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NYCB Spring 2006 -- Performances

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Balanchine met Brahms twice tonight, bringing some special pleasures to the audience, not least of which was eight -- count 'em -- eight principal couples, plus a soloist and three demis.

Liebeslieder Walzer opened the program. The cast was Darci Kistler and Charles Askegard, Kyra Nichols and Nilas Martins, Wendy Whelan and Nikolaj Hubbe, and Miranda Weese with Tyler Angle. With so experienced a cast, the performance was marked by subtle emotional shifts. Kistler is still able to give the ingenue role a sweet, sunny youthfulness. Weese danced with European lushness that, in a less well balanced cast, might have stolen the ballet for me. Nichols, looking less self conscious than usual, has lost the flexibility in her upper back that is necessary to the bends that circle under Martins' arm. Perhaps a small adjustment to their blocking can make this less evident.

The Brahms-Shoenberg Quartet was less successful. The first movement was led by Jennie Somogyi, Stephen Hanna and Ellen Bar. Bar is terrific here -- her feet work the floor with the same sensuousness that runs through her body. It was a joy to see Somogyi jump -- in both directions, landing on each foot! -- even if she took those jumps tentatively. Hanna looked a tad sluggish. The Intermezzo was led by Jenifer Ringer and Albert Evans. Evans was a secure partner, but hardly seemless. Ringer has made this -- one of her first solo roles -- her own. The three corps women failed to make much of an impression. They should. Yvonne Boree and Andrew Veyette led a lackluster Third Movement. Veyette can -- and will, I am sure -- give cleaner readings of this. Whelan (subbing for Sofiane Sylve) and Damian Woetzel's Rondo wasn't lacking anything I can put my finger on, but I neither can I erase memories of the steam Monique Meunier and Woetzel generated in these roles. No one who's done it since has satisfied me.

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Balanchine met Brahms twice tonight...

I was there too. Liebeslieder Walzer, so beautiful, danced well by all, but especially by Kyra Nichols. She's the real thing. While the others were having a great time, performing/acting, Kyra seemed to *be* the role. She truly is the music. Actually, Kyra's beyond brilliant musicality and phrasing at this point in her career. Kyra's loving every minute of her present world it seems, and it reveals itself through her dancing of Liebeslieder. In this ballet, she's the half of what looks like a happily married couple with Nilas Martins who partnered superbly. This is not a marriage that has gone stale or showy in its successes. Its loving runs deeply decent and sincere while also being playful. Nilas is Kyra's generous anchor. She is warm, feminine, mature, filled with joy. Not a garish bone in Kyra's body. Nor is she over baked which I thought a couple of dancers last night were...a bit.

It was also a special debut night for Tyler Angle in Liebeslieder replacing Marcovici at pretty near last minute. If there was ever a perfect role for Tyler!! Elegant, handsome, romantic. A young prince with a strong, lean, muscular build, and refined technique. I'm already looking forward to seeing Tyler again in this role, in a couple of years, when he can relax and enjoy himself more. This is complex, finely detailed choreography, and Tyler handled it all in perfect style. My best compliment, he belongs there.

Brahms-Shoenberg Quartet was conducted as if overtime was soon approaching. First and Second movements were extremely rushed nearly ruining the gorgeous swoopiness of the romantic music and choreography. The Intermezzo, led by Jenifer Ringer and Albert Evans was the highlight though the fast tempi made it look uncomfortable and rocky. Yvonne Borree and Andrew Veyette in the Third Movement were completely mismatched. Veyette is technically strong, but unpolished in his stage presence. He is a rough, raw talent who easily throws himself into difficult jumps and turns. He's tall, and a competent partner. Borree does not belong in this lush, romantic ballet. She is pretty, but stiff at best.

While I wanted to see Sofiane Sylve in the Fourth Movement Rondo, I welcomed the chance to see Wendy Whelan in a role I've not seen her dance for quite awhile. She and Daiman Woetzel have a great partnership, and they were such fun camping and sexing it up.... but overall it was pretty weak on Wendy's part in the technical areas. She's not muscular enough these days for that sort of demanding role. Damian however remains in fabulous form.

