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Spring Season 2005 Week 2

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Just back from the Gala. I've been very quiet this Spring so some quick notes to get this started. Selective notes, as I've no thought and no capability to sum up everything in a very long evening. (In particular I hope someone else will write about the new Martins, which does have a magnificent role for Sofiane Sylve). Instread, I'll confine myself to --

First, Ashley Bouder in Albert Evans' new short Ballet:

I'm so glad they put Evans' piece on the program because it was quite extraordinary, especially Ashley Bouder. Watching her tonight, Ashley seemed to me to have grown as much as a dancer between this past February, when she was made a principal dancer, to this evening (three months later), as she did from this time last year to this past February. Unbelievable how this girl just keeps on becoming so much more than one could have ever imagined, even at points when one already thought she was quite amazing. Until tonight what she did really seemed beyond technique to me. You just threw all thoughts of "steps" and "positions" and "poses" away, turned off your mind, had no consideration for "how it's done," because her formidable technique had reached the point where it was now just a means of expression. One just entered into the moment with her and accompanied her wherever it was and that was it. This girl is the real thing. You are lucky if this comes along once in a generation. And surely Albert Evans deserves tremendous praise for choreography which is capable of being embodied in this manner.

Choreography is not rocket science. Yes, it seems arcane to us who have not grown up in the school of classical dance. But I'm nonetheless convinced that any kid who has spent twenty years on a daily basis steeped in the dance d'ecole -- and surely practically any member of a company like NYCB -- could, if given the chance, set classical steps to a musical score like this one in a manner which would at least look professional on a given evening. What one looks for instead on a stage like that of the State Theater is something more, something much more -- a special feeling for this particular music and these dancers, and a special embodiment of expression in response to both of them which goes beyond mere craft and becomes something fully determined, original and beautiful. And Albert Evans gave us this tonight, along with Bouder and Steven Hanna and one can only thank them for it.

The New Wheeldon:

Chris Wheeldon's "An American in Paris" was the last ballet presented. It was admittedly a very long evening and I might well change my opinion were I to see this again. (Though nothing I saw tonight made me want to see it again). But I must say I have never seen a more top heavy work: a work with less real content and which depends more on its costumes and sets and lighting to entertain, and less on what I would call the substance of its dancing.

The central role, that of the eponymous "American", was not delineated at all. Damien Woetzel was charming but there was absolutely no content or character to him. He brushes at a canvas backdrop with a brush. (Apparently he's a painter, duh). He dances with Jenny Ringer. He dances with somewhat more animation with a rather brilliant and jazzy Carla Korbes. He sinks on his knees. A series of cutsey vignettes stream past. Voila tout.

The material for Ringer was particularly thin. Wheeldon, who summoned so much from Alexandra Ansanelli and from himself in "Carousel"; and from Jock and Wendy and himself in everything he's done for them; and from himself and Jock and Miranda Weese in "Shambards", etc., seems for once utterly to have failed to have gotten under the skin of a dancer. Jenny Ringer looks to be in very good dancing shape to be sure -- but the role looked awkward and dead and she was given nearly nothing to do. Look romantic. Look happy. Swoon a bit. Voila tout.

As I said, the dance for Korbes was just the opposite. But it was quite short and incapable of carrying the entire Ballet. Though after this I don't see how Carla can remain anything less than a Soloist.

Oh yes, I did love Seth Orza as Lance Armstrong bicycling across the stage. And some of the other Susan Stroman-esque vignettes were charming. But that did not and does not justify all of this. Take the costumes and lights away from Midsummer Night's Dream and you still have a great Ballet. Take the costumes, sets and lights away from this and you have very little residue indeed, perhaps even a negative quantity. (And a great deal of debt -- who in the hell paid for this and how much did it cost?).


Finally I rather liked Ben Millepied's ballet, particularly what he did for Maria Kowroski in the girl's principal role -- a straight and serious dramatic dance, quite responsive to the music, and one to which Maria responded with gravity and emotional depth.

