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Saturday Matinee, May 11


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#1 Ari

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Posted 14 May 2002 - 07:53 AM

Back in the city for the first time since January, I was happy to have such a good program to go to: Reunions (David Allan), Tchaikovsky Pas, In G Major, and Vienna Waltzes.

Reunions, which I think I was seeing for the first time (many of these Diamond ballets melt into each other in my mind) seemed to me poorly constructed. Six dancers, five of whom are soloists? Allan should have structured it without the supernumerary girl. It's not as though the men and women were paired off in the same way each time they danced together. (This seems to be a trend. I suppose it's meant to be "modern.") I couldn't discern any reason for the different pairings or any relationships among the dancers. The cast was excellent, and Lindy Mandrajieff (sp?) made me sorry I didn't see more of her.

I was looking forward to seeing Jennie Somogyi in Tchaikovsky Pas—a chance for her to tackle one of the top ballerina roles she deserves but doesn't seem to get as often as she should. The disappointment I felt, overall, is perhaps attributable to the fact that she has such few opportunities to dance these ballets. Her muscular physique, her shoulders in particular, isn't right for lyrical adagios such as this, but other ballerinas have had similar problems and have conquered them, with the right coaching and sufficient performances. Somogyi has shown that she is eager to learn and ready to work, but will she get the help she needs? At this performance, the adagio seemed perfunctory, necessary in order to get to the meatier solos and coda. This is where both dancers shone, although Somogyi, much to my disappointment, went along with the modern trend of doing a sequence of straight fouettés in the coda instead of the fouetté/pas de bouree piqué sequence that Balanchine choreographed. The difference is huge. The original choreography has a delicate piquancy and exquisite musicality that makes you tingle in delight, and fouettés just look like fouettés.

Damien Woetzel has never been a favorite of mine. The problem, I think, is that he's really a caractere or demi-caractere (what is the difference?) dancer who desperately wants to be a danseur noble. Edward Villella, on whom the role was made, was a caractere/demi-caractere dancer, but Woetzel sees the need to put on that artificial tray tray clahseek manner of his that always irritates me.

Maria Kowroski, with her endless legs, long long line and silky high extension, is natural casting for In G Major. She will look better when she feels confident enough to relax into the sultry glamor the ballet calls for. Philip Neal partnered her very well but looked too flatly American for the Mediterranean beach boy of the ballet. Perhaps Robert Lyon would be more appropriate. I still enjoy this ballet even though I know that MacMillan's Fin du Jour is musically more faithful to the score and brainier in conception. Between the two, I honor the MacMillan in my mind, but I'd rather watch the Robbins.

Vienna Waltzes looked great, a performance to set beside any I saw in Balanchine's day. I was glad to see Monique Meunier and Kyra Nichols, even if their performances on this occasion were pallid, and happy that I got one last chance to see Helene Alexopoulos, who is retiring on Saturday. (Note to the administration of POB: Alexopoulos is, by my reckoning, 42, and Nichols 44.) I especially liked Jenifer Ringer in Voices of Spring. Without stinting on the energy, her dancing has a serene, airy quality that suits this section better than Patricia McBride's more vigorous approach. Ringer is spritely, rather than sprightly. :) Kathleen Tracy is a natural for the comic section. Her long, humorous face, which has always reminded me of Imogene Coca's, and her tongue-in-cheek drollness were perfect here. I love the final section, so MGM in the 30s, although I've never adjusted to the dancers' sudden about-face (literally) in which they turn from their partners and the glamorous make-believe world towards the audience.

One note: the performance included only one intermission. While I was glad for the extra time this gave me outside the theater, I felt it trivialized the first three ballets, suggesting that they were all miniatures that wouldn't stand up on their own. This was true of the first ballet but not the others.

#2 Calliope

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Posted 14 May 2002 - 09:56 AM

Thanks Ari for the review, especially Tschai Pas.
I think Somogyi (like Whelan) is still overcoming her physical attributes and getting the audience to forget them.

#3 Dale

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Posted 14 May 2002 - 09:32 PM

Ari, I'm glad you enjoyed the performances. I enjoyed reading your views. You liked Lindy Mandrajieff, well so does P Martins, he's casting her in a few things and she's doing Jenifer Ringer's role in Prism.

The comments on Tchiak pas de deux were interesting. Your right about the turning combination. I really miss them when replaced by straight fouettes. On Monday at ABT, Gillian Murphy did the fouetté/pas de bouree piqué sequence and Ansanelli, Whelan, and Weese do so as well. But the Kirov dancers do straight fouettes. It seems to be something that Balanchine allowed an option. Melissa Hayden does not do the combination in the two tapes I have of her and I had seen Patricia McBride do it two different ways. Farrell had always done the combination, as did Kistler and Nichols. I wonder what goes into the decision to do what and what was done originally by Verdy.

Didn't Conrad Ludlow originate the male role in Tchiak pas? The best partner, he certainly did not have the virtuocity of Villella. Maybe the male role was changed when D'Amboise and Villella did the part.


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