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NYCB performances in Southern California


art076

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Quick notes from first night in Orange County - “Jewels”

Emeralds:

Jennifer Ringer was mesmerizing in Emeralds – she was the second soloist for the solo variations, and the second pas de deux with James Fayette (I can’t seem to get the “role” distinctions correct in my head at the moment). Very musical, seemed to melt into the music and let it take her for a ride. Looking back on the entire evening, I would say Ringer’s two solos were the most memorable portions of the evening; they were moments where I was completely taken into the performance and got a swell of happiness as the solo ended. Rachel Rutherford was the other main girl, and she was fine, though noticeably jerky in some parts. Ashley Bouder, Megan Fairchild and Arch Higgins danced the pas de trois; Bouder tore into the role in her usual fearless style, but that kind of attack didn’t quite work in Emeralds. It was too harsh and speedy, so this quality that I so liked of hers when I saw her in New York seemed to work against her here. Perhaps she’ll need to calm down into the role as she grows. Emeralds as a whole has really grown on me; when the Kirov was here last year, it was the part of Jewels that I just wanted to get through, to see the rest of the ballet. But Wednesday, it was my favorite part of the entire evening.

Rubies:

Wednesday night, my eye was drawn straight to Teresa Reichlin for Rubies, she dancing the tall-girl role and being great fun to watch. As the curtain rose, she established herself as THE person to watch for this ballet – this despite the fact that she technically isn’t the lead in Rubies. Amazingly flexible, also played it coy and sexy. The lead couple was Alexandra Ansanelli and Damien Woetzel, who performed admirably. However, some of the fun, jazzy elements appeared “put on” for the two of them – it was like they’d concentrate real hard to get some of the steps right, then suddenly go “Oh yes! This part can be fun and I can swivel my hips a bit and wink!” But then they’d fall back into trying to get through the steps – it was inconsistent. Perhaps, though, anyone I see in the central couple of Rubies will forever more be compared to Diana Vishneva’s absolutely searing performance with the Kirov Ballet last year – Vishneva just had IT with that role: there was fire, there was sexiness, there was flirtation. It was stunning to say the least, and so that likely made it hard for Ansanelli to stack up in my mind. Also, on opening night, the performance lacked a bit of spark because of the orchestra's subdued and somewhat clumsy playing of the score. It seemed they were conciously trying to keep it slow for the dancers, while the dancers looked like they were holding back to stay with the orchestra.

Diamonds:

Performed crisply and cleanly by the company as a whole, but there wasn’t much excitement to the whole affair. There was nothing to complain about, but nothing to write home about either – just a clean performance. Wendy Whelan and Nilas Martins were the lead couple. Again, with the pair, nice and clean execution of the pas de deux, with Whelan showing remarkable control and Martins partnering steadily and surely.

Overall:

This may be because the company just came in from Tokyo a few days ago – but much of the dancing appeared tentative. None of it was bad, by any means, but save for a few standout performances – Ringer and Reichlin, mainly – things felt subdued Wednesday night. I would normally forgive the company on opening night, but I also felt the same way while I was in New York this past may (at the time, I chalked it up to constantly performing a 7 show schedule for weeks on end). The steps, in NY, all seemed to be there, but warmth only seemed to come in bursts from a few soloists, or from a few select pieces.

Now, about those new sets:

I loved the Rubies set, with those geometric, bright red lines coming down the sides and back of the stage, and a burst of lines up at the top. It was just perfect for this ballet, especially when the curtain rises on all those girls lined up on point – the juxtaposition of the bright, straight white lines of everyone’s tights against the red lines was one hell of a stunner. The only thing I found strange was the glowing-red asteroid type object painted into the upper part of the backdrop; I know it’s supposed to be a kind of imppresionist ruby, but it looks like a glowing space object – those of you from Southern California will get this reference, but as I looked at it, it looked like the giant planet from the Space Mountain ride at Disneyland. Otherwise, though, I liked the Rubies set very much.

