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Leigh Witchel

Saturday, May 18 - Alexopoulos' Farewell

23 posts in this topic

Heléne Alexopoulos' farewell performance tonight was a marvelous one, but slightly off-center, and in some ways that was appropriate. She was a woman of many hats in Balanchine's world, all of them tall. Tonight it was the high white headress of the Siren in Prodigal Son and black mesh and jeweled confection of the Gold and Silver Waltz in Vienna Waltzes (a hat that reminds one of another grand hat and role Alexopoulos was known for, the fourth movement in Western Symphony.) She was wonderful in both her roles this evening, but in neither role is she at the center of the ballet. Vienna Waltzes belongs to the ballerina doing the Rosenkavalier section and Prodigal Son belongs to, well. . .the Prodigal Son. Alexopoulos has brought her glamour and extraordinary flexibility to the company similarly; she may not be at the center of the repertory but what would we have done without her? And being slightly outside of the fray may have also helped her longevity; her 24 years in the New York City Ballet wore lightly on her.

In what I believe is the only Prodigal Son of the season, Peter Boal gave his all to the role and gave up the solo bow he should have gotten; he may be the Prodigal Son but he is ever the gentleman. His Prodigal took focus at the first appearance of the Father, every time the Father touched him; you could see the recoil. Boal's character has one motive in the beginning: Out. Anywhere but here. Alexopoulos' Siren is a woman alone among the skittering goons. Even with Alexopoulos' physical beauty there's something hard and worn-out about her Siren. She's been doing this a long time, and even as the Prodigal fondles her, you can see in her impassiveness she's just waiting for the money.

Most fascinating for me was seeing Prodigal Son and Kammermusik No. 2 at successive performances. One ballet is from the beginning of Balanchine's career, the other from the close of it and they are both rarities for him, ballets with an all-male chorus. Like Apollo, Prodigal is done in a very early style, one that is less classical and more gymnastic than later on in Balanchine's career. There are almost no ballet steps for the chorus; they form shapes and structures with their bodies, merry-go-rounds, ships or skittering crabs.

It's interesting that the chorus of Kammermusik No. 2 is reminiscent of Prodigal Son in effect, because the vocabulary is quite different. There are a few structures created (there's one of Balanchine's "twisted garlands" at the beginning of the first slow movement) but for the most part they are deployed very geometrically and classically, even when using the insectile arms of works like Agon. In the use of the corps, one can see links to other works from the seventies; a reason I was glad to see Kammermusik No. 2 and Violin Concerto programmed together on Friday, even if it's a lot to digest. They're both tough not just because of the music, but the choreography has a density to match. Both are structured with a double couple lead, but the Stravinsky allows for a breezier approach than the Hindemith, which rumbles along at a movement per beat with the corps either moving monolithically in unison or split into mirror images left and right or back to front. It's fascinating to watch how Balanchine's use of the corps evolves, and between Prodigal Son and Kammermusik No. 2 and there's six decades of repertory to watch it in. The gymnastic effects of the twenties seem formed by the creative ferment and circumstances of the late twenties in Diaghilev's company, which was unquestionably a ballet company, but what sort of ballet company it was makes a truly fascinating discussion.

My memory may be playing tricks on me but I believe Kevin O'Day's Viola Alone has been at least slightly revised since its premiere season; there's a moment when one man lifts another that I swear was in the original version and I don't recall in the present performance. The work also seems to have been subtly changed in emphasis as well as steps; it's become just enough more classical in style to make it accommodating to the NYCB dancers. It has a few moments of being self-consciously hip, but it is a soundly constructed work. The cast contained several dancers we see too little of (Alexander Ritter, Jeroen Hofmans, Carrie Lee Riggins and Jennie Somogyi) and all of them delivered.

Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux was performed again tonight, this time with Ansanelli and Woetzel. It was a fine performance, aside from a rather odd glitch during a promenade in the pas de deux. I'm not entirely sure what happened, I think Woetzel may have stopped Ansanelli before she was through turning, but for a few moments, it seemed neither dancer knew where they were. Ansanelli did a marvelous job in the role; she was delicately musical, with beautiful breathy pauses before floating to her knees in the pas de deux. She managed to combine her delicacy with strength here, and she projects clear to the back of the house. At this point, I'm afraid my judgement is prejudiced since I'm now utterly a fan, but if she isn't promoted by the Saratoga season, there ain't no justice.

