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NYCB 2/16/02 Evening


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#1 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 18 February 2002 - 03:28 PM

I'd hoped to post about performances more often this season, but alas, personal and professional demands have kept me tied to my various keyboards hard at work on other things. So I'm taking advantage of a day off to report on Saturday evening's (2/16/02) NYCB performance. (It takes me a long time to write these things because I'm constantly struggling with vocabulary -- I'm always amazed by how well others put into words something as non-verbal as dance!) To be honest, it wasn't a particularly special evening when compared with others I've experienced this season, but it wasn't a disaster either. Let's just say it was one of those "average" NYCB evenings: it had one clunker (Scotch Symphony), one solid performance (Episodes), and one significant debut (Seth Orza in Fancy Free).

First, the debut: Orza danced the second solo, and I thought he did a fine job -- I'd certainly welcome the opportunity to see him dance it again. The second solo is the most "lyrical" of the three and I think the most difficult to win the audience with: it doesn't offer the pyrotechnic opportunities of the first nor does it have the comic, wisecracking potential of the third. It does require a sure musicality, however, and the ability to play a light but nonetheless firmly controlled center off against syncopated, off balance steps. I've seen some dancers overplay the syncopation and control only to end up with a sort of stop / start feel to their phrasing; what I liked about Orza's performance of this solo was a certain overall silkiness and flow of movement that he brought to the steps -- it created a lovely effect. (I hope it was intentional, or at least reflective of the way he normally dances -- and I hope no one coaches him into "sharpening up" his approach to this solo!) There's one tricky bit he had a little trouble with (what I mentally refer to as the "tap step") but I have every confidence that he'll get it ironed out sooner rather than later; he'll master that gum wrapper toss at some point, too ... He also managed to give his sailor a distinct persona -- so, overall, I'd count it as a successful debut, and I've officially put Orza in the "one to watch" category. The rest of the cast: Ringer, McBrearty, Walter, Gold, Woetzel, and Capps (bartender). Ringer and Woetzel danced the pas de deux. Gold danced the first solo and Woetzel the third. Everyone performed well and looked good -- and Woetzel did not look bored. (He didn't look bored in Faun a couple of week ago, either -- I thought he gave a moving performance, in fact. Nor have a seen him look bored in Prodigal Son. Maybe the requirements of creating a defined character engages him more thoroughly in the general proceedings than emulating a prince in the plotless ballets does.) Question: does the sailor who dances the third solo also always dance the pas de deux? I seem to recall second solo sailors also dancing the pas de deux, but I could be mistaken.

Episodes. Cast (in order of appearance): Tracey, Neal, Alexopoulos, Fayette, Somogyi, Evans, Kowroski, Askegard. Confession: I adore Episodes (I'm a sucker for black bathing suit Balanchine) and would probably applaud like a trained seal at a lousy performance out of sheer gratitude that someone was actually performing Anton Webern's music live. Saturday's performance was solid, if occasionally earthbound. My current favorite section is the first (Symphony, Opus 21) -- I get a real chill from the eerie and anxious world it creates. Tracey and Neal were fine (I think this has always been a good role for Tracey), but I'd like to compliment the side couples, too (Beskow, Hanna, Bowers, Capps, Walter, and Seth). Alexopoulos and Fayette were wonderfully deadpan in their section (Five Pieces, Opus 10). I found Fayette's abandonment of Alexopoulos in mid pose in the second (?) of the five pieces is especially funny since he strikes me as the NYCB dancer least likely to abandon his partner. (Some evenings he seem like the only male dancer on the roster who can extend his hand to his ballerina as if her were actually enamored of her and not standing there out of mere duty.) Any opportunity to see Somogyi and Evans is welcome, and their performance of the third section (Concerto, Opus 24) did not disappoint -- they were as sharp, focussed, musical, and three-dimensional as one would expect. But I'd like to see both of them cast in a wider variety of roles; I'm especially concerned that Somogyi will get typecast as the strong, "I don't really NEED a partner," Warrior Princess of the company, and she has much more potential than that. Except for Puck, does Evans ever dance anything in a costume that is not a T-shirt and black tights? (Von Rothbart doesn't count.) Kowroski seemed a bit muted and effaced in the Ricercata -- more than I recall her being in the past. I've started to actively dislike her curlicue, wrist crooked way with her hands; as a mannerism I find it the ballet equivalent of dotting one's i's with little hearts or daisies.

