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NYCB Spring '06 -- Performances

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Very nice program tonight.

It opened with three Balanchine gems. Tess Reichlen, with Albert Evans, led a beautifully dignified Monumentum. She heard the courtly origin of Gesualdo's work and let it speak through her. She is proving herself a very versatile dancer. I look forward to seeing her grow in all sorts of directions. Evans joined Rebecca Krohn for Movements. I like the way this pair looks together. Krohn danced clearly, without exaggeration, and I would emphasize the word "danced." I haven't seen this cast before, and they delivered the goods.

Ana Sophia Scheller and Andrew Veyette shared a debut in Tchaikovsky pdd. She made her first entrance, looking tiny and overwhelmed on that large stage, but by the end of the adagio, as her nerves seemed to calm down, she filled it nicely. The pas looked as though the couple had not had a stage rehearsal -- there were problems gauging how long it should take to hit their marks. I would have liked more stretch in Veyette's back leg in grand jete. This will be better next time, but it was a very auspicious first time.

Evenfall looked better on my third viewing of it. I decided to concentrate on the corps. Wheeldon's craft and imagination shine brightly here. It was the most satisfying Evenfall I've seen.

Fancy Free had me leaving the theater with a broad grin. Woetzel, fresh from Evenfall, supported Ringer in a soaring pas de deux, and tossed off his variation with a great sense of fun. Amanda Hankes, new to me as the pocketbook girl, brought clarity to every gesture. And Tyler Angel was endearing as the second sailor. Joaquin deLuz took his role a little over the top and was often out of sync with his shipmates.

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So glad I decided on this, since I'm a ballet-lover but not the full-fledged sort who needs to see almost everything. Bentley in NYReview of Books said 'we remember when the pterodactyls were flying.' Yes, we do (and remarkable phrase, I wish I'd originated it), but maybe they just fly much less frequently, but not never maybe. In any case, there were some aspects of 'Liebeslieder' tonight I even liked as well as the last time, 1985. Thought Kistler had a harder glitter than the Marschallin, reminded me of that art historian, minor English royalty, Princess Michael of Kent, who gives Met lectures full of plummy accents and world-weary, slightly decadent racy talk. One of main differences for me in Martins NYCB is I look at the men more than the women, whereas in the Balanchine company I always concentrated on the women--except for this ballet, where the women are ravishing again, although Hubbe and Martins were too. This may be my other favourite besides 'davidsbundlertanze,' I think I'm nuts for this sort of thing. They can't be lax with this sort of music either, God, this piece is luscious throughout. I thought Kistler was all silvery filigree, and never liked her more than tonight.

Looked at Joaquin de Luz more than Megan Fairchild in 'Le Baiser de la Fee.' This is partially because I saw McBride levitate at Saratoga if ever anybody did--because when I thought she levitated the shoe was going downward--a matter of a nano-measurement perhaps, anyway produced in part by soft summer night air in the country. But McBride was this thing of perfection.

Some said 'An American in Paris' is silly, maybe so. I'd probably like it with different sets and especially costumes. There were 3 dresses, satiny dark grey-silver and cerise underneath, cerise gloves and one even had a feathered hat; later 3 men in these colours. These were the only ones that seemed very Parisian--the rest was like American TV sitcom colours or the colour scheme of that old Huck Finn musical, 'Big River'--strange weak baby blues, weird maroon-and-green combinations, Xmas crimson velvets, anti-ballet shirt for Woetzel, as for Westport regatta or something. The orchestra played it well, though, so it was okay.

Had usher to lecture me on how you shouldn't want to look too closely at the faces because Balanchine didn't think you should. 2 years ago, someone else dropping all the old names told me she didn't want to know who was dancing because Balanchine didn't want you to do that. I wonder if they are paying to plant these people to tell you how to do your Balanchine by the book. I doubt it, though: Attendance was terrible, usher said it was the worst she'd ever seen tonight. I haven't seen it packed in years except for a Sat. matinee of 'Jewels' in 2004. Clever saxophonist in subway was playing 'An American in Paris' for tips.

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Clever saxophonist in subway was playing 'An American in Paris' for tips.

Gosh, I miss New York! So much becomes art. Thanks, papeetepatrick, for your observations about the performance(s) and company-- and the connections to NYCB's past.

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I saw Wednesday night's program as well but had only seen "Liebeslieder Waltzes" before and that was some years ago.

