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NYCB first Copenhagen performance

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It was good to see NYCB in shape, but I must admit that I have seen them in better shape than on Tuesday evening in TIVOLI Copenhagen. They have gained a more human quality which was becoming in Seranade, but in other respects they are beginning to look like your average European or American company. It is obvious that dancers are no longer recrutted from merely one school so the unison is gone and the corp the ballet varies in sizes much more than a few years back. With a programme of Serenade, Agon, Thaikovsky Pas De Deux and Symphony in C, you cannot go wrong, but in general the casting was not up to standard and some of the older dancers seemed a bit miscast in the roles. Jennifer Ringer who was so wonderful when dancing with the Hübbe concert group last year, look very out of place in Symphony in C first movement with a very uninspired Nilas Martins as her partner. Maria Kowroski made much more an impression in the smallest ballerina part in Serenade than in Symphony in C second movement. Unfortunately Benjamin Millepied did not appear and there were few of the yuonger generation present in the casting. In Agon Wendy Whelan seemed to have lost her provocativly brilliant touch and "otherness". She just looked like any other dancer and was partnered by Jock Soto, who apperaed heavy and camp. Peter Boal was the only one who could substitute the steel power, he once had with a truly artistic performance. He alone of the older dancers was able to do that. The others which also includes Damien Woetzel in ThaikowskyPas De Deux and Darci Kistler in Serenade seems to be uable to do what dancers like Farrell, Martins and other NYCB royalities have done before; to be interesting when out of their physical prime. NYCB seems to caught in a generation gap. The older not able to cotinue delivering the goodies. The younger not ready yet. I went away still loving the ballets, but without the experience of having seen truly great dancing

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Thank you Mel. NYCB is a major company and like all companies goes though phases. some year they are better than others. It depends a lot on the dancer material, that is available and how it is used. I remember Arlene Croce once stating that Peter Martins only got casting right 50% of the time. And it is an important factor in developing dancers, that they get the right opportunities at the right times. Regarding my "own" company royal Danish Ballet. They have gone though periods where a succes rate of 50% in casting would have been a major step up. So by casting better a company can develop its quality both on the shorter and the longer perspectiv. It seem to me that NYCB do not have as many Grade A talented dancers as they had 20 years and even 10 years back, and it is beginning to show. The worst bit of casting was Nilas Martins in Symphony in C first movement, where he was nowhere near the elegance, style and partnering qualities needed for the part. unfortunately as he is the som of the ballet master in chief it is easy to assume a level of nepotism, but it may also be the fact that NYCB is uncommonly weak regarding leading men material and it shows. I think it is important for the fan to remember and communicate that standards use to be much higher. We do not need to feel bad about as long as we applaud when appauds are called for by good individual performances.

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As someone who hasn't seen the company as a whole in more than three years, I was quite impressed with Craig Hall, who had one of the featured roles in Symphony in C. What marvellous carriage. One of my Danish friends who had never seen City Ballet before picked him out of the crowd as well.

Symphony in C's first movement had Ask la Cour dancing one of the featured parts behind Nilas. Although he's rather gangly and odd-looking at this young age, Ask does have more presence and verve than his brother.

Seth Orza replaced Millepied in Symphony in C, and seems to be being groomed to be the new Tom Gold. He was fine, although nothing special.

I was looking forward to seeing Carla Körbes, based on the enthusiasm many members of this board have shown for her. If that was her in Serenade - can't tell from the photo, as I was stranded at the very back of the house - perhaps she had an off-night. The blond dancer I saw, whomever she was, had very crude and awkward arm placement. (Again, I couldn't see very well, but it seemed like I was seeing Bouree, Kowrowski, and Körbes in Serenade, with no Kistler. Am I wrong?)

I agree, Effy, that Agon was nothing special. It was interesting to see Stephen Hanna getting a featured part, however. Has he been dancing soloist roles all year?

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It depends a lot on the dancer material, that is available and how it is used. . . . So by casting better a company can develop its quality both on the shorter and the longer perspective. It seem to me that NYCB do not have as many Grade A talented dancers as they had 20 years and even 10 years back. . .

It takes (99.9% of the time) good teachers to make a good dancer. It wasn't long after the death of Stanley Williams -- your compatriot, Effy and Kay -- that the deterioration particularly among the men at NYCB began to show. Where the incoming dancers once displayed clarity and bouyancy, they soon began to dance flatly and less precisely.

THEN it becomes a question of offering the right opportunities at the right moment.

I am sorry and rather surprised by your reactions, since I thought the company looked better this past year than it had in a very, very long time.

