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Balanchine Evening


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#1 Manhattnik

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Posted 17 February 2001 - 11:54 PM

It was very, very gratifying to see the State Theater completely sold out for an all-Balanchine evening. It reminded me of the glory days of the Seventies, when this would often be the case. It was great to see so many young people (not old farts like me), actually seeming to have a great time and talk about the ballets, rather than just rush numbly for the nearest taxis and subway.

Given this, it was a little disturbing that Peter Martins didn't decide to present the best casts for the various ballets.

What did Suzanne Farrell call Concerto Barocco? Nineteen minutes of salvation? It's a heavenly ballet, and I thought Wendy Whelan and Jennie Somogyi were heavenly together. They are quite different in many respects, but nontheless complementary, at least to my eyes, Whelan with her extended legato phrasing and shape, and Somogyi with her more tightly held muscularity and attack. I admired the corp girls' brio, but there were places where I would've liked to see a bit more crispness and more-careful alignment.

Yvonne Borree's debut in Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, with Damian Woetzel, was much like her recent debut in Donizetti Variations, and too many other of her performances -- a nice beginning (believe me, I root for this woman; I want to see her do well), but then Something Happens, and her poise goes out the window. There were moments in her solo and the coda where her upper body and arms were clenched so tightly (she could only move her arms, it seemed, by flinging them wildly about -- not very pretty to say the least, particularly in her rather unfortunate fouettes) that I could feel my own neck tendons about to snap, sympathetically, in two. And when she's so unbearably tight, her renditions of the steps become more and more sketchy. It was quite painful to see.

In Squeaky Door, excuse me, Variations pour une porte et un soupir (forgive me if I've mangled the French), Helen Alexopolous was quite the vampy door, complete with Louise Brooks wig, while Tom Gold's floppy, squirmy Sigh looked like an escapee from a nightmare Dr. Seuss might've had at one time. I remembered this ballet, with its burbleling and screeching Musique Concrete score to be long, pretentious and silly. I still think it's overly long, but there was something about the very dated quality of its avante-gardness (it brought to mind Diaghilev) which was fascinating and revealing about Balanchine. I couldn't help but notice at the following intermission a patroness descending the stairs and telling her family how much better this ballet was than Eddie Villella in "Windmill."

In Chaconne, Margaret Tracey gave a clean, respectful and well-phrased rendition of the choreography, and Nilas Martins was, well, a good partner. Not much poetry here, I'm afraid. And the ensemble sections were still strangely flat. This ballet used to buiidl in tension and energy almost like the fourth movement of Symphony in C, and now it's more like a pretty procession. I did like many individual performances, and I particularly liked Jason Fowler in the pas de trois, as the guy dancing while playing an imaginary lute. Unlike some other men recently pushed by Martins, Fowler has a classical purity and elegance which left me imagining he might do as well playing a lyre as well.

On the whole, I liked the evening, and so, apparently, did the audience. Just think how well an all-Balanchine subscription series or two would do! I could think of a few reasons, though, why the current management might not want such a subscription series to happen.

#2 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 18 February 2001 - 12:24 AM

Thanks, Manhattnik!

Now I'm off the hook for writing Posted Image

What he said basically, with small discrepancies in detail. I found Door and a Sigh interesting to help me round out my picture of Balanchine. I kept wondering if I would hate it if it were by someone else. Maybe, but even if it isn't my cup of tea (Lincoln Kirstein compared it to a nightclub act) Balanchine never did anything incompetent. You never look at it and go "Why the heck did he put that there?"

I'll second the kudos for Fowler as well. This has been a good season for him.

I'm confused about Jennifer Tinsley, not because she isn't a good dancer. She is. But now that they've promoted her, they haven't found a repertory for her yet. She did the secondary part in Chaconne, and seems miscast; it's a spritely role, and though she danced it well, Tinsley isn't a sprite. I haven't yet seen her in what I thought was the right role, and they seem to be trying her out in the neat, sweet, technique roles. Anyone else seeing this?


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#3 Michael

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Posted 18 February 2001 - 09:48 PM

Tinsley danced in the afternoon as one of the soloists in Symphony in Three Movements. She was quite good as her attack was suited to the piece.

But I'd hate to see her limited to that kind of employment. It would be easy, because those Balanchine Vampire-Woman roles suit Tinsley's hard side. But I remember Jennifer Tinsley, before she got both hurt and promoted at almost the same time (two years ago?), as also having a softer more feminine side that was quite appealing.

Before her promotion (Leigh, you are absolutely right) she had more of a clearly defined role in the company -- if I remember correctly, being used especially in some of Robbins' starker and more modernistic works and in many of the big corps roles that are now danced by Walker and Edge. And she was appealing in the latter.

#4 liebs

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Posted 19 February 2001 - 12:03 AM

I'm not sure what the right role would be for Tinsley. She's a good dancer but seems miscast in everything I've seen her dance recently expecially Marzipan Shepardess. I can not imagine her in Chaconne. It really seems a shame that she doesn't have a repertory. I wonder how she would be as the second ballerina in Kammermusik?

#5 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 19 February 2001 - 12:28 AM

Marzipan and the secondary pas in Chaconne are sister roles to me, and if someone's miscast in one, chances are they won't look right in the other. It seems that the company is casting Tinsley as a soubrette. If I were King, I think I'd try her as second ballerina in Walpurgisnacht. I believe she does one of the themes in Four Temperaments (but I think she does third, and I'd cast her in second) Maybe von Aroldingen's part in Stravinsky Violin Concerto would also be a good idea.

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