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NYCB Reviews, Winter Week 5

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Dale, I very much agree. Usually with Ashley she gets her sea legs on the first time out in a major role and then in the second performance the artistry kicks in. Last night, she nailed it in one. She was riveting. And what's so wonderful is that she seems to energize everyone around her. It was a fabulous Divert. Philip Neal, Jason Fower and Andrew Veyette were all bravura and elegant cavaliers. Both Jason and Andrew have great futures in front of them if they keep dancing on this level. Andrew made one high-flying exit to stage right that was just astonishing for its height and correctness of form. And Jason is an incredibly elegant dancer and a very attentive partner. All the other ladies were delightful too (Ana Sophia Scheller, Sterling Hyltin, Rachel Rutherford and Abi Stafford), with particular kudos to the debut gal Ana Sophia. I am also so pleased that Abi is really phrasing her dancing beautifully these days.

And what a pleasure it is to have an All-Balanchine evening. More please. . . .

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A thousand thanks to Megan Fairchild who, with parrtner Joaquin deLuz, rescued the final two thirds of Wednesday evening's program.  :flowers:

I wanted to open the thread and will be back later with more details.

Thanks for starting the thread, carbro. But, what do you mean by "rescued"? Am I correct in taking that to mean that you were not happy with the performances in the latter ballets?

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Thursday 2/2/06

Great start and great finish, but a big lull in the middle. SONGS OF THE AUVERGNE is one of those ballets where eager boys chase demure girls, everyone is happy; the girls dance, the boys dance, some little kids dance. The couples dance. There are "happy family" groups. Children embrace Darci. It goes on and on. The songs, gorgeously orchestrated by Canteloube, were sung beautifully by mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer. Darci, looking youthful and dancing with her usual grace, and Philip Neal - handsome, with plenty of showy passages and excellent partnering - were the main couple. Kristin Sloan, Rachel Rutherford, Seth Orza and Jon Stafford all danced flawlessly, and Megan Fairchild - who came out of this with the best role - was very appealing with her many multiple turns. Fine corps of seven, and about a dozen kids. I won't plan to see it again.

Evening started with a beautiful BAROCCO; Wendy and Albert were superb and Abi Stafford, despite a fall, is a very refreshing dancer. She and Wendy seemed so happy to be doing these beautiful steps to this wonderful music. Albert's partnering was velvety and shows Wendy off like a priceless jewel. Wendy is elegant, airy. Excellent corps.

Sylve's FIREBIRD was a radiant success, probably the finest thing she had done at NYCB. Exotic to watch, and dancing with total command, she galvanized the audience and won a sustained applause and many shouts of "brava", all thoroughly deserved. Jon Stafford complimented her perfectly, very adept and attentive partnering, and a fine actor into the bargain. This is a great part for him. Rutherford looks divine in her splendid red gown at the end, and she danced very well. I again found myself wishing the Firebird was onstage at the finale.

Andrea Quinn conducted all evening and the orchestra sounded really good, esp. in the Canteloube & Stravinsky. In my opinion, her upcoming departure is an unfortunate loss for NYCB.

At a pre-show dinner on the Promenade, Maria Kowroski was among the guests. She looks great, cheerful & relaxed. Hope she is back onstage soon. Ed Liang, Ashley Bouder, Genevieve LaBean & Merrill Ashley were also there. I would have happily served as busboy.

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I agree 100% with Oberon about last night's performance. Abi's fall was a big one, right at center stage, and it was jarring - but she and Whalen brought such beauty, balance and harmony to Concerto Barocco that it could not break the spell. Evans & the corps were all wonderful, this is the masterpiece I remember.

Auvergne was a snooze. Nice to see Kristin Sloan getting some featured roles and everyone danced beautifully but this was just monotonous. Fairchild was especially impressive because this was the most lyrical & romantic dancing that I've seen from her and it caught me by surprise.

Sylve's Firebird was wonderful. She's a dancer that I love in certain roles & just don't care for in others - she was perfect here. Of course her killer technique was put to good use but her characterization was also extraordinary. She was very avian and strong but also very exotic, mysterious and seductive at times. In this version the Firebird doesn't seem to dislike the Prince at all, both Sylve & Bouder seemed touched by regret upon their exits. Perhaps because here the Prince has released the Firebird long before she gives him the feather it's more of a reward than a bribe for her release. She's not human and they can't relate to each other on the same level that a man and a woman would, but the lack of animosity allows just a tinge of "what if" to enter the equation.