The Emeralds set worked fine; it was inobtrusive and atmospheric enough to give that ballet the hazy, seductive feeling it needed. The Diamonds set, on the other hand, I did not like at all. It looked cartoonish, in a Christmas-card, winter wonderland kind of way. I suppose you could say it is designed to be reminiscent of a Russian winter palace – but still, the way the set was painted and set up, it looks like a giant cartoon, not elegant or grand at all.

Looking forward now to tomorrow night, with Serenade, Stravinsky Violin Concerto and Stars and Stripes.

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art076,

Thank you for the detailed review...did Robert Tewsley dance in EMERALDS?

I agree Bouder needs to refine her style for the more romantic ballets...her boldness works wonders in showpieces, but to become an overall great ballerina - which she certainly has the potential to be - she will need to develop a feeling for the atmosphere of the works she is cast in. I'm sure that will come in time. Even so, I don't see her as an EMERALDS kind of girl...the lead in RUBIES and, eventually, in DIAMONDS, will show her to far better advantage.

Please keep the reviews coming!

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Aagh; can't find my program but I'm pretty sure Tewsley danced. I agree with much that art076 said except the enthusiasm for Emeralds. I usually love this section but last night it did nothing for me. Tho Ansanelli didn't sparkle in Rubies (excuse the unintentional pun) her pirouettes were a marvel; I doubt she did many that weren't perfectly balanced triples. Whelan was great, but all is all I was disappointed.

I have subscription tickets for both Thurs. and Sat. For the first time EVER the performances are the same. If the casts are the same for both nights I may just skip tonight; that's how "blah" I found last night's performance.

Giannina

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Yes, Tewsley danced! He was a stand out in my eyes and partnered a cool Rutherford in Emeralds. Ringer's performance was with her usual flowing pharsing but just seemed tired. And Bouder was a standout.....her attack did not bother me....atleast she had energy and her style is growing by the minute. Your eyes are drawn to her on stage always. Lots of young ones in corps of Emeralds...well, in everything....it was obvious to me who were the senior corps dancers throughout the night. In Rubies, Ansanelli was a replacement for Weese, who is injured. She and Damian did a respectable performance but not at the top of their game IMO. (but I love Ansenelli in most everything she dances) Tess Reichlin did a commendable performance in the tall girl role in Rubies. A great role for her! Wendy Whelan was glorious in Diamonds. I admire her artistry and she was partnered nicely by N. Martins, who was not on the original cast list for this night.(?) It did seem that Wendy was having trouble with her left foot. She danced cleanly but conservatively towards the end. The corps was ragged in part throughout the evening. I agree that the tempos were slowed and the total night was lackluster in general.....audience allowed one bow infront of curtian for principles and the lights quickly went up. It was an early night.

The new sets for Emeralds and Rubies were fine. Diamonds sets were lacking any creative design to highlight this jewel of a ballet....But I can see where there has been discussion over this from NY fans.....

So onward and upward to tonight! I will miss :) Miranda in Serenade .....and Polyphonia and was dissappointed that she did not dance Rubies last night. Wishing her a speedy recovery.... :wink:

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Yes, Tewsley did dance as socalgal mentioned; he was also fine in his solo moment during the pizzicatto finale. The men don't get much to do in Emeralds besides partner so I kind of glossed over him in my review.

Giannina - Why don't you exchange either your Thursday or Saturday ticket into Program III (which is Friday evening and Sunday at 5:30)? You'd get some variety, at least.

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I should, shouldn't I? I had fully intended to go tonight and see the same performance twice, but after last night I decided to let the casting make the decision for me. Now it's too late; don't want to drive out there just to exchange the ticket. I'd buy a ticket for Sun. but I have another committment.

More of an explanation than you wanted, eh? I could go on even further!

Giannina

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After the second performance here in Costa Mesa, one can finally open one’s arm’s wide and say: New York City Ballet – welcome to California. Overall, a much better evening than last night’s subdued opening. Tonight progressed towards moments of thrill by the time the curtain came down. The night, though, got off to a slow start.

