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Winter 2004 week 1

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Ok, so nobody went to Midsummer Night's Dream on Tuesday.

I went to the first mixed bill on Wednesday.

Apollo (Hubbe, Borree, Somogyi, Rutherford) - I'm afraid this had a bit of that dress rehearsal feel to it. It might have been better if there was more connection with what was going on stage with what was going on in the pit (with Fiorato) conduction. This was Rutherford's debut as Calliope and I thought she did well. Didn't she do the part on some pickup tour? I think she will only get better, especially if the conductor watches her during her solo the next time. Somogyi was fine as Polyhymnia, but I don't think Borree is ideally cast for Terpsichore. Her best moment came after the pas de deux and the duet between Polyhymnia and Calliope. It was if, with the solo and pas de deux over, a big weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Borree was jazzy, musical and danced in the moment then. If only she can dance with the same carefree feeling always.

Hubbe is always interesting, even if his physical capacities are on the downslide. I especially liked when he rested his head on the muses' hands, he made his arms and shoulders go limp, as if he had completely exhausted himself with his exuberant dash across the stage.

In Scotch Symphony, Nichols brought the perfect tone to the ballet, despite not really being able to dance full out technically, but she didn't skimp and gave it all she had. This was Carrie Lee Riggins' debut as the "Scottish lass."

The highlight of the evening was Miranda Weese and Ashley Bouder in Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. Weese was a queen in her domain - she tackled some of the most difficult choreography in the rep. with total confidence, while also adding womanly glamour. Her dancing to the piano cadenza was just awesome. I missed Bouder's debut in the soloist part, but read here she was exciting but wild. The wildness is gone but the excitement remains. She was a princess; heiress to Weese's thrown. Philip Neal was strong too. I was thinking that I think I've taken him for granted - he's been one of the company's best cavaliers for quite bit now and over the last five years or so he's become quite indispensable in some ways.

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I went both Tuesday and Wednesday but haven't had a chance to write til now.

MIDSUMMER was something of an all-star night...10 principals onstage, all dancing very well. Darci seemed relaxed, lovely & confident and Peter Boal danced with great flair as Oberon. Weese & Soto were wonderful in the lyrical adagio, and Somogyi simply brilliant as Hippolyta with a barrage of multiple fouettes so fast I couldn't count them. Amanda Edge was a Butterfly de luxe. And Albert Evans large-scale yet impish Puck was another jewel.

It is always a joy to see Kyra Nichols and she danced SCOTCH SYMPHONY with a sense of contained lyricism; Nilas partnered her very well and had a go at the bravura moments though they don't suit him. Riggins was a pert lass. I thought Borree and Hubbe were excellent in their APOLLO duet, in fact it was one of Borree's best nights. Rutherford & Somogyi completed an attractive trio of goddesses. The ballet seemed fresh and exhilirating. TSCHAIK PIANO #2 with the luminous Miranda Weese was a real treat; she has the uncanny ability to appear both soft and brilliant...I watched her with a feeling of awe. Neal was very fine and Bouder danced well but I have become aware of what it is I don't like about her: her facial expessions tend to be rather goofy which detracts from the beauty of her dancing. I like her better when I don't train my opera glasses on her.

Many standouts in the corps: Hankes, Keenan, the luscious Korbes, Krohn, Arthurs, Dronova, Lebean...Lindy Mandradjieff is wonderfully natural; Saskia Beskow such an elegant beauty. Craig Hall, Orza, Hanna, Amar Ramasar, and newcomer Vincent Paradiso add to the stage picture. Someone earlier inquired about Andrew Veyette; he was here in TSCHAIK PIANO, a fine demi-soloist.

The company looks good, there were fairly big audiences both nights, and it was a pleasure to see these ballets again...timeless masterpieces!

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This was a beautiful performance of Tchai # 2. What dynamics this ballet has. At some of the still moments you could see, actually feel Weese breathe. That ability to use breath is surely one of the great accomplishments of a great dancer.