I also went on Wed night. Unfortunately I had a seat with a very bad view which made it hard to tell if the spotlights in the 3rd movement of Duo Concertant weren't timed properly, or if it was just my extreme angle that ruined the effect. Still, I haven't seen this little jewel in many, many years and it was wonderful to see it and to hear that music again. Didn't remember it being quite so sentimental, though.

Ana Sophia Scheller is quickly becoming one of my favorite dancers. She's lightning fast and has a huge jump but she's one of those dancers who always makes it look as if she has all the time in the world to complete a phrase, even in Divertimento

Have the fish dives in Tchai Pas become ridiculously safe and anticlimatic, or have I just seen this a few too many times? They looked more like fish dips than fish dives.

I worship Wendy Whalen and last week I watched her dance a performance of Bizet 2nd movement that was sublime, but this Wed I thought she had an off night. She looked shakey. And the fouttees at the end were totally out of sync (not saying this was her fault - I can never tell who is off but someone was WAY off).

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Wednesday, Feb. 1

I also went on Wed night. Unfortunately I had a seat with a very bad view which made it hard to tell if the spotlights in the 3rd movement of Duo Concertant weren't timed properly, or if it was just my extreme angle that ruined the effect.

No, it wasn' your seat. The spot did not hit the right part of Nilas. I don't know whether it was Nilas' fault or the fault of the tech running that spot, but boy, it was very distracting at a point when the mood should be wistful and poignant. Yvonne Borree looked fine here -- she's done better. Nilas Martins did not.
Have the fish dives in Tchai Pas become ridiculously safe and anticlimatic, or have I just seen this a few too many times? They looked more like fish dips than fish dives.

Yes, thank you! Ben Millepied does not have a reputation as the world's greatest partner, and I was a bit nervous about how he'd do on the fish dives. But I surely did NOT expect him to take hold of his ballerina BEFORE she jumped to her assemble! There were two more steps before the fish dive after he took her. Now there is the issue of, Do you risk the ballerina's health by doing the steps as they should be done? Or do you fudge one of the piece's trademark moments? The first isn't fair to the ballerina, the second isn't fair to the audience or the ballet. I say, if you don't have the people who CAN do it, you don't do it. Dale, you asked how I liked Miranda Weese in this. When I envision what happened on the stage, all the images are static. I thought she was subdued -- not as much as Abi Stafford or Whelan (see next). Perhaps she was worried about the culminating fish dives.
I worship Wendy Whalen and last week I watched her dance a performance of Bizet 2nd movement that was sublime, but this Wed I thought she had an off night. She looked shakey. And the fouettes at the end were totally out of sync (not saying this was her fault - I can never tell who is off but someone was WAY off).

I agree. I haven't seen Wendy so lackluster in a very, very long time. She looked tired and uninspired, and her technique -- even in the adadio -- was not good. She'd hit this beautiful Fourth in preparation for a pirouette, and before releve-ing, both legs would turn in.

I was also disappointed by Jennie Somogyi's First Movement. Both she and Abi Stafford (in the Fourth) danced very cautiously. Michael's comment last week that Jennie favored the leg that had been injured -- I didn't notice one being favored over the other, but she avoided stressing the tendon on either. This had her spending almost all her time either on full pointe or demi-pointe -- never flat. It limits her expressive range considerably. I wouldn't call her tentative, she did seem to hold back. I think that, at least for the time being, I'll have to refrain from expecting the kind of attack she had before and just enjoy her musicality and authority. She remains one of the more intelligent dancers on the scene today. I found myself wondering how many of those folks on stage may have been suffering a low-grade flu.

As I said on Wednesday, the Third Movement cast really brought life and passion to this performance. Real vitality and excitement here.

But the highlight of the night, for me, was Ashley Bouder's debut in Divert. 15. Kaplow gave her unimaginably fast tempo for the variation, and she took it as a game. I've never seen it so fast, and if a connecting step here or there wasn't perfectly crisp, that's forgivable. I've never seen anyone run without letting you see the feet on the ground. No flu here -- but plenty of flying. You may debate whether or not this was what the 6th Variation is supposed to be. I really don't care. A dancer this exciting doesn't come along every decade, and I'm willing to go wherever she takes me.

