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Reviews: Closing Week, Winter Season

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This may have been my final crack at the company this season.

Scenes de Ballet opened the program, danced entirely by students of The School of American Ballet. As described on last week's thread, it is another of those Konservatoriat/Etudes ballets that begins with a demonstration of ballet's most basic elements, then progress to complex patterns and demanding technique. Unfortunately, the choreographer (Wheeldon) and I do not hear the same things in this score, making it quite a challenge for me to relate to (as opposed to rewrite) whole sections of this ballet. In its favor, however, is the delicate issue of how the children are used. They are not exploited for cuteness nor patronized in any way. At all points they are accorded the same respect and dignity as the advanced students who appeared with them. And from the youngest through the most advanced we got professional polish.

The evening closed with an uneven Western Symphony. The men (Nilas Martins, Adam Hendrickson and Charles Askegard) were fine, but Jenifer Ringer (in for Jennie Somogyi with no announcement or insert) played her first entrance a bit too broadly for my taste but soon toned it down. Her energy seemed to flag at moments. Sara Mearns (black shoes covered in white rosin :D ) leading the Fourth Movement. also seemed a bit short on stamina. Megan Fairchild (Second Movement) came closest to the mark.

The night's highlight came in Tala Gaisma, the middle ballet and the one --as a ballet -- I liked least. Sofiane Sylve and Miranda Weese reprised the roles they originated last spring with complete conviction. Sebastien Marcovici gamely met the tricky partnering challenges of Jock Soto's role, but it was Darci Kistler's ballet. She danced with abandon and security and seemed lit from within. Yes, it was Darci's ballet. (I just wish it had been a better ballet.) It was Darci's night.

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'Twas Darci's night indeed. Sylve & Weese (wow, does Weese look good in a leotard!) are absolutely gorgeous in this ballet but there's such an extra delight in seeing Darci dance so well & so freely. Some high, beautiful extensions, too, so she must be in good health.

Marcovici seems to be having a wonderful season, too. I like him more every time out this season. Wasn't previously a fan.

I agree about the Western, which I had seen Saturday with the same cast, except Somogyi in the first movement. Somogyi was cautious; Ringer looked uncomfortable. Mearns had been much better Saturday (with far less resin), sassy & joyous. Tonight she seemed really really tired. Fairchild was better tonight than Sat, lovely bourees & a sweet interpretation.

Scenes de ballet assured us that the future will be bright. Some really special kids.

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Thursday 2/23/06

Interesting, well-contrasted programme. It seems to be inevitable: the larger the audience the less applause the dancers receive. Tonight's very substantial crowd were very stingy during the bows.

FRIANDISES was again exciting; Peck & Ulbricht were superb in their daring pyrotechnics. The adagio section is most impressive and casts a spell.

Yvonne Borree & Sebastien Marcovici gave a beautifully expressive ROMEO & JULIET.

For the last several seasons, SONATAS & INTERLUDES has been a vehicle for Jock Soto, dancing with either Weese or Kowroski. I wondered how the ballet would look with other dancers, and I must say it looks refreshingly "new". I imagine Mr. Tanner taught the ballet to Sara Mearns & William Lin-Yee directly; maybe he made some modifications. The piece seemed lighter & more multi-faceted. Jock, in the past few revivals, was quite earthy and almost stolid. William showed some very defined footwork that I don't recall from Jock's interpretation, as well as a spacious feeling in the broader passages. Both he and Sara maintained the aloof facial expressions the piece calls for. Sara displayed great control & line, and they brought off the partnering with assured coolness. Really impressive job from these two charismatic young dancers.

I love BRAHMS-SCHOENBERG QUARTET and tonight it was beautifully danced by all involved; I regretted Bouder's absence until Jennie Somogyi made me forget about it with her luxuriant dancing, astutely partnered by Philip Neal. Philip's solo passage was very fine. Miranda Weese was magnificent, her turns and balances all spot-on, while she swooned gorgeously. Albert Evans, beautiful dancer & partner that he is, was an ideal cavalier for her. Gwyneth Muller was lovely, along with Beskow & Lowery...they are so much more than mere back-up dancers. A similarly beautiful trio (Edge, Riggins & Walker) graced the 3rd movement. Borree was lovely here, and Benjamin Millepied partnered her well and gave a flash of bravura to his solo passages. But somehow he bloodied his knee, a bright red splotch on his tights. Hope it wasn't serious! Sylve and Askegard then brought the evening to a close with their breezy fireworks: grand-scale, sexy dancers. I've saved the best for last: Reichlen in the seconda donna role of the first movement. Captivating! Extension, line, turns, balance all delivered with a hypnotic sense of the dance flowing thru time. Hard to explain, but it is a sort of "wafting" quality that Reichlen revels in. I would be tempted to say this was her finest performance to date. But then there was that Dewdrop...

