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Opening night

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This is the second time I have seen SERENADE performed with girls from the school in the opening sequence and I don't like it. I don't like the costumes, and if I don't see Amanda Edge when the curtain goes up I feel disoriented. At any rate, the students did not dance all that well, lacking both the sense of space and the lyricism the dance requires. Some of them seemed a bit dumpy of figure in the unflattering tunics. I was very glad when the corps took over, but the sense of continuity was ruined. There is nothing I can say about Kyra Nichols in this ballet; to me she is perfection and was so again tonight. The Nichols/Neal partnership has given me a world of images over the years. Borree is also very well cast here, and Sylve was thrilling and rather austere. James Fayette's performance in this ballet is one more ideal piece of casting. It was nice to have Hugo Fiorato back in the pit. I enjoyed the music of BUGAKU more tonight than previously...Darci & Jock were charismatic and well-applauded. The horns were way off in SYMPHONY IN C and I thought Quinn rushed van Kipnis in the opening of the final movement. Great to see Albert Evans dancing very well and looking magnetic as ever. Somogyi & Tewsley pair up well though he seemed a little reserved. I thought Kowroski was a little below peak form, a bit shaky and not "finishing" things...she does not bring the sense of importance to this adagio that Wendy does. I thoroughly enjoyed the dazzling & risk-taking dancing of Janie Taylor & Benjamin Millepied...the evening ended with a shower of silver confetti. The gala audience sat on its hands, only Jock & Darci getting any kind of reaction. Carla Korbes was listed for SYMPH IN C but was nowhere to be seen. Dena Abergel's smile is so lovely; someone nominated her for Lilac Fairy and I second the nomination...

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If last night is a taste of what we can expect this season, it's going to be a wonderful, blessed, and rare Xmas season and winter. The company looked in extraordinary form, superbly rehearsed, everyone on their toes and delivering their very best performances. The atmosphere on stage was electric. The message seemed to have been delivered that this performance, perhaps this season really mattered. I cannot remember a better opening night and I have never seen a more enjoyable performance of Symphony in C.

In particular the Corps de Ballet looked brilliant, from top to bottom.

An opening night is something sudden and something of a shock. Having not seen the company for almost six months, and having seen large doses of ABT and the N. Ballet of Cuba recently, there is an instant comparison, judgment and recognition. City Ballet looked superb last night, its corps de ballet very well trained, very beautiful, it's principal dancers young, dynamic, and very musical, its repertory and feel for Balanchine unsurpassed.

I have to respectfully disagree about the SAB students in Serenade. I loved them in the Andante Non Troppo movement. The opening phrase, with its slow folding inward of the extended gesturing arms and hands of the corps de ballet had, for me, a much more careful shape and form, more of the mysterious (etymologically vague) "spirit" of the Ballet than I've seen from this company in recent memory. My thought was that these are the kind of details you only get from an SAB contingent who have done nothing in variations class all fall except work on just this and similar details under Ms. Schorer's guidance. I loved the extreme breadth and lunge of the varying fourth positions, where the girls are grouped in threes or fours, near the opening. But I've often thought some aspects of Balanchine better rendered in workshop performances than by the company at large -- particularly when, last year in Serenade and in Symphony in C the company looked so slapdash and under rehearsed.

I was somewhat less inspired than Oberon by Nichols and Borree, but then I like neither of their expressions in this piece. That is purely a matter of personal taste, though, these were fine performances.

I found Symphony in C joyful and enchanting, as I indicated, and danced with a level of intensity and finish surpassing anything I remember in recent seasons. It was beautifully conducted by Andrea Quinn at just the right tempi. One can criticize Maria K for many minor things, she is in many ways a rather idiosyncratic ballerina. But I have never seen her respond to music in the way she did last night, never watched her feel the music and phrase her dancing in response to the music the way she did and that is a tremendous leap for her. It is what one has been waiting to see. You can't ask a dancer to emote, to be dramatic, or tragic, as such -- They have to find the drama by looking for something inside themselves. And there is no better way to do this, in dancing Balanchine, than to respond to the music. And what glorious music the Bizet was last night.

Somogyi and Tewsley were perfect in the first movement. This is getting much too long or I could write a page about Jenny Somogyi's grace, radiance, musical sensitivity and technical ease in itself. Robert Tewsley was the best I've seen him in his year and some days as an NYCB principal, light and noble in his bearing. Janie Taylor and Ben Millepied were extremely well matched in the third movement. They both have such balon. Millepied partnered her very well, unexpectedly well for those who have watched his travails as a partner over the years. And Taylor has arrived. She IS a principal dancer right now in essence, if not in name. No one more brilliant in this company.

Too many superlatives in this response. My downside was: (1) I found the bit of hokum at the end, with the picture of Mr. B being dropped from the roof, with a cloud of glitter strips snowing down in front of it (for all the world like a World War II radar fouling device), with Peter Martins emerging from the wings to toast Mr. B's picture, shot glass in hand, to a "Touche" from the orchestra … well Hokey and embarrassingly so. Yon Cassius hath a lean and hungry look. And, (2) Likewise, didn't think much of this performance of Bugaku but shall say no more about that.

