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Royal Blue

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  1. A great ballet does not depend on the effectiveness of its original or any single cast to produce an impact: it proves its worth on the stage continually. Neither on this run nor the previous one did the dancers of NYCB have the slightest difficulty in convincing that Liebeslieder Walzer is a great ballet. Grasping its manifold intricacies, however, requires numerous viewings. The paucity of its performances by the company is consequently annoying. Several observations on what I saw— For the second time in a year, Ashley Laracey’s impersonation of a woman from a bygone era—in this instance the nineteenth century—proved profoundly moving. Observing her (as closely as possible) throughout was sheer enchantment. In particular, Laracey’s masterly performance during the first pas de deux of her character with that of Justin Peck’s—complete with strikingly elegant placement and movement of arms, hands, and head—proffered a sublime distillation of what Liebeslieder Walzer and ballet in general are all about. Casting a young soloist such as Unity Phelan in such a challenging role was a courageous yet praiseworthy decision. Her dramatic take on the character was keenly affecting, and contrasted markedly with the merrier interpretation of the same woman by the seasoned Sterling Hyltin. Customary marvelous touches and brilliant dancing characterized Tiler Peck's portrayal of the role originated by Violette Verdy. No one in the current NYCB roster matches her capacity to consistently accent choreographic sequences so exquisitely. During the first part of the ballet the dancing by Sara Mearns occasionally appeared somewhat overdone in an elegant 19th century drawing room setting. During her long sequence with the character depicted by Russell Janzen in part two, however, her ardent, supernal dancing—especially considering her incredible, extraordinarily busy week—was nothing short of phenomenal.
  2. "First comes the sweat. Then comes the beauty, if you’re very lucky and have said your prayers." This goes way more for “l'amour," as the immortal La Belle au bois dormant patently implies. Although for a human being to experience profound love may be difficult and rare, it is not impossible. Through the sundry productions that have issued from the original version by Tchaikovsky and Petipa ballet has vividly, splendidly brought to theatrical life a story that is exquisite and timeless to begin with. Aficionados may debate the merits and shortcomings of various productions, and criticize the version by Martins all they wish. It would be false and dishonest of me not to acknowledge, however, that this production by NYCB initially aroused the curiosity which led me personally to reflect on the story. Not surprisingly, with such a complicated work and enormous cast not everything panned out during this two-week run. Yet the past fortnight at NYCB has been altogether immensely rewarding and enjoyable.
  3. Those who were only present at the Woodward/Huxley debut last Thursday witnessed the worthier of their two performances. At Sunday's matinee Woodward had a bobble at one point on her own, and there were at least a couple of serious partnership mishaps during the Wedding Pas de Deux. Otherwise, Woodward again was superb during The Spell and The Vision sections, and Huxley excelled in his solos. Comments about Huxley not projecting royalty are understandable; however, neither quite did Woodward in the final scene. Many in the orchestra section gave them a standing ovation at the ballet's conclusion. Of the five Auroras Lauren Lovette appeared the most frustrated with the technical demands of the role. Nevertheless, she also had many gorgeous moments, and looked very natural as a Princess. Along with the outstanding Joseph Gordon as Prince Désiré, she seemed to have materialized straight out of a picture book. At the performances I saw the various women who performed the fairy variations during The Christening did so with finesse and elan. The qualities Aurora has been blessed with in this production are worth noting: tenderness, vivacity, generosity, eloquence, and courage. Since there are so many instances in this work where the stage is crowded with dancers, occasional issues with group alignment and formation are to be expected. Although it is possible that from my position I missed some, nothing of this nature I observed proved especially distracting. The Lilac Fairy’s Attendants during The Christening, the Maids of Honor during The Spell, and The Nymphs during The Vision were particularly enchanting. One of the dancers I have most often seen on the stage at NYCB is Lauren King. In addition to some uneven work, I have also seen numerous estimable performances