There were a few cast changes from the Vienna Waltzes of Wednesday night, and I also changed my vantagepoint, moving from the fourth ring to the orchestra. It was a pleasure to watch Meunier close up; her performance reminds one that preachers in the nineteenth century used to warn of the intoxicating effects of the Waltz. She dances with abandon, under its spell. Spring is evidently Jenifer Ringer's finest season, as her Voices of Spring is as lovely and fresh as her performance as the same season in Robbins' The Four Seasons. She looks utterly natural and extremely secure; it was a delightful performance. It was interesting to contrast her performance with Ansanelli's on Wednesday night. Ringer is creamier than Ansanelli, partly because her limbs are bit shorter and easier for her to control. Their temperaments are also interestingly different. When Boal briefly exits, leaving Ansanelli to dance in a circle burying her face in her hands, the movement is huge like she was wracked with sobbing. It's as if she was imagining life without him. That would never be Ringer's way, and she does the same choreography, but very astutely lessens the amplitude of the hand motions so they becomes decorative rather than emotional. Both approaches work.

There were more hints of melancholy than ever in Alexopoulos' final performance in the Gold and Silver Waltz, but that seemed to be prompted and justified by the occasion. Kyra Nichols took the Rosenkavalier part tonight, and I don't think it suits her well. It doesn't feel like she calls forth her partner from within; at the moment she bows to "him", it seems like she's playing a game with herself rather than projecting out her fantasy. "What if I had a partner? How would I bow to him, would I bow to him like this?"

The final bows came (and could a woman ask for a more magnificent costume to retire in than the Rosenkavalier gown? On a rare opportunity to be so close to the stage, I spent as much time staring at the cut and construction of the costumes as I did at the dance itself) and there was a brief awkward moment because Alexopoulos' bow is the penultimate one; Nichols had yet to come out. But then the stage cleared except for Alexopoulos and the audience rose to its feet. One by one, the men of Vienna Waltzes came out to present her with roses, each of a different hue. Boal and Askegard, her partners for the evening, got especially long embraces. Then Peter Martins (who was in Toronto for a conference, so may have gotten back specially) offered his bouquet and embrace, and finally, her two young children, who bowed and curtseyed. White and purple flowers were shot from the side and white flowers and silver mylar fell from the skies in a magical finale to the evening, when Alexopoulos finally came to the center of the stage, the center of the evening, and the center of our affections.

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It seems a bit silly to follow up on my own post - but for those people who read this earlier, I've made a few large additions to this essay, mostly to comment further on the performances of Alexopoulos, Boal and Ringer.

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There was a bittersweet quality to the evening for me, full of intimations of mortality. I've been to so many NYCB farewell performances, too many, perhaps, starting with Melissa Hayden's, that when Kyra Nichols entered at the end of Vienna Waltzes, I couldn't help wondering how long it would be before HER farewell performance. Darci's? The irreplaceable Peter Boal's? Would I still be around to see them?

The Prodigal Son was especially impassioned. Viola Alone was politely endured while waiting for the good stuff. The Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux was just about all it's meant to be. And Helene succeeded in making the least interesting part of Vienna Waltzes into an appropriately grand farewell. Incidentally, I think Leigh's description of her place in the company is brilliant.

I didn't have a ticket for last night and availed myself of the NYCB Guild's returned ticket service. A pair of tickets was available in the exact center of the second row in the first ring. The man ahead of me and I both decided to splurge and bought them. But when I got to the seats, there was a couple sitting in them. They informed me that they'd been sitting in them for thirty years. I returned to the Guild table and told the ladies of my plight. They were profuse in their apologies -- the seats were actually in the second ring. They refunded the difference in price and I made my way there. They were good seats, but one of them stayed empty. The man who'd been ahead of me never found his way to it.

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Hi!

FarrellFan-I think I saw you when you were over looking at the locations for the returned tickets.

I think that Leigh summed up the evening very well, so I'll just add a few comments.

