Winter Season, Week Two
Posted 15 January 2003 - 07:50 AM
Posted 15 January 2003 - 01:45 PM
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.
Posted 16 January 2003 - 12:13 PM
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.
Posted 16 January 2003 - 07:39 PM
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.
Posted 16 January 2003 - 11:10 PM
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).
Posted 17 January 2003 - 05:41 AM
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...
Posted 17 January 2003 - 08:54 AM
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..."
Posted 17 January 2003 - 09:41 AM
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.
Posted 17 January 2003 - 10:37 AM
Posted 17 January 2003 - 01:26 PM
Posted 17 January 2003 - 02:13 PM
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.
Posted 17 January 2003 - 06:27 PM
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.
Posted 18 January 2003 - 07:03 AM
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.
Posted 18 January 2003 - 07:53 AM
Posted 18 January 2003 - 08:14 AM
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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