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Romantic Era night at the ballet last night...........I thought it was a lovely program...lots of schlag, elaborate tracery in the designs and choreography, moonlight and flowers.....but a strong and beautiful foundation for the garden.

Liebeslieder was perfectly cast: a core of experienced women, each with her own distinctive stamp, and the men interesting in their own right, not just partners and foils for the glorious ballgowns. Tyler Angle was given a debut as an ardent and immensely attractive escort for the lush Miranda Weese of the magnolia skin; the power of his line and presence played against her older, more experienced allure .....very intriguing!

Kyra Nichols is always beautifully expressive with her arms and upper body; her portrayal was not that of a young woman, but it doesn't need to be. This ballet is about love, and not necessarily youth: certainly something of which Brahms was deeply aware. I was less happy with casting of Kistler in the "young woman" role as delighted clasping of the hands sat rather incongruously on her at this point in her career....her dancing was lovely, but this role needs a less studied touch.

Wendy Whelan was, as always, interesting and exciting....she did take it a bit easier than she has in the past, but then she had another demanding role ahead of her that night, so her sketch of some of the steps was forgiveable. Wendy at 80% is still 200% more interesting than just about anyone else.

Ellen Bar in Brahms-Schoenberg is outstanding---would that they would give her more performances. She is sometimes just a bit over the top, but a little drama is quite understandable in a Brahms ballet....it's not just about technique, and a bit of personality is needed here. Jennie Somogyi is working on expressing her lyrical side after her injury, and I hope she continues to explore the more lyrical side of her personality. Stephen Hanna is very, very talented, but he must have had his mind or body on something else...he certainly didn't seem invested in his dancing.

Yvonne Boree and Andrew Veyette were increasingly relaxed as their Third Movement progressed--a good thing for both these dancers. I have always though Boree completely miscast in this, but as she keeps appearing, it was nice to see her stop shaking momentarily. Veyette performs his variation cleanly and while there aren't fireworks, perhaps with time....it's exciting enough to pair thrilling music with crisp and beautiful line: there aren't many male entrances that match this for drama!

It was nice to see some new faces in the corps--a beautiful introduction for them and for us. The choreography for the women in this movement is evocative of nothing so much as flowers unfolding in the spring.... the lush peach layers of their costumes wafting as they bent and swayed, bending backwards and forwards in a lovely echo of the billowing skirts, dip and swirl of Liebeslieder Waltzer.

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I echo kfw's thanks. Many of us now reside in other parts of the country but are familiar with the older NYCB rep. That's why we love to read such thoughtful accounts of performances today.

We've seen these ballets -- often numerous times. And we've seen many of these dancers in other roles (in my case Nichols, Whelan, Kistler, Weese, Evans, Woetzel, but not the younger dancers). You help us to put them together in our imaginations. :clapping:

Please, NYCB fans, consider your reviews a public service to the rest of us!

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Wait, I'm confused, Juliet. Did Kistler do the Adams role (the whispering diagonal) or the Jillana role (low bun, single flower?) that Weese generally does?

The reason I ask is that I've always assumed that the Jillana role is the "young" one, and the Adams role is mature. But didn't Farrell also do the Adams role - which may be why you think of it as the young one? I'm trying to recall who I saw first in the part - I know I've seen Kowroski and Kistler do it.

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Kistler did the same role Farrell did, which, with its giddiness, to me suggests a very young woman. Weese did the role with the grands battements puntuated with the pique (I know there's another term for that movement, with the front-to back sweep, but I forget it), a worldly character, IMO.

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"I've always assumed that the Jillana role is the "young" one, and the Adams role is mature"

Well, perhaps when Weese performed it years ago, but last night it definitely had a mysterious, experienced aura.....

Kistler was also mature, but the rapturous clasping of the hands (she does it twice) had a shivery, squealy bobby-soxer quality to it that I found disconcerting, to say the least.