I was pleased to see Carrie Lee Riggins in "Viola Alone". She's had some injuries at very unfortunate times, so it's great to see her get a chance in new role. Great to see Jeroen Hofmans dance-is it me or does is he very much overlooked-doesn't dance than much and not often mentioned in the press. He seems to be very talented and I hope Martins nurtures the talent. What do other BalletTalkers think of him?

"Tschai Pas de Deuc" was really great. I did notice the little slip up, but they covered it up fairly well. Woetzel was really on-hard to believe he turned 35 on Friday!!

The corps in the first 3 parts of "Vienna Waltzes" seemed a bit off to me, especially in the Polka (yuk!). No obvious mistakes, just not as tight as I've seen the corps before. I was happy just to see Kyra Nichols on stage-it's been years since I last saw her dance. Didn't someone post here that she might be leaving soon. She and Darci are the last Balanchine principals, are they not? And Soto & LaFosse are the last male Balanchine principal, right?

Speaking of Vienna Waltzes...the Playbill editor let one slip: I'm sure Edward Liang. Alexandre Izilaev, Ryan Kelly and Bryce Corson would have been surprised to know that they were dancing in Vienna Waltzes last night!

Oh, why is Margaret Tracey still listed in the principal pictures...she retired in the winter season?

Kate

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It's hard to add much to Leigh's comprehensive summing-up of the evening.

Boal really turned in a fine performance in Prodigal, and it seemed there was a certain extra poignancy in his duets with Alexopolous. I also thought she turned in one of the better performances I've seen from her in this role. I suppose it's nit-picking to mention that Stuart Capps, as one of the Prodigal's servants, seemed to be having a hard time indeed during his little dance with Alexander Ritter (the other servant).

As I thought the last Kevin O'Day ballet I saw at NYCB was truly excerable, I was quite pleased that Viola Alone was, as Leigh mentioned, quite solid. While I might not rush to the theater to see it again, neither will it drive me to Starbuck's. I do recall seeing one man lift another here -- perhaps that wasn't the lift you recalled from earlier incarnations of this ballet, Leigh? I was concerned to see both Riggins and Somogyi have little slips -- for a moment I was afraid Riggins (who keeps maturing in style and personality) might have hurt herself. Somogyi was, of course, strong and satisfying to watch. I liked Ritter's wit, and Hofmans was fine, but yikes, that mid-seventies haircut!

As for Tchaikovsky pas, well, Ansanelli was a delight, and despite the above-mentioned partnering glitch, it seemed that when he got there, there was actually a there there. (Forgive me, Gertrude Stein.) Anyone familiar with Woetzal's infamous "phoned-in-long-distance-over-a-really-bad-line" performances will know what I mean.

In Vienna, well, what superlatives can I add about Meunier's performance? She was about as different as Karin von Aroldigen as one can be. Von Aroldigen danced in a bittersweet haze of romantic nostalgia, as if she knew that her younger cavalier (Sean Lavery) might not always be so loving and attentive, and their every night together might well be their last. Meunier, as Leigh mentioned, was a woman intoxicated: with love, with dancing, and with the idea of being intoxicated. Meunier always does well in roles where she can wear her heart on her sleeve, and this woman isn't all that different from the Romantic fantasy woman she portrays in the Elegie from Tchaikosky Suite No. 3, except there the romantic creation exists in the mind of the man who dreams her up and here Meunier's woman is living her own romantic fantasy, and having a damn good time while she's about it. Robert Lyon had the white-gloved cavalier role down perfectly -- he does well with Meunier here, although, recalling a rather unfortunate pairing in Summer from The Four Seasons a few seasons ago, I'm glad he wasn't called upon to lift her much.

I'm sorry I missed Ansanelli's Voices of Spring. For awhile it seemed to me that Miranda Weese was staking her claim to much of the Patricia McBride repertory, yet in Weese's absence, as has been noted elsewhere on BA, Ansanelli seems to be settling into the McBride slot quite nicely. I did like Ringer's portrayal just fine -- as Leigh mentioned, she made it into something pretty and ornamental, not at all inappropriate in a ballet that references Vienna. As for Boal, although he's not quite the spitting image of Helgi Tomasson, he comes close here. Of all the current dancers in the company, Boal comes the closest to Tomasson's unforced clarity and beautiful placement. Although I hadn't known this before, I wasn't at all suprised to learn recently that Boal had been something of a protege of Tomasson's as a student. It certainly shows, and I'd have a hard time thinking of a better model for a dancer.