My first impulse, when the curtain rose, was that I did not know that Kenny G played the violin. The violinist (quite good) then turned out to be named Timothy Fain.

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The Gala opened with Peter's darkish, sterile TALA GAISMA to a haunting score by Vasks, beautifully played by the orchestra & violinist Kurt Nikkanen. The piece is in the manner of Peter's earlier WALTON CELLO CONCERTO and EROS PIANO. Jared Angle, replacing Jock Soto, seems unable to choose between 3 ballerinas. Each has her solo passages, and duets with Angle as they attempt to sort things out. After a while it became rather same-y; not terrible but not very inspired. Each woman had her signature hair-do: an Afro (!) for Sylve, corn-rows & a top-knot for Miranda Weese, and Darci with her hair down. All danced perfectly but in the end the piece did not make much of an impression.

Matthew Fuerst's colorful score highlighted Albert's very enjoyable BROKEN PROMISE in which two of the Company's brightest "next generation" stars, Ashley Bouder & Stephen Hanna, filled the stage with expansive, dazzling dance as well as some very demanding partnering. Bouder was beautifully made-up and has matured into a more womanly dancer, so vibrant and technically assured. My only tiny complaint was the silver sequins on Bouder's leotard which looked like a dance school recital outfit; also I would rather see women in tights always - not bare legs. But these visual annoyances hardly infringed on the success of the ballet.

Millepied's DOUBLE ARIA, a quirky score beautifully played onstage by Timothy Fain, gave us the impressive partnership of Ask LaCour & Maria Kowroski who maintain serious - almost grave - facial expressions as they work thru very complex partnering manouvres. LaCour has become a valuable "tall" partner for such divas as Maria, Sylve & Reichlin - astute and with a beautiful presence. I think we may have come to take Maria Kowroski for granted and here let me say, she is one amazing dancer - her flexibility, strength, extension and expression were all beautifully showcased in Benjamin's choreography.

I had seen Eddie Liang's DISTANT CRIES at the Joyce and it made a very sucessful transplant to NYCB. Having two of the greatest dancers on the planet, Wendy Whelan & Peter Boal, in your ballet in a big enhancement to begin with. Liang plays to Wendy's vunerable side; her legs mesmerize as they flash through the various combinations; her waif-like but steely body seems to generate its own light. Boal is sexy and self-effacing, the partner de luxe. Incredible pair! This piece drew the biggest reception of the evening and when Liang joined the dancers for a bow, waves of affection greeted them all.

I'm not partial to Broadway style ballets in general, and I really can't say much of anything favorable about Wheedon's AMERICAN IN PARIS. The colorful sets serve as a backdrop for various Parisian types who seem to come and go without purpose. Damian and Jenifer Ringer and saucy Carla Korbes - in a red beret - give it their all but nothing happens. For me the highlight was Pauline Golbin, looking like she stepped from a 1950's issue of Vogue in her gunmetal satin full-skirt with fuschia gloves & picture hat - glamour! In fact the 3 glove girls (Golbin, Hanson & Abergel) made me think of LA VALSE and made me wish I was watching THAT instead of THIS!

The post-performance party was populated by many luminaries - Leslie Browne was there, and Alexandra Ansanelli in a splendidly chic gown of broad black & white stripes. Golbin, Rachel R, Pascale van Kipnis & Melissa Barak could have graced any fashion runway.

And it's always interesting to see who's dating whom...

I'll see all these ballets again next week and they may seem different in different contexts.

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Before getting to the dancing, I'd like to summarize the remarks by National Endowment of the Arts Chair, Dana Gioia, which I found reassuringly sincere. He spoke of his 20 years as a resident of New York City, that during that time he maintained a subscription to NYCB. He noted Lincoln Kirstein's crucial role, particularly understanding that part of supporting genius is knowing when to stand aside. (Gioia also claimed kinship to Kirstein as a fellow poet). He said that over the 40-year life so far of the NEA, it has made 100 grants to NYCB, and he looked forward to making 100 more. He noted that a nation's arts are as important as its power and wealth.