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Wednesday, May 17

Watching Mearns Grow

Tonight's program concluded with B-SQ's Rondo alla Zingarese. Sara Mearns had quite a success in her role debut last February, with a performance in which she played beautifully with Brahms's tempo changes. The orchestra was having a bad night then. Tonight it played far better, Maurice Kaplow guaging the tempi just right for the dancers in each movement. This time Sara's partner was Amar Ramasar, whose technical dancing is up at least a notch from last season, with no loss in charisma. They clicked. Sara built on her magical way with tempi changes, adding more relating with partner and others on stage. She also used her eyes most effectively, reminiscent of those sly secret glances Suzanne Farrell would shoot to only you, something special between balletomane and her/his Casta Diva. Among current dancers, Maria K is adept at this, and Tess Reichlen is catching on. Ms. Mearns's special gift for phrasing was also given full reign in the just-right musical ocean supplied by Mr. Kaplow. She can shape a note in such a way that I can only liken to pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (my non-ballet addiction). Because of his control of what were to become his dvd's, you can see how he got such swell and color in a single note. I don't know Sara's secret, but I could watch her do it forever and blissfully remain ignorant. I think tonight's success also helps me understand what was lacking in last week's (still beautiful) Symphony in C Adagio. Time. It just has to be played slower. Give her room within time and she will stop time.

Most of the casting was the same as reviewed earlier, but all may have benefitted from Mr. Kaplow's consideration. Prima Balanchina Tess Reichlen opened B-SQ, Allegro, with her customary amplitude and style, setting the stage for Nichols/Askegard. She seemed free and technically in form. And how does he, so many years after his liberation from ABT, stay on form and continue to enjoy himself? Tall ballerinas, be thankful. In Intermezzo, Ringer/Martins, she was really "on her leg." Her turns were on a dime, and her allegro had the grace of adagio. I can see why this is among her most special roles. Borree/Veyette reprised their perfomance of the Andante. The "martial" section worked musically and was successful for both dancers. She looked pleased with her variation from stage left to right, and he showed some ballon and his double tours en l'air clicked.

M and M

Albert Evans supplied continuity between M (with Teresa Reichlen), and and M (with Rebecca Krohn). While Tess's solo was technically sound, it was not yet spritually complete. But the PdD that leads up to the end of Monumentum Pro Gesualdo was already magnificent. Of course credit to Evans's throws, but has anyone ever looked better during throw-through-catch? She may not have had to propel herself, but these throws were danced. Brava! It was also a fine, consistently realised, performance of Movements for Piano and Orchestra by Rebecca Krohn. One advantage of splitting the female roles is that both worthy dancers could dance. Each made me want to see her in the other half. In an ideal world, I'd like to cast them once more this way, then reverse roles for a couple of additional performances. Then let each have a turn at dancing it whole. I think that dancing the first part sets up the audience to see the ballerina in the second part, gives her more instant visibility, focussing the eye on her choreography more quickly. In any event, the two, and Albert Evans, seemed to revitalise this ballet. Maurice Kaplow didn't hurt!

In Vento

What a ballet! While I've only seen Edwaard Liang do it, after two viewings I can't imagine that this is not really great dancing. Facial expression is important here, and Mr. Liang is wonderfully expressive in this regard. He can convey emotion without emoting. Early on in his first solo he turned in an absolutely beautiful spin, and overall was technically and emotionally astounding. It must be a career role, and is a performance to remember forever. Bigonzetti makes significant use of the corps throughout. Lighting is often used to bring the corps in or out of attention. Lighting and all colors are toward the warm side of the spectrum, which adds bearability and humanity to the mysterious often plaintive emotion of the ballet. There was an unannounced corps change, but I don't have the eye to identify the new dancer. A conductor change too: tonight's was David Briskin.

