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January 14, 2004 in New York City Ballet
For Week 2 posts...
Last night (Tuesday, 1/13) the triple bill of Apollo, Donizetti and Slaughter was an absolutely delightful evening.
In Apollo, Peter Boal just out did himself and turned in a specular performance -- full of artistry and nuance. You can always tell when a performer is giving a riveting performance by the "cough level" in the audience -- and there was nary a sound during his solos. (Do you think he's picking up extra pointers working with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet? It can't hurt.) Anyway, he was wonderful: a great dancer at his peak. Of course, he was helped with his muses -- Ansanelli as Terpiscore, Ashley Bouder as Polhymnia (who were both making their debuts) and Pascale van Kipnis as Calliope. A special standout for me was Ashley Bouder -- I haven't seen such technical assurance in years in this role. This kid's got it all (and, no, she didn't grin for those of you on this board who are bothered by her expression of the sheer joy of dancing).
Jennifer Ringer turned in a technically assured and charming (isn't she always) Donizetti. Philip Neal (replacing Damian) matched her turn for turn and gave a very polished and exciting performance. Let me say here that the corps this season seems to be dancing with special vigor. They needed it last night to keep up with the tempo; but they all managed. Sometimes the point-counterpoint work can just look sloppy in this work if it's not done exactly right by the girls, but it worked last night.
The Slaughter was great fun. The leads were Damian (replacing Neal) and Maria K. (replacing Sofiane). The central pax was just what it should be: sexy and fun.
A very good night at NYCB!!
Thank you Bobbi for a lovely review. I wish I could make it up to NY to see the NYCB this season. I would love to see them do Slaughter, since I saw Adam Cooper's version last September (great!) BTW Adam won Best Choreographer (Musical) for his version of On Your Toes yesterday from the Critics Circle National Dance Awards.
I agree with everything Bobbi said. Peter Boal's "Apollo" has grown so much in depth and detail recently that there were moments during the muses' variations when I found myself looking at him on his stool rather than at them. He was never a passive presence there, always gazing raptly at them, and subtly reacting to what they were doing. Apollo's choice last night could not have been easy. Bouder's debut was a triumph.
Kowroski was made for "Slaughter." Her legs seem to grow even longer in the part. And she flings them about with total abandon. Really thrilling.
Just a note...I stopped in to buy some tickets today and there was a long line, longer than any NUTCRACKER line I've ever seen. It's nice to see the interest in this company which I think alot of New Yorkers take for granted.
Boal's Apollos are now events to catalogue - "the Apollo from 1997, the one from Caramoor, the one with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet etc..." (as Croce once said about Farrell's Mozartiana and Diamonds performances). His is the standard right now (in the bigger weight class, I still love Zelensky's interpretation too). Hubbe also has given outstanding performances in the past, but his collection of muses were a bit uneven and I felt this hampered him. As Susan Reiter pointed out in her danceviewtimes review, Hubbe also has Prodigal Son in his repertoire, but has not performed the role in a long time. It's a shame, because I like his interpretation better than those of Boal and Woetzel (splitting hairs here, all three are excellent).
Boal's muses were just wonderful. Ansanelli and Bouder were making debuts, so their performances should only get better. I believe Ansanelli performed the pas de deux at a gala in Europe. I like Van Kipnis and wish to see more of her. Bouder's Polyhymnia was exciting, but didn't she miss her entrance? I loved her tight corkscrew turns and big jump, and her tone was just right. I'm glad Ansanelli avoided the flirty approach. Future performances should see her get even more jazzy in her solo. The "swimming lesson" often has even the most experienced dancers stiff and nervous, but Ansanelli was wonderfully calm and even seemed disappointed to finish the moment.
The Donizetti wasn't the cleanest performance, but it had lots of verve and fun. At the beginning, I feared it was not going to be a "perfect" night for this work, but as the ballet started to crank up, things really took off. I don't like when works such as this are dismissed as fluff. Balanchine had an idea and parameters for the ballet and fullfilled them perfectly. It has an unusual structure, with the corps having its own adagio, the pas de deux seemingly interrupting the opening and the little drama with the corps girl jumping into the spotlight. The woman's part is a killer, but can seem boring in the hands of a technician. Ringer has the right technique and tons of perfume. And watching Neal on Tuesday, I remembered just how musical he is.
