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Alexandra

Winter Season, Week Two

27 posts in this topic

You're not usually this shy. Please, New Yorkers, tell us what you're seeing! (If you haven't yet discoursed on Week One, there's a thread for that, too!)

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Because I have three NYCB subscriptions, there's not only duplication in the ballets I see in any given season, but often triplication. This is the case this season with "Symphony in Three Movements." I saw it last Friday, again last night, and am scheduled to see it again this Friday. To me, the founding choreographers are still the stars at NYCB, and I seldom bother to find out in advance who's going to be dancing their works. This ballet, a great masterpiece from the Stravinsky Festival of 1972, is as thrilling as ever. And I had the added pleasure of seeing two completely different casts: on Friday, Jenny Somogyi and Albert Evans, Abi Stafford and Tom Gold, Pascale van Kipnis and Arch Higgins; last night, Sofiane Sylve and Jared Angle, Janie Taylor and Adam Henrickson, Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. It was my first look at Sylve, who impressed me as much as she has everyone else. It was great to see Angle in such fine form again. Wendy and Jock were superlative.

I didn't think "Le Tombeau de Couperin" came off particularly well. The performance seemed more dutiful than joyous. Peter Martins's

"The Infernal Machine" at least has the virtue of brevity. Janie Taylor and Amar Ramasar are also nice to look at.

I agree with what's been said about Kyra Nichols in "In G Major;" nevertheless, Friday night's performance seemed distinctly unmagical to me. As for "Vespro," I still find a lot to like in it. There are moments of great beauty to go with the ugly ones. And it has the best soprano saxophone solo since the days of Sidney Bechet.

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The Raymonda soloists, except Abi Stafford, were bland and insecure. The three debutantes (Arthurs, Mandradjieff, Dronova) all looked terribly underrehearsed. The corps frequently was sloppy in the groupings, and a new stiffness through the arms and shoulders is evident on many. Boal danced with his customary elegance, although he apparently omitted steps from the second variation. Given his recent schedule, it's forgivable. Ringer was magical. Her adage with Boal was wonderful, but she entered another realm in the variations. She was able to find so much room to play with the music, and it really appeared that she was discovering it as she danced. Such spontenaiety, wit, joy. It was hard to reconcile that she and her Raymondamates were part of the same production.

I hadn't seen Davidsbundler in several years. Not knowing what to expect from Kistler, I was pleasantly surprised by flashes of the old (i.e., young) Kistler. Paired with Soto and dancing the role originated by Farrell, she was just beautiful in the pas -- very attentive to her phrasing and the emotional content of her role. Unfortunately, she fell apart in the allegros, fudging both feet and arms. I was just grateful that she refrained from her frequent tendency to resort to laid-on emotionalism.

Nichols was pitch-perfect, dancing with Askegard, who captured much of the torment. Very satisfying dancing from Somogyi with Martins. Weese and Hubbe failed to make much of an impression.

In Western, Somogyi gave the assured, witty performance we've learned to expect from her. Martins showed a few (fleeting) moments of engagement. But untakeyoureyesoffable in the First Movement corps was the exquisite Korbes. Tewsley in a role debut needed more rehearsal -- missed a few cues, did not project much confidence. Needs to settle into the role. Ansanelli danced consistently with reports from last week. The great joy of Western was Zelensky, who dove into the 3rd Movement role with irrepressible gusto. What fun! So wonderful to see him again! His partner, Kowroski, seemed to have caught some of his energy, and if she had trouble in her turns, I preferred that over her usual blankness.

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Like Mssr. Farrell Fan, I also found quite a bit to like in Vespro which I saw twice last spring. In particular, a structure to the work -- by which I mean that, without overt meaning, it hung together for me, seemed to build to climaxes and to unwind to decrescendos, that it had consistent motifs, that it seemed to have an inner logic -- which to me is the hallmark of a valid work of art. I do not, however, want to see it again this year.

It is perfectly clear, however, that Bigonzetti is no "classical" or "Ballet" choreographer in any intelligible sense of those words. His movement vocabulary is weighted, the pull is all downward, he exploits a constant struggle with gravity and weight and physical limitations, he does not use classical steps (except very occasionally) or the classical dance structure, and when he does employ the classical vocabulary he is clumsy and rudimentary and what he does is foreign to the rest of what he has done, like the proverbial "pistol shots during the concert." Just because the dancers wear toe shoes and you occasionally have them interrupt what they are doing in order to sweep into arabesque does not make what you have choreographed "Ballet." In fact, the piece would have been better without the occasional ballet steps, which were quite extraneous to its aesthetic. There was stagecraft, however. And artistic sincerity too. I felt that Bigonzetti seemed interested in, and to believe in, what he was doing, and that is not something I always sensed in the Diamond Project works last spring.