Tala Gaisma


Barinas, Stanley

On balance, I almost liked this piece. (Intended as a compliment. :crying: ) While some may see it as a new generation Apollo, it looked to me more like Meditation x 3. One moment towards the end when the three women each extend their hands towards his shoulder reminded me of the moment when Apollo touches the raised, pointed feet of each of the seated muses, but otherwise, it was a man remembering/imagining three different lovers. Jared Angle, substituting for Jock Soto with three women, each representing a different aspect of love. The first pas de deux, Jared with Sofiane Sylve, is the best. She seems to embody passionate, carnal love. Darci is in her "breath of spring" mode, which is how I most enjoy her. And Miranda just sort of occupies the middle ground. It was too long and had a number of dead spots, but overall, it was not a bad piece. In fact, it may well be one of Martins' best. The each woman wears a pink body suit with a slightly different colored outline of a heart (one pinkish red, one orange-ish red, and one really red) that goes from the neckline, but instead of meeting at the center of the bottom, the two sides of the hearts wind ribbon-like towards the back of the thighs. The man is in a black body suit with a squarish design on his chest and lines going a bit down his thighs.

Broken Promise


Divet, Stanley

Aptly titled pas de deux by Evans, given the high expectations after Haiku. As Michael said above, Ashley has grown up. Here, she exudes quite a sober personality. The closing images of this ballet are exquisite -- the dancers on the floor slowly unfolding into extended shapes (tempted to say poses, but the movement doesn't pause). Unfortunately, the journey to that end was quite long, and after Haiku, which was such a success (and why doesn't the company bring it back?) I was disappointed. I hated Ashley's costume, a white leotard with silver sequins outlining a deep keyhole neckline and two big holes on her hips. It reminded me of some of the tackier gymnastics leotards. Stephen's costume was flesh-colored with sequins around the waist, somewhat more flattering.

Double Aria


Hynes, Stanley

I did not sit close enough to the stage to mistake Mr. Fain for Mr. G.

Ouch! What possessed Ben to choose that score? It was positively painful! I don't know what the point of this ballet was. He didn't seem to settle even into a style. It looked like a stream of consciousness. One series of steps following another with no rhyme or reason. I supposed Maria and Ask did the best that could be done with this work, but I couldn't penetrate it. Michael said above that choreography isn't rocket science, but he said it in a paragraph that had a central point, a beginning, a middle and an end. Writing isn't rocket science, but not everyone can do it well. I think Mr. Millepied should go back to the studio and work on his craft, how to create cohesion, how to know what is intrinsic to a piece and what is completely extraneous. To me, just about everything in this pas de deux (which had extended moments of no dancing, a la Duo Concertant) was extraneous.

Distant Cries


(costumes uncredited), Stanley

Ah! M U S I C ! ! ! Ah! Craft!!!

This late addition to the program was the best work of the evening. The relationship between the dancers was well defined -- tender and mature. The vocabulary was clearly delineated. The movement corresponded to the music, and it was completely satisfying. Needless to say, Wendy (in a short, powder-blue chiffon dress) and Peter (bare to the waist and in black trousers), gifted and intelligent dancers that they are, made the most of its possibilities. A triumph for all concerned and, I devoutly hope, a keeper for NYCB.

An American in Paris


Wheeldon treated the stage very much what as Gene Kelly did the screen, perhaps with more graceful segues, but not with any more depth. It succeeded as spectacle, but like the old woman in the famous hamburger commercial, I kept wondering, "Where's the beef?" I think Wheeldon, who has always been a glib choreographer, has learned how to fake it and create the greatest effect with the least content. I wonder if he's taken on too many commitments and is not able to devote his full attention to each project. Thanks to him for choosing an enjoyable, infectious (if choppily problematic) score. High marks, too, for sets (vaguely cubist renditions of an imagined Paris by Adrianne Lobel) and costumes (by Holly Hynes, in the manner of Edith Head at her most " '50s"). During the moment when Damian "paints" the scrim, I flashed to the movie's scene when Nina Foch criticizes Gene Kelly, "I understand distorting perspective for effect, but this!" Or something to the effect that he's not as on top of his art as he thinks he is. Hmmmm. A Brit in New York.