Bouder is dancing as if shot from a cannon right now and is in amazing shape, having shed the weight she gained during her injury last year. This is her moment. It is a joy to see. She is cast in everything (e.g. the Baby Apollo and Harlequinade next week). I agree, though, Oberon, about the need for a neutral, calm, pleasing facial expression. It is the final and alas necessary jewel in the crown of how she presents herself. The Garfield Grin has got to go. Funny thing is that this is not something which was native to her presentation in prior years, I only remember it verry occasionally during the Firebird season (two years ago) or during her school years. One was at least as likely to see a serious or even grave and dramatic side to Ashley. It's something seen more recently, as she's grown up (paradoxically) -- a bit like Melissa Barak's habit of lifting her face towards the back of the house and making a little silent shout (Holla Hi!) on the big accents. I would think Bouder could address this simply by cultivating a calm or neutral expression.

Much as I love Scotch Symphony, I did not think it a pretty sight last night. After the dramatic vitality of Hubbe in Apollo, I didn't and don't know what to say about Martins in Scotch. And happy as I always am to see Nichols, her struggle with the physical demands of the part last night was a bit sad. Every Indian Summer has its end in Winter, but perhaps this isn't it. As a friend pointed out, Kyra can be very uneven from performance to performance these recent years -- We've seen her look on her last legs before only to return to halcyon form a night later.

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Great to see these three masterpieces last night, although Scotch Symphony looks nothing like what it did even a few years ago.

Having seen both full-length and truncated Apollos many times over the years, I used to agree with Mr. B that the short version in NYCB's rep was preferable for today's audiences. But last October, Peter Boal's Apollo with the Farrell Ballet, in the version that begins with Apollo's birth, changed my mind. Hubbe was fine last night, but I missed Boal's uncanny transformation from impetuous youth to god.

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I saw Wednesday's triple bill. Over the last decade, I've mostly seen The Nutcracker during holiday visits home. While I've gotten to see a lot of dancers each time, I haven't seen diverse choreography or experienced the mercurial changes in a NYCB mixed bill since I moved. After reading descriptions of some of the younger dancers in the company coming into their own, it was a pleasure to experience their dancing for myself.

My feelings about Apollo were mixed. I'm afraid I've seen only taped versions for a while -- Nilas and Peter Martins -- and Hubbe's version is quite different, both physically and dynamically. It wasn't a particularly fine performance, but there was the occasional shape or moment that drew me in, because my expectations were shaken. Hubbe seemed less mannered than I remember him from a decade ago, and while he retained some of the godly arrogance from his interpretation of James in La Sylphide, he wasn't crude as Apollo, although, maybe that is backwards :)

I loved Rachel Rutherford's Calliope. She showed a spark and engagement in the solo that I remember from Saland's interpretation of the role. I often found that many dancers were lost in this role and didn't know how to build it; Rutherford did. I'm a new fan. I disliked Somogyi's Polyhymnia solo. I thought that Somogyi emphasized the "big" moments -- the jumps, the extension on the pirouettes into arabesque -- but that she lost the shape of the solo itself, and that the rest of her dancing in it was rather constricted. As part of the group of muses, her dancing was less forced and she danced beautifully there. In my opinion, Yvonne Borree doesn't have the stature to dance Terpsichore; to me, she danced small and was outdanced by the other muses. She seemed a bit too cute, like she was dancing a Patricia McBride pert role. The beginning of the pas de deux had promise, because she was a very tender teacher, but then she got cute again. She was superb in the solo dancing she does between the muses after the pas de deux, framed by the other two muses. My favorite parts of this performance was when all three muses danced together.

I know that Kyra Nichols at 45 doesn't have the same technique as she did ten years ago -- she seemed shakiest during supported pirouettes -- but it was a privilege to see her dance again. She still had amplitude, her footwork was still precise and soft at the same time -- at least in this ballet -- and her phrasing is still musical. It's a lovely part for her, but when did the second movement get so empty? I've got to wean myself off of the Tallchief/Eglevsky DVD; Eglevsky had some dancing, and the movement was nicely intimate on the small Bell Telephone Hour stage. I must say, though, seeing Nilas Martins rather emotive performance I really started to ache to see him do James, even if he was weak in the virtuoso solos in the third movement.