As for Wednesday Night … What a thrill to see Igor Zelensky back on the NY State Theater Stage. And Maria Kowroski's performance opposite him was as fiery and animated as you will ever see from her -- as animal in spirits as you will ever want to see from anyone. She seems to be developing a Woetzel-like quality of responding very much to what is happening on a particular night. She will not attempt to carry a performance which is otherwise lifeless … and perhaps that is a failure as it is a Ballerina's duty to do so. But when she does take fire, she is anything but "Hieratic" anything but a "Vase Awaiting Flowers." She was wonderful, I thought, in 3d Movement Western the First Night of the season with Woetzel. But last night was something on an entirely different level and, indeed, the entire company danced Western with huge energy. Don't you just love a Russian Cowboy?

Also, Ansanelli is indeed superb in Second Movement. When are they going to make her a Principal dancer anyway, she is carrying half of the principal roles in the company right now for Heaven's sake?

Also, the mauve role in Davidsbundlertanze may well be the best I have ever seen Jennie Somogyi dance. She seemed to be in another zone, almost another world, listening to something private and sweeping through the piece as if carried by the wind. It was also wonderful to see Miranda Weese back on that stage. (Zelensky and Weese, what a night of epiphanies for me). Some opening moments of stiffness from Miranda, and still a tiny bit (but not much, she's almost all the way back) out of shape, but as the dance unfolded she relaxed into it and showed that instinctive amplitude of movement, and those gorgeous lines, which I've missed so very much for the past one and one half years.

As for Nichols -- I've seen her now in In G Major and last night in Davidsbundlertanze and I have not been prepared for this. In Midsummer Night's Dream last spring she seemed far out of shape. Now, it is not as if I am seeing something from the Indian Summer of her career. It is instead as if I have suddenly and unexpectedly found myself experiencing a brilliant day of High Summer, one of the days in mid-August with a clear blue sky, high clouds and the scent of pines in the air. I am amazed to be seeing this. She has definitely lost something in physical dexterity. But I've seen a hell of a lot of Ballet in the last year and, in quality of performance, and in artistry, in what you go to see, Kyra Nichols these last two weeks does not have to take a back seat to anyone.

Finally Raymonda Variations may very well be Jenny Ringer's finest Tutu and Tiara role right now (particularly since La Source is out of repertory, come to think of it the two roles are quite similar) and she and Peter Boal were superb last night. As for the kids and their various variations, I have to respectfully (very respectfully) disagree with Mlle. Carbro's points. I thought the individual variations just wonderful. Faye Arthurs, indeed, is having a generally wonderful season. Do not ask her to jump, but I seem to remember that some of the biggest stars in this company's past couldn't do that either. And I was blown away by Gwyneth Muller, who replaced Ellen Bar and stepped into the Fifth Variation. What joyfully big movements, complete loss of self consciousness, what beautiful musicality.

And, although she didn't get a variation all her own, Tess Reichlen performed beautifully in this, particularly in the passage alone up front with Stafford. Reichlen moves big, effortlessly, quickly (instant response) and musically, and she holds the stage well. A very tall, very blond girl who can move. It was, in fact, a good night for her all around, as she also couldn't be missed in Western Symphony.

Watching Reichlen and Sophie Flack last night (althoug Sophie only got Western, not Raymonda), the memory superimposed itself on me of a Lecture Demonstration at SAB perhaps three years ago, when Suki Schorer employed precisely Reichlen and Flack, then very young, to demonstrate precisely how Ballanchine's variations from Raymonda differ in sprit and style from Petipa's choreography (Reichlen got the Balanchine that evening, and Flack got the Petipa dance with the scarf). But what with current injuries and absences, a number of the younger and newer members of the corps are getting a lot more exposure a lot more quickly than they might have expected. And Megan Fairchild, Jessica Flynn and Savannah Lowery also looked very good last night.

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It was wonderful to see Weese, Zelensky and Korbes back in action. Yes, Weese and Korbes are probably a few weeks from getting back to full shape, but Zelensky looked as if he lost weight during his lengthy absence. Just like men! It's not fair.

I agree with Carbo and Michael - Raymonda Variations is one of Jenifer Ringer's best roles. She just sparkles in her variations. I actually chuckled to myself during her first variation as she found the most delightful accents. The pas de deux was a mite shaky though. I think they were a bit better with Neal, whose size and strength allowed Ringer more freedome of expression. I'd agree with Carbo that Boal was a little less than his best. Fatigue probably has something to do with it. But a just-under-strength Boal is still a lot better than most.