It’s not very possible to mess up the opening tableau of “Serenade” – the image is gasp inducing without needing any movement at all. But as the dancing began Thursday night, the corps, like on opening, seemed to be thinking its way slowly through the steps instead of dancing through with the music. The steps were present and correct, but there was no excitement. That didn’t change until halfway through the second movement, where the soloists start to take over the bulk of the dancing. Darci Kistler was the Girl Who Falls Down, and though she danced understatedly – that is, no fierce attack and no display of amazing flexibility – it was an assured performance, and one could tell this was a veteran turning in a model performance. As the Russian girl, Janie Taylor added the much needed spark to the ballet as she tore up the stage in the third movement – and it was appropriate, too, as it was right in line with the music’s up tempo. Taylor was confident and hit all her technical feats perfectly, so it was refreshing to finally see some fire up there on stage. Maria Kowroski as the Dark Angel was serenely perfect – by being there, confident and precise, it did wonders above the corps’ stepping through of their roles in the 4th movement. By this point in the ballet, however, the corps’ role is much reduced, and the focus is instead on the prinicipals, who salvaged what would have been a very dull performance of “Serenade.” After this piece, it seemed there was a very distinct discrepancy in the quality of dancing between the corps and the soloists/principal ranks – the upper ranks are doing just fine, but the corps appears very young and somewhat nervous up there. More experience seemed necessary.

The company gave a fine performance of “Stravinsky Violin Concerto,” with Yvonne Boree, Nikolaj Hubbe, Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto in the leads. The piece is a wonderful program partner with “Serenade” – it’s a great contrast, and the choreography is angular and witty, just like Stravinsky’s concerto. The ensemble was sharper and more aware of its presence on stage when it was in fewer numbers – in the groups of four, and even when they recombined in full for the finale, they were an entirely different-feeling ensemble from “Serenade.” Whelan and Soto did a fine first Aria. Whelan seemed more at home in the more contemporary style of “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” than she did in the Diamonds pas de deux last night; not quite sure how to describe it, but she seemed more free and didn’t have to project an overly majestic air to her dancing – she could just dance (similarly, in New York, I enjoyed her in Four Temperaments, but found her to be rather boring in Stars and Stripes). Borree and Hubbe were playful in the second aria; great job there. With the jaunty music of the finale, the company picked up the dancing and really reveled in it. Finally, as the curtain fell on “Violin Concerto,” I really felt like we were getting New York City Ballet on its best legs.

“Stars and Stripes” was just a firecracker of a finale. The entire company – from top to bottom – was simply “on” for this closing piece. There was great dancing with personality and musicality, there was fun, and there was excitement up there on stage. And the audience ate it up, capping things off with a standing ovation. Ashley Bouder led the first campaign; they should have Bouder start things more often – her sheer sense of confidence and precise technical ability in “Stars and Stripes” really made the stage much brighter than it had been for much of the run. Bouder has remarkable presence – she knows how to BE on stage and project a personality to the audience, thus putting it in a happy mood for the rest of the ballet to come. This made it easy for Ellen Bar and Tom Gold, leading the second and third campaigns, respectively, to come in and wow the audience with technical tricks. Alexandra Ansanelli and Damien Woetzel then blew the top off the piece with their pas de deux. It was a completely charming and delightful performance from the both of them, as they flirted and joked with each other through the duet while continuing to wow with technical tricks. By the time the finale came, they had the audience in their hands – and the crowd was even clapping along to the thumpy music.

So by the end of Thursday’s performance, fears that the company might turn in stale performances for the rest of the run were put to rest. We’ll see what happens tomorrow night – the company will need to work on the slower, more traditional looking pieces like “Serenade” and portions of “Jewels,” but at least the capacity for excitement has shown itself.

--Art

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Thank you again, Art...

I'm sure the dancers are feeling a bit jet-lagged coming over directly from Japan, which is a long haul. You mentioned the youth & inexperience of the corps. The last couple of years have seen quite a turnover, with such lovely stalwarts as McBrearty, Natanya, Ash & Ciccone departing. The newer girls coming over from the School have to find their individual niches while trying to be part of a unified group, learning & dancing ballets in one fell swoop. It will take a season or two for things to settle...though in the meantime there may be another wave of departures.