by her. Furthermore, even though always appreciative of her loveliness, an opportunity not long ago to briefly witness her dance from close at a studio made me realize how I had nonetheless underestimated it. Her being cast as the Lilac Fairy this season was not surprising, nor was how much I enjoyed her in the part. Ever since becoming a soloist Emilie Gerrity has done some truly excellent work, and in this run she was fantastic in her Fairy of Tenderness variation, and as Emerald. On Sunday I happily caught sight of Unity Phelan as one of the Garland Dance Villagers, and wondered whether she would in fact appear as one of the precious metals during The Wedding. That did not occur. Regardless, she shone in this season's The Sleeping Beauty in all her three roles: as the Fairy of Courage, as Diamond, and as Emerald. Earlier in the week her missing two scheduled performances as the Fairy of Courage led me to fear that what I was so looking forward to on Thursday would not take place. Thankfully, it did: witnessing Phelan as Diamond, Brittany Pollack as Emerald, and Ashley Laracey as Ruby dancing so resplendently together was one of the absolute highlights of the run for me. A key reason for NYCB's success this past decade has undoubtedly been the extraordinary level of achievement by three of its finest and most highly motivated principal dancers: Ashley Bouder, Sterling Hyltin, and Tiler Peck. All three consistently deliver performances of genuine merit and distinction in both the regular NYCB repertory and full-length/story ballets! With their magnificent renditions as Aurora this winter season each reaffirmed her standing as a true pillar in the current NYCB roster. Finally, in my opinion, no performance during this run surpassed in beauty, power, depth and cohesion the one Friday night with the second cast. Tiler Peck, Tyler Angle, Ashley Laracey and Sara Mearns were all so exceptionally beautiful and effective in their respective roles as to—notwithstanding how much of this ballet I had seen during the past two weeks—evoke my regret at not having been able to catch the middle one of their three performances.
  4. Some performers on the stage (or for that matter any steadfast member of the audience) may feel that they are experiencing their own "Groundhog Day" during this two-week run of The Sleeping Beauty. In truth, and keeping in mind Tchaikovsky’s glorious music, for the sympathetic viewer supernatural intervention is not a prerequisite in order to watch all three parts from Act I of NYCB’s engaging production—The Christening; The Spell; The Vision—as well as The Awakening from the second act over and over in the course of a couple of weeks. Only parts of The Wedding can become wearisome. The popular movie referenced indeed merely underscores the greatness of the centuries-old tale. Coming up at the Metropolitan Opera soon will be three Ring cycles. Whatever one may think of Richard Wagner as a person, even a cursory familiarity with his ten best-known operas reveals the composer (who wrote his own librettos!) as one of the most ambitious and sophisticated artists who ever lived. The monumental Ring cycle—made up of four of these operas—is one of the greatest works of art created by humankind. Act 3, Scene 3 of the 3rd opera, Siegfried contains an unmissable similarity to The Awakening scene from The Sleeping Beauty. As with any successful presentation of the ballet, the highlight of last evening's at NYCB was the superb performance of the ballerina enacting the role of Aurora. On this occasion it was a mesmerizing Sterling Hyltin, dancing with authority, vitality, and precision throughout, while brilliantly and convincingly creating the character's arc from girlhood to womanhood during her allotted time onstage, and skillfully imbuing the work's fantastic The Vision segment with a haunting touch of mystery and poetry. During the spectacular display at the end of the wedding festivities when all on the stage dance simultaneously, the identical choreography also assigned to Aurora can appear too undignified for a queen. Nevertheless, this was not the case with Hyltin, due to her majestic countenance and carriage. For the same reason likewise, despite the tremendous shift in the tone of the music which occurs afterwards for the coronation, a smile on her face at that juncture did not seem misplaced. Many dancers from all ranks are doing commendable work in these performances. A striking Teresa Reichlen as the Lilac Fairy, a fiery Maria Kowroski as Carabosse, and Brittany Pollack and Ashley Laracey as Emerald and Ruby respectively—both of them elegant, dazzling—were especially enjoyable last night. Although not as exemplary in the role as judging by his looks one imagines he could be, Russell Janzen turned in a respectable performance as Prince Désiré.
