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Winter Season, Week Two

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#16 BW


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Posted 18 January 2003 - 04:31 PM

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.

#17 Morris Neighbor

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Posted 18 January 2003 - 08:03 PM

[QUOTE]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!

#18 Shirley



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Posted 19 January 2003 - 03:09 AM

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.

#19 bobbi


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Posted 19 January 2003 - 04:41 AM

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.

#20 Michael


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Posted 19 January 2003 - 08:50 AM

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.

#21 Alexandra


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Posted 19 January 2003 - 09:42 AM

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?

#22 Morris Neighbor

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Posted 19 January 2003 - 08:50 PM

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.

#23 pville



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Posted 20 January 2003 - 07:30 AM

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.

#24 E Johnson

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Posted 20 January 2003 - 01:08 PM

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.

#25 carbro


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Posted 20 January 2003 - 01:53 PM

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:

#26 Michael


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Posted 22 January 2003 - 07:10 PM

The corps looked particularly flat in Tombeau, which is indeed a beautiful ballet. What's surprising is that it wan't the new apprentices and younger dancers at all, but instead the Women in their mid-20s who made up the corps that day (Pauline Golbin, Dena Abergel, etc.). There was a particular moment when everyone does pliee on the supporting leg with tendu front, brushing down with the hands as a pose (whatever it's called) -- and I couldn't help remembering what the Kirov Corps looked like last July in that just that pose. No one on Saturday Afternoon seemed to have any "passion" for that movement, seemed to want to show me anything about it. When I read in today's Times one of Nureyev's old dancers saying that Rudi didn't just teach him "how to dance", he taught him how to "be a dancer" -- I also thought of last Saturday and how lacking in "being", in any inner radical quality the company seemed. What is curious is how the same dancers who would perform that pose with passion and shape for Kay Mazzo or Suki Schorer at school, seem to forget about it once they're in the company. I thought it was supposed to work the other way around.

#27 Morris Neighbor

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Posted 22 January 2003 - 09:46 PM

While I did not see the Tombeau being discussed here, as a long-time fan of City Ballet I can appreciate the difficulty of encouraging young dancers with amazing technical skills -- young women and men who have won contracts with a world-class company because of those skills -- to look beyond technique to interpretation.

To a certain extent, the change is inevitable. I remember a forum in which Alexandra Danilova took questions from the public. I alluded to the many roles in which Madame D. won acclaim for her style and interpretation, rather than physical technique, and asked if she felt the shift to technical skills was undermining the art of dance. She responded with an elaborate Slavic shrug. "The girls today," she said, "they can do things I would never imagine. But if we do not PROgress, we RETROgress."

True enough, but somewhere along the line, NYCB really should get dancers to look beyond the steps. I recall another forum in which Kyra Nichols described her experience in learning the title role in Firebird. At an early studio rehearsal, she noticed Maria Tallchief standing in the door. She arranged to meet with Tallchief the following day for detailed coaching, and felt her dancing was immeasurably improved.

To be sure, many superb Balanchine dancers are available to the young tyros at SAB and NYCB -- Kay Mazzo, Sean Lavery, Suki Schorer, Victor Casteli and Merrill Ashley in particular -- though the absence of Farrell is clearly felt. Hand-holding sounds demeaning, but Farrell, in her biography, pays enormous tribute to Diana Adams, as a mentor and role model. I can't help wondering how much support these gifted young dancers feel from their elders.

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