I thought Kowroski gave her best performance of Slaughter Tuesday night. She is just as sexy as always but didn't give into the temptation to bump and grind in the first pas de deux, now she is sinuous. Woetzel has added new tricks to his big solo, I think this is possible considering the nature of section. And Froman was a very believable Russian.
Dale, you are so accurate when you mention Ringer's "perfume"...she really gives her roles an undeniable appeal that goes beyond her mere physical attractiveness. In SERENADE, and especially in IN THE NIGHT and OPUS 19 she has made a memorable impression...more emotional resonance than I had expected. Far more. When you are that pretty, it might be easy to get by relying on that alone, but Ringer has shown there's alot more to her. I always look forward to her performances.
Thursday (15th) MIDSUMMER was really enjoyable...it was nice to see this "summer" ballet on the coldest night of the year. Kowroski has the perfect role here, showing her big extension, sweeping (yet womanly) grandeur and touches of wry humour. Her tendency to "break" her wrists was less evident last night...hopefully she is working on it, the only slight smudge on her wonderful presentation. Joaquin deLuz had some fans in the audience and he deserved the bravos in mid-variation. His landings are a bit heavy, and his phrasing sometimes seemed a little less musical to me than Boal's, but these are not major drawbacks. Ulbricht was a mercurial Puck, HIS landings light as a feather. Korbes was a luminous Helena, Tinsley very fine as Hermia...and Megan Fairchild and Teresa Reichlin both impressed (Butterfly and Hippolyta respectively)...the glory of the evening was Miranda Weese's pas de deux in Act II...she is in miraculous form now: her dancing flows and she is a gorgeous woman. Marcovici partnered her quite well.
I saw Janie Taylor in the audience; it must feel odd to watch a performance in which you were scheduled to dance! Hopefully she will be back in action very soon.
January 17 matinee...the house was full of kids, but they were spell-bound by SERENADE. I don't think I have ever heard such "silence": no coughing, no candy wrappers. There were 5 teenage girls sitting in front of me and I thought they might be chatty during the ballet but they were enraptured and a couple of them were crying at the end. It's great to see young people reacting to this timeless masterpiece in this way. The cast was uniformly strong (Darci, Somogyi, an especially poetic Kowroski, Askegard & Fayette) I love the look of wonder in Fayette's eyes as the various girls come hurtling towards him. The corps were lovely, Glenn Keenan and the other demi-soloists esp. fine. This ballet always leaves me awed, slightly depressed and exhilirated at the same time.
HARLEQUINADE was good, with its attractive and "dancey" score. Benjamin Millepied was perhaps a shade reserved as Harlequin but impresive nonetheless.
He has the necessary lightness and charm. Ansanelli made the most of her difficult role...one or two very minor miscalculations (she ended one combination almost against the scenery)...she pulled off the big moments with flair. Fairchild has a perfect role as Pierette, de Luz a funny & floppy Pierrot. Sylve was a striking, athletic Bonne Fee and Jennifer Tinsley (Alouette, replacing Bouder) was very impressive. The Scarmouches girls (Korbes, Krohn, Muller & Beskow) were especially attractive in their black dresses a la MOZARTIANA.
In Sunday's Midsummer Act II, Pascale (who'd done Hermia in Act I) danced Hippolyta for Sofiane, who did not finish the ballet. Sofiane's Act I was a stunning explosion of feminine power. I can't imagine what may have prevented her from finishing the performance. If anyone has any info, I would be grateful. I hope nothing serious happened. Also, Boal danced Oberon, in place of Gold. What's happening to our dancers?
For Act II, Tinsley became Hermia, as the original, vanKipnis, went in for Sylve.
I could only repeat descriptions above of earlier performances by most of the cast as consistent with what I saw. The leads all turned in performances worthy of their roles. I was glad to see Carla's Helena, but missed being able to see her Titania. Special commendation to the littlest dancers -- the insects. Wonderful job! Very polished, and with excellent unison. Plus, I think I spotted a future ballerina.
And what's with all that *Sparkling* *Stuff* on the new costumes? A bit excessive, especially Oberon's. At least the Rustics didn't have any.