  5. With its gigantic cast, a run of NYCB’s production of The Sleeping Beauty—notwithstanding the fact that full-length/story ballets are not its specialty—probably affords the best overall opportunity to view the entire gamut of the company’s roster of dancers at a given time. More importantly, it is generally an extremely fetching production which serves the immortal fairy tale sufficiently. Three segments of the ballet of paramount significance and beauty—The Vision; The Awakening; and the denouement of The Wedding—came off superbly during Thursday evening's performance. This was primarily due to the stirring Aurora of Tiler Peck, but also to Ashley Laracey's enchanting turn as the Lilac Fairy and Tyler Angle's as Prince Désiré. It is of vital necessity at the ballet for dancers to seem prepossessing in the roles in which they are cast, and that is certainly the case with all three of them in The Sleeping Beauty. (How regal and cognizant of the gravity of the moment Angle appeared during the coronation!) This made the interactions between their characters persuasive and gripping at all key points of the work. Although not to be taken for granted, Tiler Peck’s dancing—with incomparably gorgeous turns and an extraordinary display of strength, skill and gracefulness while moving on pointe—was expectedly phenomenal, particularly during The Vision and The Wedding scenes. Minor mishaps in the dancing of Angle and especially Laracey hardly marred the sweeping effectiveness of their performances. In terms of partnering as well as his solos, the former is one of the most accomplished male dancers of the company. Even though she is not distressingly thin, it does look as if Laracey has unfortunately lost some weight. The delicate symmetry of her long, lovely limbs which—along with instinctual and cultivated artistry—lends her movements and poses an engrossing ethereal beauty remains nevertheless intact. In addition to a bewitching performance by Sara Mearns as the Fairy Carabosse, pleasing ones by (among others) Emilie Gerrity as Emerald and Brittany Pollack as Princess Florine, and wonderful debuts by Harrison Ball as Gold and Unity Phelan as Diamond, were all icing on the cake Thursday night.
  6. Needless to say, human life is predicated on the impossibility of knowing what is on “the other side”: there is no boundary more challenging than that which separates the living from the dead. Surely it is natural to grieve deeply at the loss of a dear person, under any circumstances. Accordingly, the subject matter of the myth of Orpheus is incontrovertibly heart-wrenching and difficult. One has to admire Balanchine (and Stravinsky through his music) for attempting to represent the famous story in a ballet. Of particular interest is how the choreographer depicted the theme of blindness, especially in the pas de deux downstage in front of the gigantic wavering curtain. However, the overall result—at times verging on the ludicrous—is not as powerful or moving as one would expect given the somber subject. That the company does not present Orpheus often is, therefore, unsurprising. Since it necessarily remains a fascinating work it should, nevertheless, occasionally return to the repertory. Headed by vivid debuts from Gonzalo Garcia in the title role, Sterling Hyltin as the beloved Eurydice, and Peter Walker as the Dark Angel the performance by the first cast this season was fulfilling. Presently, I find the formal beauty of Apollo overpowering, so—barring any glaring miscasting among the four roles—it is inconceivable for me not to savor a presentation of the ballet. In his significant debut Taylor Stanley was captivating, and his trio of Muses—Tiler Peck, Brittany Pollack and Indiana Woodward—absolutely fabulous. Obviously, it was gratifying to witness Pollack’s debut as Polyhymnia. Observing Unity Phelan in Agon—which was well-performed later in the evening—made me impatient for the day she is also cast in Apollo. Catching the second casts of Apollo and Orpheus tomorrow afternoon, unfortunately, appears unlikely.