In the variations, Faye Arthurs, Gwyneth Muller came off best for me. I never found Arthurs to have a weak jump. She did have very good hops on point in the first variation. She was delightful. During the last run of hops, she was full steam ahead until she suddenly, and charmingly, turned to the audience and smiled, as if to say, "Oh, I didn't forget you, but I'm really loving these hops."

Muller danced big and projected an air of graciousness. But Mandradjieff and Dronova looked as if they needed more rehearsal time.

Teresa Reichlen always sticks out for me, along with Sophie Flack (they both were in the 1st movement corps in Western Symphony). I couldn't take my eyes off Reichlen when she came forward with Stafford for the part that ends to turns.

Robert Schumann's Davidsbundlertanze - I was worried that Kistler would make her own way with the 2nd couple, but I thought she did a nice job with it. She does have a lighter take on the role than its originator (Farrell) or those who took on the role afterwards (Calagari or Kowroski).

Kyra Nichols was lovely, tender... It is hard to single out a specific moment, but she was very moving in her pointe variation and the final pas de deux.

The Watts role could became a great one for Somogyi, but it needs more passion, more impetuosity. And I thought Martins needed to do a bit better with the partnering in their last pas de deux. In the series of supported low jetes, he really needs to make it look as if she flying or at least make it smoother than it was.

Weese was fine in the Mazzo role, which I always considered the weaker of the other three. Alexapolous was really the dancer for me that made it more than it was, or at least allowed me to discover its secrets.

About the ballet, I think it points to Balanchine's genius that he, Mr. Abstract, could make a "plotless" ballet that has elements of Schumann's life in it and can be viewed as somewhat autobiographical. Karin Von Aroldingen as Clara the woman, but also as Balanchine's friend in later life. Farrell, the muse, as always. On Wednesday, D'Amboise's words from "Elusive Muse" came to my mind during the quicker, more aggressive of the pas de deux he did with Farrell - "the next muse was coming in" - and there is Farrell's character pulling and pushing at D'Amboise's, forcing creation.

Heather Watts and Peter Martins representing the passionate side of a relationship. But they were a big part of life at the company. They also had a passionate and stormy relationship. And Kay Mazzo in the faithful, "we'll get through this storm" women's role. And she helped Balanchine weather the storm of the Farrell situation. She stepped into many of Farrell's roles, did what she could do in a hard situation, and took the hits from the critics. And Balanchine kept making roles for her, even when Farrell returned. That's not to put down Mazzo as a dancer. In fact, I'm probably reading too much into it, coming to my own conclusions is dangerous. Most likely the ballet is not like that all. But that's the greatness in Mr. B's work, it could mean that to me now, or something else the next time I see it. And the same for another person.

Western Symphony is always great fun. At first, I thought the first movement cowgirl was a bit extroverted for Somogyi - a very internal dancer for me - until I thought about her success as the working girl looking out for fun role she had in Urban Dances and a few other roles such as that one. She handled herself well, but I think she needs to project more.

Tewsely didn't project at all in the second movement. I'd hate to think a ballet has to be like Mayerling to get this guy going (I liked Tewsely very much in his earlier guest spots with the company). Ansanelli was wonderfully goofy and sweet as his partner. Before she's made principal, she probably needs to get stronger technically. In technical parts, she often goes for the big flashy steps and sketches in the rest. Here, she looked a bit wobbly in the Italian fouettes. It's like what Martins said to Millepied (and told by Millepied in his interview in TONY), you get to be a principal dancer when Martins doesn't worry about you out there. I still worry about Ansanelli sometimes. However, she really took to those dives into Tewsely's arms with gusto. Wonderful.

If only the corp in the last movement took their cue from Ansanelli's fearlessness. It was heartbreaking to see, at the moment when two groups of four couples charge at each other from opposite corners of the stage, only to jump out of the way at the last moment, the dancers pulled up way too early, sliding out of the way with time to spare. When people talk about the loss of meaning in the Balanchine rep at NYCB they might be talking about moments like that. Although I see many promising dancers in the corp, most of them looks as if they're wearing their mother's makeup. Too young.

But I cheered right up. It wasn't a surprise to see Kowroski put in one of her best performances in a long time, she and Zelensky always danced well together. And he looked tickled to be back dancing after such a long injury layoff. Was this his first performance since sustaining an injury during NYCB's 2001 Nutcracker season? He looked real hyped up and probably put it on a little too thick, but he was having so much fun. I can't wait to see him on Sunday. It's too bad he can't stick around and do Vienna Waltzes or Symphony in C (I'd always wanted to see him in the pas de deux of Agon but he never got the chance when he was member of the company).