Thank you all again for your wonderful reviews! For those of us too far away to enjoy the Centennial Season live, the reviews bring it to life!
Tom Gold has one of the major roles in Susan Stroman's new ballet, so perhaps they were keeping him fresh for the premiere later this week. As for Sylve, that is very worrying....the only time I've seen a role switched was in The Nutcracker, when someone else appeared as the Candycane in the finale. However, I'm pretty sure that it was to allow the first dancer to leave early, and involved a dancer who was not otherwise performing.
Already, it sounds like the stress of performing so many new and new-to-the-recent repertory ballets is taking it's toll on the company. Taylor and Whelan are out, Bouder was replaced in "Harlequinade", Millepied (resting for Harlequinade?) and Woetzel (who sounds like he's just fine) were replaced in "Donizetti Variations", and now Sylve and Gold. It's probably a combination of plain old bad luck, the usual chronic injuries and lots of guesting in other companies' Balanchine events. I do hope they are intelligent with casting and resting the injured dancers, as with all the debuts in the Spring Season, the tours in Washington, California, Saratoga and Japan, there's not a whole lot of down time in the next year.
Fokks: My God, what great reviews. I am sick to hear that Janie is out. There's a big article in The Sunday Times about the new Susie Stroman ballet. Any thoughts on the ballet she's doing? I have not seen "The Producers," but I did see "Contact" and although I loved Deborah Yates, the last act is just a big lindy which my wife and I do. I missed my train by 1 minute on Thursday and sadly missed MND. I'll be in this Thursday so I'll pass on my thoughts.
Nichols' Titania yesterday afternoon was stunning. She danced the role as if it were the last time she would every dance it. You could see her take fire about half way through her first pas de deux, the one with Fayette as her cavalier (and a very fine cavalier he was -- his lifts were far more secure than Askegaard's of Kistler and Kowroski the previous week -- and he also, mirabile dictu, danced his variation extremely well). At the beginning of the pas Nichols was quite tentative. Was this pointe going to prove stable, wobble wobble, was it going to be a pointe? Would the back indeed bend in this direction one more time? Then, to Quinn's beautiful marshalling of the orchestra into a series swelling crescendos, in the horns, towards the middle of the pas, Kyra as it were seemed to throw all caution and self consciousness to the winds and to lose herself entirely, a vision of herself in her finest hours. Each gesture, each reversal of epaulement or flourish of her wrists, at the top of the final series of lifts, was a trip to that dramatic Valhalla where the great performances lie. This has always been one of Nichols best roles. It still is. I will never think of Titania without thinking first of her. Her pas with Bottom was exquisite, this too has only gotten better over time, with a ripeness of dramatic detail now which noone else can render. And no one else has quite that level of turn out in developpe, quite that extremely beautiful rotation out of the working leg to show the extended line of the inner thigh, calf and foot.
Henry Seth was an extraordinarily good Bottom, the best one of the five performances. Adam Hendrickson's Puck was also exquisite.
I think this Butterfly must have been the performance of Carrie Riggins' career. She has the attack for the Butterfly's choreography during the Scherzo, and the languid, sensual softeness for the creamy adagios with the bugs. One would like to see the pas de chats which she jumps through repeatedly, into pliee tendu front, during the scherzo a little more deeply and symmetrically described. I am glad to see her return to her natural honey blond coloring a little bit. At this rate she will be a soloist.
Yes, Sylve's fouettes were quite extraordinary, her upper body very calm and relaxed, and sticking to that pointe on stage. And the huge flying pas de chats.
This ballet has looked better this week than I can remember, with particular credit to the corps de ballet, which at times yesterday looked about in the same league as the Kirov's, but at NYCB they are oh so young right now. Among other dancers, Ellen Ostrom has as it were sprung from the earth fully formed as a ballerina, wherever did this come from? And Sterling Hyltin, in the demi corps of four courtiers, paired opposite Megan Fairchild during the wedding, was simply stunning (as well as when cast earlier as one of the Butterflies). Hyltin has just about the perfect body for ballet and what she does with it is exquisitely finished. These are very young dancers. During the divertissement, the demi corps of Barak, Beskow, Keenan, Hanks, Mandrjieff and Walker was beautifully coordinated, with each girl dancing with form, musicality and feeling. The boys divertissement was explosive, masculine, perfectly spaced and classically danced (no demicaracter overtone here) -- Froman, Hall, Orza, Ramassar, Boehmer and Veyette.