One more thing: I have asked several friends, and none can remember Carla Korbes having danced a lead in Serenade before. It is not listed as a debut on the company's press release, but the press office has been known to make an occasional mistake. At any rate, it is a role in which she is relatively (if not completely) inexperienced.

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I have a vague memory of seeing Carla Korbes cast in Serenade before....possibly at Saratoga (?)...but it could easily be a figment of my imagination....

I also am surprised that NYCB is apparently so "off" in Copenhagen since I too thought they looked so wonderful during the spring season. One has to wonder if the dancers are exhausted, given the touring schedule this year. About the only break they've has since rehearsals started in the fall of 2002 is the gap between the winter and spring seasons (and don't they use at least a couple of those weeks for rehearsal?). Saratoga followed the spring season, and then they left directly for St. Petersburg.

Teaching is definately pivotal, but I think between Soto, Hubbe, Kramarevsky, Boal and occasionally Woetzel, the guys at SAB have some of the best teachers around. In fact, I think that the current male corps is among the strongest & most experienced in recent years. With the aging and thinning of the soloist & principal ranks, many of the men in the corps have been dancing major roles and dancing them well. (In contrast to the very young and small-14 or 15 male corps at ABT)



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In answer to your question, Alexandra, the Danes I spoke with were thrilled with the performances. "I can never go back to the Royal Danish Ballet again," said one dance fan, presumably jokingly. "I love the Royal Ballet, but it's clear that this is in a different class entirely," said another.

Even though NYCB has its faults, New Yorkers sometimes forget how privileged they are!

Thursday night's performance had its ups and downs. First, the ups: Hübbe was in great form in "Square Dance", clearly enjoying himself in front of his hometown audience. His solo was expressive but also controlled and understated - a quality that Americans sometimes don't get, but which plays very well in Scandinavia. Hübbe retains the star quality that separates him from the corps behind him, something his partner Yvonne Borree lacked. Despite his age, Hübbe was able to match or exceed the young corps dancers in strength, style, and jumping.

Also noted Jerome Johnson in the corps of Square Dance - as one of my Danish friends pointed out, he and Hübbe were the only substantially-built men onstage, the others being more slight. Johnson has presence, too. Hopefully Martins will break out of his Albert Evans syndrome and start giving black dancers good roles. Otherwise, Dance Theater of Harlem will have a heck of a lineup in a few years.

"Piano Pieces" followed, with Antonio Carmena apparently a very last-minute replacement for Millepied. He stumbled and fell repeatedly, looking hopelessly underrehearsed. For those of you worried about Megan Fairchild's fate, she appeared with Carmena in the Polka de Salon, although she looked tired and I found Lindy Mandradjieff more compelling.

As I mentioned before, I have not seen the company in three years, and I think both Jared Angle and Sebastien Marcovici have aged poorly. Both looked chunky, uninteresting, and uninspired, and Angle's hair loss makes him look ten years older than he is.

Back to the good news: Jennie Somogyi was thrilling - so feminine and fluid and strong. For my money, she's City Ballet's best young ballerina, everything people once said Maria Kowrowski would become. Kowrowski, meanwhile, looks like she's dancing with an alabaster mask on. And I know that many people love Ansanelli, but to me she seems overly conscious of her own winsomeness.

It was fun to see Janie Taylor, much discussed on this board, in the "Infernal Machine," even though the piece is basically "Ecstatic Orange" meets "The Cage." (Martins always seems able to steal just a bit of Robbins or Balanchine for each one of his pieces). Best part: hearing the woman next to me trying to hum the modern-music score during the pause.

"Symphony in Three Movements" was, as usual, a masterpiece, although Effy is right in that neither Whelan or Soto look very good right now. Tom Gold, however, remains fantastic - what energy! what jumps! And Tess Reichlen certainly does stand out in a crowd.

One note: this is a BIG tour. Every dancer in the company seems to be here, with the exception of Kyra Nichols. Thanks go to generous financing from H. Lundbeck, the Danish company which has grown rich selling the European version of Prozac!

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Regarding the reception in Copenhagen, the reviews was more lukeworm than usually when NYCB is in town. They are very popular here, also with the critics, but this time only Erik Ashengreen goes into high gear. When my sister told a friend in a bus about her perception of the performance - another lady told her that she absolutely agreed with my sisters views that NYCB had not been up to standard.

Yes the Danish audience and reviewers loves NYCB and normally go gaga - but then again they also goes gaga over Alvin Ailey!

Royal Danish Ballet may often see themselves dismissed by audience and critics in relation to any guesting company. They have learned to accept this - but it is not always fair and I have seen better performances of the four ballets from tuesday by RDB. I am pleased to learn that the next performance were better, but I may also be that Martins hires Martins dancers rather than Balæanchine Dancers.