"Baiser de la Fée" is a weird ballet starting with the music. The music is full of Tchaikovsky sketches including "None but the Lonely Heart" that are lush and lyrical but then it veers towards Stravinsky spareness and dissonance. The corps is all in "Giselle" or "Coppelia" village girl get-ups in pastel colors and we think we are in for a happy romp. Then something (we don't know exactly what) goes awry and something takes a turn for the tragic with some kind of unresolved passion leading to ruined lives. We don't know exactly what is happening but we feel it. I love Megan Fairchild's crisp focus and precise energy - she never throws anything away and every step is given full value. Very different from the kind of offhanded delivery or skimming over the steps we have gotten from some dancers in the past. Fairchild is not the ethereal type despite her delicate build and her intense physical energy would keep her from "levitating". I liked the fact that I felt the choreography was getting her full attention. Joaquin de Luz was very involved and impassioned.

"Liebeslieder Waltzes" is a very long ballet and some of it can seem repetitive. This was a wonderful opportunity to see the senior ladies in the company - Darci partnered by Askegard, Kyra Nichols partnered by Nilas Martins, Miranda Weese partnered by an eager young Tyler Angle and Wendy Whelan partnered by a silky Nikolaj Hubbe. Nichols was something of a wonder - in no way technically overshadowed or shown up by the younger ladies surrounding her whether in character shoes or on pointe at nearly 50 years of age. Her posture and gestures when not dancing were a lesson in stagecraft. Darci was lovely but seemed a bit studied as if all the movements had to be carefully wrought - she lacked spontaneity. The vocal quartet included some fine voices from New York City Opera - mezzo Jennifer Rivera stood out but Nancy Allen Lundy, Jan Opalach and Ryan MacPherson were close behind.

"An American in Paris" to my eyes had gorgeous sets by Adrianne Lobel - real cubist eye poppers painted on scrims that I thought wouldn't look out of place hanging on a wall at the Guggenheim. The costumes reminded me of the films "American in Paris" and "Funny Face". You expected Cyd Charisse, Gene Kelly, Oscar Levant and Kay Thompson to stroll in at any moment. The piece is clearly created to be immediately accessible and entertaining and none of the steps or combinations are novel. Wheeldon doesn't ignore Gene Kelly or MGM in the 1950's but co-opts it. I didn't see clichés but an affectionate tribute to the last century's music and styles. The mixture of classicism and pop in the choreography mirrored Gershwin's musical vocabulary - French impressionism mixed with American Tin-Pan Alley and jazz. Damian Woetzel as a Gene Kelly figure in tight white pants and shirtjac, looked in great form with Jennifer Ringer as his dream girl in pink and Ellen Bar as the Juliette Greco existential beat chick in black sweater and red beret. This ballet clearly aims to be an audience-pleaser and the enthusiastic cheers at the end showed that it hit the spot with most of the crowd.

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faux pas--all interesting even if I disagree. Which is mainly that I just don't find those costumes to be at all evocative of 50's films: The colours are harsh and clash with each other, which I never noticed becoming popular till 60's rock, record covers, etc. I just found them too hard and loud to be pretty, and prettiness is what the 50's were all about, even when it was boisterous. I think if you look at 'The Band Wagon' or 'Singin' in the Rain' or the ones you named, you see a brightness but colours that nevertheless harmonize. These colours made me think that a 2005 version of looking back at the 50's was what was aimed at--with all the years of Lloyd Webberism and Disneyfied Broadway bled in somehow--and, since that must have been what was wanted, I'll concede that this was definitely achieved, in all its synthetic sterilization. The 'shirt jac' looks like a Hang 10 shirt--authentic suburbanite chosen over anything glamorous; this was touching in a mawkish, untheatrical way, but crisp, not hanging there, would have been better and Gene Kelly was the 'nice beaming boy' but always a theatrical boy as well. I don't mean it all should have looked like the ice cream colours of 'Les Parapluies de Cherbourg' (Deneuve, Castelnuovo) or 'Les Demoiselles de Rochefort' (fifties-ish, even though done in the 60's, with Deneuve, Chakiris, Dorleac as well as Kelly), although that wouldn't have bothered me personally, nor some 'On the Town' feeling either. It's tricky by now to do something from a specific pop period--as when musicals like 'Bye Bye Birdie' or 'The Music Man' are remade for television. It's as if the procedure is to 'update the period but still be the period,' a tall order. I wonder if it might not be better to decide either to thoroughly update or to thoroughly imitate the period, but trying to do both ends up with some indigestible, migraine-inducing hybrid. Towne films like 'Chinatown' and the recent 'Ask the Dust' are good examples of lovingly recreated old Los Angeles periods. This 'An American in Paris' just looked like 2005 to me, thin and with a whiff of reality TV about it.

