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NYCB Spring '06 -- Performances

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Re the new Wheeldon, to a Bartok piano concerto. Rockwell in the Times today sees it as kind of an homage to Tutu and Tiara classicism. Actually, I see it as more complex: the pas de deux is utterly classical, but in the corps de ballet work Wheeldon seems to me to be consciously trying to incorporate non-traditional elements. The girls are frequently presented feet forward, totally turned in. Also the frequent poses where the girls are not only turned in, but bent double with their hands to the floor, presenting their bottoms in the air and the big round tutus towards the audience like large Japanese fans. My take on this is that the choreographer is trying here to explore the incorporation of non classical elements into the classical canon. And given the fact that the work so resembles "Kalaeidoscope" at ABT last fall -- the Bartok concerto is not unlike the Saint Saens from that work, the color scheme and the costumes are also quite similar -- I think Chris was consciously commenting on and working off of that treatment, which was much more traditionally turned out and pretty-pretty.

He is to be praised for this, IMO. It's risky in that it risks non approval -- maybe it won't succeed. Wheeldon until now, though, has played it very safe with the critics and the audience. I'm happy to see him attempting to push the confines of the traditional forward in this way. It's quite interesting and ambitious from that point of view.

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He is to be praised for this, IMO. It's risky in that it risks non approval -- maybe it won't succeed. Wheeldon until now, though, has played it very safe with the critics and the audience. I'm happy to see him attempting to push the confines of the traditional forward in this way. It's quite interesting and ambitious from that point of view.

Michael, it sounds intriguing.

Thanks for the write-up!


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Friday, May 12.


The dreaded program insert, "due to illness and injury, Intermezzo #1 will be performed in place of In the Night." Three couples replaced by three couples, the holdover pair being Rachel Rutherford and Tyler Angle. They were the ones that captured my attention, because they weren't ones they were one. NYCB isn't a company where partnering is the biggest of deals (but where is it?), yet till recently they had one of the legendary couples, Whelan/Soto. What a pleasure to watch Rachel/Tyler: she wasn't lifted, she was billowed. When supported she had such confidence she could freely grace each pose with a completing sigh or swoon. I think part of it was the way Mr. Angle presented himself to his ballerina: a rapt look that seemed to say "let me absorb you", in a way reminiscent of young Nureyev. Presentation of oneself to one's partner (not just to the audience) doesn't seem as valued now. Tyler Angle could build a career on just that. Very beautiful dancing.

The Apprentice

The fascinating Kaitlyn Gilliland danced her 12-minute solo Etoile Polaire in the middle of the second third of the program. Legs Gilliland to go with Legs Reichlen and Legs Kowroski. Certainly there were the strength and flexibility. Stamina, too, but not unexpected as she'd danced in every performance of Nutcracker. I was tranfixed by her always being balanced when off-balance, a la Farrell, always in control dancing out-of-control choreography. All smooth, connected regardless of what body parts twisted or shot out in any conceivable direction while other parts were going elsewhere. Where to go in the standard rep? A Wendy role, the Agon PdD. Suzanne roles, Terpsichore and Queen of the WRENS in Union Jack. As for this solo, it could be a gala showpiece, attention folks who put on Stars of the XXIInd Century!

Maria Kowroski

Maria's wonderful return continued as she danced the Finale of Mr. B's Western Symphony, honored by being partnered by the charismatic Damian Woetzel. She ripped off the Odile turns and was very much her old high-kicking self. Can't wait for her Swan Lake, either version! The First Movement was headed by Jenifer Ringer and Nilas Martins. Kaitlyn was in the corps and I watched her as often as possible. But I had to sneak the occasional peek at beautiful Jenifer and this is one of Nilas's best roles, rather like his Union Jack Costermonger, bringing out his big heart and generous spirit. The Second Movement was headed by the happy and nicely matched pair, Megan Fairchild and Adam Hendrickson.

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Saturday, May 13

More "illness and injury"

On the casting board In the Night was replaced by Intermezzo again. But the program insert replaced that by Mother Goose. Well, at least there was beautiful blogger Kristin "The Winger" Sloan aptly cast as Beauty!

