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NYCB Spring 2012 Season


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#1 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 12:50 PM

NYCB Spring Season Opening Night 5/1/2012

Program: Serenade, Kammermusik No. 2, Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet

I mostly went to see Balanchine’s Kammermusik No. 2, newly returned to the repertory after having been in mothballs for what seems like an eon. Everyone in the cast—including the (excellent) corps of eight men—was therefore making a role debut. I saw Sara Mearns, Teresa Reichlen, Jared Angle, and Amar Ramasar. A new cast (Rebecca Krohn, Abi Stafford, Adrian Danchig-Waring, and Jonathan Stafford) debuts on Thursday May 3. If I didn’t have a prior engagement, I’d go see that cast too.

The male corps, for the record: Devin Alberda, Daniel Applebaum, zachary Catazaro, Cameron Dieck, Sam Greenberg, Ralph Ippolito, Andrew Scordato, and Joshua Thew. They took a well-deserved group bow in front of the curtain.

Kammermusik, choreographed in 1978, was one of the very first ballets I saw when I moved to the Metro area and started attending NYCB regularly. It was still new then, and I was lucky enough to see it danced by most of the original cast: Karin von Aroldingen, Colleen Neary, Sean Lavery, Adam Lüders. Neary had left the company by the time I got to see the work, however, and had been replaced by Kyra Nichols. Honestly, it was so early in my dance-watching career that not a lot a stuck in my head except for the costumes and the two women’s bouncing ponytails. (I was so green I didn’t even realize that the all-male corps was out-of-the-ordinary for Balanchine!)

So, what did Kammermusik look like after all those years? Both like outlier Balanchine and the choreographic spring from which Peter Martins has drunk most deeply. The texture of the choreography itself is fidgity and dense. It put me in mind of Rubies, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, and Symphony in Three Movements, although Kammermusik is not really like any of those works.

Like Stravinsky Violin Concerto it’s got two principal couples, but unlike it, they are for all practical intents and purposes indistinguishable. You don’t get a sense of them having distinct histories and personalities; I’m not even sure they’re “couples” in the Balanchinean sense. If I hadn’t written down in my notes who was dancing with whom, I’m not entirely sure I’d remember, and given the cast—are there two NYCB ballerinas more different in temperament than fiery Mearns and cool Reichlen?—that’s saying a lot. In this, however, the work seems the rootstock of a vast swath of Martins repertory. When I watch Fearful Symmetries, for example, I can never sort out which role was Merrill Ashley's and which was Heather Watts' and even if I could, it wouldn't be particularly useful information.

Given that the two works share a composer—Paul Hindemith—I thought I might see traces of Four Temperaments in Kammermusik, and I did: in the male corps, which as certain points echos the group formations of the all-female corps in 4Ts’ “Melancholic” and “Phlegmatic” sections. But the prinicpals don’t interact with the corps as they do in 4Ts. Kammermusik’s male corps seems more an independent tableau against which the principals are projected: rather than echoing or amplifying what the principals do, the corps seem to give them context. Sometimes their movements are grotesque (think of the goon squad in Prodigal Son), sometimes they’re evocative of an ancient Egyptian frieze; sometimes they look just plain weird, and it colors what the principals are doing.

Anyway, if you can, go and see it before it vanishes again. It's not major Balanchine, but it's one of those outliers like Variations pour une Porte et un Soupir or Le Tombeau de Couperin that you need to see to get a deeper understanding of the rest.

Other highlights of the evening:

Megan LeCrone, who I thought was just terrific as the “Bransle Gay” girl in Agon last season made another promising debut as the “tall girl” in the Allego (the first) movment of Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet. She was absolutely lovely to watch: beautifully erect, reserved yet warm. Brava!

Tyler Angle debuted in BSQ’s Rondo alla Zingarese. I’m not convinced that it’s the right role for him, but I am convinced that he’s the right partner for Maria Kowroski now that Charles Askegard has retired. In fact, I think he suits her even better.

Sterling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild gave the knock-out performance of the evening in the BSQ Intermezzo (second movement). It was really thrilling, hair-raising stuff. I almost typed "go-for-broke," but that implies a kind of wildness, and Hyltin and Fairchild were anything but wild. They were so on-the-music and so in sync it made your heart stop. The house went wild. Hyltin pulls off the neat trick of being knowing without seeming coarse or merely naughty. (I think it’s what makes her performance of Kay Mazzo’s role in Stravinsky Violin Concerto so refreshing: when she collapses knees-first towards the floor into her partner’s hands, she’s taking a risk, not being vulnerable.)

Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette got to dance together in the BSQ Andante (third movement). It was a sweet reprise of the happy village couple roles at which they both excel (think Coppelia or The Magic Flute): you could practically smell spring in the air. And Veyette is tall enough to really show Fairchild off in a lift.

Abi Stafford tried on some rubato effects in the opening Allego, and looked like a first-movement ballerina in them. Needless to say, her allegro was impeccable.

There was an ad for OPI's NYCB themed line of nail polish in the program, and it looks as if they've lifted the color palette straight from NYCB's silvery pink and lilac production of Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet.

In Serenade, Janie Tayor was the Waltz Girl, Ashley Bouder was the Russian Girl, and Rebecca Krohn was the Dark Angel. (Jonathan Stafford and Ask la Cour were the male principals.) I liked all three women, but I think I'd like them better if they hadn't been cast together; they didn't quite mesh somehow. I thought Stafford was a good foil for Taylor, who danced with her usual febrile intensity -- talk about go-for-broke, just this side of out-of-control dancing! She slipped and fell at one point during their duet -- the house responded with a gasp of alarm -- but recovered nicely. Georgina Pazcougin, one of the four demi-soloists, had her dark hair up in a big pouf of a bun that put me in mind of Martha Graham. I thought it looked great and I hope she keeps it.

And every season should open with Serenade. Just sayin’.

#2 California

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 01:09 PM

I'm curious if the house seemed full. Tickets for $31 are available today at the Theatre Development Fund:

[size=2]May 3 at 7:30PM
Kammermusik No. 2
Tarantella
DGV: Danse a Grande Vitesse
Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet

May 5 at 2:00PM
In the Night
The Cage
Andantino
In G Major[/size]

[size=3]Oh, how I wish I could see Kammermusik again! I saw the LA Ballet do it a couple of years ago (to recorded music, of course). Colleen Neary came out before the performance to tell us a little about how it was choreographed. Balanchine did the entire opening section in unison for the two lead women. Then he said: okay, now I want Colleen to do the same thing, but a beat behind Karin. [/size]

#3 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 01:16 PM

I'm curious if the house seemed full.



The orchestra and first rings looked pretty full from where I sat.

#4 vipa

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 05:19 PM

I went on Wed. night and sat in the 4th ring. It looked pretty crowded from what I could see. The 4th ring seemed pretty full to about row F. SAB students had a bunch of seats which were probably comps. The box office person told me the company was opening seats in the 4th & 5th rings on an "as needed" basis.

On to the show.
Serenade - I hadn't seen it in a while so how wonderful to be reminded of the beauty, drama, musicality and inventiveness of the piece - so many heart stopping moments and images. The corps looked wonderful. I loved Ashley Bouder (Russian Girl). Her clarity of movement and dynamic qualities made it seem as if she was truly carried by the music. The other principals were Krohn, Janie Taylor, la Cour and Jonathan Stafford. All were good except, well I guess I just don't get Janie Taylor. To me she just looks kind of weak and gets through things OK. Nevertheless the main thing is that I feel in love with the ballet all over again.

Kammermusik No. 2- I saw it years ago, but had little memory of it. I really enjoyed the performance. Mearns &Reichlin started in displaced unity. One a beat behind the other doing fast, precise, often angular movement. They have such different movement qualities that Reichlin repeating the movement Mearns had just done was the same but different, like a musician playing a musical phrase and then bringing out a different nuance in the repeat. The group sections with the corps of 8 men also required speed, sharp precision and tremendous physical awareness. I realized that Balanchine choreographed this in 1978 when he was 74, the same year he did Ballo della Regina. They are very different pieces, but is seems to me he might have been experimenting with pushing speed and precision in ballet technique.

Tsch pas de deux with Tiler Peck & Joaquin De Luz. I have seen this many times with many great dancers. IMO this was the best I've ever seen (my husband agreed). The musical phrasing in the pas made the piece new again. De Luz has a way of presenting the ballerina that is both nobel and warm. Peck is a complete ballerina. She combines speed with a very lyrical quality. She is musical, imaginative, dances with abandon and has a virtuoso technique. De Luz gave us huge jumps, beautiful multiple turns, and all of the other "tricks" with a relaxed and even sunny nobility. They have become 2 of my favorite dancers.

