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End-of-season reviews?

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#1 Sonora


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Posted 21 June 2002 - 03:03 PM

I guess I'm depending on people for reviews of recent NYCB performances - it seemed as if reviews were being posted almost daily for a while! Maybe I have missed them somehow, but I was interested in hearing what people thought about Firebird, Agon, Circle of Fifths - etc.

#2 Farrell Fan

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Posted 22 June 2002 - 05:22 PM

Sonora, I too have been wondering what became of our reviewers. Were they kidnapped by Le Corsaire along the obstacle course of Lincoln Center Plaza? Personally, I don't feel up to the task of a late-season summary, but I won't let that stop me.

Last night I saw the premiere of the new Miriam Mahdaviani ballet, In the Mi(d)st. Leaving aside the questionable significance of that (d), I found it disappointing. Like Wheeldon's ballet Morphoses, it started out in murky gloom. Wheeldon's ballet, which I liked, suggested creatures rising from primordial ooze. Mahdaviani's dancers might have been survivors of Ground Zero, I thought. But that impression dissipated when the dancers paired off. There were a lot of lifts but not many identifiable steps, to bombastic, foreboding music by Oliver Knussen and Aaron Jay Kernis. I know enough not to try to "figure out" what a ballet is "trying to say," even when, as in this case, it seems to want to say something important. Nevertheless, my mind kept wandering and In the Mi(d)st left me in a fog. The dancers (all very good, of course) were Jennie Somogyi and James Fayette, Alexandra Ansanelli and Sebastien Marcovici, and four other couples.

For me, a highlight of recent days has been "Concerto in Five Movements," a Diamond Project ballet from 1997 by Robert La Fosse, to Prokofiev, that I hadn't seen until now. Now I've seen it three times. The corps is reminiscent of the phalanx in Symphony in Three Movements, and there is an athletic pas de deux for Kowroski and Evans, a more lyrical one for Whelan and Soto, and a crowd-pleasing variation for Tom Gold. Good stuff.

Yvonne Borree was an excellent sleepwalker in Sonnambula and Peter Boal was superb as the poet in the two performances I saw. Ringer made the Coquette almost believable. And she made The Man I Love in Who Cares a thing of beauty, without for a moment erasing the memory of Patricia McBride.

You ask about Agon. The last time I saw it, it was preceded by Them Twos and La Stravaganza. One might think that coming after a mediocrity and an abomination, a great masterpiece would be all the more welcome. To my horror, I didn't find that to be the case. My reaction to it was a lot like the reaction Jennifer Homans would have had.

#3 stan



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Posted 23 June 2002 - 05:24 AM

Reading the report on the music for the Mahdiviani piece made me wonder why it appears to be so tough for people to find good music to choreograph to. I found the Philip Glass score (in Circle of Fifths) so loathsome that I simply couldn't pay any attention to the dancing (which appeared pretty pedestrian). Does everyone have a tin ear these days? I'm reminded of Peter's "collaborations" with Torque (which fortunately seem to be a thing of the past). No matter how inventive the choreography, if the music is awful, no one's going to notice.

Fortunately, Circle of Fifths was the only dog on the program. We also saw Ansanelli's debut in Firebird. I liked it although she seemed a bit tentative, not commanding the stage at all. Agon was spectacular particularly the Kowrowski/Evans partnership (good to see Maria dancing with someone other than Askegard).

#4 britomart



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Posted 23 June 2002 - 07:14 AM

Hmmmm. This is one of those times, as Leigh often says, where two people can and often do see completely different things at the same performance! I thought Ansanelli's debut was truly wonderful. From the moment she came out, she was fully committed to the role; one, IMO, that is a difficult one to grasp. It's not Odette, and Ansanelli was perfectly clear on the differences both in her movement and in her demeanor. Someone ( I think it was Michael) mentioned in the T &V thread how Ansanelli seems like she will be a natural heir to Theme, and I couldn't agree more. She has that quick muscle response in her body that gives movement that diamond-like precision that Weese has, and Ansanelli used it to full effect in her portrayal of the Firebird. Even the tiny, turned in piques she does in the beginning (giving the effect of "walking backwards") she timed with a truly birdlike sharpness; it was her focus on such small details as these that made this debut truly notable, rather than merely successful. At the end, where she restores civilization and pushes the. monsters off, she did it will grandeur and compassion, and just a hint of tragedy. After all, even if one kingdom is restored, another has fallen--the one to which the FIrebird herself more belongs--the kingdom of the monsters. Ansanelli's interpretive maturity continues to amaze me--she cannot be more than 22--and I hope that we will hear of it's being rewarded with a well-deserved promotion at least by the end of the Saratoga season.