Scotch Symphony. Cast: Borree, Askegard (subbing for Martins), Tayor, Fowler, Hanna. I'd hoped that Borree was finally working through whatever has been undermining her effectiveness for the past few years. Although her perfomance of the Girl in Pink in the Dances at a Gathering that I saw earlier this year didn't strike me as anything to write home about, she seemed more relaxed and assured than she has been in a good while and was therefore more enjoyable to watch. Saturday's performance started out well enough; for a few minutes Borree was airy and musical and her phrases had a definite shape to them. And then things fell apart -- it was as if something really rattled her and she couldn't recover her poise (she was visibly trembling during the "arabesque and whisper" sequence). To my eyes, Borree does not have an ideal line to begin with (her feet strike me as unstretched, her back inflexible, her shoulders hunched, her turnout underdefined, and she has a tendency to thrust rather than unfold her limbs into movement); under pressure any compensation by way of clarity of phrasing and execution vanishes and she resorts to overemphatic gestures to generate a performance. On Saturday, she seemed to be having difficulty just executing the steps, much less actually creating anything with them. And she looked absolutely miserable. I hate to be harsh (especially about a dancer I used to enjoy and would like to believe still has promise), but I am genuinely puzzled as to why we see so much of her; it's not as if NYCB were in the middle of one of its periodic ballerina droughts. The dancing has been particularly strong this season and I think you could just about cast Scotch Symphony from the corps. Simply throwing Borree out there night after night in the hope that things will right themselves doesn't seem to be doing anyone any good. By the way, Taylor was as fierce -- and as exciting -- as ever.

#2 Calliope

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Posted 18 February 2002 - 03:49 PM

Well Kathleen, there was nothing "ordinary" about your review! Great job, with all the dancers you covered I could just about picture it! Brava

#3 Farrell Fan

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Posted 18 February 2002 - 04:14 PM

This review was great, a lot of fun to read. Thanks. Albert Evans leads the "character" dancers in "Cortege Hongrois" and looks somewhat uncomfortable wearing the Ter-Aurutunian costume with the funny hat.

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 18 February 2002 - 05:17 PM

I second (third) the Bravas -- Kathleen, thank you for giving us your free evening. It's a wonderful review. I always love reading such detailed reports of performances I can't see -- it helps to keep up with what's going on. Thank you smile.gif More please!

#5 Manhattnik

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Posted 18 February 2002 - 05:24 PM

Thanks for the great review!

Let's not forget that Albert Evans looks rather good in a Stetson, or, rather, playing it like a guitar....

#6 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 18 February 2002 - 06:02 PM

I see that I have missed an important chunk of Evans' career! I had no idea he'd staked out some significant turf in the "roles requiring a hat" corner of the repertory!

#7 cargill

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Posted 18 February 2002 - 08:17 PM

Kathleen, Yet another thanks for the review. You can't be THAT busy, so please write more! About Francy Free, as I understand it, Jerome Robbins danced the tango and the pas de deux at the beginning, but soon gave the pas de deux to the boy dancing the 2nd variation. I have seen it done both ways--Robert La Fosse danced the 2nd variation and the pas de deux, and Woetzel did the 3rd solo and the pas de deux. I really prefer the middle boy to dance the pas de deux, it seems to fit his character so much better, because he is shyer and more bashful. The tango boy would have certainly run after the girl, not wait behind! And I think it works better when the girl is more knowing, not leading him on, but she is a New Yorker and he is in the city for the first time.

