12-16 October 2011 in the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy CenterSerenade, Concerto Barocco, Diamonds
Posted 17 October 2011 - 07:31 AM
How often does one have the opportunity to spend an entire day delighting in only Balanchine ballets? That's what I did yesterday. In general, I enjoyed both programs very much and congratulate the company's dancers and creative team...although I am still a bit miffed that, after ten years -- longer if you count the earlier incarnations -- this is still basically a part-time 'pick-up' company of dancers whose main jobs are elsewhere.
Serenade - The opening never fails to steal my heart...and the finale always brings tears. TSFB corps did one of its best jobs with this ballet, although I kept waiting for more 'poetry' from the female soloists Elisabeth Holowchuk, Audra Johnson and Courtney Anderson. The male soloists, Momchil Mladenov and Ted Seymour, seemed more in tune with Balanchine & Tchaikovsky.
Concerto Barocco - I totally agree with Jack here: Violeta Angelova is simply stunning - a ballerina who has-it-all: looks, musicality, technique, and, most importantly, that special ability to "sing" with her body & feet. Brava! But I also loved the pert and technically-sound Kara G. Cooper in the other female lead. Kirk Henning lent able support to Angelova in the 2nd movement. While not pristinely uniform, the corps ladies performed admirably.
Diamonds - This Diamond *did* shine brightly, thanks to a large corps bolstered by members of The Sarasota Ballet, as well as the exquisite dancing by the leading ballerina, Heather Ogden. Just like Angelova in Barocco, Ogden imbued her dancing with powerful feelings, beautifully matching Tchaikovsky's glorious score. Michael Cook was her steady partner, although rather lackadaisical (not to say downright sloppy) in his solo dancing moments. [He did not dance in that evening's Sonatine, so perhaps he was dancing injured through this Diamonds? I have heard many good things about Cook; what I saw did not match the pre-talk.]
Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fee - Like his La Source or the three Raymonda suites, this ballet is Balanchine's somewhat quirky 'take' on what was once a longer ballet. Still, the choreographer managed to capture the 'essence' and 'mystery' of the original in less than 30 minutes. Divertimento-Baiser includes some of the most difficult choreography in the Balanchine oeuvre, particularly for the man. Matthew Renko was simply spectacular. He was, hands down, the most impressive man among all soloist men in both performances that I saw. Not only technically adept but so zippy, light, fleet-footed, highly musical, full of poetry, etc, etc. He was the ballet to me. As his fiance, Howlachuk was OK; I much more enjoyed her later, as the lead in Pithoprakta (see below). The corps ladies were commendable. One qualm: What was up with the costumes...almost an 'economy model' of the NYCB originals? The dress for the fiancee, in particular, with the red "sweetheart" neckline, was most unflattering, making the ballerina's already-largish torso look even bulkier. The costumier did her no favors. [As you'll see, a common negative thread tonight was the quality of the costuming.]
Sonatine - Up to now, I'd only seen tiny video clips of Violette Verdy's jazzy solo in this work from the '75 Ravel Festival at NYCB. Verdy is a tough act to follow but Violeta Angelova came very close to the bubbly-champage spirit of the original interpreter. It was a 10-minute delight, to lovely solo-piano accompaniment by ever-wondrous Glenn Sales. Replacing the indisposed Michael Cook, Monchil Mladenov provided gracious partnering to Angelova. On the negative side: again, the costumes. Why clothe the two dancers in "blah brown"...or was it a dark auvergine? Violette Verdy had worn a bright, clear one-shouldered tunic, which went with the spirit of brio and lightness, while the original's male dancer, Bonnefous, had worn a one-toned short without the dopey stripes that we saw here.
Pithoprakta - Elisabeth Howlachuk was totally in her element as the lead ballerina in this ultra-modern, ultra-quirky work by Balanchine, with a wild & weird score by Greece's Xenakis. Howlachuk's physical presence and bold manner of movement made this work for me. Kirk Henning and the corps in black added zest to the stew. So when will we see a reconstruction of the 'companion piece' to this ballet - Metastaseis?
Diamonds - I had braced myself for a not-so-grand experience, after reading the early reviews of this cast of Sarasota Ballet principals Danielle Brown & Ricardo Graziano...and was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful solo dancing that I witnessed last night! No, Brown is not yet Heather Ogden or Uliana Lopatkina, but she was secure and quite lovely in her own right, with only the slightest of missteps in the pas de deux. In the coda, the beautiful redhead delivered an even zippier set of mini-fouettes than Ogden's! Graziano was nothing short of spectacular as the cavalier, so much more energetic and high-flying that Cook in the matinee (though Cook, again, may have already been injured). Were it not for the extraordinary Matthew Renko in Divert-Baiser, I would have crowned Ricardo Graziano the Male Star of the Run!
Bravi Tutti...except for, again, the costumes. Dumb Question: HOW OLD ARE THESE 'DIAMONDS' COSTUMES? Their 'dirty' look -- combination of grey and beige, especially the corps' ladies skirts -- did not go with the grand ballroom atmosphere...or with the shiny-white satin pointe shoes. The Farrell troupe deserves better.
Posted 17 October 2011 - 04:49 PM
Good to read your report, Natalia. That costume can be seen here along with Macaulay's review. I liked it, actually, but to each his own.
Posted 18 October 2011 - 04:35 AM
Serenade & CB were very enjoyable, Serenade especially notable for the musicality & sweep of the corps. Unfortunately, as the waltz girl in Serenade I found Howlochuck's dancing rather dry and her interpretation lacking in poetry. I did really love the Russian girl, Audra Johnson, but I have to say that neither ballet revealed any new meaning or nuances for me. They were good performances but not ones I'm likely to remember a year from now.
Diamonds was another story. The production, the music, costumes, scenery (a simple white ballroom), the corps & soloists were all first rate but the heart of the performance, in fact the star of the afternoon was Heather Ogden.
She gave such a beautiful performance, especially in the pas de deux. I can see what Jack meant about her showing all the facets of a diamond. She doesn't possess the majestic extensions of Kowroski or the thrilling attack of Mearns, but she brought her own interpretation that was just as valid.
What struck me most were the quicksilver changes in direction and in attitude that she manifested. It was as if you could hear her innermost thoughts and feel her turmoil. Yes, I love you -no this can't be - but what if it could...
Michael Cook was a solid Cavalier but I agree with Natalia that his own dancing was sloppy. I kept wanting him to point his damn feet!
But Ogden's was a great performance and I hope I get to see her in the pdd in NY.
Posted 18 October 2011 - 05:07 AM
OMG, so right about the feet...especially in the circle of jetes around the stage. The Sarasota Ballet's cavalier (Granziano) had spot-on gorgeous feet in those jetes and practically everything else...and, unlike Cook, finished in beautiful closed 5th position after each of his double tours. Sorry that you missed him.
Posted 18 October 2011 - 07:34 AM
But far preferable to the blindingly white tutu designed by Holly Hynes for the pas de deux a few years ago, IMO.
Posted 18 October 2011 - 07:44 AM
TSFB is performing only the pdd from Diamonds in NYC (Joyce Theater) later this week; I wonder if they'll be getting "dirty beige" or "the flashlight"?
Posted 18 October 2011 - 03:46 PM
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