Carrie Lee Riggins was spritelike as the kilt girl, but she was engulfed by the huge dancing of Jason Fowler and, especially, space-eating Stephen Hanna as the two demi-soloists. I thought the corps was especially sharp in this ballet. There were two corps women who were briefly demi-soloists (quatro-soloists?). One had dark hair (mostly stage right), and I was especially impressed by her dancing. I bought the new souvenir book -- a deal at five dollars, but that's what digital photography and Kinko's will do to program prices -- and I think narrowed her down to Amanda Hankes, Gwyneth Muuller, and Rebecca Krohn.

Miranda Weese, whom I had only seen as the Sugar Plum Fairy, was masterful in Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. She had stature, phrasing, beautiful technique -- remarkably soft, especially since this is a role that I remember Arlene Croce describing as one of the "Tchaikovsky gut-crunchers". She filled the stage and was commanding; she has a rather self-effacing persona given the bounties she gave the audience. Weese did the killer choreography in the first movement cadenza with more ease and quiet authority than I'd ever seen before, especially in the turns, which seemed to stop effortlessly on their own. Philip Neal was a superb partner. He certainly has grown up to look like the fine cavalier I remembered.

Perhaps the best treat of the evening was watching Ashley Bouder for the first time in the second soloist role in this ballet. Weese set the table; this is one of my favorite roles in all of the Balanchine repertoire, and Bouder just shone in the role, a perfect complement to Weese's heavenly performance.

I was really kvetching about going on this business trip, but this performance made it worthwhile.

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hockeyfan228, I think it was Gwyneth Muller and Rebecca Krohn (the dark haired one on the right) as the two Scotch Symphony corps women in the middle. Both are favorites of mine to watch in the corps. Thank you for your review [and everybody else, thanks too. Let's keep them coming :) ]

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The various comments on Kyra's performance in SCOTCH SYMPHONY are interesting. At 45, we can't expect her to go tearing into things like a Taylor or Ansanelli...besides, it wouldn't suit the role. Her musicality and sense of poetry to me compensate for any diminution of her powers. After her single SWAN LAKE (in the Martins production) she was absent for a long time and I was not sure she would come back. But then she did, and slowly returned to fine form. Then the second baby and again, I was thinking she wouldn't come back. But she has, and I think as the season goes on you will see her level increasing. I look forward to her every performance. My impression is, as with opera singers: as you get older, better to perform MORE than LESS.

It's funny how people view dancers differently; I would not call Borree cute. She is what my partner calls a "broken sparrow" dancer...rather fragile and wistful. I thought the APOLLO on Wednesday was a fine night for her. And Rutherford was

impressive in her debut. We have some new goddesses coming up next week, too...

We have a bunch of new corps people to get acquainted with...I really missed Natanya, McBrearty and Ash...Rebecca Krohn is quite fetching...I first noticed her in her beautiful purple dress in BURLESKE and was surprised last year that she could also be a wonderfully predatory Queen in CAGE. She's a dancer I always keep an eye on.

Miranda Weese really did give a sterling TCHAKOVSKY PIANO #2, didn't she???

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Carrie Lee Riggins was spritelike as the kilt girl, but she was engulfed by the huge dancing of Jason Fowler and, especially, space-eating Stephen Hanna as the two demi-soloists. 

I looked at the souvenir book again and realized I got the two men mixed up. Jason Fowler was the space-eater.

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Just to note that the matinee of Midsummer Night's Dream on Sat. Jan 10 was one of the better performances of this ballet I have ever seen.

While it definitely felt strange going to see this ballet on one of the coldest afternoons in midwinter I can remember, 12 degrees fahrenheit and the wind blowing outside at curtain time; and I thought I would have trouble making the connection -- from the moment the orchestra intoned its first few adagio chords, and then when the curtain came up to the magnificently costumed and rehearsed children's corps de ballet, I was transported to those endless June evenings when I have always seen this ballet. To the point when several times during the performance I found myself rather pointlessly and involuntarily, surprisingly and lightly weeping.