  7. Without dancers there would be no ballet! At its best, however, ballet has never been about just the dancers. Choreography and music (and how felicitously they complement each other) are paramount! There are all sorts of reasons why an individual may not enjoy a performance of Serenade, including those not having anything to do with what is occurring on the stage. This ballet, nonetheless, remains a wondrous achievement whose provenance as a work created for the students of the School of American Ballet boggles the mind. Although dancers have their unique strengths and characteristics, and are of course not interchangeable, its capacity to enthrall when performed by different casts provides the ultimate validation of a great ballet. Considering its origin, this is especially true of Serenade. As someone thrilled to the core by two performances with Sara Mearns as the Waltz Girl and Tiler Peck as the Russian Girl during the first week of the season, I found last night's rendition of the ballet with Lauren Lovette, Ashley Bouder and Emilie Gerrity as the Dark Angel also deeply powerful and moving. In fact, Serenade is always a tough act to follow on a program, and has proven so compelling—after its absence—on this run that I had difficulty fully appreciating the other two items of the evening (even the grand Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2). There were a few issues with the corps as well as the soloists at each performance, but they did not substantively detract from the overarching power and beauty of this sublime work.
  8. Interesting observations! My previous comment, of course, was made by way of pointing out the irony in the situation and praising ABT, instead of as a means to criticize NYCB. Both Symphony in C and Concerto Barocco are works which are justifiably presented often; therefore, it is understandable that some performances of them—though still worthwhile—may seem less remarkable than others. By contrast, it was easier to be impressed by Symphonie Concertante at the festival, since performances of that ballet are infrequent. The fact remains, however, that all five renditions of the latter work I saw this fall were superb, and for that ABT deserves plenty of credit. Additionally, I feel that Shevchenko and Teuscher merit special plaudits, both for making outstanding debuts in their respective roles and for their exceptional performances at City Center.
  9. Two dazzling performances of Symphonie Concertante by ABT at City Center this past weekend within the space of less than 24 hours! To say the least, it is bizarre for ABT to have upstaged NYCB at a Balanchine Festival, especially at this point in time; however, there you have it. This occurred partly on account of how seldom Symphonie Concertante is presented. Those five performances scheduled during the Fall Season were undoubtedly essential for a fuller appreciation of the ones at the festival. The dancing at City Center by Thomas Forster, as well as three female soloists and all the women from the corps in the cast was in any case impeccable. For Christine Shevchenko and Devon Teuscher these two performances marked veritable triumphs: they made every moment of the ballet's outer segments appear incontestably precious, and propelled its exalted middle one into a pinnacle of sublimity.
  10. To have observed last night from close to the stage how supremely well Christine Shevchenko and Devon Teuscher worked in tandem throughout Balanchine’s stately Symphonie Concertante—gracefully mirroring the interplay between the violin and the viola in Mozart’s inspired composition—amounted to another peak experience at the ballet. Truly marvelous stuff Saturday evening at City Center from ABT and these two ballerinas!
  11. During ABT's Fall Season I attended four performances, three of them for the express purpose of familiarizing myself with Symphonie Concertante in preparation for the two this weekend at City Center. Why this exquisite work is not presented more often is baffling. All three casts—Stella Abrera, Gillian Murphy and Alexandre Hammoudi; Christine Shevchenko, Isabella Boylston and Blaine Hoven; and Shevchenko, Devon Teuscher and Thomas Forster—proved delightful from my position in the Fourth Ring. In terms of the actual dancing, the only blemish witnessed was Hammoudi's poor solo work. (The six demi-soloists at each performance, as well as the corps de ballet, were also highly appealing.) Nevertheless, my feeling is that it was appropriate and sensible to choose Shevchenko and Teuscher for the assignments at City Center.
  12. Yes, bobbi. The performance last night of Divertimento No. 15 by San Francisco Ballet at City Center was sensational and profoundly life-enhancing. A great way certainly for Ana Sophia Scheller to return to the city, it featured spectacular accomplishments by at least three of her new colleagues—Dores André, Sasha De Sola and Frances Chung. De Sola's own stumble as the ballet was nearing its conclusion only made her and the company more endearing to me!