The divertissement was Ringer and Neal and I loved seeing Jennifer Ringer in this. It seems to me that she is rebuilding the handling, if not the placement, of her entire upper body these days and to great effect. It is easy to forget how musical she is and how atheltic. Big extension and big jump (those supported pas de chats yesterday were breathtaking). But the effort now seems to be to keep her upper body more calm and classical, shoulders down, chest up, freeing her arms for more lyrical work and freeing her shoulder blades. No more throwing her upper body into near martial arts poses. It's very beautiful and allows one to see the jump, the extension, the chassee. It allows true gestures of the arms and not of the entire torso. Her coda was the best of anyones, a very big and musical chassee entrance. Despite getting very little help from Philip Neal. I like Neal very much but he is an insecure partner. He needs a strong ballerina, as it were, to guide him. It should be the other way around. Perhaps Ringer can still work on her neck and the precise carriage of her head a little bit.
I saw Saturday night's performance of 'Apollo' and 'Harlequinade' and I consider myself most fortunate to have seen Ansanelli's 'Colombine'. The highlight of her performance, for me, was her port de bras. It should put to rest the myth that all Balanchine dancers perform from the waist down. She had a beautiful high arch in her backward bends into arabesque and the arms were fluid and free floating throughout both Acts of the ballet. I have come to expect the steely foot and leg work from the dancers I see today, but Ansanelli's port de bras was the crowning glory of her performance.
I wish I could say the same for Yvonne Borree's 'Terpsichore', but it was a disappointment---she appeared to have no understanding of how to interpret the role she was performing. I have always found NYCB's production of 'Apollo' to be too sparse; I would like to see the birth scene, the handmaidens and the walk up to Olympus restored. I was amused by the comments of a couple sitting next to me. They had never seen 'Apollo' and the lady was reading the program to her friend--"Oh", she said. "Stravinsky--h-mm there is no scenery, and there are only four people dancing. Sounds too modern, but there are only four people dancing and it shouldn't take more than 10 minutes."
NYCB Saturday Evening, January 17, 2004: Apollo & Harlequinade
If only Peter Martins had decided to re-attach what Balanchine lopped off of Apollo and to extract what he (Balanchine) stuffed back into Harlequinade! Don’t get me wrong: it’s a great big box of bon-bons, but it would be a better box of bon-bons minus the ones with the icky pink centers. Now, I was thoroughly enchanted by much of Harlequinade (which I had never seen before), and would very much like to see the enchanting parts again, but I found the Ballabile des enfants and the various Flotillas des invités rather intrusive overall (the latter in Act I especially), completely superfluous to the proceedings, and – let’s be frank, shall we – nearly interminable if one is not the proud parent of a Polinchinelle or Petit Harlequin. I like the kids as much as the next guy, but they need to be sprinkled in with a deft hand. (Think Dream or Mozartiana. I suspect that I am going to be taken to task for this bit of crankiness. Yes, yes: I understand that Balanchine is harkening back to the traditions of his Maryinsky training, that it’s an exposition of ballet’s great chain of being, that to the practiced eye these are wonderful little dances exploiting the simplicity imposed by the limitations of the available vocabulary, etc etc etc – but in this instance I think the children – and the Cortege des invités, who could be older students themselves, actually – are slathered too generously onto what might otherwise be a compact and elegant treat. This isn't a complaint about the quality of the dancing, by the way -- though I wonder how they managed to get the children rehearsed given that the Nutcracker just wound up a couple of weeks ago.) Finally, Drigo’s score is tuneful, but hardly so charming that we must have absolutely every note. Oh, and why do I prefer Apollo with the prologue? Because the audience actually shuts up when the music starts. I am ever stunned by the number of people who are of the opinion that it is perfectly OK to continue one’s conversation at full volume through the opening minutes of one of the masterworks of the 20th century so long as the curtain has not been raised. GRRRRRR!