Peter Boal's scherzo was at the best level or beyond I have ever seen it. Quick, graceful effortless, musical, masculine, full out attacked and with clear and beautiful battery. Charles Askegaard is in the best physical shape in years. Kistler's feet may be going, but this is a role she can still handle and adorn. Much of the sustained point work is supported and the grace of most of her positions and, above all, the interpretive qualities she brings to the role made her a pleasure. Evans's Puck only becomes better and more detailed as the years pass, and his dramatic interactions with Boal were fully fully realized. Ansanelli and Rutherford make a beautiful pair of girl leads in Act I -- impressive above all in each of their turning solos, with anguished arms, in which they express rejection, despair, anger, force. (Rutherford having a wonderful season). Jenny Somogyi as always was at once lyrically musical and dominant as Hypolitta and the three bridal couples were appropriately regal and classical in their Act II pas de deux ... Soto and Weese also brilliant in the Act II divertissement. She may have lost some extension and flexibility in her hip, but what is amazing is the luxuriance in adagio, they danced the divertissement very very slow and creamy, she never stopping a slow legato flow and movement and, even when she physically stopped, continuing to breathe as if that pause was just potential movement, and oh so beautiful in her arms and upper body. The final moment in which he shifts her balance and lets her fall in a back bend over his supporting arm utterly magical and still.

But above all, I felt the afternoon belonged to the younger and taller retinue from the girls corps de ballet -- Titania's attendants and the courtiers in Act II. There is a group of taller fairer girls now crystalizing including among others Amanda Hankes, Sophie Flack, Gwynneth Muller, Ashlee Knapp, Genevieve Labean (though she's dark), Jamie Wolf, Ellen Ostrom, Savannah Lowery, etc. -- which is young, striking, tall and rangey, instantly identifiable as NYCB dancers and tremendously impressive -- for the most part SAB classes of the past three years (with Hankes, Wolf, Faye Arthurs and few others from the prior few seasons or, in the case of Hankes, trained elsewhere) and in this production remarkably well rehearsed. As were Garielle's children as well.

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Guest PurpleDancer815

What did everyone think about the Friday night Serenade performance??? I was in New York for a few days (auditioning for SAB and SFB) and was able to seee Thursday night's performance (Concerto Barocco, Piano # 2, and Slaughter on 10th Ave. I also saw Friday (Serenade, Scotch Symphony, and Prodigal Son). I thought they were excellent, what about you?????? :D

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I saw Bojesen and Lund. My first response: WOW!! On lots of levels.

First, even before I saw them dance, I thought that their performance was the kind of thing that is perfect for the Centennial -- If you really want to show Balanchine's heritage, why not get guests in? Why not have the Kirov do a much-closer to Petipa Beauty rather than Martins' later work? And, if you're doing Bournonville, why not get dancers trained in it?

Then the performance itself was breathtaking. Both dancers were amazingly light and quick. They also were good "actors," but the acting was much more integral to the performance than I think we usually see in America dancers. And Lund was terrific -- starting out early with an amazingly high jump from what looked like standing absolutely still, and following with many large, high, beautiful jumps, but with a lightness and precision that I have rarely seen. He managed to be technically clear and careful without it in ay way reducing his daring and expressiveness.

It was also, to me, educational to see the choreography I could see what Balanchine took from it, especially the speed. But it was also instructive that both the choreography and the dancers were clearly not Balanchine or NYCB.

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I was at the Friday (1/9/04) and Saturday (1/10/04) evening performances, and was totally swept away by the beauty of the performances. As mentioned, Friday's show was Serenade, Scotch Symphony and Prodigal Son. Serenade was beautiful as always, it is my favorite ballet. I do miss Darci Kistler's longer hair, though! It was very interesting to see the pictures of old Serenade casts at the Balanchine exhibit at the Lincoln Center library, and compare these to what we currently see on stage. The difference is striking; the advancement of American ballet in less than a century is incredible. Scotch Symphony and Prodigal Son were first for me, and it was an interesting mix of pieces. It really showed the breadth as well as the depth of Balanchine's work.