  13. Last evening’s performance by NYCB of Symphony in C was not flawless; however, the company still made this great work appear—from my vantage point in the center of the balcony—vibrant and glorious. A lovely yet subdued performance by Viktoria Tereshkina in Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux accompanied a thrilling one by Kimin Kim. The clarity, precision and beauty of movement by Kim impressed, and indicated an abiding commitment to excellence. Superbly matched by contrast, Anna Rose O'Sullivan and Marcelino Sambé offered the audience a rendition of Tarantella which filled the theater with life and joy. Just over half an hour long, Serenade is one of the most beautiful and moving of all ballets—whether abstract or narrative. Although Miami City Ballet's performance was not without flaws either, I would unhesitatingly grab any opportunity to watch Serenade with this company and same cast again.
  14. There is no denying the significance of style in ballet, even if a viewer who has not studied the art form in depth overlooks such essential details as the precise positioning of the hands and arms, the placement of the feet, the direction the body is leaning or the head is facing, and the speed or elevation required during a choreographic sequence. Without doubt, it is splendid and appropriate, therefore, that NYCB has a school of its own where students learn the Balanchine style from a young age, and from which the company primarily recruits its dancers. There are, nevertheless, issues regarding the element of style. Evidently, people who worked closely with Balanchine have disagreements about it. This is why individuals who attended earlier NYCB performances occasionally have remarked on renditions by other companies purportedly more faithfully capturing the illustrious choreographer's intentions. One wonders, moreover, about the impact of the passage of time on this style as various persons instructed by Balanchine no longer are around to pass their knowledge directly to new generations of dancers. Furthermore, all the coaching provided aside, as artists shouldn’t the topmost dancers eventually determine how to interpret a critical role? And isn’t great choreography ultimately about more than style? Despite specializing in works from divergent traditions, it seems unreasonable for other major companies not to be performing any Balanchine—which is partly what makes the six City Center programs starting tonight fascinating. It would be unwise, however, to draw precipitate, sweeping inferences from a sampling of performances. The cast for this evening's performance of Symphony in C by NYCB is superlative. It will be riveting to observe the company perform a magnificent ballet included in the opening program in 1948, and in the venue which served as its original theater.
  15. Cast changes and a reshuffling of roles marked the respective performances Tuesday in three out of the four works seen on last Friday's program (the exception was the poignant This Bitter Earth with Teresa Reichlen and Ask la Cour). Yet the result was the same: a marvelous evening! To be sure, it is fascinating to compare and contrast the niceties of how dancers with distinct physical characteristics and/or varying levels of experience and accomplishment—e.g. Sara Mearns and Miriam Miller, or Tiler Peck and Unity Phelan in Pulcinella Variations; Mearns and Sterling Hyltin, or Ashley Bouder and Brittany Pollack in Concerto DSCH; Phelan and Emilie Gerrity, or Indiana Woodward and Kristen Segin in Fearful Symmetries (and so forth)—manage a particular role. What finally matters, however, is how gratifying it was to watch all three ballets on both evenings. How wonderful it is for Brittany Pollack to be back, and to have viewed her dancing Tuesday in two pieces—especially the sturdier Concerto DSCH! Although she lacked the strength and power displayed by Bouder in Ratmansky's work, her aura of femininity and beauty of movement offered invaluable recompense. Six members of the corps—Meaghan Dutton-O’Hara, Mary Elizabeth Sell, Lydia Wellington, Devin Alberda, Daniel Applebaum and Andrew Scordato—deserve special mention for their contributions to that haunting middle section of Concerto DSCH. Kudos likewise to Tyler Angle and his attentive partnering on different nights of Mearns and Hyltin. On both Friday and Tuesday I craved for those pivotal moments midway in the ballet to continue. Its brevity, however, makes that segment even more forceful and compelling! Although she remains one of my favorite female corps members, Kristen Segin's persistent smiling throughout Fearful Symmetries made her appear a lightweight next to Woodward in the same role. (Incidentally, earlier on Friday, Woodward had also danced beautifully a strikingly different, lighthearted part in Pulcinella Variations.) However, the effect of Segin’s performance was counterbalanced Tuesday by an incisive one by Emilie Gerrity, who had debuted in her role a few days earlier. Lastly, I would be remiss not to mention how in this ballet Mary Thomas MacKinnon, a new member of the female corps, showed tremendous stage presence. * In addition to those who danced the main parts, eight other dancers were instrumental in showcasing the splendor of Allegro Brillante this fall. One of them was Meagan Mann—one of the most elegant, graceful, and recognizable members of the female corps in recent years. Therefore, it was surprising to learn that Mann retired after the season’s last performance of Allegro Brillante.