I think something must happen to Kathleen Tracey whenever she gets to go onstage in shoes with heels. As the "boots-and-ribbons" girl in Cortege Hongrois she was practically a perpetual-motion machine, and every time I see her do the Explosions Polka (a delightfully silly piece of fluff which makes for a welcome break in mood before the very dramatique Merry Widow section), she seems to carry it to ever more energetic, even frenetic levels. Again, she looked like she was having the time of her life onstage. I remember not long ago she seemed to be phoning in all her performances. Could the change be a result of Wheeldon actually noticing her enough to make that clever stage-manager dance for her in Variations Serieuses, or that now she doesn't need to be listed on casting boards with that "K" in front of her name? And while I've teased Kipling Houston from time to time for his longevity onstage ("City Ballet's own Dick Clark"), he once again turned in an intelligent and well-phrased performance last night, and it would be remiss not to mention his continuing yeoman's work throughout the repertory. He's retiring this season as well, and, as does Alexopolous, he has my thanks for his share in the many years of happiness NYCB has given me.

In The Merry Widow, Alexopolous gave a heartfelt and poignant performance. It's been noted that Askegard is quite a bit more raffish than some predecessors in the role. (Peter Martins would just stand there in that white-and-red-uniform and let the universe swoon with admiration; Nilas Martins would just stand there.) I like the way Askegard re-examines and reshapes his roles -- when was the last time you actually noticed the guy in Monumentum/Movments before Askegard danced it? I've always liked the way Alexopolous starts out as a wary target of every man's attention, yet opens herself so decisively to Askegard once she sees there's more to his character than a pretty sash. It was fitting and moving that she was called back for a long ovation after this section. (By the way, speaking of sashes, I'm trying very hard to imagine Jock Soto in this role, although I'm sure he'll be fine when he makes a debut here along with Darci Kistler next week.)

As for Nichols, I'll have to respectfully differ with Leigh about her performance in the Rosenkavalier section. Nichols' dancing has always been about the purity and refinement of her technique, and her musicality. Like Suzanne Farrell, Nichols is a very inward-directed performer. I suspect she'd turn in the same exquisite performance in an empty theater (I wouldn't expect the same of, say, a Meunier or Kistler). I found myself completely swept away watching the immense, and immensely clear, subtleties she brings to the tiniest of gestures. At this stage in Nichols' career, she's probably got less physical facility than most of the dancers in the corps, she can do more with less than just about any ballet dancer I can think of. Nichols is the only dancer I've ever seen who could make me swoon by doing nothing in particular, with her back turned -- just through the tiniest of shifts of her posture. No, I don't think Nichols' character invoked her partner. I don't even think she was really aware of him at all; he was just there, because he had to be. Philip Neal was perfectly elegant and attentive in this thankless, self-effacing role. (Its originator, Jorge Donn, was so good at making himself invisible that he seems, in retrospect, never to have been at NYCB at all!)

Yes, it was a very fitting and moving farewell. Alexopolous found her niche, and filled it well. I'm just sorry I couldn't catch her singing "America" one last time!

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Originally posted by Manhattnik

It's hard to add much to Leigh's comprehensive summing-up of the evening.

[/quote

I think you managed impressively! Thank you for catching details I missed. I think there was only one male/male lift in Viola Alone and I just must have missed it as it went by. Odd, it felt relatively hard to miss when it was first done!

It did seem that Meunier, glowed, didn't it? Mentioning Miranda Weese, I keep hoping for her to come back. The worrisome part is the longer she is away, the more of her repertory gets parceled out to other dancers who are making it their own. Tracey's energy in the role was very notable, I agree with you that she had a period of dimmed energy (it was very noticable on her because she was so incandescent when she first joined the company.) It's really nice to see her prove that there are no small or thankless parts. And yes, Houston deserves credit for his work as well, in whatever wig the milliners force on him (his part in the Explosions Polka is dressed as an "Incroyable" from the mid-19th century with highly exaggerated clothing and an over the top pompadour)

As for Nichols. . .I think we're both right. The problem, once one goes beyond technique is it is not what happened on stage, but how we interpreted it. I'm a believer that there will always be Nicholsites and Kistlerites out there. You may like both, but you tend to love one best. Interestingly, your description about an interior dancer - that she might dance the same whether there was an audience or not - is how I feel about Kistler rather than Nichols. Go figure.