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Tonight the story surely was Kyra Nichols in In the Night. I think this may have been her first appearance this season. Partnered with Philip Neal as the second couple, she did not disappoint. This was full-out dancing, not marking, precise pointe work, upper body free and fully integrated with lower body, warm, expressive, nothing held back, everything given. Rachel Rutherford and Tyler Angle danced the first couple with the space-filling amplitude of principals (this guy is some kind of partner!). Whatever may have been the problem earlier this week, Wendy Whelan, partnered by Sebastien Marcovici, was brilliant, risk-taking and thrilling. A splendid performance of this Robbins ballet, so often second-fiddle to Dances at a Gathering.

The program began with Episodes, already well-reviewed in an earlier performance. Again, here, Whelan danced at full-throttle. Abi Stafford and Darci Kistler both seem to have found a comfort level in this ballet. Obviously, I was crazy about Tess Reichlen's ultra-appropriate hyper-flexibility. She and Jason Fowler solved Balanchine's puzzles as if, and in the spirit of, child's-play.

The program concluded with Wheeldon's April in Paris. I haven't seen it before, so I can't compare Ellen Bar's debut with Carla Korbes's interpretation. But everything seemed to go well. I know everyone dislikes this ballet, but it is pretty. And is a chance to see Damian Woetzel and Elizabeth Taylor--er, Jeni Ringer. Well danced, although not the goose-bumps you might expect from this pair plus Christopher Wheeldon. The audience loved it.

[Added for general information] The February NYCB Playbill has some interesting articles. First, information on the forthcoming ballet by Peter Martins, Friandises (little bits and pieces). Christopher Rouse's ballet score is also being choreographed by Adam Hougland for Juilliard's Dance Ensemble (Feb. 22). Admirable mutual risk-taking by the two choreographers! A preview: " (Martins' version) matches the youthful flair of the music with a lively abstract dance that sends a large cast flying with disciplined virtuosity."

Second, interviews with four recently promoted soloists.

Adam Hendrickson: He's a Robbins fan and especially loved being in N. Y. Export: Opus Jazz. "The process of putting that ballet together was the most enjoyable time I've ever had."

Ask La Cour: Since promotion he's focused on becoming a better partner, with Jock Soto as his role model. His high point as a soloist was partnering Tess Reichlen's Sugarplum.

Teresa Reichlen: It is noted that her "immaculate phrasing extends to her fingertips," and she's a born ballerina. She feels risk-taking doesn't come naturally, and it is something she must work on. (Performances I've seen show she must be an incredibly hard-worker!) She looks forward to dancing Bizet (second movement), Diamonds, the duet in Violin Concerto, and O/O.

Daniel Ulbricht: He studied gymnastics and Karate before beginning ballet at age 11. He looks forward to more acting parts and more partnering. His wish list includes Prodigal Son and Harlequin, and something new in the upcoming Diamond Project.

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Friday 2/3

EPISODES was magnificent tonight. It totally captivated me from the moment the curtain rose. Probably the best performance of this piece I've ever seen. Abi Stafford & Philip Neal create a very interesting partnership in the first section. Abi's dancing is very clear and clean. And her physique has become more womanly, her presence more authoritative. Reichlen is just about perfect here; I keep referring to her legs as mesmerizing but it's the best word to describe their effect. Jason Fowler did a great partnering job with her tonight. Wendy & Albert...I don't know what to say. They were just indescribably thrilling. Darci & Charles Askegard kept the level up with an impressive finale. The corps were excellent throughout. The audience responded to this feast of dance in the most tepid manner.

IN THE NIGHT was extraordinarily beautiful tonight. It is unlike any other ballet in its atmosphere: contained, moonlit, yet not entirely dreamy. Rachel Rutherford has her ideal role here, one in which her attractive presence and the lyrical sweep of her dancing show to fine advantage. I have sometimes found Tyler Angle too florid but tonight, replacing Arch Higgins, he had the air of a young prince and did himself proud with the complex partnering. Seeing Kyra Nichols step into the light almost took my breath away. Over the years, she & Philip Neal have provided some of my most wonderful dance memories and here they were tonight, not a memory but dancing in their own romantic world. It was beautiful. And then Wendy gave an astonishing performance of the more agitated, almost combative, third woman. Looking wonderfully fragile yet intense, she gave a risky, edgy performance that was eventually tamed by the steadfastness of her lover, played to perfection by Sebastien Marcovici. Looking like the brooding poet out of a 19th century novel, Sebastien handled the very demanding partnering with assurance and - with Wendy - created a sense that we are eavesdropping on something very private. The three couples then shared the stage briefly before they sweep off into the moonlit night. The audience was somewhat more appreciative of the dancers' efforts in this piece.

