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NYCB Nutcracker, 12/12/01

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There seems to be some interest in Nut reviews, so here's what I saw at my first Nut of the season:

Wendy Whelan was a dandy Sugar Plum, although she's certainly spun from something a bit more authoritative than sugar! I know her solo doesn't "belong" at the beginning of Act II, but she was such a charmingly regal den-mother for those little golden-angel girls, I was completely won over. Philip Neal, looking elegant as usual and surprisingly virtuosic, partnered her with gravity and attention, and those scary "grab-my-wrists-before-I-slam-into-the-stage" promenades.went off flawlessly. Whelan knows how to turn on the grandeur and glamour as if from a spigot, and she seemed to grow in stature as the adagio progressed. I know Whelan isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I adore her up-front, ideosyncratic style, the way she uses her amazingly long arms to encompass the entire stage (even if she strays from textbook correctness), even her many little moues, which are all the more charming as they seem to be an unconscious expression, without artifice or intent, of the sheer pleasure she takes in dancing.

Alexandra Ansanelli seems to have grown more as a dancer now that she's no longer the apple of Peter Martins' eye than she did for the year or so when she was his flavor of the week. She didn't tackle Dew Drop like she was in a steeplechase, as some dancers are wont to do these days (I love Janie Taylor's Dew Drop for just this reason, actually), but rather with a quiet strength that always took a back seat to her sweet relation with the music. It's a measure of how she's matured as an artist that she can leave me scratching my head at how she can take this flashy allegro role and show me lyrical, even still moments. It's ironic that now that I am really beginning to see what, perhaps, Martins' may have seen in her a few years ago, he's apparently lost interest.

Speaking of strength and musicality, Lindy Mandradjieff's Marzipan Shepherdess was a paragon of both. It's easy for a dancer to turn this role's killer, and occasionally cutesy-poo, pointework into something close to a mechanical doll's strut -- it was refreshing to see Mandradjieff was both strong and sensible enough to avoid that trap by playing, ever so slightly, with the beat, to let us know she was having fun out there.

Aesha Ash and Stephen Hanna danced the Chocolate fandango with almost a surfeit of brio. As much as I like Dana Hanson in many things (I tend to like dancers who can't be mistaken for anyone else, at any distance), she's more of an angular, tightly wound spring of dancer, and just doesn't do calme, luxe and volupté. Sean Suozzi bounded with great verve as Tea, and Jeroan Hofmans soared through Candy Canes with wonderful ease and clarity (I've seen too many dancers come to grief doing Hoops) which I admired, and a classical nobility which was as interesting as it was out of place. I mean, he's a candy cane, not Apollo!

It is perhaps an indication of how low Mother Ginger has fallen to realize that Amar Ramasar's bold and brassy rendition (was he wearing enough glitter?) wasn't even close to the most over-the-top gal I've seen in recent years. It is a rather thankless role, I imagine, and if the guys want to play "Drag Queen for a Day," who am I to quibble? I suppose one could argue it's a bit out of period for her to consult a non-existant wristwatch before hustling the Polichinelles back under her skirt, but that would be quibbling. Wouldn't it?

Ojela Burkhard was a dark and intense Marie, just the sort of girl whom you might imagine would have an imaginary internal world running on overdrive, and Ryan Cardea was much as I remembered last year, more efficient and dutiful as Franz than inspiring. Stuart Capps had fun with Drosselmeyer without turning him into a caricature.

All in all, it was a nice night at the theater. I've missed that growing Christmas tree.

[ December 13, 2001: Message edited by: Manhattnik ]

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I was fortunate enough to see Sean Lavery recently rehearsing two couple as Sugarplum and her Cavalier. Watching Lavery dissect the ppd made me realize how difficult the partnering is in this deceptively elegant dance.

Lavery was teaching the role to Stephen Hanna partnering Korowski. She is an experienced Sugarplum but Hanna is a novice. They made an interesting couple as Hanna is tall and broad enough to partner her comfortably. But he seemed taken aback by the size of her movements, Korowski dances big - deep plies and high legs. Hanna was clearly nervous about working with her. Lavery stopped them frequently to adjust some small detail or make suggestions about how better to support the ballerina and by the end of the session Hanna was clearly more comfortable. He also danced the variation and the coda and was clearly disconcerted by the stamina required to do them well on a big stage. I imagine that at this point in his career, Hanna has not done alot of classical variations. I think they'll be an interesting couple and unlike some men at NYCB, Hanna was clearly interested in getting it right.

This rehearsal was followed by Peter Boal with Jennifer Ringer. Ringer seemed a little off her form, making small mistakes or taking extra little steps. I think this may have been the first time this season she danced this with Boal. But no matter what Ringer did Boal was there to support her and he completed the complcated lifts to the shoulder even when her take off was akward. It was as though I was watching a text book on partnering. I know that Soto is considered to be the best partner in the company but Peter is also terrific. One hopes that the younger men study not just his technical skills but that they also imitate his genuine concern for his ballerinas. I'd love to see a performance of Boal and Ringer.

I was also fascinated by how different the same steps can look when danced by different dancers. The contrast between Korowski and Ringer was not just one of body types but also of phrasing and emphasis with Korowski more regal and Ringer warmer and more delicate. Both are valid interpretations.

I'll be at Saturday nigth's performance and will report on Bouree and Hubbe.

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I saw Maria Kowroski in this at the beginning of December and she was magnificent, not to be missed.

In the adagio she has a quality of preserving her flow at all times which no one else there has. Towards the end of the grand pas, at the climactic points in the music, her character starts at the rear of the stage and, three times, bourrees forward, sets herself in a broad fourth position with the cavalier behind her, and then is spun rapidly by the cavalier into a final back bend, literally draped towards the orchestra. With Maria dancing the role what you notice is how she flows through those turns into the back bend at all times, right on the music, with never a hint of calculation or effort to time the last spin and final deep surrender towards the audience. What is special with her is how all this becomes one seemless movement, she just lets herself go and the steps become a gesture of which you are unaware of the parts. With other dancers, in contrast, I notice the steps and the 4th position preparations, my mind doesn't get turned off the same way.

[ December 14, 2001: Message edited by: Michael1 ]

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