At any rate, I'm glad that your second night gave you the desired lift.

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Wow....what a remarkable difference thursday's performance was from Wednesday opening!!!! I agree with Art's comments above. It was my first time seeing Taylor as the Russian Girl and she was breath taking.....And Maria was also lushous in her Serenade role with the veteran Ms. Kistler turing in a lovely performance. Her artistry made up for a certain lack of physical thrust as the Waltz girl.

The Stravinsky Violin Concertor was super and Stars and Stripes showed that everyone was alive and well....The audience was off their feet at night's end!

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I went to the Wednesday performance and I felt pretty much the same as everyone else. I think the fact that the company just came from Tokyo is possibly the reasoning behind the lack of luster and excitement of the evenings performances. Much of the dancing appeared tentative, as if the dancers were just getting through the steps and not really dancing. Some of the dancers even looked "bored".

However, with that said, there were a few standout performances. In Emeralds,

Jennifer Ringer did a lovely job as usual. I have never been disappointed with any of her performances that I have seen in the past, but I have to say although she danced nicely, she did seem a bit tired. Ashley Bouder, Megan Fairchild and Arch Higgins danced the pas de trois beautifully. I could not keep my eyes off of Bouder. It is obvious this dancer is going to have a wonderful career.

Teresa Reichlin also was also fun to watch in Rubies. She danced the tall girl role and did a marvelous job. The lead couple was Alexandra Ansanelli and Damien Woetzel. Both performed admirably but I felt they came in and out of the role. There were moments that I found Ansanelli to be jazzy and fun and then moments that I felt as if she was someplace else. To me it was very inconsistent.

Wendy, as always, was wonderful in Diamonds. Again, I have never been disappointed by this dancer. She always seems to pull through and give an amazing performance no matter what the circumstances are. In my mind, she is the most consistent and artistic dancer around. She did appear to be favoring her one foot, but even with that, she pulled off an amazing performance. I was disappointed with the staging of the ballet, however. At times it appeared to me that the dancers were sloppliy placed on the stage, as if the stage was way too small. It looked messy and confusing. Again many of the corps dancers looked tired and bored at times.

I will be going again later this week so I am hoping that this can all be chalked up to opening night jitters and being tired from their long trip from Tokyo. :)

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Just needed to tell all of you at BA that have raved about Sofiane Sylve....I have joined your club!!!! Tonight she was the star of the evening in the 2nd movement of Symphony in C. She is glamorous and dances with amazing expression with absolutely beautiful technique. I will definitely go see her dance anything.....what an incredible addition to NYCB. All I can say is unbelievable. The night also belonged to Maria Kowroski with Charles Askegard in "Thou Swell" That ballet was worth watching just to see her dance. Good night!

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Ups and downs tonight at NYCB’s third California performance.

Sofiane Sylve – as socalgal wrote – was the highlight of the evening, with a truly mesmerizing Second Movement in “Symphony in C” (the closing ballet of the evening). Her dancing had mystery to it; there was some real personality, as well as being wonderfully musical. It was clear she was THE ballerina, with the way she carried herself in regal style. The corps de ballet which backed up the rest of the ballet, however, was disappointingly sloppy and sluggish, taking much of the momentum out of the ballet. Especially in the fourth movement, where the dancing is supposed to build to a crescendo of unified movement, the disunity of style and musicality was alarming – made the ending very anticlimactic.

“Thou Swell” – the middle piece on the program – felt like an entertainment on a cruise ship. Performances were fine, especially from Darci Kistler and Maria Kowroski, but I can’t say its one of my favorite ballets. The choreography is unremarkable, the piece continues for longer than it really should, and the musicians and singers give that atmosphere of a lounge act. The dancing for the men was more Broadway in style – but unfortunately, this style doesn’t fit well on NYCB’s very classical men. It was too pretty, too balletic, and not enough “pizzazz” or raw oomph (for lack of a more coherent way of describing it).