Sneds - Nichols and Kistler are now the last who worked with Balanchine. It was only a brief year for Kistler - Nichols was the last one he brought up through the ranks. Soto was brought into the company during Balanchine's lifetime, but I really think he's more Martins' dancer. I'd really say that none of Balanchine's men are left, and they've been gone for a while.

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Hi!

Manhattanik...

Forgive my fuzzy brain-I didn't get back from NYC untl 2am this morning (5 hours roundtrip)-and my ignorance of Gertrude Stein, but could you clarify all your heres in the comment on Woetzel.

A sleepy, but happy to have seen NYCB

Kate

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She immortalized Oakland, CA with the phrase: "When you get there, there's no there there."

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With all due respect and affection for Leigh Witchel, and with thanks for his excellent and exceedingly interesting review, I differ on Kyra Nichols in Vienna Waltzes. I think her performance in it is thrilling--as Mary Cargill once wrote in on these boards(I am paraphrasing from memory, and I sure wish I has written down her exact words), Nichols uses ballet as a language in which she speaks to us. There is one moment in Vienna Waltzes when she is dancing alone and extends one arm up as she is bent over. The last time I saw her do this it seemed to me a distillation of the Swan Queen--so evocative. So mysterious. I think I will go see her dance the role this week, and see it again.

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I add my voice to those who respectfully dissent from Leigh's view and who loved Kyra Nichols' performance Saturday night. I thought she was absolutely extraordinary.

An amusing costume point was that the satin loop on the train of Nichols' waltz gown, by which the dancer holds up the train, appeared to tear loose early in her performance. (The principals in Vienna Waltzes repeatedly pick up the trains of their gowns and then waltz with their trailing arm beautifully extended and the train draping down and switch hands for this also -- There is a beautiful pliee for each pick up of the train). Thus Nichols had physically to handle the gown by grabbing it with her entire "working" hand, passing it back and forth to herself that way. She handled this little crisis with a profoundly amused look at her partner and a whispered phrase to him and then "On with the show."

Also Meunier. I can not think of another dancer whom I could watch do nothing but waltz as I can Meunier. Such grace in her arms and shoulders and beautiful hands and lush musicality with her entire body. This is the second time I've seen her do this and it only got better.

But to me the striking thing about the evening (besides Helene's farewell) was the incredible dramatic impact of Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux.

The audience at City Ballet on the weekends these days is younger and more mixed than in recent seasons. NYCB is generally succeeding, I think at least on the weekends, in attracting the younger more general NY audience that it has been marketing for. And the packed-house Saturday night thus included both the die-hard fans who came for Helene's farewell and a very large contingent of first-season ballet goers to whom everything is new. These folks -- who are not people who've seen a lot of dance of any kind before -- responded warmly to the O'Day piece with its dramatic back lighting and Merce Cunningham inspired movement.

But what a wonderful set up for Ansanelli and Woetzel to follow. T'schai Pas, when well danced, is a musical and Ballet vehicle of quite another dramatic order, a distillation of all that the structured pas de deux of the Paris Opera style as redefined by Petipa in St. Petersburgh is capable of . Nothing prepared this first time audience, or me either, for the dramatic punch the amazing performance of this we saw Saturday night delivered. Ansanelli balancing for endless moments at the opposite end of a diagonal from Damian, before rushing to him for a dazzling life as the music swelled, or Damian's big diagonals, bounding across the stage with such marvelous ballon and gesture … We were literally on the edge of, almost out of, our seats. Classical Ballet can provide some of the most stirring moments dance is capable of. Seeing this, and its effect on the audience, it's easy to see why ABT also succeeds so well in exploiting this material.

Regarding the O'Day, I thought it insipid and somewhat trite. Although it is a wonderful vehicle for both Carrie Lee Riggins and Alexander Ritter. Riggins is a beautiful Adagio dancer right now, very yielding and sensual in pas de deux. Jeroen Hoffmans had a great deal of trouble handling Somogyi, however. He is not a strong partner. Somogyi (whom I also saw in Symphony in C in the afternoon) has made tremendous strides in her pas de deux dancing during the past two to three weeks. What I love about her is that, when she has a problem, you can watch her work through it right in front of your eyes.