There, that’s out of the way. Back to the performance itself. I groaned when we saw the dreaded white slip tucked into the program: Borree was to dance Terpsichore in place of Ansanelli; Ansanelli was to dance Columbine in place of Borree, and both Gold and Hübbe were out. I had been eagerly anticipating Ansanelli’s Terpsichore all week and Hübbe and Gold are particular favorites. Afterwards, my husband and I agreed that 1) while we still missed Gold and Hübbe, Millepied and De Luz were wonderful and 2) Ansanelli’s Colombine was so delightful it’s impossible to imagine anyone else in the role right now, and it was a privilege to experience it.
This was the performance that convinced me that Ansanelli has really and truly become a principal ballerina, and I simply cannot say enough good things about it. It struck me that she now combines what is an undeniably sweet, unmannered, and affecting stage presence with a principal’s authority and assurance. Her performance was a harmonious, integrated whole and looked as natural as breathing: utterly musical, nothing done for mere effect, no mannerisms (and I suspect that this role could tempt a dancer into more than a few of them), and completely trusting of the expressive potential of the choreography itself. Case in point: the Act II series of slow turns on point across the stage that distill into chainés and culminate in kisses blown to the audience was achingly lovely – as if to say “I am utterly happy and I want you to be utterly happy too” – and indeed, at that moment it was impossible not to be. She also seems much stronger. (There was only one terrifying “Oh no, she’s going to get hurt again!” moment, at the beginning of a series of fouettés – but she shrugged it off and finished with what looked like a triple.) In the past Ansanelli’s dancing sometimes suggested that she was simply being blown around the stage by a wind machine in the wings and happened to be able to make pretty shapes in the process; but on Saturday evening, although still whisper–light, she herself was clearly the source of the dance’s energy and impulse. By the way, the woman in line behind me in the ladies’ room thought that Ansanelli’s Columbine wasn’t “mischievous” the way McBride’s was, and that she should try harder to achieve McBride’s effect. I couldn’t disagree more: it was perfect the way it was. Please, RUN to State Theater tomorrow night and see for yourself!
And while you’re there, you’ll see lots of fine dancing from everyone else in the cast. Amanda Edge’s Pierrette was witty and whip-sharp, and it’s gratifying to see her featured more prominently, especially in a role that showcases her special strengths. Millepied crossed the “really and truly a principal” threshold a season or two ago, and I like him more and more. Earlier on (just around the time he was promoted), I thought he pushed everything a bit too hard, as if he believed he ought to strain for an extra half inch on every jump or an extra rotation on every turn to justify his promotion, and his dancing seemed brittle and forced as a result. Well, now he’s either got that extra half inch for real or he’s relaxed enough to simply do what looks best, which in his case looks simply terrific — and is genuinely exciting when that’s what’s called for. His Harlequin was less of a rascal than some might have liked, but I thought that this was wholly appropriate given the sweetness of Ansanelli’s Columbine: a more devious and heartless Harlequin would have thrown the emotional pitch of the central couple out of balance. I’m running out of time, and can’t compliment Danchig-Waring, De Luz, Sylve, and Tinsley’s performances as much as they deserve. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dancer as solidly and satisfyingly placed as Sylve was in her variations as La Bonne Fée: her arabesques were like monuments. As Léandre, Danchig-Waring successfully negotiated that fine line between screamingly funny and over-the-top.) Each of Les Scaramouches also deserves to be singled out for special praise, as do Les Alouettes. I never got around to nominating my NYCB MVP in the “Goodbye to 2003” threads, but it was going to be the senior corps; I saw more than a couple of performances in which these talented and hard-working men and women were the dancers one watched, not the principals. And I hope La Patrouille had as much fun dancing as we did watching. Finally, to the young man who snatched up the errant pom-pom and tossed it into the wings – well done!
Others have already praised Boal’s Apollo, and there’s nothing for me to do but second their praise. Bouder was a terrific Polyhymnia and I eagerly await her Terpsichore .
Kathleen, allow me to support your view of the present state of "Harlequinade". The 1965 version was ever so much better, and the Petits Harlequins were all that were necessary in "kid power". What's there now is wretched excess, and the idea of Cassandre as Don Quixote instead of Doctor Bartolo is just plain stupid!