#8 sneds

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Posted 20 February 2002 - 04:58 PM

Hi!
Intriguing to hear that Seth Orza debuted in "Fancy Free". I was wondering if there might not be a whole new cast because Amar Ramasar, Jonathon Stafford and Daniel Ulbricht peformed an excerpt from "Fancy Free" at the annual luncheon presentation. They did a nice job, though it could have used a few more rehearsals.
I'm not sure whether it was a one time performance, but all the other excerpts were done by dancers who'd done the roles before...
Kate

#9 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 20 February 2002 - 07:43 PM

[quote]Originally posted by cargill:
About Francy Free, as I understand it, Jerome Robbins danced the tango and the pas de deux at the beginning, but soon gave the pas de deux to the boy dancing the 2nd variation. I have seen it done both ways--Robert La Fosse danced the 2nd variation and the pas de deux, and Woetzel did the 3rd solo and the pas de deux. I really prefer the middle boy to dance the pas de deux, it seems to fit his character so much better, because he is shyer and more bashful. The tango boy would have certainly run after the girl, not wait behind! And I think it works better when the girl is more knowing, not leading him on, but she is a New Yorker and he is in the city for the first time.


Whew! I was beginning to think Alzheimer's had set in! I thought I remembered Peter Martins and Joseph Duell dancing both the pas de deux and the *third* variation and but then I thought I also remembered Robert La Fosse dancing the pas de deux and the *second* variation and then I thought I remembered Bart Cook dancing the second variation and *not* the pas de deux -- and then decided that I was really mixing things up .. but I guess not.

Hmmm ... which way do I like it better? I agree that the ballet has a different feel to it depending on which sailor dances the pas de deux; I certainly recall La Fosse's overall effect being sweeter and more tender than either Martins' or Woetzel's. But to be honest, I'm not sure how much of this was due to the choreography (i.e., to the interplay of the specific solo, the sailor's role in the ensemble, and the pas de deux) and how much was due to the specific dancers in question. I recall Cook's second sailor as being a bit edgier than either La Fosse's or Orza's, for instance, but I think Cook was just edgier as a dancer than either of the other two were/are. (Of course, when I saw Cook dance the role, I was many, many years younger and new to New York -- and trust me, even the marshmallows here seemed to have edge then!) But I think the ballet itself has something of an edge to it. (For instance, I always find the handbag snatching game rather more heartless than high spirited.) And perhaps that's the effect Robbins wanted -- the ballet might have been unendurably saccharine if they were all just big sweet kids from Kansas. So perhaps one decides to soften the edge by giving the pas de duex to the second variation sailor, or alternatively, to sharpen it up a bit by giving it to the third variation sailor (and thus pairing up the two knowing, tough, and street smart characters). Then, of course, whoever gets the pas de deux probably ends up the defacto "star," so perhaps matters of protocol intervene irrespective of what *anyone* thinks about what configuration provides the better dramatic effect.

And finally, it may come down to which dancer has the greater skill as both a partner and interpreter. I did like Orza's performance, but he is a young dancer, and just handling the ensemble work and the solo may have been the appropriate challenge at this point in his career. I'd hate to see his talent undermined rather than developed by his being unduly taxed right now. (I know he was given one of the male leads in Tanner's new ballet, but to be honest I remember little about his -- or any of the other men's -- performance. No disrespect meant to any of them, certainly: Tanner -- and Carole Divet's unique sherbet tutus -- kept our eyes full of Bouder, Korbes, and Taylor!)

And re Sneds' comments about the luncheon casting: Ulbricht and Millepied were scheduled to replace Gold and Woetzel at tonight's performance the last time I looked. I think Edge and Van Kipnis may be debuting in the women's roles as well. (Which I'd love to see -- although I SWEAR I have already seen Van Kipnis dance in it ... maybe I was too hasty in dismissing my earlier suspicions of senility!)

#10 AmandaNYC

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Posted 21 February 2002 - 11:53 AM

[quote]Originally posted by Kathleen O'Connell:


I think Edge and Van Kipnis may be debuting in the women's roles as well. (Which I'd love to see -- although I SWEAR I have already seen Van Kipnis dance in it ... maybe I was too hasty in dismissing my earlier suspicions of senility!)


van Kipnis has performed the girl in purple role before. No senility there. I'm wondering if she switched roles, since Edge would be a better size fit with Millipied for the pas de deux. I hope someone out there who attended the performance last night chimes in!

-amanda


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