I did not stay for the Wheeldon.

Couple of random notes: the lighting for that segment of DUO CONCERTANT has been off in the last few years. It used to be quite effective, now it just isn't working. Needs to be tuned up. I love Benjamin Millepied but he hardly ever pulls off those fish dives. He just doesn't have the upper body strength. I'd like to see Scheller & de Luz in the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.

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Couple of random notes: the lighting for that segment of DUO CONCERTANT has been off in the last few years. It used to be quite effective, now it just isn't working. Needs to be tuned up.

I thought it was me, but I don't think the lighting worked in Seattle for the opening night gala, either.

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Sunday's performance was DIVERT #15, KLAVIER and FANCY FREE. In DIVERT Ana Sophia Scheller and Sterling Hyltin had the perfect balance of charm and sharp technique for the music, costumes and choreography. Bouder and Philip Neal were sparkling as ever. She just ate up the music. Philip has grown and flourished so beautifully in the years since he began. Divert, however was marred at the very end by an injury to Abi Stafford, who did not return to the stage for the bows and curtain calls.

KLAVIER seemed much shorter to me this time, not sure why. I still don't like the costumes, even with the change, but the dancing was luminous by all. I still especially love the beginning and ending images.

FANCY FREE had a guest conductor, Colin Metters, and he slowed the pace down just enough to take all the snappiness out of it -- a shame for Tyler Angle in his debut. Daniel Ulbricht did not let the tempo compromise his dancing or character, but I don't feel that Benjamin Millepied or Tyler could make up for the loss of the "ooomph" it needed. The worst moment was just before the two girls recognized each other --- there was a really over long pause!

Question -- in previous performances this season did they also leave off the platinum wig of the 3rd woman (in the blue dress)? Wonder what happened?

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Abi Stafford looked just fine in the fourth variation of Divertimento 15, dancing with more ease and freedom than earlier in this, her comeback season. The Andante also seemed fine, but she seemed to twist an ankle during a turn. Let's hope her absence from the finale was just precautionary: she's shown every sign of being even better than she was pre-injury, and surely is due her fair share of luck this time. :D

Ana Sophia Scheller displayed speed, vivacity, and a smile (nothing stagey at all) that surely expressed the joy of dance in the first variation. Sterling Hyltin danced the second variation, and especially impressed with a floating lyricism in the Andante. It has been quite a week for Rachel Rutherford (third variation), who followed her success in Friday's In the Night with more space-filling amplitude today.

Ashley Bouder's second go as the leading lady found her in prime form, so at home in variation 6 that one would swear she was improvising, just plain dancing for joy. In no way rushed by the tempo (beautifully measured by Maurice Kaplow again), she had plenty of time to breath in grace notes with magical arms and hands that would make you think NYCB was becomming an "arms" company! Philip Neal was her partner and he too seemed very much at home in Mozart, delivering some beautiful accents with his arms as well. Jason Fowler and Andrew Veyette flawlessly completed the stellar cast.

Interesting point, Violin Concerto, about Klavier seeming much shorter this time. I found the costume improvement significant, but I wonder if Mr. Wheeldon may have made subtle alterations in the choreography too. Probably I'm just a slow learner. But this time one could really see the fit between movement and music, which I'd especially missed with the two BGB triplets. Having caught his musicality this viewing, I can't wait till next season to have a chance to experience the emotional depths that must be there as well.

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I went to Saturday night's mixed program - I went mainly to see Sofiane Sylve's much praised Firebird but enjoyed the entire program.

The evening started with "Fancy Free". Damian Woetzel played the confident sailor who danced the Pas de Deux and the Rhumba solo. He was in terrific shape and had lots of personality. Doesn't work the buns like Jose Manuel Carreno did at ABT (or reportedly Bujones before him) but was all-around terrific with lots of personality. Joaquin de Luz was the short funny sailor with the acrobatic solo and he was funny and manic. He didn't manage the aerial splits too well in his solo but otherwise was quite virtuosic in his turns and spins. Also lots of personality. My favorite, however, was Seth Orza as the sweet, naive, slightly dopey sailor who was the butt of the other two's pranks. He had just the right wide-eyed ingenuousness and eagerness and was so period in look and manner. Amanda Edge had a kind of urban princess hauteur as the girl with the red handbag. Jenifer Ringer has such a wonderful period look - like Jeanne Crain or Gene Tierney in an old 40's movie - and she has natural unforced charm. Neither girl had to use all her dance technique in these parts but they also had dramatic presence and detailed acting. It was a delightful romp and they worked well together.