But for me the heart of this ballet is the PdD for Kowroski and Fowler. It is very impressive choreographically, very much relating to the deep adagio composed by Bruno Moretti--nothing at all note-by-note, spiritually totally in synch with the score--full of invention. At one moment, Maria stands facing us, left arm and shoulder disharmoniously higher than her right side. He grazes her arm with the side of his face. Harmony restored. A lot of intricate tangles/untangles yet never as tricks. As this duet nears conclusion the reentrance of Liang beneath their arms, as a stunningly beautiful new adagio theme begins, is a coup de theatre. The serene finale with the corps simply lined across the stage brings the audience to a cheering frenzy. I think this very modern ballet fits in NYCB as a kind of grand nephew of Agon. It is worthy of its dedication to Balanchine.

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I'm already looking forward to seeing Tyler again in this role, in a couple of years, when he can relax and enjoy himself more.

And when he looks a little more grown up. Tyler looked like a schoolboy in love with his baby sitter, and Miranda like his babysitter joking with him.

Re Bar as the soloist in Brahms 1st Movement: She is superb at this, but I wish they would cast her in more lyrical roles occasionally, something which would allow her to show her interpretive side. She has this "Still Waters Run Deep" interpretation quality that is amazing but that the casting refuses to show us year after year. Instead, they give her "hard sell" material. Now she's become superb at this -- But the most deeply moving side of Ellen Bar is the other thing. A strong adagio dancer too, why not let us see her partnered and presented more? She has Third Movement Brahms first ballerina in her for example.

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And when he looks a little more grown up. Tyler looked like a schoolboy in love with his baby sitter, and Miranda like his babysitter joking with him.

Well, think Brahms (1833) and Clara Schumann (1819). Not the kind of love teenaged student Brahms was unfamiliar with...

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I'm already looking forward to seeing Tyler again in this role, in a couple of years, when he can relax and enjoy himself more.

And when he looks a little more grown up. Tyler looked like a schoolboy in love with his baby sitter, and Miranda like his babysitter joking with him.

I agree re Tyler being the young lover... though I didn't see much joking from Miranda. She seemed somewhat stern having to dance with the new kid who could mess up the partnering all too easily, but thankfully didn't.

I thought Kistler in Liebeslieder now looks like a woman with money, who purchased her younger lover and/or escort for the evening event. There was no love there...

Last night, Tess Reichlen looked a bit tired, dancing in every ballet, and I don't mean corps parts. I'm already looking forward to seeing Tess in Monumentum again this weekend. She's on the right track. Lyrical, beautiful, graceful, spiritual, and yet capable of the quirky off balance moves I wasn't yet expecting until she was more comfortable in this ballet. In Brahms First Movement, a fairly new role for her, Tess was a gorgeous compliment to the music and technique required. Her grand (huge) jetes, full of air with those long, long leggy lines... the flowing balances in arabesques that only the music interrupts. Oh my, how effortless they all look on Tess! Amazing talent, that girl.

Thought Kyra last night in First Movement Brahms was not in the best form, looking a bit too old and out of shape for a part that technical. But her musicality, her expressive arms, her womanly joy were lovely to see again.

Jenifer Ringer was better than ever in the Second Movement. She is a youthful Liz Taylor on pointe with lots of lush, sensual style and sparkling quality to her interpretation along with solid, strong turns, jumps, lifts that sweep this way and that with Nilas partnering, turns that lead into other turns with little preparation. Just wonderful, this choreography, never losing the romance. Ringer looks totally in love with this role, and it loves her.

I also enjoyed Mearns in the Fourth Movement of Brahms though she has a long way to go. Mearns does bring a glamorously beautiful face and fresh quality to everything she dances. Ramasar was selling it as hard as he could as her partner, but the necessary bravura technique was barely there for him.

Millipied's performance in In Vento, the other night, was some of the finest dancing I have ever seen from him. Like an animal let out of a cage. I didn't care as much for the ballet last night though everyone danced well... especially Tyler Peck, plus the music was as divine as I first heard it. Last night, In Vento started reminding me too much of Agon, and Cage and Forsythe.... And haven't those William Ivy Long-like outfits for the ladies been done enough yet?!