  16. Friday evening’s NYCB performance—Pulcinella Variations; This Bitter Earth; Concerto DSCH; Fearful Symmetries—was highly rewarding. As I view Pulcinella Variations more and become used to its fanciful costumes, I find myself increasingly attracted to its music and choreography: it is a congenial, effervescent work. Observing how lovely Miriam Miller appears and dances in this is delightful. And although Tiler Peck’s superlative rendition of the role she originated may be par for the course for her it inspires—typically—wonder. (Due to unusual circumstances, I watched the lion's share of another electrifying performance of Allegro Brillante on Wednesday evening with her in the lead from a fascinating perspective.) Ever since the work’s NYCB premiere six years ago, the music of This Bitter Earth has moved me profoundly. Taking everything recently occurring into account—including the weighty remarks she delivered at the Fall Gala (I was unfortunately not in attendance)—I, therefore, considered the casting of Teresa Reichlen in this pas de deux to have been an astute decision—any attendant partnering difficulties involving her size notwithstanding. Some comments made lately by Lauren Lovette, furthermore, would have added a piquant element to her debut in Wheeldon's solemn pas de deux also, so I regret having missed it. With as splendid a cast as Friday night’s—Ashley Bouder, Sara Mearns, Tyler Angle, Joaquin De Luz and Gonzalo Garcia—Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH with its unforgettable central section could hardly fail to awe. (What a powerhouse is Bouder shown to be in this ballet with her extraordinarily assured balances, remarkable spins, and breathtaking series of grand jetés!) One reliable way to assess the worth of a particular performance by a dancer or a ballet is by the impact each makes when following anything superb earlier in a program. Friday evening’s Fearful Symmetries was enthralling and featured a spectacular debut by Indiana Woodward, who commanded the stage in a role that ironically receives third billing as if she were one of the company’s preeminent principals.
  17. Viewing Fearful Symmetries again on Friday evening reminded me of some supplementary remarks I intended to make here. First, to complete the thought from an earlier post ... In the all-Wheeldon Program No. 1 of the Here/Now Festival, Mercurial Manoeuvres was the finest work presented; American Rhapsody, the flimsiest. Although Mercurial Manoeuvres, just as the first Shostakovich Piano Concerto, is lovely throughout its high point is the slow second segment. (Both Wheeldon's ballet and Ratmansky's Concerto DSCH are similar in this way.) The female lead in this piece is another striking role for Tiler Peck, whose wondrous performance in the adagio section is a signal example belying any perception of her as simply a superlative allegro dancer. During a recent "See the Music ..." presentation Andrew Litton made some intriguing remarks regarding the mutual respect Ravel and Gershwin had for each other's work, and the influence jazz exercised on the French composer. Although Rhapsody in Blue is a celebrated, memorable musical composition, it does not bear comparison with any of the gorgeous piano concertos by Ravel and Shostakovich. For all its surface dazzle and prettiness, American Rhapsody is merely a Broadway-themed piece whose score and choreography would be more suitable for a musical. During the Festival more than a year ago it was performed capably with Lauren Lovette and Russell Janzen in the leading roles, and was heartily applauded by the audience. And a few comments about Program No. 10 … For those annoyed by the programming during the 2017 Spring Season, this one—comprised of Jeux, The Shimmering Asphalt, Unframed, and Fearful Symmetries—would be in contention as representing its lowest point. Partly due to the elusive nature of Debussy’s music, as well as the duskiness and opacity of the ballet, Jeux has been one of the toughest new works to enjoy out of those that have premiered recently. Its single saving grace has been Sara Mearns’ intense performance in the lead. Since my seat offered an advantageous perspective, and since I became notably receptive to the music on this occasion, Jeux proved pleasantly surprising. The essence of the "games" being played onstage by the characters skillfully portrayed by Mearns, Jared Angle, Justin Peck and a distinguished-looking Sterling Hyltin strongly aroused my curiosity. Of the three recent pieces on the program, The Shimmering Asphalt—with sufficiently attractive music by David Lang and choreography by Pontus Lidberg—appeared to be the most traditional. As was the case with the surrounding works, the casting was irreproachable—Mearns, Hyltin, and Tiler Peck each appeared in two ballets—and provided one of the last opportunities to see Rebecca Krohn before her retirement. Stylistically more adventurous and set to classical music from widely different time periods, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Unframed counts among its tantalizing aspects the interruption of a pas de deux by a pas de trois, and instances involving costume changes. Finally, the dynamic and generally upbeat quality characterizing its music and choreography makes Fearful Symmetries an engaging, irresistible work.