But back to O'Day -- This Ballet seemed to make evident some of the internal "Riffs" of the newer City Ballet pieces. Viola Alone has 1930's bathing-suit-like costumes (short shorts and colorful T shirts) foreshadowing the costumes we saw in the Bigonzetti piece last week and a red and black color scheme resembling that ballet too; It has back lighting and a Piano on stage (at the conclusion) similar to the the lighting and piano on stage in Hallelujah Junction; It has virtuoso musicians on stage like the Bigonzetti and like Morgen and Zakouski -- None of them look new if you seen enough of them together.

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Thank you all, so much, for your reviews. I'm only sorry that I was not able to attend. Reading about it, from all these, sometimes, different points of view is the next best thing.

Farrell Fan, your comments on mortality were very moving.

{And Manhattanik you are "naughty" critic...but quite witty:) ;)}

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Yikes. I missed the whole business with the torn loop. What was I looking at?

Not to detract from Ansanelli's performance in Tchai Pas (I wish I could come up with a clever list of ballets named after comestibles, but I always draw a blank after Chai Pas and Flour Festival), but the one from last week that really sticks in my mind is Janie Taylor's. It was a classic example of Taylor's patented "edge-of-the-precipice" performances. She even made that perfunctory adagio seem dangerous and thrilling -- I remember one big assemble she took to pointe, immediately unfurling her working leg into an arabesque, and Millepied had just better have gotten there in time, which he did (barely). It seemed all he could do to keep up with her here, and he probably was more helpful in establishing this atmosphere of imminent catastrophe than either he or Taylor would've liked.

I'm reminded of the 19th-Century ballet fan who returned night after night to see, I think it was Carlotta Grisi in La Peri, where she had to make a daring plunge off a platform into her partner's arms. When asked why he kept on seeing the same ballet over and over, the balletomane said that one day Grisi would miss her partner, and he wanted to be there to see it.

Not that I would want anything bad to happen to Taylor in a million years, but I can't deny that some small part of her considerable charm and personality, at least for me, comes from her astonishing risk-taking, and there's a naughty little voice in the back of my mind saying "maybe this is the night she's finally going to immolate herself!"

I guess I should've posted this in last Friday's thread. Ooops.

(And thanks, BW.)

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What a wonderful evening. Others have said most of what I would want to say already, but a few brief notes.

Prodigal was, to me, more moving than it has been before -- I am sure at least in part because of the occasion. Boal and Alexopoulos were outstanding. The pas de deux of the Siren and Prodigal is a killer, in terms of strength, balance, and trust, and never once did they wobble or lose focus. Both dancers are notable in that they are always completely present in their roles, aware of everyone around them and responding to what happens as it unfolds on stage.

Viola Alone suffered a great deal from its context, I think. I enjoyed the music more than choreography, which looked like progression form one pose that would like nice as a still in a brochure to another but not much more than that.

I have never really liked Vienna Waltzes but for this performance I at least stayed awake throughout. Meunier reminded me of her incredible commitment to every role and Ringer was a joy to behold. Nichols did not work for me -- I'm not sure exactly why not, but to me, there was almost no content to what she was doing; she danced the steps but not much more.

The ovations for Alexopoulos were a pleasure. I felt privileged to be able to in some way show my appreciation for all the pleasure she's given me over the years.

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Saturday night's performance was a series of firsts for me:

- first time to see NYCB

- first time to see Prodigal Son

- first time to see a ballerina's onstage retirement

- first time to see a dancer go SPLAT!

A last minute work assignment took me to New York City for the weekend. Whenever this has happened in the past, NYCB has been between seasons, but a check of their website this time showed Saturday night's program not only met my tastes but a ticket was available.

Arriving at the theatre at 7:59 I discovered the box office hadn't processed my online ticket order, but there was a single seat still available. Out came my credit card and I endured what seemed like an eternity as they completed the purchase. I found my seat and the lights dimmed before I even had a chance to open my program. Fortunately, Prodigal Son's plot was obvious.