Re. the casting. I believe that Kistler, Bourre annd Kovorski was the cast in Seranade on Tuesday

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Specific to Carbro.

When we say that NYCB has lost something, we compare to the standard three years ago and to what we could conclude based on the Hubbe concert group, who performed here last year. It may be that NYCB is no worse than they were 1 year ago - It may also be that they are great on the following night. The less than optimal stage conditions in TIVOLI may also be a factor. Injuries to dancer like Millepied is a factor, but the impression stands. NYCB is not what they were in their golden or even silver period. To me it looked a generation thing, but i must also conclude that dancers like Askegaard do not look like principal material.

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Hi! (again!)

Carmena has done that role in "Piano Pieces" many times, and done it very well. While Carmena is one of my favorite dancers-his pdd with Amanda Edge in Chaconne was one of the highlights of my Saratoga trip- I do think, at this point, that Millepied is better in the role. Again, one has to wonder about the energy level of the dancers and the possibility of nagging injuries. And if one is already tired and/or sick, it makes it that much harder to get over jet lag.

As he's been pulled from quite a few roles/performances over the winter-spring-Saratoga and now touring season, it seems like Millepied probably has a nagging/chronic injury/ache/pain. I give him a lot of credit, as he had to almost singlehandedly (sp?) keep up a chunk of the repertory when Woetzel was out for the winter season, and then has done a huge portion of the 'Coppelias' this year.

The principals (and even soloists) at NYCB are definately aging, but I think, with a few exceptions, they are all very much principal material. Askegard was wonderful in several ballets during the Spring Season (Thou Swell, Western Symphony etc.), but like everyone he has his on and off days and is probably pretty tired (he and Ansanelli are scheduled to dance in Paris next week!). Woetzel looked completely rejuvenated and reinvigorated in the spring after the longest injury layoff of his career, and his pirouettes are as fast and dead centered as ever. I am thrilled to hear that Hubbe is in good shape again, because he worked so hard to come back from his injury only to miss the end of the spring season.

Angle has been injured much of the last two years, and is definately not yet back into top shape. I hope he escapes the injury bug this season, as he's such a talented dancer and partner. When I saw him dance at Saratoga, it was driving me nuts trying to put in words what I liked so much about his dancing. It's a quality of having presence-his limbs don't just go through the air, they move with an awareness and depth-a relaxed, but focused kind of dancing, perhaps. (Am I making any sense at all!?) His younger brother joins the company as an apprentice this fall, and danced in Swan Lake during the Spring Season. Marcovici, to my eye, looked just fine in the Spring Season-he was the best of the Bennos I saw in Swan Lake, though I did not see him at all in Saratoga.

I think there will be promotions from the male corps this fall/winter, and it will be interesting to see who makes the cut. Martins has so much male talent in the corps, and unfortunately there is a limit to how many dancers can be promoted, practically (and probably financially).



(Who hopes to see the RDB and Copenhagen now that she's moving across the Atlantic!)

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To Effy: I understand the difficulties of first nights when a company tours. Or even when it doesn't. I had hoped that acclimating to a less familiar stage would have been a factor in the level of NYCB's opening program.

Sneds, I am sorry to disagree, but I think that NYCB's roster of principals as a group falls short of world-class quality these days and has for many years. That does not mean that there are some truly outstanding dancers among them.

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I hate to intervene, but I think long arguments about performances we haven't seen aren't helpful to the discussion. Both Effy and Kay have seen the company before many times. Even if they hadn't, though, I think people want to find out how the company was perceived abroad -- and I don't want anyone who DID see the performance to feel reluctant to post.

Effy and Kay, if you went to other programs, I hope you'll let us know what you thought. (Sorry for being greedy :) )

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Just a couple of quick notes from the Friday performance -

Are they serving the men double portions in the City Ballet canteen? Albert Evans is also bigger than I have ever seen him, something which is not particularly flattering in a yellow miniskirt (ie "Herman Shmerman"). That ballet, never one of my favorites, was otherwise performed relatively well, with Whelan at her most angular. It catches a side of her which people once thought was her only side.

Millepied was a no-show again in "Guide to Strange Places," with a terrified-looking Amar Ramasar replacing him. Sneds, perhaps you know if he has done this role before, but my guess is that he had just learned it that afternoon. He kept up with the steps - it is, after all, a pretty fast ballet - but had no ability to relate or interpret. He looked, frankly, like a frightened 20-year-old suddenly thrown into a principal part. At any rate, it's nice to see Ramasar getting some chances, although it would be better if he had time to really think through the roles.