Anyone who goes to NYCB tonight, please hold forth in detail??
Kills me to miss not only Ansanelli's Colombine but Somogyi's debut in the Tchaikovsky Concerto. Not to mention a supporting cast in Harlequinade of Fairchild, Bouder, and Sylve.
Ansanelli and Somogyi seem, to me, especially well-suited to these ballerina roles--bet Somogyi burns up the stage.........
Be warned, fellow Ballet Alerters!, I am still in a snit because of last night's cast changes. Mid-afternoon yesterday, on-line casting still listed Ansanelli as Columbine and Sylva as the Good Fairy so I bought a last-minute ticket without checking lobby casting. The casting turned out to be Borree and Hubbe as the leads and Reichlen as the Good Fairy.
First, the Piano Concerto was still Somogyi as the lead. Maybe I was expecting too much here. I admire Somogyi's dancing for her musicality and attack. It was indeed a very respectable performance but no where near my personal gold standards (McBride for sheer drama; Ashley for her in-your-face bravura; and Nichols for understated elegance). Somogyi got through the cadenza okay but without the top-tier ballerina authority and ease. Reichlen I had seen a couple of times before as the second lead and I had given her a pass because of the difficulty of this role. But last night, I felt she has not grown in the role; in fact, there was no attempt whatsoever at any kind of phrasing. Is anybody coaching her? Is anybody looking at how she dances this? When Lourdes Lopez danced this role you "saw the piano music" when she rocked on her pointes in her solo. Reichlen offered nothing at all.
The positive things from the Hardequinade: (1) the children were very well rehearsed and danced with joy and it was a pleasure to see them; (2) the three Les Sbires (Ramasar, Severini and Veyette) were alive last night and gave an outstanding performance; (3) Carla Korbes was a beautifully polished Scaramouche, the music just fracturing through her charming presence; and (4) Ashley Bouder and all of the Alouettes made you wake up with their delightful work. I have mentioned before on this board that I find (with the exception of Duo Concertante) that Borree consistently under-dances roles. She did last night. I kept muttering (silently to myself) "hold this longer," "don't show the transition from one step to another," "it should be one long continuous motion," etc. And Hubbe was a major disappoinment. He usually can get by on his extraordinary musicality and stage presence. But, I'll say it outright, he looked "lumpish" last night. Fairchild and De Luz were just fine in their roles.
Well, I warned you that this would be a grumpy review. . . .
This is a time to be cautious if you are going to see specific dancers...Wendy, Abi, Janie Taylor and Sylve appear to be side-lined at the moment so there is bound to be shuffling going on.
I remember about 5 years ago there was a period when, due to injuries and pregnancies, only Borree, Weese and Whelan of the principal women were dancing...one night I think Wendy danced 3 ballets.
It's a shame that these dancers are missing the Balanchine season but if you are injured you have no choice. There is added pressure on the uninjured dancers who have to rehearse more and be ready to go on without alot of notice.
I'm sort of wondering how they will manage 2 weeks of SLEEPING BEAUTY with a depleted roster of ballerinas...there may be some good opportunities afforded to some of the up & coming dancers.
I'm sure Peter is praying every day that no one else calls in with an injury.
Sylve has been cast for the Week of Jan 20-25, which is a good sign.
The cast change last night was not unexpected-the first cast, for whatever reason, did two performances last week, so it made sense to let Borree, Hubbe & Co do both performances this week. Otherwise one cast would have been doing three of four performances, and it's hardly fair to have dancers debut in a role and then not dance it again that season (injuries, illness etc. excepting).
And you should always check lobby casting if you can. Online casting is often only changed on Wednesdays when the new casting goes up. But, sometimes they don't update the current casting when they update it. The lobby boards are updated for every cast change.
Tonight NYCB celebrated Mister B's 100th birthday with a shot of vodka and birthday cake for all. The balcony was full, so I belive this was a sell out. Hubbe was fine in Apollo, Boree a little shaky in the first pas. I just love Serenade and so I found all the dancers wonderful. Peter Boal did a spectacular
Prodigal Son, but the ballet bores me as does (You know I hate it becasue I can't even title it) Bugaku.
Too Too much for me.
I had a great time with an attentive and giving crowd.