Maria musing

Bigonzetti/Moretti In Vento, Wow! Edwaard Liang's debut, I believe. Since I didn't see Ben Millepied's performance, I can't compare, but certainly Liang danced expressively, hard and very well. More work on the floor than we'd expect at NYCB, but did not have any "Euro-trash", neo-angst look to it. The score is beautiful, and the cello-dominated strings of the orchestra (baton: Paul Hoskins) were outstanding! Derivative score, I suppose. There was a sense of Prokofiev's Romeo & Juliet as Tiler Peck and Liang began their PdD, by which time I realised this was something to see more than once. Then it was time for Maria Kowroski. It seems like everything coming together at just the right time. The choreography stepped up another notch, enough to make one wonder whether Maria was inspiring Bigonzetti. In any case, he brought out new expressive dimensions in her; seemingly from the recent Times article, the very thing she's worked on during her extended interval of recovery. Solo, the famous legs and arms, of course, and partnered by Jason Fowler, always good with her, the music went Bruckner adagio and the dancing went to the heights of depth. Something to see over-and-over-again.... Then a second, searingly songful Bruckner-like theme, still adagio, as Liang came between them.

And so it went. The house roared, and demanded still more curtain calls after the house lights were coming back on. This is a keeper. The other dancers, all of whom mattered intensely, were Saskia Beskow, Maya Collins, Tess Reichlen, Antonio Carmena, Craig Hall, Jonathan Stafford, Sean Suozzi. Credit to the company, for allowing Mauro Bigonzetti this rich talent pool.

Debuts in C

Symphony in C closed the program, with debuts by Sara Mearns (Adagio, partner change from Hanna to Askegard), and Sterling Hyltin (Third movement). It began with Jenifer Ringer (replacing Jennie Somogyi) and Jonathan Stafford. Can't say how they did as Tess Reichlen, partnered with Tyler Angle, were one of the secondary couples. Selfishly, since she must have been created by Balanchine and sent to us as a perfect vessel for his genius, I stayed glued to them and was lost in beauty.

Sara's debut was surely casting against type, as she does not possess a penchee that would come within a couple of feet of Wendy's. But of course that is not the point with Ms. Mearns. Her way with music, that brought an utter newness and glory to her debut in Brahms-S-Q, would suffice. It doesn't always happen the first time (although with her it usually does), and I think that was so here: she hasn't yet found her way with the adagio (some arm movements in the choreography didn't seem in-the-flow). Still, she is very beautiful and was warmly received.

Lyrical Sterling Hyltin dealt with the hyper allegro of the third movement with substantial success, finding moments to let her lyrics flow through her arms and hands. A marked success. Partner Antonio Carmena thrilled the audience with his pyrotechnics.

Abi Stafford (partnered by Arch Higgins) was wonderfully free and open in the finale. A level above last season, a joy to behold.

On the casting board: In next week's Liebeslieder Sebastien Marcovici has been replaced by Tyler Angle. While Sebastien will be missed, this could be a special debut for Tyler Angle, who's had a sensational week.

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drb, thanks for your reivew. I agree with you on Mearns. It was a strong debut, with things to build on. There's something that glows about her, a natural radiance. She had a smooth adagio and sensitivity to music. What I'd like to see from her, in this role if she should get more chances (hope, hope, hope), is that she does a little bit more with the phrases. There's a lot of doing something to the right and then doing it to the left. Doing a move to one side and then to the other. She's got to make it look a little different each time, like a conversation rather than a repeat.

And I'd like to touch upon her Titania in Midsummer (since I never posted about it). Again, her femininity colored her performance. She was slightly tentitive in the first pas de deux (both performances had a Askegard there to provide solid support) - again, I hope she'll get another chance at the part so she can really abondon herself in all those swoops, dives and developees (although she was very beautiful). Mearns really made something out of the "sleeping" scene. All she had to do was stand there and look beautiful, do the short solo of jumps and kicks, and go to sleep. But she was so musical and alive that I snapped to attention. Her pas de deux with Bottom was delightful, especially in the way she related to him. One thing I noticed is her hands. I think she might use her hands better than I've seen a ballerina do in a long time.

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Re: Evenfall - I also think Wheldon very deliberately used the shape of the tutu as an element in the choreography and as almost an extension of the ballerinas’ bodies (in the parts for the corps). He combined the circular shape of the tutu with the dancer’s bodies to create new geometric shapes & lines. Definitely a new definition of a tutu ballet, when the tutu becomes part of the choreography. Also the representation of separation and loss without relying on sentimentality or melodrama was refreshing. I’m not sure if I absolutely loved it or just really liked it, so I must see it again.

Unfortunately that will probably mean seeing the Red Violin again, too. I know exactly how I feel about that one. Martin’s ballets always strike me as way too long. Last season I recall thinking that Tala Gaisma would have been a pretty interesting piece if it were half its actual length. I think I feel the same way about Red Violin. It starts out ok, but then just goes on and on. Other people have mentioned that he doesn’t develop an idea, and that makes sense to me. Unlike everyone else I didn’t really like In Vento, it just seemed really dark and angst ridden to me. But at least it was interesting, even engrossing. Despite wonderful dancing the new Martins put me to sleep.