Having gone completely in reverse in my review here, “Polyphonia” opened the program and was the best overall piece of the night. Great dancing all around, especially from Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto in the first and last pas de deux, and Alexandra Ansanelli in the sixth movement, with a pas de deux and great solo. The whole piece was very smooth and fluid – it floated above the music in a kind of ethereal way, with Wheeldon’s choreography providing fascinating movements and combinations. I last saw this danced by San Francisco Ballet, which seems to prefer a sharper attack to the piece, more in line with the jagged, near-pounding nature of the opening piano movement. But I like NYCB’s smoother interpretation; it’s not as jarring and it doesn’t look as much like “Stravinsky Violin Concerto.”

So, despite the great opening, with "Polyphonia," “Symphony in C” was a bit of a let down. So far, the company has done far better in the more modern-looking ballets – “Stravinsky Violin Concerto,” “Polyphonia,” and “Rubies” in particular – while the more traditional ones – especially “Diamonds, “Serenade” and “Symphony in C – have suffered. This is a bit troubling to find; at first I thought it might be a fluke on opening, but seeing “Symphony in C” in such a state was a bit nerve-racking.

--Art

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I finally made it back to OCPAC and NYCB. What a difference. Serenade is always lovely. Stars and Stripes is always Stars and Stripes. But that Stravinsky Violin Concerto: tonight it was superlative. I haven't seen it for quite a while and I was amazed all over again by how beautiful it is. Jock Soto has always been the ideal partner but tonight Nikolaj Hobbe was every bit his equal. He and Yvonne Borree danced as one; their movements, not just dance movements but body movements, perfectly matched, and his support of her so secure. The finale is nothing but pure joy; I get the feeling the dancers are having one heck of a good time.

The audience was raucous, and they applauded everything.

Giannina

How do you pronounce "Nikolaj Hubbe"? I'm saying "nick-oh-lah heub"; am I close?

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Glad you made it back, Giannina! I agree totally with your assessment of "Violin Concerto," though based on Thursday's performance (I skipped out on Saturday night...)

As for Nikolaj Hubbe, the way the anouncer on the Live from Lincoln Center telecasts has been pronounced his name is "ni-ko-lie you-bay".

What I did see on Saturday was the "Jewels" matinee. The performance was much improved from opening night in many regards, but not that opening night was bad per se (though on Saturday afternoon, I noticed that "Diamonds" as a ballet in and of itself, is starting to get humdrum for me). Sofiane Sylve was a marvel in "Emeralds" - very ethereal and off in her own world, though very much in a good way. Rachel Rutherford and Robert Tewsley repeated fine performances from Wednesday night, and the rest of the ensemble gave "Emeralds" much the same wonderful effect from Wednesday. "Rubies" was led by Yvonne Borree and Benjamin Millepied. Borree was unfortunately rather boring in the role, for while each step was executed clearly and cleanly, there was no personality. The lack of character was made especially clear in contrast to Millepied's high flying, raw, and very fun dancing as her partner. Teresa Reichlin again brilliantly gave the tall-girl role sexiness and power. The "Diamonds" corps work was far better than from opening night, but the main attraction was Maria Kowroski in the pas de deux. Partnered ably by Charles Askegard, Kowroski really sparkled in this role; the adagio was breathtaking, and she gets at the aura of the role much better than Whelan (opening night's Diamonds girl) did.

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I returned for the Saturday matinee of "Jewels" and am glad that I did. It was a step up from much of Wednesday evening opener. There were a few casting differences with Sofiane Sylve and J. Stafford replacing Ringer/Fayette and Dronova and Riggins with Carmena as the trio in place of Bouder, Fairchild and Higgins. Sylve was lovely but somewhat austere in the beautiful "tip toe" walking PDD. I would like to see more of Carmena. He captured my heart on stage with his beaming smile and airy grand jetes. Yvonne Borree and Ben Millepied were a more subdued pair in Rubies. And Tess Reichlin again continued to bloom in the tall role. But it was Maria Kowroski who came away with the prize. Her performance left me in awe of her technical perfection and her depth of allure and romantic ideal......I was blown away! It is not like I have not seen her perform before. I just felt this particular performance was exceptional in artistic totality. Askegard partnered her with complete adoration. When a dancer can transport you to another dimension through their dancing, it is truly special........infact, it is what it is all about.