#5 sneds


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Posted 23 June 2002 - 07:51 AM

I also though Ansanelli was fabulous. [post edited by moderator]

I've seen the Chris D'Amboise "Circle of Fifths" piece three times this week. At first, I didn't like it much at all, but it's grown on me over the course of the week. D'Amboise makes very good use of his dancers, and it's interesting to see how they adapt to some of the modern dance style movements. The ballet is also packed full of precise choreography- a very challenging piece for the dancers. I found it interesting to see how they reacted to the challenge, and for the most part did an excellent job.
As for Mahdaviani's ballet-I felt that the company simply hit its limit there. After 49 other ballet, neither the dancers or the musicians seemed to have the energy or enough rehearsal time to pull off another new ballet.

#6 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 23 June 2002 - 08:34 AM

I'm with Britomart on this - my divergences are I worry about Ansanelli and Theme. I know she has the turns and technique for it and would do a great job, but I'm concerned about her getting hurt. She's one of those dancers I think you need to protect when casting, but I may be over cautious. Also, my interpretation of the apotheosis in Firebird is milder, but not my impression of Ansanelli in the role. I thought she was marvelous, and really created a character that was not human, but a bird.

Adding to the "Go Figure" column, I thought the Evans/Kowroski pairing didn't bring out the best in either of them. She's as tall or taller than him on flat, and he just doesn't have the physical bulk to muscle her around, and the Agon pas de deux sometimes needs that from the man. In most cases this season, Agon has been touch-and-go; last season it looked particularly clean - but this isn't abnormal for NYCB. It is sort of sad that the orchestra sounded much better in Agon last season; at present, the horns in the male duet are doing that old familiar bleating.

It's interesting to see Somogyi and Ansanelli matched in Mahdaviani's new piece, or Somogyi and Kowroski in Agon. Ansanelli and Somogyi have totally opposite approaches to a role (Ansanelli is vulnerable and openhearted, Somogyi radiantly triumphant). There's no rivalry apparent, but they form a sort of uneasy truce on the same stage, agreeing to live in their own worlds. Somogyi and Kowroski are simply physically different (the main one being 4-5 inches in height) but interestingly in Agon, they are assimilated into the same world more effectively.

I also saw Ringer's Theme, and my response to it is milder than some here. I thought she did a good job; I don't think it's a great role for her. She gave a detailed performance on Saturday matinee (the garouillades were there) but she doesn't have the precision in her legs to move with extreme sharpness, so she sometimes slams her upper body into poses to produce a similar effect, and it makes things look hectic. It's a notch on her belt to be able to do it at all, but it does recall another fine dancer I know who did Theme and said "I did it four times. I'm really glad I did it and I don't want to do it anymore."

#7 Paquita


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Posted 24 June 2002 - 06:33 AM

I was in town for the weekend and attended the friday (21st) performance. Since I don't regularly see NYCB and am not too familiar with all the repertoire, I'm not sure what to say! I liked Concerto if Five Movements very much though. I enjoyed Prokofiev's music and thought Robert La Fosse understood it quite well. The choreography is very 'busy' at times but not overly so, if that makes sense at all. I liked his use of the domino/wave effect in the beginning. It creates a nice contrast to the parts that are done in complete unison. Maria Kowroski is a stunning presence. She is very commanding of the stage- evening taking he bows! Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto seem to dance well together ( I also saw them dance an excerpt from Polyphonia on A&E), they have a good rapport and their pdd was quite moving. Tom Gold gave a lively and vibrant performance, nice jumps too.
In the Mid(s)t looked a little under-rehearsed and the dancers weren't always together- I think at one part the women were in a deep penche or 'needle' and one of the dancers started to get up too early and brought her leg back quickly which kind of ruined the effect. There were some interesting passages with lifts, but I prefer the Mahdaviani ballet I saw last year, Appalachia Waltz. Generally, the dancers seemed a bit uninspired. But I think this ballet might look much better with more time and more performances.
Who Cares? was a lot of fun. All the dancers let loose here and the corps looked great. Tons of flair and intricate footwork (especially in "I Got Rhythm"). I loved Balanchine's choreography. Jenifer Ringer's solo was a highlight for me. It's a great ensemble piece and everyone looked fantastic, lots of energy.

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