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Let me add my cents about one of demis in Raymonda. I was delighted at the growth of Faye Arthurs. It was just a few seasons ago that she wowed us with her extensions at her SAB graduation. I found her Variation I to be stylish, she was well-placed and right on the money musically. It's always so much fun to see the young ones grow.

Another "newbie" I'd like to mention is Sterling Hyltin as one of the corps girls in Second Movement of Western. You can't miss her: she's the one with the wisps of blond hair and the 1000 watt smile that lights up the State Theater! Also from her SAB class was a strong Jessica Flynn.

Was I the only one who was distressed at Ansanelli's interpretation of Second Movement Western? My gold standard in this role is Christine Redpath, who did it deadpan and very droll. Then it was taken over by Judy Fugate who continued in that tradition. Why is Ansanelli smiling throughout (and with very bright red lipstick to boot)? It's very disconcerting. Was she coached this way? Her dancing itself was just fine, but it just looks so wrong.

Also highlights from Wednesday were Madame Nichols (that national treasure) and a slimmed-down but fun, fun, fun Zelensky. And I was very impressed with the newcomer Tewsley; for me, he managed to combine some very dansuer noble dancing with the look of an "old cowpoke." It worked for me.

I'm looking forward to tonight's Eight Easy Pieces...

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Bobbi, you raised an interesting point about the 2nd movement of Western Symphony. I've seen it performed both ways over the years and I did miss the "Swan Lake" overtones the part contains. Ansanelli has a touch of attention grabber in her. She's toned it down a lot recently, but it came to the fore a little bit in WS. Anyway, I checked two sources on what the true character to the part - originated by Janet Reed.

From Repertory in Review: Reynolds quotes B.H. Haggin on Melissa Hayden's performance, Magallanes' romantic misery "is matched by Hayden, who gives the ballet a tongue-in-check, world-weary insouciance that no one else can equal."

Don McDonagh wrote in George Balanchine, "In the "Adagio" second movement, a laconic man enters with four young women in front of him like pairs of a team of horses. A lolo woman enters behind him, delicately stitching her way across the stage on point, and catches his attention by tapping him on the shoulder. He is immediately taken with her and their duet is slow and dreamy..."

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There's a 1956 film of the NYCB doing Western filmed in Paris - I describe it in this thread: Looking at Old Films To me, Hayden went beyond deadpan to something even funnier. She looked almost as if she were saying, "AT LAST! A ballerina role that does my talent justice!"

I went Wednesday as well, I thought Ansanelli's approach was unorthodox, but could work with some polishing. For me, she seemed to flicker between two different personae, one very warm and one deadpan, which is fine, but I'd like to see her make less impromptu-seeming decisions as to when that happens. Then again, there's something about her that's so openhearted when she comes up to Tewsley and leans her head on his shoulder when she's in arabesque. She can break my heart just a little and I can't ask for more from a ballerina.

I thought Western got a performance with an extra hambone tossed in for good measure. I'm not all that crazy about a Hambone version of Western ("AW SHUCKS MA'AM! YEEHAH!" all at top volume. . .) But some of that might be the fact that it's not native to Tewsley or Zelensky, so they push the folksy aspects of it hard (Martins does it as he usually does).

There's a disconnect between Somogyi's presence, which to me is warm and commanding, and her physical type, which is almost a soubrette. She's shorter, and a jumper and turner. She's suited for things like first movement of symphony in C by temperament, but less so by type, where she's more suited to third. She may be able to turn this into an asset as time goes on; she seems to have very good instincts.

For the record, I thought the debutantes came off well in Raymonda, as did Stafford. And this isn't fair to the rest of the cast, but Davidsbundlertanze for me was simply about seeing Weese back on stage, looking healthy and well.

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I agree with Michael about Vespro, and thank him for articulating my feelings better than I could. :)

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Neither before (nor after) his promotion has Ben Millepied carried as much of the company's major repertory, or in so prominent a role, as Alexandra Ansanelli is doing right now and did last year as well. She does have some rather unique physical weaknesses to be sure -- But if NYCB is consistently putting her out there night after night to fill Principal roles (even more often than Maria K right now, I would guess offhand) presumably it is because they think she is principal dancer quality. So do I.

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If I were to guess at the next soloist to be promoted, it would be Ansanelli. However, I don't think that the amount of work a dancer is getting is always a true indication because there are many circumstances that can create a situation like that - injuries, dancers leaving. I mean, the company isn't just going to shut down because they don't have the principal dancers to put in ballets.

And I don't mean to disparage Ansanelli, because she has undeniable gifts.