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Oberon - He is charming and young. It will be fun to watch him develop. He seems much shorter than Peter Boal and I wonder if this might confine him to certain roles due to his height? More like Tom Gold? But his sunny masculine demeanor is reminscent of Villella.......IMO

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"Askegard partnered her with complete adoration."

What a wonderful way to discribe a perfect partnership. I've seen Askegard and Kowroski several times and have always liked the 2 of them together.

"Complete adoration" is the way I would discribe Hubbe's treatment of Borree in Stravinski Violin Concerto.

Giannina

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"Complete adoration" is the way I would discribe Hubbe's treatment of Borree in Stravinski Violin Concerto.

Borree must be doing something right, because she gets very tendering and almost protective partnering from not only Hubbe, but also Boal.

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This is odd...why no scathing criticism of the performances in Tokyo and California? Are there no critics in these places or is everyone dancing really well?

We need Acocella, Greskovic and Gottlieb! or maybe NOT. :)

Edited by aigle
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Opening night in LA - enjoyed "Symphony in C" much more today than last week. The corps was much more musical and on target today, but the fourth movement was still a bit off (especially the moment where they all stand around the stage and do some very basic motion in unison - there were arms swinging all over the place tonight). Maria Kowroski did the second movement beautifully, but my memory still sticks on Sofiane Sylve's marvelous performance last week.

"Agon" was pretty good; Sylve did the second pas de trois and she really does look much different in temperament and style from the rest of the company. But instead of the difference being jarring, it was actually quite interesting to watch. Sylve did a great job here, and the audience gasped at her prolonged balance on point at the end of the introduction. Wendy Wheland and Jock Soto did the pas de deux; nothing to complain about, except that Whelan looked very, very slim and small following Sylve as she did.

"Who Cares" was a bit of a doozy; weak corps work at curtain up (including an unfortunate fall) kept the ballet looking like a school recital until the principals came on. They were Jennifer Ringer in peach, Ashley Bouder in pink, Alexandra Ansanelli in green, and Nilas Martins.

I've reviewed in completely reverse order here; but they'll be some good ballets and casting to look forward to this week.

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Should also note from a sales standpoint - the orchestra section was jam packed today in Los Angeles, and from what I could see, some of the upper levels were well populated as well. Orange County attendance last week - based on visual estimations - went up and down dramatically.

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The grudge comes out of the woodwork. . .

Apologies in advance -- my response is not necessarily technical and I don't have the specific knowledge of dancers that those in NY or who follow the company do but. . .

First off, I picked the Wednesday program -- Who Cares, Agon, Symphony in C -- especially because it was a complete Balanchine bill. Choreographically I was thrilled. Thrilled may even be an understatement. It had been years (NYCB when I was a teen) since I had seen either NYCB or Balanchine's choreography live and I am awed by his brilliance.

Now the grudgy part. I thought that the corps looked ragged and that technically, with few exceptions, the company was not as strong as I would have liked or expected. In fact I bumped into a number of friends at intermission and to a person, the first words were always about the feet, and not in a complimentary way. It felt to me, especially during "Who Cares" that the company was performing perfunctorily -- there was no soul and no sense of "dancing." The sole exception was the petit allegro throughout the evening which was lightning quick and sharp.

Ashley Bouder was terrific however -- she inhabited her part and captivated the audience.

The men as a whole I thought were very weak, with the clear exception of Jock Soto and Benjamin Millepied. In fact Millepied was the only one who had the jumps and turns I expect from a male principal. I just wish he were not so physically slight.

Symphony in C I thought was the best performed piece of the night -- my companion for the evening thought it might have something to do with the fact that the music is more classical -- the kind of music that those who have studied ballet all their lives are trained to dance to and count. Perhaps there's something to that.

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