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Friday 02/24/06

"You gotta go Friday night, there's two Farrells!"

That was the frequent happy cry at the State Theater in the 70's.

Tonight's version was "You gotta go Friday night, there's two Reichlens, two Sylves, and two Whelans!"

First was "After the Rain", a you-gotta-go all in itself. Whelan/Hall, Sylve/Ramasar, Reichlen/Fowler.

Part I for three couples to Arvo Part's relatively neo-classical first movement from "Tabula Rasa" found Tess Reichlen in Maria Kowroski's role. Very much a Balanchine dancer flung in our midst ex-nihilo from the glory days. That combination of daring and freedom melding with Tess's wonderfully expressive arms. La Sylve passed midnight (her 12 O'Clock is definitely midnight) to 1 A.M. a couple of times, and it was right because this hyper intelligent dancer can do no wrong. Toward the end we were graced by Tess's grand jete. Then, as the two couples exited to leave the stage alone for Wendy and Craig to begin Part II, each woman repeatedly touches her partner's hand. La Sylve's the firm grasp of a strong woman; Tess's a butterfly liting on his palm. Vive la difference!

There was rightly concern for what would happen when Jock Soto left this role of a lifetime. Yet those men who have followed have risen to the occasion. Perhaps a role of a lifetime is the reason. Part II, Arvo Part now into his pure-beauty mode, began with Craig Hall looking as though he were in a higher world, "in the zone" or however one might describe it. He held this profoundly serene state of adoration throughout. This was magnificent dancing. As for Wendy, this is a role of Grace, so far the Everest of a Choreographer/Muse marriage unlike any since Ashton/Fonteyn, before my time, and Balanchine/Farrell, during my time. Who knows what peaks await, after my time. But just now, anything I could say would demean it. If you would make a trip to see Vishneva in Giselle, then it would be wise to make a similar effort to see this.

Second a pair of Robbins works. Wendy was back, as the Novice in "The Cage." It worked, following Wheeldon's Odette with Robbins' Odile. Rebecca Krohn clearly relished her role as Spider Woman, and poor Adam Hendrickson didn't stand a chance as the practice victim. Sebastien Marcovici was a very Bolshoi victim #2, but even the wooing of Vasiliev couldn't have stopped this Novice Odile from doing her sisterly duty. Wendy was simultaneously virtuosic and terrifying.

The next short Robbins was Concertino, bringing back Sylve, Fowler(the more neoclassical dance), and Ramasar(the more Faun-like dance). All excelled, with La Sylve's pyrotechnics amazing, and a simple flick of each hand at the end a lesson in dancing in itself.

The program ended with Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet.

Allegro: Cast as last night. Jennie Somogyi showed a freedom to play with the Sylph-like nature of the woman who is partnered (maturity is wearing very well on Philip Neal) which bodes very well for the future. She looks all the way back, and already exploring where to go. Tess Reichlen was the unpartnered ballerina, and I can only echo the review above. The orchestra "sounded" rushed at times, but I don't think it was the tempo, since the dancers had plenty of breathing time.

Intermezzo: All went well with Jenifer Ringer and Nilas Martins in the Intermezzo. Such a beautiful ballerina.

Andante: Yvonne Borree, reviewed above in Thursday's performance, had a new partner, Nikolaj Hubbe. They partnered well and happily in the lyric sections, while Hubbe negotiated the central "military" solo with aplomb. But the big thing was the Peter Martins charisma he brought to the role.

Rondo alla Zingarese: The Gypsy movement is much about tempi, and the orchestra did seem to get this right ('though, intonation?). Sara Mearns was a revelation, and an inspiration to partner Charles Askegard, who danced brilliantly, as if a young man in love. And no wonder. Ms. Mearns is, of course, a beauty. But, oh can she dance those swerving changes of tempi!

Another very full house, but plenty of shouts along with lots of applause.

You gotta go Friday night, there's one Mearns!

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It's quite special how many different interpretations the "After the Rain" pas de deux can support. Jock & Wendy as a single unit; Marcovici & Wendy as a partnership & Craig Hall & Wendy as a romance.