My seat was 101G right on the aisle, with some sightline problems. I don't think I missed anything onstage during Prodigal Son, but thought Viola Alone used pre-recorded music until the musicians appeared for their curtain call! Can I assume the musicians performed upstage right?

My extreme side angle view into the stage left wings enabled me to see Alexandra Ansanelli do a full frontal fall onto hands and knees exiting the stage halfway through the pas de deux. I also caught the hickup during the promenade which proved to me that even NYCB dancers aren't infallible.

Since I wasn't aware Helene Alexopoulos would retire at the end of the evening, I thought it quite odd for Peter Boal to share his final bow with her. At evenings conclusion, all eventually became clear however, as she was showered with flowers by a seemingly endless parade of former partners. I even managed to catch a glimpse of Peter Martins.

Truly, a night to remember!

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Hi!

Did Ansanelli actually fall in the wings? Sometimes dancers will drop to their hands & knees in exhaustion once they've exited the stage, and occasionally the cheoreography for the exit requires a less than graceful landing in the wings. At the CPYB Alumni show, where the wings were very shallow, I had a great view of Adam Hendrickson on hands & knees betweeen sections of "Tarantella".

The "hiccup" was a bit interesting-I've seen the Tchai pdd enough times to realize that something wasn't quite right, but it was hard to figure out exactly what had happened. Both dancers covered it up pretty well-the person next to me didn't even realize that something out of the ordinary had happened.

Yes, the musicians were stage right (to the left from audience vieew) during "Viola Alone". The pianist was behind the curtain stage right until the final part of the ballet.

Kate

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From my angle, the "splat" had the sudden oops factor of a fall, not the look of a voluntary drop in response to exhaustion.

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Alexopoulos has never been a favorite of mine but I think she fills an interesting niche at NYCB. She's neither a spectacular technician such as Ashley or Bouder as she didn't in the years I saw her have much of a jump or allegro technique nor is she bursting with personality. I found many of her performances rather cold and withdrawn, which might be why it was so much fun to see her as ANita in West Side Story. What Alexopoulos is is "the glamour girl." And I think there is a tradition of that kind of dancer at NYCB. Lourdes Lopez filled the bill before Alexopoulos (dancing some of the same roles)as did Valentina Kolova and from what I read, in earlier times Mimi Paul and Jillian held a similar place. Some of the glamour girl roles for me are Merry Widow in Vienna Waltzes, the Firebird (although Bouder probably takes a different approach), the Coquette in Sonnambula, all the parts in Antique Epigraphs, and The Stripper in Slaughter among others. It is interesting to speculate who might be the next NYCB glamour queen.

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For a time, Riolama Lorenzo looked like a real candidate (Both her Helena and Titania were excellent.)

I think a glamorpuss needs to be a long drink of water, even though someone like Somogyi has a glamour to her presence.

One candidate is Kowroski, she's physically perfect, even though I think by nature she's a comedienne - but in the right glamorpuss, the combination of being gorgeous and being funny is unbeatable.

Another possibility is Carla Korbes.

Back to Alexopoulos, interestingly, I saw her in some roles were she exhibited a real jump. In Dewdrop, the jumps weren't impressive because of their height, but because of the stretchiness and amplitude of the jete. She really covered space in her diagonals. But to me, the role that defined her was neither by Balanchine nor Robbins, but her part in Forsythe's Behind the China Dogs which established as the Queen of Stretch at NYCB.

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Originally posted by sneds [/b]

Did Ansanelli actually fall in the wings?  [/b]

I think Ansanelli definitely fell. From my vantage point (Seat C5 in the first ring) it looked as if she got tangled up in the wing drop (sorry -- I don't know the technical term) while executing a turning exit, and took a tumble. I thought she looked a bit (just a bit) rattled afterwards.

