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Kennedy Center -- Weekend Performances

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Some random thoughts on the weekend's four performances (yes, I saw them all!):

Peter Boal's Prodigal Son was marvellous. Quite a different interpretation than I'm used to. Most Prodigals are rebels from the get-go, but Boal is a good boy who loves his family but yearns for experience beyond the confines of his home. He's a naif, thrilled at the wonders that the drinking companions and the Siren have to reveal, hungry for new worlds, and only gradually disillusioned. This more nuanced portrayal makes his final humiliation all the more moving. I've seen Boal dance this role before, but never has his performance been so fully developed. A great performance.

Rachel Rutherford brought warmth and mystery to the Verdy role in Emeralds. Pascale van Kipnis danced the Paul role well, but isn't as much of an ingenue as the part calls for; there needs to be a contrast between the two ballerinas. Nikolaj Hubbe got something of a raw deal in Washington: his only appearances were in Rubies, a part that doesn't really suit him (but in which he was very enjoyable nonetheless) and Concerto Barocco, a partnering role. Boal got both Apollos. It's understandable that the company would want to show him off — he's a total product of the school and one of the finest dancers in the world, and he has fewer dancing years ahead of him than Hubbe. Still, I would like to have seen more of Hubbe. I love the way he engages with his partner — that's unfortunately rare in ballet today. Savannah Lowery danced the second ballerina role in Rubies on Sunday afternoon and showed an impressive understanding of the part. Teresa Reichlen, by contrast, seemed more comfortable in Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto. Darci Kistler danced the Diamonds adagio on Sunday night surprisingly well, considering her age and injuries, but skipped the Scherzo — an omission which always diminishes the ballet considerably.

While I don't understand why the company hired Joaquin de Luz — they've got plenty of jester types already — I have to give him credit: by Saturday night's Bizet he had toned down his performance considerably, and as a result looked like a human being rather than a cartoon character. There may be hope for him yet.

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Thanks, Ari. I came to the theater Saturday night with diminished expectations, but was thrilled by every ballet. Even Borree, in Serenade, seemed to relax and just dance, and I liked her. This past December SFB gave the most moving performances of this ballet I'd ever seen. I don't know that this one was as well danced overall, and Kistler and Bonnie Pickard are in very different places in terms of technique and acting ability, but I loved this one just as much.

I'd seen Boal's Apollo in New York in '99 and with SFB here, but I saw lots of detail here I don't remember before. Ansanelli struck me as an unusually flirtatious Terpsichore (although I think I remember a similar approach from the Kirov in '99), which fits what little of seen of her in the past. I prefered the other 2 muses, although Bouder seemed to begin her solo cautiously after she almost fell out of the arabesque tableu with the other muses. They all inhabited their characters well; I especially remember the serious looks in their eyes when Apollo heard the call Parnasuss (?).

Fairchild and de Lux were a whole lot of fun in Symphony in C, but then the whole ballet was a lot of fun, and I'm becoming a big van Kipnis fan.

Sunday afternoon's Jewels wasn't on Saturday evening's level, but was enjoyable nonetheless. From the first balcony, where the dancers were visible against the stage floor, I loved the gorgeous green's in the Emeralds backdrop. The baubles above didn't bear a moment's glance. Quinn could have conducted this a little slower; I didn't think the dancers had quite the time they needed to luxuriate in the movement, especially in the solos, but they were beautiful anyhow.

Hubbe had lots of style but not explosiveness in Rubies. I liked Weese a lot, and I hope to see more of Lowery next year, but I prefer MCB's more emphatic way of moving here -- what Sarah Kaufman in the Washington Post calls "vulgar," I guess. I call it playful. I've never cared much Diamonds, and usually don't even the pas de deux with Farrell and Martins on video, but Kowrsoski involved me more here than in Symphony in C the night before.

Ari and others, I'd love to hear more from you.

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Belatedly, wasn't Peter Boal's Prodigal Son incredible? I've seen several dancers in the role, including Baryshnikov, but never a performance like Boal's in the Saturday matinee. I couldn't take my eyes off him. In fact, despite having excellent seats, I used binoculars for much of the performance, sacrificing larger views to concentrate on Boal. In addition to the sheer technique, his nuance, subtlety, and detail were just stunning--for example, the shy but delighted smile as his hand reached out to touch the Siren's hand while the goons were dancing. I was in tears when the ballet ended. This was definitely a performance to enter in my list of magical ballet moments.

I was also very impressed with Teresa Reichlen in Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto (Miranda Weese, too, of course, but I expected to be impressed by Weese). Reichlen lit up the stage. So good to have the company back and begin to learn new faces. It almost offsets the sadness of dancers not seen (many now retired) during the company's 17-year hiatus. My gratitude to Michael Kaiser for resolving the impasse knows no bounds!

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