This brings up the point that was made in the Week One thread. The lack of principal dancers in the company and why there is a need for a dancers such as Sylvie and Tewsley (and a Zelensky) type. Two top dancers (Nichols and Kistler) are in their decline, two (Alexopoulos and Margaret Tracey) retired and one (Meunier) left. On the men's side, there always seems to be a choice between a dancer with the right technical abilities but the wrong temperament and a dancer with the right temperament but iffy/not brilliante technique.

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I might as well add my two-cents worth about Wednesday, although it seems that le toute ballet alert was there and has beaten me to the punch.

I thought Arthurs just fine in Raymonda, Ringer as dewey and glistening as one could wish for, Boal elegant and graceful even when he was fudging the pirouettes, and the corps a bit fuzzy around the edges.

In Davidsbundlertanze, Nichols was to die for. Frankly, I much prefer the pairing of Nichols and Askegard here to Von Aroldingen (who was a rather matronly Clara Schumann) and Adam Luders (who always looked as if someone had put pebbles in his ballet shoes).

I can't add to anything that's been said about the other dancers, and I thought Leigh's take on the contradictions between Somogyi's physique and style quite appropriate.

But to get back to Nichols; it's hard to praise her enough. No dancer at the State Theater (and, for all I know, the world) can hold a candle to her exquisite sense of timing, gesture, music. Her last gesture, reaching after Askegard's vanishing Schumann, then, after a seeming eternity, covering her weeping eyes as the curtain descended, will stay with me for a long, long time. Poetry in motion indeed.

As for Western, Somogyi's loosened up nicely in the First movement, although I'd like to see it just a bit wilder -- Somogyi's always, always in control. Nilas is the dance world's Purloined Letter -- right in front of our eyes, yet, somehow, invisible.

Ansanelli was not at her best Wednesday night -- she wasn't as wacky and crazy as she'd been the first two times I saw her in the Second movement. Perhaps she was being cautious with a new partner, or perhaps she was just thinking about the grande (Italian) fouettes in her killer solo (I'll say this for Melissa Hayden -- her version of the solo is a LOT harder than what we see today!). She's not deadpan, but rather quite amazingly alive. I loved her silliness; it's almost as if she was satirizing herself, cranking up her knack for getting happily lost in the moment to new heights. I will admit that perhaps she shouldn't be beaming quite so broadly as she bourrees offstage (it would be nice to see the Ghost of Dance-Hall Girls Past returning to her spectral state), but, as Leigh said, she's so infectuous and genuine it's very hard to quibble. At least for me.

Someone should tell Tewsley he's not dancing Bluebird, for God's sake.

Loved Zelensky's big, booming jumps, and, yes, Kowroski was quite spectacular, although I thought she had some trouble with her fouettes. Nobody's mentioned my favorite moment between the two: in the finale, the third-act couple stands against the lefthand wing as everyone else is dancing wildly away. Usually the man mimes kissing the woman, modestly hiding the action behind his upraised Stetson. Not so with Zelensky, who practically assaulted Kowroski, as he laid a big one right on her lips, then spun her around and bussed her in a big, backwards dip so wild her head looked like it was about to hit the stage. Whew! Judging from the rather amazed look on Kowroski's face after he pulled her upright, I don't think this was quite how they rehearsed it!

I'd like to see him try that with Sylve on Sunday -- she looks like far too tough of a cookie.

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It strikes me, after attending Friday Night's performance, that by concentrating so much on the Ballanchine being performed, we are missing another point -- the basic structure of the Winter repertory and the increased prominence being given to Martins own work mixed with Diamond Project Fare.

The general structure is roughly 1/3 Martins or Diamond Project / 1/3 Robbins / 1/3 Balanchine, with a few all Robbins or all Mr. B. programs mixed in. On a Night like last night (and Friday's are a weekend night), you sit through 3 Martins pieces (Bach Concerto, 8 Easy Pieces, 8 More), and a Robbins Ballet (In the Night) before being served up Symphony in 3 Movements.

Any assessment of where the company is right now needs to take account of this. Generally, the "Where Your Fortune Is There Also Shall be Your Heart" syndrome is noticable, as Martins works -- insipid and confusing as they are - Martins really does not know how to direct the viewer's eye on the stage -- are better rehearsed than anything else.

Kowroski was unforgettable as the Middle Woman in In the Night, last night -- the performance of the season so far for me, although the rest of the ballet was Drek. Wendy danced In the Night as if she thought it was The Cage and her partner, James Fayette, danced it as if he was shocked to find himself In the Cage.

Whelan was then amazing, as always, in Symphony n 3 Movements.