I also saw Mearns in Midsummer & agree with Dale – she seemed a bit tentative at first but was really lovely in the Lullaby & Bottom scenes. All she needs is a stronger sense of grandeur to be a great Titania

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Somogyi was pretty amazing in the Red Violin though -- I loved how fully she realized the positions, she slightly distorted everything, a little hyperextension here, a little there, a leg, an arm, but the whole look of the poses was never lost: everything was coordinate.

We've got to see the Wheeldon again to judge, I agree. But it did strike me at the time that there was very little punch or content in the central pas de deux, nothing much going on. Now that may have been the point -- but with that unfinished Bartok concerto, and the suggestion of a dying gift to his wife, and the Saranac Lake setting (right out of German Romanticism, the wild heath at night kind of thing) . . . o.k., Damien flies off an leaves Miranda alone and maybe that's Bartok's death if we stretch it. But all the same, if that was true you'd still want some feeling about this imported into the dance, wouldn't you, some connection at some point between the two principal dancers? Damien and Miranda looked like they didn't connect and don't connect and never really have. It's suspiciously reminiscent of the emptiness at the center of An American in Paris. How many good central pas de deuxs has Wheeldon made in his ballets? Except for After the Rain, I can't really remember any.

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I was watching the corps de ballet primarily and that may be why my impression was more positive. At the premiere, the ending with Woetzel's enigmatic exit seemed to miss its timing so I discounted it as something I needed to see again when they had doped it out. Same thing with the pas de deux - Woetzel was on leave last season, it seemed to me he wasn't totally back at top form.

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Did anyone attend Sunday's pre-performance chamber concert by orchestra members? Seems a great idea for orchestra morale. As posted on NYCB's site:


...On four selected Sunday afternoons, May 14, May 28, June 11, and June 25, at 2:30 pm, members of the New York City Ballet Orchestra will perform chamber works for ticket holders on the Promenade prior to the start of the matinee ballet programs. The selections audience members can look forward to follow: May 14: Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Opus 49--a lyrical, graceful work that is one of the composer’s best known works; May 28: Serenade in D Major, Opus 25 by Ludwig van Beethoven--this is Beethoven in his lightest mood, writing for flute, violin and viola; June 11: Ballet Brass--Renaissance brass music will fill your afternoon with bright sound; and on the last day of the season June 25: Beethoven’s Septet in E-flat Major, Opus 20 for Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, Clarinet, Bassoon and French Horn--a masterwork for string and woodwinds from the youthful Beethoven.

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I am late to this thread, also. Unfortunately, my internet access has been spotty, and I have missed a lot of action on this site. But I did see the Saturday May 13 (eve) performance.

I didn't really care for Mother Goose (I have a hard time with a lot of "children's" ballets). However, I was struck by Gwyneth Muller as the Good Fairy. I don't believe I'd seen her dance before, and though it was a small role, she really stood out. I found it strange, however, that her weight seemed way back, particularly noticable when we see her in profile, tendu back. Can anyone more familiar with her dancing comment on this? She was lovely, but her alignment seemed quite unusual.

I enjoyed In Vento-- it is a crowd pleaser, after all. Edward Liang was wonderful. All I could think was, at last! A trip to NYCB where the men look fabulous! Who knew?

I am not sure what to say about the Symphony in C. I actually thought all of the dancers were students, and sat there aghast wondering why they would cast so many SAB students when the company is so large. After the show, of course, I realized that there were no students in the production, and I was embarrassed for the dancers. Many of them look wonderful in other shows, but here they looked awkward in the directional changes and more often than not, their feet were not pointed in the jumps. I will say that by the fourth movement, Abi Stafford was a relief to watch. In general, I was very disappointed, as I had never seen a full, live production of this ballet. I assume the issue was under-rehearsal, and I hope I will see a spectacular Symphony in C next time.

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I am not sure what to say about the Symphony in C. . . . After the show, of course, I realized that there were no students in the production, and I was embarrassed for the dancers. . . . I assume the issue was under-rehearsal, and I hope I will see a spectacular Symphony in C next time.
Underrehearsal is the price we pay for festivals -- so many new ballets to learn or old ones to restage, never enough rehearsal time.

As for the unpointed feet, NYCB is supposed to be a world-class company, and there is no excuse -- lack of rehearsal or anything else -- for lazy feet.

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