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Carbro, when they wheeled the lectern out before AMERICAN IN PARIS I was dreading the usual "gala" speech but I thought Mr. Gioia's remarks were wonderfully sincere and moving. It was actually a highlight of the evening!

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Carbro, when they wheeled the lectern out before AMERICAN IN PARIS I was dreading the usual "gala" speech but I thought Mr. Gioia's remarks were wonderfully sincere and moving. It was actually a highlight of the evening!

I totally agree. And Gioia is a very good poet, and I feel he's doing well at NEA.

I am with Cabro's analyses most of the time, but I liked the new Martins less than she did.

I would only want to see the Liiang again.

I felt last evening that I was watching great dancers in a great company who proved thay can dance anything: what I did not see much of was :beauty

Yes, where did Milliped find that music? It hurt.


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Ouch!  What possessed Ben to choose that score?  It was positively painful! 

Yes, where did Milliped find that music? It hurt.

Yes, it was painful, but I didn't find it as painful as the music Martins used for Tala Gaisma. And all that tortured writhing Mr. Martins gave us under that murky lighting! I think Rockwell referred to it as a modern Apollo. The man sitting next to me last night referred to it as the anti-Apollo and I agree with him!

I did like the Evans piece, it really brought out qualities in Bouder that we don't normally see, like plasticity & sensuality along with her usual speed, clarity & daring. She continues to impress and it's great to see her range expanding. Also liked the Liang piece - Whelan & Boal were wonderful but I agree, all the duets were minor pieces. I guess I liked An American in Paris best, but that's faint praise. It was a well decorated, well danced piece of fluff. It was an underwhelming gala!

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I thought the Vasks score for Peter's ballet was really engrossing; the ballet was too dark for the music and the music is too long to watch just 4 dancers, no matter how wonderful they might be. No one else has commented on the hair-dos of the 3 women. Didn't Sylve look odd? She dances up a storm, though.

The Albinoni score won the evening's music prize, hands down. Matt Fuerst's score for Albert is pretty spiffy. I didn't mind the Ott score so much (Benjamin's piece) because it was so brilliantly played.

For beauty last night, one had to look to the individual dancers - and there was plenty of it, from both sexes. Jenifer Ringer alone supplies enough to light up several city blocks. To say nothing of Korbes...

It's a bit strange: during the performance I was not totally captivated - except for the Liang piece - but today I'm finding it left me with alot of nice "snapshot" memories. I'll look forward to seeing the ballets again next week.

Note to Albert: please change Bouder's costume!! A plain white leotard will be preferable; and give the girl some tights, please!

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Bouder was beautifully made-up and has matured into a more womanly dancer, so vibrant and technically assured.

Well in particular the arabesque was much more dramatic, deep and stretched last night than it was in, say, Beauty last year -- also the camber of her back in arabesque (very full and dramatic now) as well as the use of her eyes and the placement of her neck and the presentation of her face when being presented by her partner in these poses.

And continuing to think about it, as one does after a performance, I think the fact that one cannot remember many "steps" in the Evans, that I was so struck by the "seamlessness" of it, is due to Evans choreography as much as anything. There was a fair amount of arabesque for Bouder but other than that I don't remember him using a lot of big "show and stop" poses -- preferring instead to keep his dancers moving, in particular with a lot of flow in the upper body. (Beautiful arms to a lot of what Ashley did).

This ability of Evans to do this in a formalistic dance -- that is, to so incorporate the academic vocabulary into his choreography that you don't stop to notice any of the steps -- is analogous in my mind to how brilliantly Ashton did the same thing to the academic vocabulary in his pas d'action. One of the wonderful things about Ashton being to my eyes how everything in his dramatic ballets is so perfectly classical and yet the action is conveyed by incorporating those steps into pure dramatic gesture. Thus Cinderella is on her knees in Act I before her late mother's portrait and suddenly rises on point to reach up to it, for example. It's a relevee, a simple classical step. Yet the gesture purely expresses her reverence to her mother's portrait and that's what registers, not the "step." The vocabulary becomes dramatic gesture. Something similar was accomplished by Evans in his piece, but doing the same kind of thing for pure formalism.

