to bear. Therefore we should say: 'Thank you, Grandpa, you're the best. We run it now.' "
Morgan threatened to overshadow the afternoon's honoree, taking to Bournonville as if to born to it. The pas does have its gooey moments which were subdued by her intelligent timing. But seeing the younger dancers, his students, gave the afternoon a look towards the many years ahead which will have Hubbe, the teacher's, imprint on NYCB, and also a preview of the work awaiting him in Copenhagen. It was good to have that, to relieve the sense of loss.
Posted 12 February 2008 - 05:21 PM
Indeed. Kathryn's Flower Festival in Genzano brought the young (well over a quarter century ago) Lis Jeppesen to mind. Both Ms. Morgan and Ms. Jeppesen had a look that at first suggested soubrette, yet both were much more than that. There was no cute or coy layered over their natural, youthful beauty. Both women danced with extraordinary delicacy (it is hard to recall any dancer who could out-delicate Lis). When considering Kathryn's relative lack of Bournonville training, all the more a true tribute to Mr. Hubbe's teaching. Also, it was a very impressive first major role for Mr. Prottas. I hope there is some way that this becomes more than a one-time-only, it is surely more interesting choreography than much that is already in place for next season, not to mention just a sheer joy to watch.
...Morgan threatened to overshadow the afternoon's honoree, taking to Bournonville as if to born to it. The pas does have its gooey moments which were subdued by her intelligent timing. But seeing the younger dancers, his students, gave the afternoon a look towards the many years ahead which will have Hubbe, the teacher's, imprint on NYCB, and also a preview of the work awaiting him in Copenhagen. It was good to have that, to relieve the sense of loss.
As Wendy Whelan began the concluding sunburst in Apollo, her emotion was intense and probably not without tears as her face momentarily seemed to touch Mr. Hubbe. During the fourth of six curtains, Nicolaj grabbed Ms. Whelan as the three Muses were exiting to leave him solo, and held her as the two instead exited together. The curtains with Yvonne Borree were even more emotional. In one of many curtains he kissed her directly (kissing away her tears?), then cradled her head in his arms as they exited together. This is a man who appreciates his partners, and that should bode well for the ballerinas of the Royal Danish Ballet. Indeed. This is a man. Who will be the next Apollo?
The dinner party after was covered, remarkably well, in the following society column. Some photos will surely interest NYCB fans, including one of Damian and Heather:
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