On August 19th, on an especially rainy and cold afternoon in Edinburgh (it looked like February in Marseille), I attended a performance of the third program of the New York City Ballet.
The first work of the program, "Serenade", was the oldest work of all the repertory of the three programs, but it looked as fresh as it had been done yesterday instead of 65 years ago. Having watched hundreds of times the NYCB video of this ballet, I was especially happy to see the NYCB dancing it "for real" (I had also seen it with the Paris Opera Ballet). I especially liked the opening section, so simple and yet so moving, and also the Waltz section, danced with charm and musicality by KyraNichols and Charles Askegard (he really looked great with that costume, what a line...). Helene Alexopoulos, as one of the three ballerinas, was very beautiful too. The end of the ballet, when the ballerina seems to be forced to accept some sort of sacrifice, was especially moving, Kyra Nichols' looks were heart-wrenching. And there also would be so many things to say about the great geometry of this ballet, all the beautiful ways to organize the corps de ballet...
Right after that masterpiece of beauty, poetry and delicacy, the audience was thrown into a very different world: it was followed by Peter Martins' "Fearful symmetries". I'm afraid I can't find any word more positive than "very noisy" to depict the music, and, while most of the ballets I don't like usually make me feel like yawning, that one made me feel like taking an aspirin and buying ear-plugs. Everything looked hectic, even when the music slowed down there still was something very tense (partly in the music, partly in the choreography), and it seemed to go on forever. The opening part of "Serenade" (with all the dancers raising their hands) is a proof that some very simple moves can be enough to make an extremely
moving sequence, but it seemed that Peter Martins had completely forgotten that while creating that work. There might have been some interesting steps, but I'm afraid the music and the infernal rhythm of all that prevented me from really seeing them, and all what remains in my memory is the sight of a lot of frenetic red things. The only positive aspect was that the dancers (M. Tracey, Weese, Borree, Millepied, Soto, Neal, Gold...) seemed to be enjoying what they were doing, but I couldn't share their enthusiasm. While most of the audience was positive, it was the only work of the three programs which caused a few whistles.
Fortunately, the following work, "Tchaikovsky pas de deux", was far more pleasant. Unfortunately, Wendy Whelan suddenly fell during the first part (I guess her shoe must have slipped on something on the stage, because it was not in a difficult step), which caused a collective gasp of the audience, but she recovered quickly (even though she looked perhaps a bit nervous). I still found her too thin (and that pale pink costume didn't suit her very well), but she was technically bright, and I guess one has to be Peter Boal to look great even in that bizarre pale blue costume (with a kind of knot on the collar which makes it look like an old costume for little boys). However, that performance won't erase the wonderful performance of Elisabeth Platel and Nicolas Le Riche in that ballet from my memory.
I was looking forward to seeing the last work of the program, "Western symphony", as I had never seen it (except an excerpt on the Balanchine Celebration video). I was not disappointed, and appreciated it very much: it is a work which has something for all audiences, a lot of humor and wit, some nice acting, but also some real choreography, with well-structured ensemble parts, pas de deux and solos. The brightly colored costumes were very pleasant too. The first movement, with Nilas Martins and Pascale Van Kipnis, seems to have been a bit disturbed by some
technical problems with Van Kipnis' skirt (a frill was too long), and Martins looked perhaps a bit too naive, but the last two movements were excellent, with Ringer and Evans, and Kowroski and Hubbe, all of whom had great stage presence and danced beautifully. The finale was wonderful, and welcomed with much enthusiasm by the audience.
As a conclusion, on the whole I was very happy to see all those performances, and have two wishes: I hope that the NYCB will come to France soon, and also that the POB will decide to dance all the Balanchine works in its repertory a bit more often...
[This message has been edited by Estelle (edited August 29, 2000).]
NYCB in Edinburgh, program 3
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