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The Balanchine Legacy at SummerStage

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Here's a good program:

The Balanchine Legacy

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Friday, July 29, 2005

Beginning at 8:30 PM

Central Park SummerStage

The Nilas Martins Dance Company will continue the year-long celebration of the legacy of George Balanchine. The program features Harlequinade, Act II, pas de deux; Allegro Brillante; Tarantella; Symphony in 3 movements, pas de deux and Valse Fantasie. In addition, a ballet created by Peter Martins, with the music of the late Ray Charles, will be performed in his memory. Principal dancers include Miranda Weese, Albert Evans, Joaquin De Luz, Ashley Bouder, Daniel Ulbricht and Nilas Martins, all with the New York City Ballet. Choreographies by George Balanchine, The George Balanchine Trust Balanchine is a trademark of The George Balanchine Trust

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I haven't been for several years, but if it hasn't changed, it is not a great place to watch dance. The stage is a raised platform, and the audience is mostly on the ground (some on bleachers) so that you're looking up rather than down on the action and feet can get lost. If you're fine with Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors (I'd rather pay to see dance in a better venue), you should be OK with Summerstage as well, though.

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Oberon, I attended last year. There is a limited number of folding chairs, most of them reserved for patrons. Then, there is the lawn, for which you'd like to be prepared with a blanket. The bleachers are not bad -- it's where I sat. But then, I'm a Fourth Ringer (accustomed to seeing dance from a distance), and I had my glasses.

Still, getting there early ain't a bad idea.

"Fool for You" won't be the same without the live accompaniment, which was its very best feature. :P

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A warning about the bleachers however, I was there for Bill Jones last week and if you sit on the first two rows of bleachers, it may look good to start but eventually people congragate along the fences in front and you can't see a thing. I recommend the lawn off to the right or left of the stage.

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I went last night and really enjoyed it. It was a very eclectic mix of Ballets.

I think Nilas has inherited his father's gift of programming. You would think these

dancers would be exhausted this time of year but everyone really sparkled with

high energy.

Whenever I see a section of a Balanchine Ballet plucked out for a showcase

I marvel about its ability to stand alone and be enjoyed by itself. Such was

the case with Harlenquinade pas de deux - Fairchild and DeLuz with 8 students from SAB

and Symphony in 3 Mvts with Weese and Evans. During the Stravinsky

as they did the "helicopter step", an airplane was flying overhead.

Bouder's Allegro was Brillante - partnered nicely by Martins.

If we had been indoors, Tarantella would have blown the roof off. Tiler Peck

showed her fancy footwork and a great big smile. Dan Ulbricht was totally

in character at every moment and was spectacular. I love him in this piece.

Valse-Fantasie was dreamy and pretty - Abi Stafford and Amar Ramasar

looked nice together.

A Fool For You was a nice finish. I hadn't seen it in ages and forgot how

entertaining it is. The costumes are nicer - the girls lost those awful ankle socks.

DeLuz was outstanding , especially in "It Should've Been Me." The audience

loved this piece and reacted to the whole performance with enthusiasm. It

was a beautiful evening - SRO in fact. Now if only all these people would buy

tickets for a Thursday night in January at the State Theater............. :)

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Everyone seemed to benefit from the relaxed nature of the setting on Friday. Both Megan and Joaquin danced the Harlequiande pas with the ease and relaxation that sometimes seems to be missing from their dancing at the State Theater. Just delightful.

Well, Ashley Bouder met my expectations in the Allegro Brillante and then some. It will be even more exciting when Ashley has live music to dance to, as this is one dancer who really, really dances to the music (and dancing to the same taped music may not be enough of challenge for her). Balanchine would have loved this kid!!! I do hope we get to see her on the large stage at the NYS Theater (with good wing spans), where she can really let loose in this piece. The corps (Tyler Angle, Jason Fowler, Kyle Froman, Andrew Veyette, Ellen Bar, Alina Droniva, Glenn Keenan and Kristin Sloan) -- perhaps benefiting from a known and steady tempo -- were just terrific.