Saturday night was a Midsummer Night's Dream, and was spectacular. I last saw it 6 or 7 years ago in Saratoga. It was a completely different experience to see it at Lincoln Center. As much as I had enjoyed it outside, and as much as it lends itself to outdoor performance, I prefer the production in the theater. It becomes somewhat distracting outside with various uncontrollables (weather and insects for sure). Inside the suspension of disbelief is complete. Of course, this is only one opinion, and I'm sure others feel differently!

All in all I feel very lucky to have seen these beautiful pieces.

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Looking forward to seeing Sylve as Hypollita this coming week, as well as the Taylor/Marcovici and Ringer/Neal divertissements. Ringer, in particular, is in the best shape I have ever seen her in.

In the interests of completeness, I should note that Prodigal Son got a fine performance Sunday Afternoon from Woetzel, with the supporting cast of sisters, friends and trogolytes very well rehearsed. Damian plays the Prodigal very adolescent and rebellious and perhaps I even prefer this to Boal's more thoughtful gentlemany (perhaps too gentlemanly) Prodigal Son. Kowroski's Siren will make few forget Alexopolous, however. Maria is gaining some idea about the role, but plays it far too naturalistic. Alexolopolous's Siren was very cold and objectified and I have never seen a better one.

The disappointment of the first week for me was Concerto Barocco (2 lackluster performances). I blame casting -- one very much misses Wendy Whelan in this. Borree is disastrous in this. On Sunday afternoon she looked like she was going to cry and actually seemed to be talking to herself at moments. I doubt Somogyi is completely right for her role either -- she gives us sort of a disco-Saturday Night Fever violin. But opposite Wendy's own idiosyncracies, this used to seem somewhat acceptable. Opposite Borree, it is far too overpowering, sort of hanging out there. Neither is Somogyi's body type strictly classical and I now find I do want a sort of purer neoclassical line in Barocco.

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I have to say that I don't think that Boree is a disaster in this role at all. In fact, I liked her performance last Thursday. Although I am not generally a big Boree booster, I thought she performed with quite a light touch -- without any of her usual idiosyncracies. I'd have to agree about Somogy's interpretation. Frankly, I am an unabashed Somogyi fan and typically thrilled to see her cast in almost anything. But she drives far too hard in this role.

The problem with this casting is balance. I have to say that the performance film by Diana Adams and Tanaquil LeClerc in tonight's PBS special was quite an eye-opener, for me at least. They seemed to perfectly correspond to one another and the music, and act as ideal counterweights. I did enjoy the performance last week, but watching these two incredible dancers, I can see how much better the ballet could be.

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justafan, if you want to see just what Concerto Barocco can be like see not only the Adams and LeClerq film but the also the one from the CBC with Farrell, Morris and Ludlow currently showing at the Museum of Television and Radio (playing up through this weekend).

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It is inevitable that we compare current performances with performances we have seen in the past, or that are availale on video. This is true in the ballet world and even more so in the opera where each succeeding generation believes the art form is washed up and there are no viable interpreters to compare to those they saw/heard 30-40 years ago.

When I started going to NYCB, giants like Farrell, von Aroldingen, Ashley, Colleen Neary, Patty McBride bestrode the stage and they were GREAT and I have many wonderful memories of those days. But the ballets are living works of art and it is important to watch them with an open mind; and to remember that every night there are people seeing BAROCCO or SERENADE for the first time and being just as captivated by them as we were a quarter century ago.

I find the dancers today just as fresh and unique as those from the past; no, Maria is not Suzanne nor is Wendy a replacement for Karin. They have their own qualities for us to enjoy.

No, the ballets are not the same as they were when Balanchine was here to keep them in order. How could they be? However, they are no less beautiful or exciting and I would certainly prefer seeing them and having them available to having them all stashed away somewhere in mothballs.

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