The second piece was "Songs of the Auvergne" with Darci Kistler in radiant, energetic form. I saw this years ago in a revival with Heather Watts (one of her last roles before retirement). The whole piece seemed more energized and lovelier. Martins seems to respond well to choreographed lyric vocal pieces - I also have enjoyed "Morgen" a great deal. Lucy Schaufer was a smooth, creamy toned vocal soloist and interacted well with the dancers. Darci here or there showed a little weakness in one hip that seems to be damaged (tiny unnoticeable little slips in unimportant places). However her legs and feet were in great shape. She dazzled with a series of very fast whiplash pique turns in one sequence. Her best quality was a kind of radiant lyricism and glowing innocence that was very right for the piece. Philip Neal was a smooth, unobtrusively strong partner in Jock Soto's old role. Seth Orza caught my eye again in a group dance partnering several ballerinas - he is really a fine and versatile dancer. Megan Fairchild had what amounted to a second ballerina role and she has a kind of sparkling fresh clarity about all her movements. Everything she does is sharp and bright and firmly in place and put together with such energy you can't take your eyes off of her. It was a very nice season premiere performance of a piece that might be getting better with age. :)

"Firebird" seemed better lit and the costumes more striking than when I last saw the ballet with Lourdes Lopez. Sofiane Sylve has the kind of prima ballerina presence and physical attack and hauteur that is so essential for this part. The clarity and control of her movements let you know that this is a supernatural creature, a bird of paradise just visiting earth. Jonathan Stafford did well in his physically undemanding role as the Tsarevitch. Rachel Rutherford was lovely to look at as the Tsar-Maiden or Princess. The strength of the NYCB orchestra was displayed in the excellent playing of the score.

I thought it was a very fine evening even though I have seen all these ballets before.

Faux Pas

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I also attended the Sunday matinee. Thank you to Bobbi, ViolinConcerto and drb for expressing my views about “Divertimento No. 15” (and expressing them so beautifully). I think Ashley Bouder is developing into a real ballerina. And what an exciting performer she is! She lit up the stage every time she entered. I found myself watching Ashley even when she wasn’t dancing. I, too, was very concerned about Abby Stafford when I didn’t see her at the end of the ballet, and during the curtain calls. Hopefully, her absence was just precautionary.

I’m not sure what I think about “Klavier”. I need to see it a few more times before I make up my mind. I really didn’t like the Beethoven music, but then I’ve never been a big fan of piano music. I have to admit “Klavier” held my interest (unlike just about all Peter Martins’ ballets). And the final pas de deux for Wendy Whelan and Sebastien

Marcovici and Wendy Whelan was just mesmerizing.

As always, I enjoyed “Fancy Free”. Tyler Angle was very sweet as the second sailor. He really showed a lot of promise. (I probably should know this, but is Tyler Jared Angle’s brother?) Daniel Ulbricht as the first sailor was just perfect – what incredible leaps and energy he has. I was a bit disappointed with Benjamin Millepied as the third sailor. I’m too used to seeing ABT’s Jose Manuel Carreno in the role. To me, Carreno owns the part of the rhumba dancing sailor. I really missed Carreno’s playful sensuality, and sly sense of humor when I saw Millepied dance the role.

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Damian Woetzel played the confident sailor who danced the Pas de Deux and the Rhumba solo. He was in terrific shape and had lots of personality. Doesn't work the buns like Jose Manuel Carreno did at ABT (or reportedly Bujones before him)

My personal favorite pair of buns in that role belonged to the sweet, late Joe Duell.

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Re: Fancy Free, whatever happened to Pascal van Kipnis? She used to be a regular in that red-handbag role. I had to check the NYCB website to confirm that she was still with the company, and apparently she is.

It seems like soloists sometimes fall into a black hole and are never heard from again.

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Did anyone see Romeo and Juliet with Zungre? I didn't seem to read any reviews! Was just curious to read about such a debut!

delayed reply... I thought she was lovely. She smiles a lot (not in a grinning way), which I'm not sure i feel fits, but she did have the swooning and emotional build as the music was growing more emotional. She seemed a cross between Ringer and Borree in approach.


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