Firebird - Maria Kowroski is goddess like in her looks and body. For me her performance had no power or magic. I'm going to try to see Bouder do it!

#5 abatt

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 07:05 PM

Vipa, I went on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I agree with much of what you wrote. First, I enjoyed the little "see the music" talk before the show. Andrew Sill made some interesting points about the music for Serenade. It was also touching that City Ballet dedicated the performance fo Serenade to the late Hugo Fiorato. I don't get Janie Taylor in Serenade either. She leaves me cold in this ballet. I enjoyed the corps, and Bouder's performance. I also have to agree with Vipa that Tiler Peck may be the best ballerina I've ever seen in Tschai PDD. It's not merely her sparkling, effortless technique. Her musicality and timing make all the difference. I enjoyed DeLuz as well, but I've seen the male role performed exquisitely in the past too (We miss you Damian!). I enjoyed Reichlin and Mearns in Kammermusik. They performed better on Wed than on Tues.However, that ballet can go back into storage ASAP. I also thought that Maria's performance lacked excitement.

I'm counting down the minutes until we get to see Mearns' Waltz Girl on Friday evening. I'm packing my Kleenex right now in anticipation of a very memorable performance.

Regarding the Brahms Schoenberg on Tuesday, Robbie Fairchild goes from stength to strength. I was riveted by his ardent romanticism in the second movement.

#6 abatt

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 07:38 PM

The anticipated debut of Mearns as the Waltz Girl did not not occur tonight. Mearns was replaced by Taylor in Serenade. In fact, she is being replaced in every ballet this weekend (see rg's post re casting changes). Taylor was better tonight than earlier in the week. I also thought Maria K danced Firebird better than earlier in the week, except for a minor slip up in the pdd w. Ask. Nevertheless, I prefer the more airborne dancing of Bouder's Firebird. The house was pretty full, and people were seated in the fourth ring.

Reichlin was wonderful in her role debut as the Dark Angel in Serenade. She has the perfect long line for the role. It was odd, however, to see her dancing next to Taylor and M. Fairchild, because of the huge differences in height. Adrian Daching Waring was excellent in his role debut. The way he stared into Janie's eyes in their final moments together before the Dark Angel leads him off was intensely romantic.

Mearns is still listed for all of her assignments next week. Hope she just has a cold.

#7 Natalia

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 02:54 AM

Very sorry that Mearns was unable to dance this past weekend, especially after her powerful performances in Carillons and Russian Seasons at the Kennedy Center last month. Nonetheless, there were many delights to behold at the Koch Theater on Saturday, including a gorgeous and 'floaty' Andantino by Fairchild/DeLuz and my first-ever look at the Balanchine rarity Kammermusik no. 2. While not 'major Balanchine,' Kammermusik is still worthy of inclusion in the rep, particularly as it is a very rare opportunity to see an all-male classical corps supporting the soloists. Balanchine cleverly created interesting patterns that accentuate the orchestral portions of Hindemith's score, even a Giselle Wilis-like 'one-by-one wave' pattern at the very end. (The biggest curtain-call cheer on Saturday night was for the corps men...and how often does one see a curtain call just for a corps group?) Among the four energetic soloists, Rebecca Krohn and Adrian Danchig-Waring were particularly impressive.

Nomination to promotion from corps: Lauren King, who was extraordinary in numerous soloist opportunities at the Kennedy Center last month, e.g., Fearful Symmetries, Hallelujah Junction, Who Cares? [I've noticed that some corps dancers are pushed to prominence on tour, then not used so much at home. Odd.] In addition to Lauren, Taylor Stanley seemed to be in 'everything' at the KennCen but I didn't see him in NYC.

#8 Michael

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 07:56 AM

Nomination to promotion from corps: Lauren King


Everybody notices her - whether friends and spouses who don't often go the ballet, or visiting balletomanes who don't see the company, it never fails, Lauren King is the dancer commented on and picked out. "Who is that girl . . . ?" She dances and it's never just steps. And she looks like she's feeling it.