  18. Having arrived at the theater five minutes late, I missed the performance of Allegro Brillante last evening; however, the rest of the program was fantastic! (On Sunday afternoon with a sparkling Sara Mearns in the lead Allegro Brillante seemed a dazzling brand new work, even though it has received its share of electrifying performances recently.) To be sure, Easy is not a major piece, yet it is brief, unobjectionable, and colorful. Provided a performer who grabs my attention as readily as Unity Phelan is included in the cast, it is not onerous to watch. My familiarity with the musicals of Richard Rodgers is nowhere near it should be based on an affinity for the music of his I have heard in various contexts. At the top of beckoning American Musicals is Carousel. On account of this simultaneous unfamiliarity and attraction, I find Wheeldon’s ballet extremely appealing—especially with a ballerina of Tiler Peck's stature as the female lead! The fact that Tyler Angle, one of the most dependable of NYCB's male principals, may be miscast is immaterial under these circumstances. On the whole, NYCB's production of La Sylphide is enchanting, as is the music by the obscure composer. Some mannerisms of Marika Anderson's Madge are excessive; Daniel Ulbricht was efficient as Gurn, and Joaquin De Luz haughty yet touching as James; regardless of the discrepancy in height compared to both men, Lauren King was a memorable Effie. Still, given the critical nature of the role, the evening unsurprisingly belonged to Sterling Hyltin and her potent, captivating portrayal of The Sylph. The comeliness and lightheartedness in her physiognomy and movements throughout the ballet made her change in demeanor and acting at the denouement almost unbearably moving. One wonders how and why sadness can be so beautiful! Tuesday evening at NYCB, in sum, was terrific—an evening which made the regrettable necessity of missing the magnificent Dances of Isadora at New York City Center tolerable.
  19. Actually, the disquieting issues NYCB—not to mention society at large—has been confronting during this past year should rather sensitize us to the beauty and power and value of the company's repertoire and performances. Notwithstanding any issues regarding casting choices or errors in execution that occurred during any particular performance, the six presentations of Jewels at the start of NYCB's fall season were inspiring and heartwarming. It will be interesting to see Diamonds performed by itself in a repertory program later during the 2018-19 Season. With a charming, nostalgic first section, one of the great pas de deux in ballet and its spectacular celebratory conclusion Diamonds is on its own one of Balanchine's greatest works. However, in this run of Jewels, I particularly marveled at the prodigious scintillation of its third section, and the spellbinding fashion the steps combine with Tchaikovsky's glowing music. Four women from the corps—Laine Habony, Olivia MacKinnon, Mary Elizabeth Sell and Lydia Wellington—were delightful here; the solos by Joseph Gordon especially dazzled; the swiftness, flexibility, and stamina of Sara Mearns, as well as her exceptional musicality are ideal for the segment. In Rubies, I immensely enjoyed the Patricia McBride role: Ashley Bouder, Sterling Hyltin and Lauren Lovette each danced it with admirable skill and radiated copious energy and joyfulness. Of the three worlds conjured by Balanchine in Jewels, the most exquisitely beautiful is that in the verdant Emeralds. The Saturday matinee performance of it with the second cast, which included Tiler Peck and Unity Phelan, was sublime and seemed way too short. A magical musical touch characterizes the ending of Fauré’s moving “Epithalame”, the music which accompanies the pas de deux with the Violette Verdy role—a pas de deux whose quality and beauty formerly I seriously underestimated.