One thing of concern to me is how very very thin, not to say emaciated, some of the corps members are right now. This seems to be a company trend and it's affecting the look in general. Forget about their well-being (I assume someone else has that in hand). But someone should remind everyone that Swan Lake is not located on the Outskirts of Buchenwald.

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Martins's third of the program last night consisted of three short ballets, performed without intermission. The first of these, Bach Concerto V, seems to me both an unnecessary and unmemorable exercise. But I enjoyed the revivals of Eight Easy Pieces and Eight More. The former was adorably performed by Megan Fairchild, Glenn Keenan, and Lindy Mandradjieff, and the latter very excitingly by Antonio Carmena, Adam Hendrickson, and Daniel Ulbricht. Wendy was originally scheduled to dance with Jock in In the Night. She and James Fayette completely missed the quaity of "lovers' quarrel" which the third couple usually brings to this ballet. I never tire of Symphony in 3 Movements. And I sincerely hope someone IS looking out for the dancers' welfare.

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I really missed Ringer in that third pas de deux of In the Night. Whelan missed the dramatic moments. Borree had one of her better performances in the first pas de deux, with Marcovici, and Kowroski and Askegard were wonderful in the middle section.

I agree with Farrell Fan, the Bach is a bit of a waste. I can't help but feel it is Martins pandering to Kistler's physical limitations. However, I was happy that Eight Easy Pieces and Eight More were brought back. Nice little works good for the younger set. As good as Fairchild, Keenan and Madradjieff were (although sometimes they seemed a little rough along the edges), it would be nice to see dancers such as Saskia Beskow, Mary Helen Bowers, Carrie Lee Riggins or Laura Paulus get a chance to do a little something on their own.

The men were better, with Carmena dancing the more soulful solo and Daniel Ulbricht getting the showy part originally done by Gen Horiuchi.

Unfortunately, Symphony in Three Movements was a little flat to me. Not outstanding, not bad. I thought Soto and Whelan did a little less of the orientalisms than are usually done in the central pas de deux. Hendrickson and Taylor were high-flying in the opening and I thought Sofiane Sylvie and Jared Angle were very good in the other pair.

As for the thiness of the corps, it's hard to tell from the 4th ring. I think so many of them are just so young that there bodies aren't as mature. And I haven't seen as many apprentices used in a season as this one. The two ballets with large corps had them, and Western Symphony the other night.

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Today I attended NYCB's matinee: Le Tombeau de Couperin, Tarantella, Symphonic Dances and Fancy Free. Along with me, there were two aspiring ballerinas.

The favorite seems to have been Tarantella with Alexandra Ansanelli and Benjamin Millipied. I've never seen either of them perform it before and I really enjoyed watching them! I loved Ansanelli's sense of humor - it really showed up well in this role. I know that Manhattnik tends to describe her as a bit "loopy" and crazy...which I guess I've never really had the chance to see ... but, today, her joi de vie was in full bloom. Millipied was also great - he's really got that "devil may care" look down and I think the two of them worked really well together.

And speaking of Benjamin Millipied, he was great in Fancy Free. as well. I think I've almost always seen Damien Woetzel in that specific role before... Although I have always truly enjoyed his portrayal, tonight Millipied was in his element. Both of his roles, tonight, brought out his obvious dancing virtuosity as well as his gift for acting... He is very, very good at it.

The other new face, for me, was Robert Tewsley. I did a quick search on here and see that this was not his debut - but it was my first time seeing him and I thoroughly enjoyed him. He was featured in Peter Martins' "Symphonic Dances" with Yvonne Borree. I know Ms. Borree takes a lot of criticism on here, however, I thought she looked as though she'd finally found a man she could trust. Tewsley was refreshingly strong and is not a small dancer by any means. Quite frankly, it was refreshing to see such a strong, tall, male dancer. Never having seen Peter Martins perform, I may be very off in my thoughts...but I can't help but wonder if Tewsley isn't slightly reminiscent of Martins. Don't misunderstand me, I love Peter Boal, as the danseur noble, and I happen to think that Damian Woetzel can fit that bill as well - but it's great to see a new face looking so promising. I liked this piece, by Peter Martins, and found it quite powerful. It was good to see something with so much power - a nice juxtaposition to the earlier Le Tombeau de Couperin, and certainly in a different vein than Tarantella.

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Originally posted by Farrell Fan

Martins's third of the program last night consisted of three short ballets, performed without intermission. The first of these, Bach Concerto V, seems to me both an unnecessary and unmemorable exercise.