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In the past, several posters (more bothered by it than I) have complained about Ashley's facial expressions. It should be pointed out that last night, her face was placid and serene, and yet expressive. I noticed it also in the Apollo last week. She is a remarkable and fascinating stage presence.

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May 07 matinee -

Apollo - Nilas and his Muses - Weese, Sylve, and Kistler gave a fine performance.

When the 3 muses approached Apollo for the first time, Terpsichore smiled broadly and Apollo grinned back. Never saw smiles in this ballet - maybe it was spontaneous joy.

NY Export : Opus Jazz

I loved it - the musical score is great - 50's style jazz - Snapping fingers and swinging ponytails. Standouts were Georgina Pazcoguin and the duet with Rutherford and Hall. It is so full of life and Robbins' cleverness. The girl's

costumes looked OK but the men would look better in jazz pants. Did beatnik men wear tights?

American in Paris

It's difficult to do justice to Gershwin. There is no attempt to tell a story - it is

a frothy walk in the park. Woetzel is a happy tourist, weaving among the Parisiens.

He encounters a luminous Jenifer Ringer but their dance together is casual rather than romantic. Carla Korbes has a good part - more soubrette than temptress.The ballet seemed short - as fast paced as all those Parisiens. Or maybe it was Andrea Quinn's conducting.

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I also attended the Saturday matinee. As for Martins as Apollo: sigh. So not a good role for him. His dancing managed to be both mushy and choppy. Weese was lovely, though.

Opus: Jazz, with lots of corps members having a ball, is the balletic equivalent of a big basket of puppies. It is clearly of its time (and what appear to be the original program notes don't help), but the dancers seemed to have no problems getting into the right mood. The pas de deux, performed by Hall and Rutherford, stood out choreographically -- it was more interesting and not quite as directly related to West Side Story and Interplay. The performances were delightful; particular standouts to me were Ramasar, Veyette, Hendrickson (who has matured a great deal recently and become even more interesting and complex), and Pazcoguin, who was a revelation to me. She was confident, strong, yet coquettish when necessary.

American in Paris -- this struck me as just lazy choreography. Very little of interest step or structure-wise, and rather than showing us new interesting things about his dancers, or at least their strengths, as he usually does, Wheeldon rather seemed to play to his dancers' worst qualities. Woetzel was charming without really putting any energy into his dancing, aided and abetted by not really having any dancing to do. Ringer was pretty in pink, but ill-defined beyond her default sweetness. Korbes was the exception -- she looked good and energized Woetzel for the brief time they were together.

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Sorry for posting a gala query so long after the fact, but I was curious if it struck anyone as odd that there was nothing from Balanchine a/o Robbins on the program? I understand wanting to showcase the company's aspiring choreographers, but still........

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There was a credit in the program to the Diamond Fund. I guess you could consider this a compressed Diamond Project, Diamond Projects having provided past galas.

Yes, I regret that there was no Balanchine or Robbins on the program, but less than I regret that works by those giants are being squeezed out by ballets of questionable (I'm trying to be charitable) value.

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Guest nycdog

It's interesting to consider to what extent Balanchine has influenced other choreographers, but more important is how he altered the expectation of the audience. We know when something is good because he showed us!

Balanchine did for the dance, what Bach did for the fugue. At least in my mind! :)

But wasn't the Gala about fundraising and not so much about great art? I understand the Gala took in about 2 million dollars this year. It didn't matter what they put on.

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NYCB's spring galas have always offered "previews" of new works. Sometimes they please the gala crowd, sometimes not. I remember the audible boredom and irritation of the audience at the first performance of Davidsbundlertanze. Hardley material for casual balletgoers!

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