  20. What an exceptionally dignified, solemn role that originally danced by Mimi Paul in Emeralds is! This is the part in Jewels—especially in the ethereal choreography for her solo and the “walking pas de deux” (accompanied respectively by Fauré’s haunting “Sicilienne” and “Nocturne”)—that powerfully evokes intimations of another world, and thereby constitutes a coveted antidote to all the extraneous, incessant noise in this one. Wednesday evening's debut by Unity Phelan in this role was ineffably thrilling. This was the debut of the week I was most looking forward to and her performance, situated between two sublime renditions of the same part by a transcendent Ashley Laracey on Tuesday and Thursday evening, exceeded even my trustful expectations. It would be a salutary, gratifying experience for mere mortals to witness this at whatever occasion in this troubling world; however, in light of the chaos swirling around NYCB presently the sublimity and spirituality of the beauteous dancing with downcast eyes by both women could not have been timelier. A unique and special ballerina at her peak, Tiler Peck performed the Violette Verdy role on Wednesday evening as touchingly as one can. So, even though—as reflected in the comments above—Rubies and Diamonds were graced by several excellent individual performances and were thoroughly enjoyable also, it was the Emeralds segment of Jewels on Wednesday that sparkled the brightest.
  21. No doubt! That may be so; however, nothing in any of my posts—including those relating to Prodigal Son in the original “2017 Winter Season” thread that was lost—suggests that I am the type of individual who favors sweeping anything under the rug. That is what I suggested in my post, although I am not privy to any information beyond what I observe on the stage. I am as appalled by the most disturbing allegations in the complaint that was filed as any reasonable person would be. Our choice and—as you rightly point out—our hierarchy of values.
  22. Recent developments have unleashed a cacophony of sound emanating from all sorts of people, among others those who belittle the arts, those who are unappreciative of the art form of ballet, those who dislike Balanchine's choreography, and those who feel NYCB lost its way under Martins' stewardship. It is fortunate and apt that the season begins with the magnificent Jewels and a few other masterpieces, and that the orchestra will soon start playing the restorative music of Fauré, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Bizet and Bach. All those on stage and in the audience who understand or sense the importance of art in our society will rise above this unsettling time for NYCB.
  23. Would it have been preferable for the Sarasota Ballet to have brought here one other ballet from their repertory instead of offering There Where She Loved a whopping seven times? Absolutely. That is not, however, the case with Monotones: its inclusion in every performance is what made this visit to New York City glorious and unforgettable! The importance of music in ballet can hardly be exaggerated. Ashton’s marvelous choreography (particularly in part II) makes Satie’s sublime music—transcribed for the orchestra or played on the piano—appear a score that had been specially commissioned. Whenever such beautiful sound and movement are wedded as harmoniously magic for the spectator typically ensues at the ballet. Of relatively brief duration, Monotones seems like a work that will always leave whoever truly appreciates it hankering for repeat viewings. Since it was the final performance of the run, I actually found the delightful Divertissements a tad anticlimactic after Monotones II on Sunday afternoon. Except for the lovely Ryoko Sadoshima who was experiencing some difficulties, the rest of the Sarasota Ballet's dancers acquitted themselves handsomely during the week. With splendid performances in four key roles, Victoria Hulland distinguished herself and was particularly impressive.
  24. As I surmised Kate Honea proved awesome in La Chatte; my enjoyment of the final Pas de Deux from The Two Pigeons exceeded the high expectations that had been created by Marcelo Gomes' legion of fans; in a week filled with wonderful performances that of Saturday evening's Monotones II was the most heartbreakingly beautiful.
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