There was an eroticism in last night's performance that I hadn't seen with the other men. Hall never took his eyes off Wendy unless he had his back to her. The tenderness with which he partnered her was an electric tenderness. And what arms & hands the man has! & a gorgeous back. Let's see him in Melancholic, Square Dance, Orpheus.

Whelan never ceases to amaze. In The Cage (I've seen her do it more than a dozen times) she is still finding & pointing out new elements. The clarity of the steps is so fine but always a part of the whole. What a treasure!

Were the costumes in Concertino always the drab light grey for the men & pale grey for the woman? I seem to remember yellow. It's a yellow ballet, perhaps that's why I want yellow costumes. The grey is drab. The ballet isn't. & certainly not with this cast.

Reichlen stole the first movement of B/S entirely. Somogyi is wonderful but still cautious. Who can blame her? Neal partnered her well but the finishes of all but one of his turns were smudged to sloppy.

Second movement was nice but not more than that.

So great to see Hubbe back onstage in 3rd movement. He's maybe a tad out of shape but so elegant, so romantic, such a great partner. Borree seems to relax, for a change, when partnere by Hubbe.

And then ... drb is bang on. Mearns tore up the stage. Even when she was visibly tiring toward the end she muscled it out & didn't miss a beat. Askegard is wonderful with her & wonderful in this sort of role. He looks mighty skinny to me, though, which one would think would make his turns even more difficult, raising his already high center of gravity. But he danced it very, very well.

A special night at CB.

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These reviews of Friday night make great reading and I don't disagree with anything. But I found the rondo in Brahms-Schoenberg totally lacking in schmaltz, both in the orchestra and the dancing. Some might consider that a good thing, but I missed the schmaltz.

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....  But I found the rondo in Brahms-Schoenberg totally lacking in schmaltz, both in the orchestra and the dancing.  Some might consider that a good thing, but I missed the schmaltz.  

Of course you are right, Farrell Fan, but when the schmaltz isn't in the ear, it is hard to be in the eye--it is, after all, Balanchine. I really think something was amiss in the orchestra last night.

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I'm not sure anyone was "comparing" the couples. I certainly wasn't or wouldn't, but it was quite a successful debut for Mearns, and the schmaltz will come. Just getting through it would have satisfied me, but she did far more than that. And she was fun!

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Saturday 2/25/06 matinee

FRIANDISES was again very well danced, Peck & Ulbricht really pulled off some amazing combinations. The eighteen dancers who form the corps of this ballet do things that keep interest running high when the leading couple are offstage. The triple adagio was again a highlight; the music for this segment reminds me a little of Satie.

The question of what City Ballet will be like in the post-Soto era was answered resoundingly today when Craig Hall and Sebastien Marcovici appeared in roles closely associated with Jock. I was a big Soto fan, but I do think in the last few seasons of his career his actual dancing (as opposed to partnering) had a faded quality; he sometimes seemed to gloss over things. Craig Hall in his debut in THE CAGE (and earlier this week, Wm. Lin-Yee in SONATAS & INTERLUDES) showed us some of the pure dance aspects of these ballets that seemed to have somewhat evaporated during Soto's final seasons. Hall has an incredible physique, and a handsome, expressive face. His partnering was immaculate. Somogyi cannot disguise her classic technique in this edgy role, and that's fine with me. I thought they were wonderful together. And Rebecca Krohn as a striking Queen and Adam Hendrickson as the pale, hapless first victim added much to an excellent performance.

Marcovici's partnering in AFTER THE RAIN can stand proudly beside memories of Jock; Sebastien has carried the Company thru this season, in my estimation. So many roles were given to him; it seemed like every week he was debuting something new. With Hanna & Jared Angle absent and Hubbe not doing much, Sebastien has had an incredible work load. And he brought it all off, looking assured in every new role and with every woman he partnered. Today I thought Wendy and he seemed in perfect harmony; they look great together. And Wendy is so pretty with her hair down. Over time, we may have gotten used to the things this amazing woman can do; today she reminded us anew. Wonderful pas de deux which seemed to enthrall the audience. In the opening section Sylve & Amar Ramasar and Reichlen & Jason Fowler all looked wonderful. The featured musicians played the Part scores magnificently, with a special bouquet to Jean Ingraham who, with pianist Cameron Grant, sustained the ethereal quality of the long adagio, Spiegel im Spiegel.