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I don't mind the SAB kids. I actually thought some of them danced very beautifully. I wish I knew who the blonde with the big jump is. Kyra was divine -- musicality personified. Sylve was a Presence in her first solo, and the Dark Angel part. It's going to be quite a ride seeing her this season. Borree found ways to add drama to steps where no other dancer would find it, like glissade. Yes, Fayette is a great partner, as is Neal.


I thought Kistler redeemed herself for the horrible job she did with this 2 years or so ago. Kistler has clearly been working herself back into shape over the past year or so, and if this was a quirky Bugaku (although Bugaku is nothing if not quirkiness personified), it was a powerful and credible interpretation. I also thought Jock looked magnificent.

Symphony in C:

Somogyi looked about the best I've seen her. Strong, confident, musical. I can't help but think she's psyching herself to give Sylve a run for her money as reigning Queen of the Killer Roles. Tewsley started out great, but ran into problems with his turns. Kowroski looked surprisingly wan and weak in the second movement, and frighteningly so in the Fourth Movement, where her lack of control came close to turning the four-ballerina pirouette to the knee into ballerina bowling pins. In the third movement, Millepied looked shot from a canon, and Taylor somewhat less so, although she perked up after the killer jete - saute de basque combinations. Her stag-leap exits weren't up to her usual dramatic standard, though. As noted, Quinn did Van Kipnis no favors in the fourth movement, although Van Kipnis managed just fine. Although I like her usual animation and warmth, I did think she was a bit too generous with the soubrettish flirty eyes. It's nice to see Albert Evans doing some "real" dancing; let's hope we see more of him in the year to come.

Although in many ways that picture of Balanchine demonstrating a tendu is truly archetypical of the man, I am already getting tired of it.

I was hoping that perhaps the company might've sprung for one of those celebrated vodka toasts for patrons on the way out, but no such luck. Perhaps in January.

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For me last night put to rest all questions of the "weakness" of NYCB corps. They were marvelous in all three pieces. No other company that I've seen recently moves with the kind of drive and sweep and energy that NYCB does. And thats serves Balanchine well, I think.

I enjoyed the SAB ladies and was happy to see a variety of body types. Though more tentative than the NYCB corps, they have a youthful innocence that is infectious. I wanted to see more drama from Sylve as the Dark Angel but perhaps it will come as she relaxes into her part. Both Nichols and Borree did well and I treasure each of Nichols performances - she always shows us what it means to be a ballerina taking reponsibility for the whole piece not just her role.

Haven't seen Bugaku for years and had forgotten how great the set is and those petal tutus are gorgeous. Soto was inspired, the weightiness of his movement really created a believable character. Kistler danced fairly well but her performance really didn't register for me. She wasn't much different in this part than in most of her other roles - charmingly girlish. Deanna McBreaty in the corps

caught the sense of imposture much better - a china doll dipped in acid.

Somoygi was incomparable last night. Tewsley did well and they look good together but I found him lacking in energy. I enjoyed Kowrowski and Askegard partnered her well. She has some flaws as a dancer but in this performance, she created the magical, insular world I want to see in the second movement.

Millepied was great and brought refinement to a role that is often just "jump and jump and jump." Taylor needs to improve her arms to be principal dancer caliber, IMO.

I loved Van Kipnis and Evans in the 4th movement and no other company could have kept pace with Quinn's tempo and still danced full out.

Call me sentimental but the picture, the toast and the dancers' bow brought a tear to my eye. Here's to a great season.

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I'm with liebs -- I thought the lowering of the Cartier-Bresson photograph (not the nasty stylized drawing that's the official NYCB symbol of the centennial), with Mr. Martins offering a silent toast, and the mylar confetti swirling, was just right. In that moment, I forgave Peter Martins all his sins -- at least temporarily.

I'd like to mention Hugo Fiorato, the venerable Hugo Fiorato, who conducted "Serenade" and "Bugaku" brilliantly. It did my heart good to hear the audience cheering him. In fact, I thought all the audience reactions were very good for a gala. Even the coughing at the beginning and in the middle of "Bugaku" was fairly civilized. Of course, in "Serenade" the places that prompt premature applause did so again. Some things don't change.

I agree about Albert Evans in Fourth Movement Bizet -- it makes me wish he was cast more classically more often. Darci and Jock were appropriately sexy in "Bugaku." What seemed like a strange choice for Opening Night went over very well with this unusually responsive crowd. I agree with the superlatives re "Symphony in C," but thought the orchestra sounded better under Hugo. I remember when his tempi were judged to be too fast. Now with Quinn, whom I greatly admire, they seem almost stately.

The opening remarks by Peter Martins, Mayor Bloomberg, and Libby Pataki, were brief and appropriate.

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