One of the audience favorites last night was the Tarantella with Danny Ulbricht and Tiler Peck. Although I agree with all of Gia Kourlas' review in the Times about this event (the one on Thursday), I differ from her only in that I'm glad that Danny does an over-the-top Tarantella. Just from "we've got them too" marketing perspective, it's good for audiences to know that NYCB's male contingent (and not just ABT's) can tear up the rug too. And times change; more is demanded from male dancers today than when Eddy created the role. Tiler is a good match for Danny. I would only fault her jetes last night but that could have been a function of the size of the stage and wingspan. But those repeated and deepening knee bends looked charming and playful on her (where they can sometimes just look vulgar). And for someone so young (what, is she all of sixteen or seventeen now), Tiler has terrific stage presence and aplomb. Good pairing.

The highlight of the Valse Fantasie for me was the growth of Amar Ramasar. Properly coached, he could indeed go the distance at NYCB. Right now, partnering seems more of an after-thought (but then again this ballet doesn't require much). Again, I think the corps benefited from a steady tempo, as they were very good.

The second highlight of the evening was Joaquin in the It Should've Been Me selection from Martins' Ray Chares Tribute. Joaquin was truly, truly fantastic technically but more important he was relaxed enough so audience didnt see the effort (my only gripe about his dancing). I like "magic" from my dancers (i.e., no obvious preparation, etc.), and last night he delivered and thensome.

Well, that's my "Balanchine fix" until the Nutcrackers start. And it was very good "fix" indeed.

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I loved the show and thought the dancing was superb all around. I loved De Luz, as did everyone else in the Ray Charles tribute. You could really see his firey dance tempermant come out and he really broke loose with some briallent stuff. Nilas Martin's refined elegance doesn't seem to suit the soulful sounds of Ray Charles in my opinion. It's beautiful to watch but I felt at times like De Luz and Evans were in a different dance from him. Still, he deserves mad credit for giving us the chance to see those dancers on that beautiful night.


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I really enjoyed the Thursday performance. I'm no Balanchine expert; I attend performances of that other ballet company at Lincoln Center far more frequently and when I did learn ballet it was in the Vaganova style.

It was a pleasure to see Joaquin de Luz look so charismatic, happy and loose. I admit I was skeptical that NYCB would be the right place for him, but it seems so much more fun and interesting for him there than doing the umpteenth Golden Idol in Bayadere. He was definitely a victim of the typecasting Herman Cornejo is now breaking free of at ABT. Megan Fairchild seemed less secure to me, but I liked her port de bras, which were never fixed but always seemed to breathe through the music.

The highlight of the evening for me was Ashley Bouder in Allegro Brillante. I've wanted to fall in love with a young ballerina for a while (and I've seen Murphy, Wiles, Zakharova), but it didn't happen for me until I saw her. She seemed to fling herself passionately into every movement, while remaining completely in control. And she was so fast. I didn't look at anyone else while she was onstage. Can't wait to see more!

I agree that the first-half programming was deft; the energy built with each piece and came to a climax in Tarantella. I also agree with bobbi that Danny Ulbricht's performance was an asset rather than a liability—I'm sick of perfunctory, passionless performances, which this most definitely was not. The choreography impressed me; I had forgotten how much more dancing Balanchine packs into a piece than everyone else. Fresh from Grigorovich's Spartacus and Lacotte's Pharoah's Daughter, it was very refreshing and palate-cleansing to see interesting dance formations. I wasn't a big fan of Tiler Peck, who exaggerated some of the Balanchine mannerisms I don't like.

I didn't think the second half was programmed as well. The pieces were maybe too diverse and a big disconnect from the first half. Valse Fantasie was a dud except for Ramasar, who was elegant, and A Fool For You is definitely a puff piece. To be honest, most people seemed to enjoy it the most, probably because the music is so appealing. It didn't show off the women well (I never would have had the Bouder epiphany if I'd only seen her in this), but Albert Evans was particularly good in it, I thought, loose-hipped, nonchalant, cool. He and Miranda Weese worked well together throughout (the grown-up partnering of the night).

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Thanks for asking me for clarification on Tiler Peck's "mannerisms," PetipaFan. To be honest, I was purposefully vague, since I am really not knowledgeable about the Balanchine style; I'm much more familiar with more classical stuff, so a lot of how I respond is in noticing divergences from that. It's hard for me to put my finger on what I didn't like about her. It seemed like her arms, hands, and torso were all over the place. She looked "out there" in a bad way. Maybe that is not a fair assessment and she will grow on me. On the other hand, I quite liked some of the other performers, so I assumed it wasn't merely a stylistic prejudice. In the past, Wendy Whelan wasn't my favorite, but I was proved wrong when I saw her and Jock Soto in Wheeldon's Polyphonia.

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