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Jenifer Ringer looks to be dancing as well right now as she has in a very long time -- Bizet 1st movement and Brahms 2d were very strong in the last ten days. Both of them were danced "big," and with physical ease too. In Brahms the steps when she's lifted and does these big rondes de jambes beats from the knee with the working leg -- lightening fast, strong and easy -- all that read so legibly, just like it should look. She also appears consistently happy to be on stage at the moment and I didn't think that was true during the winter at times. She's carrying her performances right now in a way independent of her partners, the way a principal dancer does, she's the one responsible for making the ballets work.

Albert Evans is all wrong for Brahms 2d movement. He can dance it physically, has the strength, confidence, etc., but he has a very unclassical body and the costume in 2d movement (kind of an 1830 Louis Phillipe frock coat that leaves the bottom exposed and does something unflattering to the line of the legs in a short and bulky-legged guy, and shoulders too) emphasizes everything unclassical about him and makes those things even more extreme. (Nilas too looks really bad in that particular costume -- the company needs another type here, perhaps Veyette could do this if he can handle the tricky partnering, at least he'd look good in the costume). But then, this was Fayette's role and he didn't look so great in that costume either.

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Jenifer Ringer looks to be dancing as well right now as she has in a very long time -- Bizet 1st movement and Brahms 2d were very strong in the last ten days. She's carrying her performances right now in a way independent of her partners, the way a principal dancer does, she's the one responsible for making the ballets work.

It's really much more of a team effort when there is partnering involved. If the conducting is too fast, and the partner is not that sure and strong, then there isn't much Jenifer could have done to make 2nd movement work on her own. Such was the case last Tuesday. It was a struggle nearly the entire time. Jenifer returned back to her gorgeous self on Wednesday because she had a seasoned partner, Nilas, and the conducting was sane. It drives me absolutely bonkers when conducters ruin a ballet because their heads are down in the pit totally unaware of the damage being caused, when they should have been to rehearsals to secure the tempi.

I agree with you that the costume for the male in 2nd movement hasn't looked very flattering on any of the guys in a long time. It really needs a tallish, handsome guy with long legs and a smallish behind... It's also such a drab gray color... so the guy needs to be strikingly handsome.... Can we borrow Hallberg this weekend???!!!

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Yes, it was even better tonight than on Tuesday.....Kistler toned down the girlishness so it read as exuberance, Nichols was simply lovely, Weese relaxed a bit more, and Whelan could give her all without knowing that she still had Brahms-Schoenberg ahead of her.....

Barocco was a bit flat to begin with, but the third movement was notable for beautiful crisp corps work....

American in Paris is still rather silly (and I very much dislike the ending), but significant highlights were Melissa Barak looking stunning in her auburn curls and drop-dead gorgeous acting and dancing (she is a notable lady of the evening, for those who have not seen it...) and Sara Mearns in the beatnik role. She dispensed with the blue eyeshadow, worked that red beret, and absolutely beamed Personality!

Wow. I hadn't planned to stay for this, but am very happy that I did so......Adrienne Lobel's sets have grown on me, although I still dislike those scrims and there is still too much going on with lots of little groups of different dancers.....but it was clever and enjoyable programming tonight.....

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Yeah, that lushness that carbro mentioned, I see it as contralto too. Spinto soprano, humm, I'll have to think about that one, I'm not sure the company has one right now. Then again, how often does their rep. call for one.

Juliet, I agree American in Paris silly, but I too am glad I stayed tonight because Jennifer Ringer has to be counted one of the great stage beauties, and such beautiful dancing, too. She and Woetzel look good together.

Speaking of beauties in silly ballets, totally by chance as I type this Zorina is dancing Balanchine in "Goldwyn Follies" on TCM.

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So happy to have seen Kowroski in Barocco last night - Those effortless extensions

and sharpness without appearing mechanical. Evans makes her look weightless.

Stafford is a fine "Second Fiddle", engaging both the corps and Kowroski.

I always think I like the first part of Liebeslieder more until I see the second part.

Then I want to see the whole thing over again. It's almost too much to take in

at one sitting - too gorgeous for words. I love this cast.

American in Paris was a real crowd pleaser...Sara was kookie in her red beret -

was it just last year we saw Carla Korbes originate this role? I wish they would

get rid of that scrim - you can't see what's going on. Or is it my eyesight that is failing.....