I agree. This was my first encounter with the ballet. Like all of Peter's work, it is elegant and tasteful, but seriously lacking in musicality. My greatest gripe: its failure to exploit the distinctive feature of any concerto, the contrast between tuttii and solo. The contrast need not be slavish, as Balanchine demonstrated in Concerto Barocco, but surely it offers more possiblities than we saw in this ballet.

But I enjoyed the revivals of Eight Easy Pieces and Eight More. The former was adorably performed by Megan Fairchild, Glenn Keenan, and Lindy Mandradjieff, and the latter very excitingly by Antonio Carmena, Adam Hendrickson, and Daniel Ulbricht.

These are charming ornaments, well performed. They have a place in any company's repertory, as points of entry for newcomers and a showcase of young talent for patrons. Certainly, the Friday cast made the most of the opportunity!

Wendy was originally scheduled to dance with Jock in In the Night. She and James Fayette completely missed the quaity of "lovers' quarrel" which the third couple usually brings to this ballet.

Point well taken, but I tend to agree with Mr. B himself, who found "In the Night" boring, mostly because the music varies so little in tone or tempo. In terms of Friday's performance, I've seen better and I've seen worse. And like FF,I always enjoy Symphony in Three Movements

See you on the Promenade!

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It wasn't a surprise to see Kowroski put in one of her best performances in a long time, she and Zelensky always danced well together. And he looked tickled to be back dancing after such a long injury layoff. Was this his first performance since sustaining an injury during NYCB's 2001 Nutcracker season?

I heard that Zelensky had danced a few performances of Giselle (in Greece) just before Christmas so this was not his first performance since his injury. It has, however, been great to read about him back on stage - he is one of my favourute dancers and I'm so pleased he seems to be dancing well. I just hope we will get to see him in the UK soon.

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Like most of those who previously posted, I too very much enjoyed Eight Easy Pieces and Eight More. The former is totally charming and the latter can be really thrilling as demonstrated by Carmena, Ulbricht and Hendrickson. Now if only Peter M. would combine the boys and the girls and make a third little ballet . . . .

And I agree that Wendy W. was her usual outstanding self in Symphony in Three Movements. And I too never tire of this work. Having witnessed for thirty years now, I eagerly anticipate the signature moments (the unfolding line of corps girls, the last pose worthy of a MOMA painting) and sometimes hope that they would last longer.

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I think we should not be in too much of a hurry to class "Eight Easy Pieces" and "Eight More" as entertaining minor works good for showcasing the younger dancers. My impression is that they are a great deal more complex than that and that they represent, in fact, some of Peter Martins most ambitious and most complicated work.

I say complicated because the works manifest such amibivalence about the idioms and conventions of Classical Ballet itself. At times, they present almost a cruel caricature of Classical Dance. When Daniel Ulbricht spins to the knee and then proceeds, in quick mechanical herky-jerks, to adjust his position three or four times, and then to false-stop and false-start off the counts of the music, while grinning at the other two dancers several times, he is not only parodying the kind of performance conventions we often see at ABT, he is also subtly inviting the audience at the State Theater -- when it unknowingly applauds this virtuosity as such (and it is virtuosity indeed) -- to involve itself in a self contradiction and to some degree to make a fool of itself. The two things balance on a knife's edge.

(Stravinsky's music, in its Honky Tonk parody of Waltz, Gallop, etc. forms -- a la Kurt Weill -- is parody and pastiche, but never cruel and it is interesting how other choreographers who have treated Stravinsky have avoided letting the parody go in that direction).

Even the name of the works: i.e., "Easy" Pieces is a double entendre. For the dancers technically, these pieces are anything but "Easy."

I see this complexity of meaning, one thing on the surface, another darker but unspecified thing underneath, as something very Peter Martins and perhaps something he owes a great deal to his Danish-ness. I have often felt that Martins can pay obeisance to something on the surface and convey, at once, a darker feeling about it underneath and sometimes felt that Martins, a great practitioner of Classical Ballet, has some contempt for the art form to which he owes so much. Danes live come from a highly conventional society -- they are as much a Tribe as a Nation -- where surface conformity and politesse among each other is put at a high premium. Among that politesse, one must often look carefully for the sublimated expressions of agression, disageement, contempt, at least ambivalence. These things too are balanced on the edge of a knife.

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Michael, I think your Danish relatives have taught you well :)

I haven't seen "Eight Easy Pieces" in a long time, so can't comment beyond, a -- that sounds very interesting, and quite plausible. I also think that art *should* have undercurrents, it shouldn't just be all surface. That fits in what we've been talking about on the "what is high art?" thread, and how works can be appreciated by different people, at different times, and on different levels. It's also something to bear in mind when looking at something that looks simple -- is it simplistic, or is it just the cover over something else?