She's had some soloist roles, I hope she gets more. There's always pressure to hold a gifted demi-soloist in the corps de ballet but the way she projects she's naturally a soloist.

MP

#9 Natalia

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 02:31 AM

Thanks, Michael. Counting her apprentice year (03/04), she's now been in the corps for 9 years. Sorta ridiculous. She totally out-sparkled two PRINCIPAL ladies in recent Fearful Symmetries at the KennCen. Lauren is Principal -- not even Soloist -- material. Now...not 10 years from now.

#10 abatt

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 05:22 AM

Has anyone else noticed that Sterling Hyltin is looking fantastic this season. She and Robert Fairchild were ravishing in their debuts in the first section of In the Night. I was also very impressed with her debut in Serenade as the Russian girl. It seems like she has reached a new level of artistry this season. Another noteworthy performance I saw this week was Tiler Peck's breathtaking interpretation of the second movement of B-S Quartet. Her dramatic presence, timing and musicality made the performance memorable. As always, I loved La Bouder's bold and soaring Firebird.

I also saw last night's performance of Symphony in C. I thought the women's tutus and tiaras were beautifully done. However, I did not like the men's costumes. I thought there was too much bling at the neckline, to the point of being distracting. I also did not like the designs on the arms of the men's costumes. On the upper arm area there are a lot of crystals, which distract from the line of the arm.

Bouder and DeLuz were brilliant in the third movement. Ditto Tiler Peck and Adrian D-W in the fourth. (Adrian has looked great in every role this season. I hope he is promoted soon.) Abi Stafford could use some additional rehearsal in the first movement. It looked a bit sloppy. Mearns danced the second movement w. J. Stafford. It was a good performance, but not a great one. Something was missing. I actually think Mearns would be better in the first movement. I guess Wendy has given up her role in the second movement. That's a pity, since I used to love her performances of that role. Sadly, due to schedule conflicts I will not see Maria K. this season in the role. I'm assuming the ballet will return in the fall. The corps looked very well rehearsed.

#11 vipa

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 09:07 AM

Thanks, Michael. Counting her apprentice year (03/04), she's now been in the corps for 9 years. Sorta ridiculous. She totally out-sparkled two PRINCIPAL ladies in recent Fearful Symmetries at the KennCen. Lauren is Principal -- not even Soloist -- material. Now...not 10 years from now.


My husband and I agree. We're always delighted to see her name in the program no matter what the role, she brings a radiance to the stage.

#12 Halfhourcall

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 11:53 AM

"Abi Stafford could use some additional rehearsal in the first movement. It looked a bit sloppy."

I'm sure if she was sloppy, it probably had to do with her dancing Barocco before. Two hard ballets in one night is not an easy feat.

#13 mimsyb

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 12:55 PM

Except dancing two "hard ballets" is what being a good Balanchine dancer is about! It used to be not un common to see the better dancers dancing these two (or other) ballets in succession and having no problem pulling it off. Abi simply wasn't up to doing even Barocco, the first ballet. Her lack of musical attack and energy is distracting. She always seems to be dancing so slowly, even when the tempo says "get going". By the time she got to "Symphony in C" she had run out of gas. I was looking forward to seeing the new costumes, but they seemed to over power the dancers. Both men and ladies looked to be laboring a bit during the ballet. The "bling" for me needs to be in the presentation and the dancing, not necessarily in the tutu. Maybe with more rehearsal the sparkle will come from within.

#14 abatt

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 01:07 PM

News flash- Sara Mearns is apparently still/again injured. I was at today's matinee. She was in Les Carillons. She came out with the ensemble to do the opening section. It all looked fine. Then, oddly, Scheller, came out to perform the big solo usually done by Mearns. In the final section, only four couples out of the 5 lead couples came out to perform. Then, in the last few moments of the ballet, Ramasar (Mearns' partner) improvised some solo dancing as the other lead couples performed. Mearns did not return for the curtain call. Hope she is able to return soon. I'm expecting some cast shuffles at tomorrow's matinee.

I wasn't going to comment on the Friday Concerto B, but I agree w. mimsyb. However, Abi was not the only member of the cast of that ballet who had issues on Friday night.

#15 mimsyb

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 07:52 PM

Agree, Abatt. Pretty sluggish, all around. Even the second violinist was having issues.


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