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Saturday evening, May 20

Wrong reversal for right reason

Evenfall became the closer (which Leigh Witchel considers its natural place in the rep), changing places with Liebeslieder. The Red Violin remained the hole in the center of the doughnut, holding back the start of Evenfall to 10:20 PM, normally exit time at City Ballet. As people entered one could overhear grumbling about the change. At 10:20 it was clear why: nearly everyone stayed, they wanted to see Wheeldon's controversial new ballet.


Yes, it is a work of phenominal invention, extending and enriching classical choreography for yet another century. The classical tutu transformed from a disc to fly on to a circle to symbolise and pattern with: a semiotic extender for ballet-speak. It is possible that Evenfall will become a seminal work, an icon of the art. But unlike some breakthrough works, Apollo and Serenade for example, it is not yet a great ballet, because there is a hole in its center. The Pas de Deux for Weese and Woetzel, running through most of the ballet, gets lost, the ground more interesting than the figure. Their choreography is much more standard than that of the corps, but I don't think that is a problem. When someone complained to Balanchine that there was no story in his ballet, he replied that you put a boy and a girl together on stage, that's already a love story, what more story do you need? Sure, at Evenfall's end the couple separates. Perhaps symbolic of Bartok's leaving his wife by passing away before he could complete the last few bars of this concerto, that was composed as a love offering to his wife. Or maybe not. But for all the great dancing by Weese and Woetzel prior to this end, love wasn't. One can't blame Wheeldon for putting so much of his effort into the corps, there must have been a thrill in getting caught up in the white heat of such invention. There just might not have been time. This is so close to being a masterpiece... Hopefully, with time.

At times, in line of sight, behind the leads was the corps pair Gilliland & Lin-Yee. They had the choreoraphic advantage, perhaps. They drew the eye. If Kaitlyn is hired for the corps, her height should be of no concern. She has her partner.


In the pointeless first half, there is silence between the waltzes. The spell is kept. Time out for the ballerinas to put on their pointes. After the first waltz of the second half, applause. Is it that dancing on pointe is such a wonderful trick? Then there must be applause after each succeeding waltz, not to be impolite to each succeeding couple. Amid these broken spells the right dancer at the right time can create The Spell. Goosebumps. The body is the final judge. Thank you Darci. Blessed Belle of the Ball. While spellbound, yet another gift from Darci, a thrilling circle of explosive turns.

Regarding the Times review, and others, Tyler Angle was not a last minute replacement. The week before, he was posted for the role on City Ballet's casting board. He has worked his way into the part to become an ardent and confident partner. And at half the age of the other three men. While the present cast leaves nothing to be desired, Mr. Angle's success may warrant looking to the future of this ballet. Who, in what part?

The Red Violin

In a pre-Diamond interview, Peter Martins said he was giving all the guest choreographers first choice on casting, and he would settle for what was left. Somehow what was left were some of the most exciting young stars in the company. The ballet belongs to Jennie Somogyi, who must love it as she dances it with joy and decorates the steps beautifully. She looks both eager and relaxed. It perhaps gives Jennie the opportunity to show something about where she wants to go as she breaks with some of the purely technical dancing of her past. The prognosis is VERY favorable. Ms. Mearns dances much the same steps, but I think for Sara Peter uses the role to broaden her technical skills. The music does not offer much to Sara's strengths. The audience responds nicely to this ballet, or to the dancers in it.

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Saturday evening, May 20

Wrong reversal for right reason

Evenfall became the closer (which Leigh Witchel considers its natural place in the rep), changing places with Liebeslieder. The Red Violin remained the hole in the center of the doughnut, holding back the start of Evenfall to 10:20 PM, normally exit time at City Ballet. As people entered one could overhear grumbling about the change. At 10:20 it was clear why: nearly everyone stayed, they wanted to see Wheeldon's controversial new ballet.

I have to admit that was my plan - to see the Wheeldon and make an early night of it. Do you think the company anticipated that?

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