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As the first poster to suggest that "Eight Easy Pieces" and "Eight More" are "entertaining minor works," I would like to thank Michael for his provocative comments.

As I certainly know, having seen them on many occasions over the past two decades -- they date to 1980 and 1985, respectively -- they are among the most enduring and engaging of Martins' works. This fact alone suggests that they are much more than trivial bagatelles. There's also the fact that Martins has always been drawn to 20th-century music, finding far more choreographic inspiration in Stravinsky, Ives, and Michael Torke than in Schubert or Beethoven. Clearly, this is a choreographer playing his strongest suit, and the results are a winning trick.

Now that business about "good for showcasing younger dancers" -- that's not my doing. That's how Martins uses these ballets in his company's repertory. Maybe he underestimates his own creations; if he cast them with senior dancers, he might force all of us to reconsider.

Maybe Martins is simply patterning himself on Balanchine, who regularly used the Adagio in Symphony in C -- anything but a trivial bagatelle! -- to introduce young ballerinas. (I was in the house when the 16-year-old Darci Kistler boureed downstage into stardom, following the toe taps of Tanaquil LeClercq, Allegra Kent, Suzanne Farrell, Kay Mazzo, Gelsey Kirkland and others.)

Or maybe it's just a convenience in trying to organize such a huge repertory: these pieces for "the kids"; others for the marquee names. NYCB usually performs 40-45 different works in the course of each 13-week season, so scheduling is a massive headache and simplification is always welcome.

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Friday's performance went from weak to strong. Eight more was a very good work, but that doesn't mean it can't be a showcase for new dancers. Dan Ulbricht simply stole the show. And while Keenan, Mandradjieff and Fairchild did a fine job I couldn't help thinking that Korbes and Bouder would have given Ulbricht a run for his money. Korbes looked beautiful in her corps roles, I hope she can start getting some more solo and principal parts.

I do think a large part of the programing this season is tailored for the dancers. There was no reason to bring back Bach V or Burleske except they give Darci Kistler an opportunity to dance without taxing her body. If Kyra Nichols were still on maternity leave I don't think that Martins would have brought back Pavane, Ballade or possibly Davidsbundlertanze. Does that make Davidsbundertanze a minor work? Of course not, Nichols being a such a seasoned, mature and subtle dancer can best bring out the choreography in Pavane and Davidsbundlertanze. Just as a young dancer can infuse tremendous energy and excitement into Eight easy pieces.

I fear that Jenifer Ringer may be injured. Miranda Weese replaced her on Saturday evening. Yvonne Borree was less sucessful on Sunday in Raymonda. Raymonda is one of Ringers best roles and I though perhaps I was being hard on Borree. She didn't fall apart but was extremely choppy, and at the end of every variation she had a huge smile of relief on her face. A friend, new to the ballet asked me why she was in the princpal role verses the corps soloits.

Western Symphony ..... SOFIANE SYLVE was incredible and Zelensky was quite the fetching Russian cowboy. I find it hard to describe Sylve's performance except to say that it reminded me of something Tallchief used to say about the pressures of being a principal dancer, that no one cares how good the swans are if the Swan Queen doesn't perform well. I didn't really understand that comment, but now I think I do ... the entire cast, the audience and the orchestra seemed to respond the Sylve's stunning performance and gave a most energized finale. It was definately worth the performance of the weekend.

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I agree with what BW said about Tarantella. Ansanelli is a pleasure this season; she's got a real personality out there.

I did not like Symphonic Dances as much. First, I simply did not like the choreography: it is Big! and Bombastic! and Dramatic! in a really unmotivated, Ice Capades kind of way. Borree, I agree, gave a very good performance, but I did not like Tewsley at all. He is big and strong, yes, but stylistically he stuck out like a sore thumb. He is not precise or quick like the other NYCB dancers, and whether it is true or not he had, to me, an aura of smugness and not needing to try to fit in. I have not seen such obvious preparation for turns in a long time. He did not seem to partner Borree all that well; by the end of the piece he appeared to be yanking her around in a way that was both inappropriate and possibly harmful. Also, the costumes, particularly for the men, are hideous. That said, the corps looked good – better rehearsed than for Tombeau.

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Originally posted by E Johnson

That said, the [symphonic Dances] corps looked good – better rehearsed than for Tombeau.

In a perverse way, I'm glad to hear that. Tombeau is such a gem when it's well danced -- when it's been rehearsed, all the accents are hit as appropriate, the wit behind the original inspiration can be seen. The deciding factor in my not attending the Saturday matinee was fear of a perfunctory Tombeau. :(

Hoping that Ansanelli does the late season Tarantellas, giving me the chance to see her then. :cool:

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