SYMPHONY IN C opened with the lyrical Jenifer Ringer partnered by Jon Stafford, who looked great & pulled off a neat triple air turn. Jon's had a very strong season and deserves all the opportunities that come his way. Sylve's adagio tonight was miraculous, everything gloriously sustained; her remarkable balance with the leg extended on high was breath-taking. She and Askegard were about as perfect as one could wish. Fairchild & de Luz nailed the Allegro, full of charm and beautifully matched in the passages that carry them across the stage in unison. Joaquin's solo passage drew a wave of applause. Abi Stafford danced beautifully and she seemed so happy to be there, and to be dancing with Albert Evans.

Andrea Quinn conducted the entire programme and the orchestra - we tend to take them for granted - played very well.

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Wow, Oberon, that's the kind of show I wish I could have seen!

So happy to see Craig Hall getting some opportunities and carrying them off with aplomb. He seems sometimes to be an afterthought to NYCB management.

I'm a great fan of Craig, and I hope to see him get a chance at many new roles.

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You would have been happy this weekend, Kay. It was a barechested, double-barrelled triumph for Craig Hall -- on Friday night in "After the Rain" and on Sunday afternoon in "The Cage." At intermission on Friday night, an acquaintance claimed to have been distracted by his chest tattoo, but her vision must be a lot better than mine.

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I was in 3rd row, and didn't notice the tattoo. I thought Wendy's adagio in Symphony in C was beautiful; I would have loved to compare Sylve in same. Nilas Martins seemed to be off, and J Ringer seemed to be "on". I thought the choreography in "Octet" was rather uninspired, but De Luz and Stafford seemed to be having a wonderful time.

Comments from someone who attends sporadically, and if lived closer would attend much more.

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I, too have been so glad to see Craig Hall cast more this season. I was very disappointed knowing that I would miss his debut in After the Rain. I saw it again at the Saturday matinee with Marcovici and am convinced that it's the best ballet I've seen since Balanchine (my favorite anyway!). Too bad it's not in the rep next season. Every single person in the cast was just perfect in this - each of the 6 dancers was amazing in their own right, but during the first section you never had the sensation of not knowing where to look first - it was all perfectly harmonious. The musicians were also exceptional. I think this is one of those all too rare occasions when a great choreographer was inspired by great artists and great music. It was perfection.

Hall was mesmerizing in The Cage on Saturday afternoon - he is so striking yet so understated, never upstaging the flow of the drama. I was sitting 1st row center in the 2nd ring and did not notice a taboo on his chest, and let me assure you I spent plenty of time staring at his chest! Somogyi was very good as the Novice, but nobody can compete with Wendy in that role. I've also been happy to see Rebecca Krohn getting some featured roles this season - she was great as the Queen, with wonderful presence. Perhaps another "tall girl" in the making? Around the middle of The Cage it occurred to me that I was also going to see The Lesson that evening - an unfortunate coincidence in programming that I will make sure never to repeat!

My season ended with Saturday afternoon's Bizet, a brilliant image to keep with me till next season. I loved every minute of it. Sylve's adagio is very different from Whalen's. As other posters have mentioned there is a real sculptural quality to her movements, and a magisterial air. It was a great close to a great season.

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The tattoo is on his right nipple area and looks like a sunburst

or multi-pointed star. I noticed it from the 4th Ring Friday night,

but couldn't make it out until Sat from the 1st row orchestra.

I was lucky enough to see both Hall and Marcovici in both Cage and

After the Rain. I'll never forget Soto in After the Rain, but they both are

excellent successors as was Wendy's responsiveness with her new


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I noticed Craig Hall's tattoo a long time ago. Doesn't bother me at all, and besides it is usually covered. Sebastien's tear-drop is nice, though usually concealed by make-up.

Perhaps someone can refresh my memory on what seems to me to be the pertinent Kirstein quote here, Balanchine's response to a mother who wished preferment for her child -- 'dance is a moral question.' To my old-fashioned way of thinking, any lazy soul can get a tattoo and "express" himself. I don't pay to see bumperstickers. I do pay to see dance expression, the fruit of dedication and perserverance.

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The "notorious" tattoo may be seen in NYCB's photo set for their Workout #2 dvd:


Of more artistic interest is the set of photos they give of the dvd's dancers dancing, which not only includes fine photographs of Mr. Hall, but also includes photos of since-departed favorites Ansanelli, Ash, Korbes and McBrearty:


Click on photographs to enlarge.

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