City Ballet, 5/22, Firebird and a Debut
Posted 22 May 2001 - 10:29 PM
I wish I could convey how good Charles Askegaard was in this role -- his noble, attentive partnering of Bouder, his weighty step, his big and effortless jump and lovely soft plie both in his walk and in his landings; but, above all, the dramatic sense of spellbound wonder that he conveyed in his character. It was a commanding performance from start to finish, as good as I've seen from a man this year at City Ballet.
As for Bouder, I wasn't sure what to expect. The role is so different from the pyrotechnical demands of the solo in La Source with which she made such an impression in January. And she's so young, this being her first year in the company, after been singled out at last years SAB workshop.
But I need not have worried. After some initial jitters in the first few seconds, she settled into a performance which was remarkable for how she held the stage and for its full and compelling dramatic portrayal of the Firebird: The Firebird as the central character in the drama -- a vulnerable, magical creature that she made real, the fitting object of Charles Askegaard's spellbound wonder, and ultimately the joyful rescuer of Askegaard and his bride.
It was a dramatic reading of the role, an instinctive interpretation, that I had not expected -- not only because she is such a young dancer, but because I've never seen that sense conveyed before in a number of performances of this ballet. You could see Ashley "kick into" the character quite noticably when she met Askegaard's eyes, during their first pas de deux, with an achingly beautiful facial expression. Thereafter, she owned the part.
The series of jumps, circling the stage, when she entered to rescue the Prince, were breathtaking. And the seeming eternity on pointe at the end, when she is ultimately alone on the stage -- the long, soft series of pas de bourrees, interspersed with soft, occasional, brushing, pas de chevals -- were simply exquisite. There were some sketchy moments, but not more than one or two. It was not just a remarkable performance from a kid, it was a remarkable performance period.
Enough said. The rest of the program -- Appalachia Waltz with Somogyi et al. and Balanchine's One Act Swan Lake with Wendy Whelan and Philip Neal -- was also very good.
[ 05-22-2001: Message edited by: Michael1 ]
[ 05-22-2001: Message edited by: Michael1 ]
[ 05-23-2001: Message edited by: Michael1 ]
Posted 24 May 2001 - 12:14 PM
According to Jennifer Dunning's review in the New York Times, Bouder learned the role the day of the performance. I realize that NYCB's repertory is extensive and that dancers are often performing three times in one night, but wasn't there anyone else understudying the role or are there that many dancers out with injuries already? I remember seeing Kyra Nichols perform Firebird and I haven't seen her name up for performances this season. (Not to detract from what sounds like an incredible debut, but I'm wondering if this season is a pivotal one in that the last of the dancers who knew or were picked by Balanchine are phasing out.)
I also know that this is a common occurence at City Ballet and that Balanchine was known for replacing an understudy last minute because he thought that another dancer would be better in the role. Just curious as to what people think and know.
Posted 24 May 2001 - 12:41 PM
Sometimes there really isn't anyone who knows it; that was the case last year when Bouder's classmate Abi Stafford debuted in Valse Fantasie. If I recall correctly; there were three people ahead of her who knew the ballet; they were all sick or injured.
Posted 24 May 2001 - 02:24 PM
I remember seeing Kyra Nichols perform Firebird and I haven't seen her name up for performances this season.
Kyra Nichols is out on a maternity leave (Best wishes to her!).
Boy, do I wish I had been there Tuesday night. Instead, I got to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the character, not the show) die. Amazing, albeit in a different way. Having seen something else so powerful is the only thing keeping me from doing a lotta crying over spilt milk for not getting to see Ashley's debut. I wonder if she'll perform the part at Sat's matinee... I might just risk it, though it won't be the same as seeing the debut.
Ok. Enough babbling. Haven't been round these parts in awhile, so had to babble a bit.
Posted 24 May 2001 - 02:50 PM
Which I've been thinking about. Maria K is such a big girl, such a Danseuse Noble or Neoclassical type. Ashley Bouder is a different type entirely -- either Demicharacter or possibly Semicharacter Classique in the old classification; perhaps to be called a classical or romantic ballerina in the new, but definitely not of Kowroski's type.
Since this is, par excellence, Maria Talchief's role, what does that say about casting Bouder? I never saw Talchief dance, of course, and don't know how big she was. I've seen tapes but don't really know her style.
In casting Ashley (who did such a beautiful job) was Martins returning to the Talchief type, or casting against it?
Also, after two days the savor of this performance has only grown. I can't forget Bouder's "otherliness" in that last scene; how her character seemed to know what she had done but also not to appreciate it, being of another moral order, and how at the same time the character, during the last long bourree around the stage, seemed to be looking about nervously, sharply, as if there was some physical necessity, quite inhuman (of another order, once again) for her to be aware, to "notice" and scan her surroundings in that way. That was beautiful. The mood at the end was elevated, elegiac, catharctic and a little sad, like that at the conclusion of Wagner's Ring.
Posted 24 May 2001 - 03:10 PM
I never saw Tallchief dance, so I can't place her, but my idea of her was that she was a classique -- this may be laughable to those who did see her; I'm only going from photos, but rather like Makarova.
Posted 24 May 2001 - 03:17 PM
I enjoyed Carmena in Four Seasons recently and it is nice to see him getting some other opportunities. I was also happy to see Rutherford cast in Dances and La Valse. And hope to see more of her as well.
Posted 24 May 2001 - 03:52 PM
It was interesting to compare Bouder's rising star with those of the soloists in Swan Lake -- Jennifer Tinsley and Pascale van Kipnis. There was a time we'd see Tinsley every night, and now her roles are rare. Same with Van Kipnis, who's been scarce since her return from a long layoff due to injury. It was nice to see them, particularly Van Kipnis, but Big Swans are not exactly glamor roles.
While Tinsley is growing stronger and more assured, she's still finding herself in the City Ballet repertory, or, rather Martins is still trying to find a place for her. And so she's a Big Swan. Van Kipnis is the sweet and glowing dancer I remember from before her injury, and I've missed her tremendously. It's good to see her back, even if in such a minor role.
I can't help but see a little morality play here -- the dramatic debut of the new up-and-comer coming right after a couple of former Martins darlings in a "flavors-of-the-month" graveyard. It doesn't seem to take long for Martins to lose interest in many dancers, and sometimes it seems like being made a soloist is the kiss of death.
Anyway, Wendy Whelan was sensational in Swan Lake. She's been having a wonderful season, and if I hadn't already consider her a Goddess of the dance, her recent performances would've left no doubt at all.
Posted 24 May 2001 - 05:26 PM
From what I've seen of Tallchief on film and the roles created on her, she strikes me as a solid technician; small and strong. Not that she couldn't do adagio either (Scotch Symphony was made on her, as was Eurydice) but the Firebird variation made on her was considered very difficult. If I recall correctly, it is not done any longer. Firebird is one of Balanchine's ballets that has undergone the most changes since its inception; for a while in the seventies done by Karin von Aroldingen in a costume with a long train that made real dancing cumbersome.