While there were some things I really liked about her performance, I wasn't as wholeheartedly enthusiastic about it as some of the other posters have been. On the plus side, I found her wonderfully musical, thought her demeanor was sweet and absolutely charming (and just right for this ballet), and liked her overall "lightness of touch" (i.e., her not feeling compelled to punch out every bravura passage as if the audience were comprised of Olympic judges holding up scorecards) even though she can clearly do the steps. However, I'd like to see her step up the crispness of her attack just a bit: sometimes it seems to me as if she's being blown around by a big fan in the wings and is not herself generating her movement. Now sometimes this is a lovely effect, but often it seems to me to drain some of the impact out of her dancing. I think a crisper attack might also have improved her already good performance in Stravinsky Violin Concerto. Because she has a slight (though long-limbed) build, I think she (and her dancing) can appear rather small-scaled, wispy, and even bland at times, especially when the choreography doesn't require her to travel much. I'm not suggesting that she should etch every move in acid, though -- that would be going too far and would undercut that delightful "lightness of touch" I mentioned above!

In any event, I do really enjoy watching her dance -- I think she has a lovely presence and a unique style all her own (I can't think of another dancer on the roster who's quite like her).

As for who will take up the glamour baton now that Alexopoulos is gone: I too had I hopes for the sorely missed (by me at least) Riolama Lorenzo. If her overall demeanor weren't quite so sunny and gracious, I'd nominate Eva Natanya. Sometimes I think she's what you'd get if you hybridized Stephanie Saland and Lourdes Lopez ...

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Rather than choosing to continue the term "glamour puss", I'd choose to use the adjective glamorous, instead. :)

Although I am not a long-termer at the NYCB, I have to admit that I've always enjoyed looking at Ms. Alexopoulus. I have heard that she bore some injuries that prevented her from giving her roles her all in recent years. That being said, I will miss seeing her.

Personally, I find Jennifer Ringer to be gorgeously glamorous and find her to be refreshing amidst many who hue to a more androgynous look ... This speaking strictly based on appearances... Yet, I've seen Ms. Ansanelli perform in pieces that made me fall in love with her, too! :) Eva Natanya is lovely as well, both on stage and off... I can't help but wish she might be given some different types of roles which might allow her to "show more of her stuff"...

Obviously, I prefer the more feminine dancer, generally speaking.

As for Valentina Kozlova, I never had the pleasure of seeing her perform while she was still with NYCB, however I have seen her a number of times since then, in both classical and contemporary ballets and, although she is definitely still a dramatic beauty, she is also a master technician who consistently manages to leave one nearly breathless.

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In recent years, I thought Rachel Rutherford exuded NYCB glamor but her career seems becalmed and she still hasn't made it to soloist. What gives?

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Alas, I missed Helene's farewell, but I have followed her career with interest and enjoyed many of her performances.

I can't help noticing how many of the observations in this string mirror those of her mentor, Maria Tallchief. Strong but not quite perfect technique, a persuasive but not always dominant stage presence, yet nonetheless, an undeniable star quality -- Helene was a Tallchief for the '80s and '90s.

I'm also impressed with her extraordinary endowment of common sense. She once told an interviewer that she peaked the year Balanchine died, when the company was pre-occupied with other needs, so she did not regret her long-delayed promotion to Principal. She wanted a family, so she took time off to have kids -- even though "maternity leave" was a very new idea for dance companies at the time. And she chose to quit at (or at least very near) the top of her game, the most difficult of all choices for a dancer.

I wish her and her family nothing but the best!

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I think NYCB gives a nice night for the retiring dancer to remember. I'll never forget the way Peter Boal kept on pushing Alexopoulos ahead to receive applause that usually goes to the larger role of the Prodigal and the tears Alexopoulos shed when the cavaliers of the evening came on and brought her flowers.

Of the other moments of the evening, the company gave another strong performance of Vienna Waltzes. Re: Nichols vs. Kistler in the last section. Personally, I had never felt either was exactly perfect :) Kistler had been too sunny while Nichols too sensible. But it is a role for the, I don't know how to put this, but the top dancer, the flagbearer, so to speak. And, in the end, I think both succeed in the role. Nichols plays is somewhat straighter than Kistler, who has a sometimes eccentric take on the role. I've seen her miss in the Der Rosenkavalier section, but this season she was definitely a hit.

re: Tchiak pas de deux -- A casual observer thought Woetzel cared only of his solos and was too lax in the partnering sections. I thought he wanted it to look risky. It did, too risky. I didn't see Ansanelli hurt herself, but I don't think that would explain the partnering snafus. She looked better than fine during her solos.

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