Sneds, re: your talk of promotions, it seems likely to me that Ramasar will be made a soloist, and perhaps Hanna as well. He seems to be coming along well and danced several major roles here in Copenhagen.

I also had my first chance to see Wheeldon's Carousel, which had some nice moments, but bored me in the pas de deux. Again, maybe Ansanelli is just young, but she still seems remarkably self-preoccupied. I didn't see her connecting with Woetzel at all - I didn't get the feeling of a couple in love.

Back to "Guide to Strange Places" - I very much enjoyed Janie Taylor in this, and it will be interesting to see how she develops. At any rate, she's an individual, which in my eyes makes her principal material at some point.

In general, Strange Places seemed to be Martins-as-usual - but what pretty costumes!

The evening wrapped up with another performance of "Serenade". Ringer was gorgeous and expressive - and did everything right that the mystery blonde on Tuesday night did wrong. (I've since remembered to bring my opera glasses). It was, however, no stroke of genius to cast tiny Yvonne Bouree and tall Maria Kowrowski together. Whenever they had to dance with each other, or to balance out the stage, they looked like the Jolly Green Giant and Lil' Sprout. (Or, for the Danes, Bi and Fi.)

One last note: Perhaps Effy and I have seen different RDB performances of Balanchine pieces. Every time I have seen the RDB attempt Balanchine, they have completely missed the plot, such as last year's "Stravinsky Violin Concerto" with round arms and no angles. RDB is, however, pretty good at Martins' "Fearful Symmetries".

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Thanks very much for that, Kay. Regarding the RDB and Balanchine, I think they dance him in their own style, as NYCB dances Bournonville Divertissements in its own style.

It's interesting that the company is bringing a mixed repertory (Balanchine as well as new works) -- on other tours this year, including to Washington, they're doing all Balanchine. (I actually think it's better for them to include new works on the tour as it gives a better picture of the company.)

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Review by Clement Crisp in the Financial Times:

New York City Ballet/ Balanchine Copenhagen

...As prelude to these festivities, the company visits two cities having an especial resonance for Balanchine's creativity. The troupe has lately appeared in St Petersburg, Mr B's birthplace and a seedbed for his art. And this week, the company is dancing in Copenhagen, appearing on Tivoli's broad and forward- projecting stage. Why Copenhagen? Danish male dancers, Danish teaching (exemplified by a superb pedagogue, Stanley Williams) and the fact that Peter Martins, Balanchine's successor as director of the troupe, is Danish, offer clues enough to the visit.

The initial and all Balanchine programme on Tuesday was not quite the joyous thing I had hoped for. The company seemed slightly at odds with the stage and with the ballets: neitherSerenade nor Symphony in C showed that sense of utter rightness on the bodies, that authority which one expects, though Darci Kistler was grandly the leading figure in Serenade, alive with feeling.

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Did anyone see the last Symphony in C? 3d movement was supposed to have a cast I would have been interested to see had it been here -- Bouder and de Luz (could have been an odd couple, to be sure: but Ashley Bouder sightings have been rare enough to be sought out lately) -- and I wonder how it appeared.

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Regarding Tewsley : I saw a three of the performances (Thursday, Friday and Sat matinée) during which he did not dance. Just checked : he was actually due to do Herman Scherman with Whelan on the matinée, but it was Evans -correctly listed on the day's cast list- who did the part. I was however given a cast sheet of the Wednesday evening performance and can see him put down for Jeu de Cartes (though so is Millepied, and from what I have read here he wasn't on on Tuesday, so whether he/ they danced I don't know.) Hope this is not more confusing than clear.

Having missed the Spring season this year, it was all the more thrilling to see the NYCB again (combined with the pleasure of being in CPH), highlights of which were chronologically- ou presque- Hubbe in Square Dance on that first night (fantastic stage presence-stature, beautiful carriage/dancing), Hubbe and Borrée, both wonderful on the matinee, again in Sq. Dance, slightly more daring with some wicked twirling going on, Janie Taylor –fluidly neurotic- in the Infernal Machine, Wheelan’s incredible body speaking Forsythe in H.S. (& the laughter of surprise brought by Evans’ apparition in the yellow mini-skirt), a chirpy Carmena, an enchanting Koroswski and a ever so solid Somogyi in Piano Pieces… the pleasure of discovering Glass Pieces… I could go on, but have a deadline.

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It has been a bit much for me here lately, and I was rather hoping that Jörgen would post something, but no.

However, I have an article about the NYCB performances in Copenhagen. If no one else from this part of the world writes during the week end I will post a translation from the dance critic of the Gothenburg Post.

Sneak preview: Maria Kowroski went down well! :P

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