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Saturday night, May 27

One Bird with the Wings of Three

Tonight's program concluded with Maria Kowroski's Firebird. Right from her entrance she was an overpowering creature. Huge, yet with such sharp and precise movement, filling the stage with danger. No wonder Ivan (Charles Askegard) was so cautious, her wings could have scythed off his head. Yet there came a human touch and this killer bird suddenly grasped the possibility of trust, and willed to return this feeling of trust to the human, and her wings became the wings of a swan. Humans, at least male humans, trust swans. And with this mutual trust came her promise. And he could believe she would keep her promise--unlike deceivable humans, swans keep promises. When the time came Maria exploded to his rescue, filling the stage to the rafters with her presence, combined with Bouder-power dancing. Kaschchei (Henry Seth) didn't have a prayer. A switch to Mariinsky wings in final gratitude to Ivan, and then she left. But not as what she had been before their encounter. Her exit, wings reaching back to leave one last message. In an expression worthy, yes, of Maya, Queen of the Wings, Maria somehow integrated Firebird and Swan. A new winged creature had been born. An Eagle.

This New Maria, I think I'm going to love her.

Two birds, too sad to fly

The Bonnefous/Sheng ballet is one that didn't sing. The music was an inauspicious debut for the resident composer. We know he is a significant composer, and the score had its neoclassical moments. They didn't even bother to include the text, or summary thereof, of the two songs. Sofiane Sylve and Andrew Veyette were the leads, the two birds (people) who we are told are in love. It looks like choreography by Yuri Grigorovich on an uninspired day. I suppose one could, like Mr. Rockwell, find the man to be a sort of Spartacus figure. There is a scene for six male dancers, his troups, formed in a 1-2-3 triangle, dancinig with virtuosity. Mr. Bonnefous was given a very luxurious male corps of Tyler Angle, Robert Fairchild, Craig Hall (last winter's sensation, where has he been this season?), Jonathan Stafford, Sean Suozzi, and Daniel Ulbricht, dancers that Grigorovich could have used to far greater extent. No invention. They eventually raise Mr. Veyette into a cross-like pose, very remiscent of Spartacus. If only they'd had those round shields that Grigorovich used for the famous tableaux. At least we'd have had a circles echo of Wheeldon's Evenfall genius. Then we see Phrygia Sylve alone in eternity. They bring Veyette to join her. But this is an Eternity of Sorrows. She tries, but all they can do is feel miserable. They can't take-off. I couldn't even find one wing, let alone a pair to share. There were six women also, but I know that the printed list is wrong, and once I saw that Kaitlyn Gilliland was, unannounced, among them and partnered by Tyler Angle, no less, I was grateful to have something ballet to watch, and didn't take the time to take attendance.

M and M

The new cast in this revivified pair of Balanchine dances continue to proclaim their ownership of the roles. Reichlen extending her mastery of the first piece overall, and finding her charisma's place in it. Krohn, who started with a full conception of her piece, now beginning to amplify her interpretation. I still wish I could see each have a chance at the whole pair. The corps is also alive in each.

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It was a very nice afternoon at NYCB today. The Scenes de Ballet is a charming piece, and it may well be my favorite Wheeldon today. The highlight of the afternoon for me was an excellet performance of Baiser de la Fee with Megan and Joaquin in the leads. Both of these dancers have grown so much in this ballet as artists; it's just been amazing to watch them since Baiser was revived. It was easy to see Joaquin's progress, but until today I thought Megan had reached a plateau. But she was truly wonderful today. So many of the details of the exquisite little masterpiece came through. (Could she have been coached by the originator of the role, who is in town?) The Duo Concertant was also very nicely done by Yvonne and Nikolaj. This is one role that she does well: she is a musical dancer, she is a performer, and the technical requirements are not beyond her. Hubbe of course is one of the most musical dancers on the scene today, so every performance by him is very satisfying. Maria's Firebird was disappointing; in fact, it was quite pedestrian. But maybe I am missing Ashley B. too much. . .

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I, too, was disappointed in Maria's Firebird -- and whereas drb felt she was like an eagle, I felt that she was too large for the role, literally. As a result, Ivan Czarevitch, as played by Charles Askegard, did not seem capable of capturing her. I also felt something was missing in her Bercuse in terms of her response to the music and the meaning of the section. For my taste, Lourdes Lopez has not been equalled in that section since 1985). Ashley Bouder runs a very close second.

Megan Fairchild was lovely, and Joquin deLuz was very strong, but did not overwhelm with either bravura artillery in his first, nor pensive sensitivity in his second solo. And let's give credit (where due) to the lovely and serene Carrie Lee Riggins, in her role as a soloist.

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I saw "M and M" last week, and it was quite an experience! They were ballets I had not seen before, and I'd forgotten the awe of seeing a brilliant Balanchine dance for the first time. It was like my first Jewels, or my first Concerto Baroco. Reichlen was beautiful; each arabesque was like a great sailing ship on smooth water. But Krohn in the second piece made my heart race, literally. She was truly exciting, truly alive.

I had not seen the Tchaikovsky PDD, either, but I was delighted with it, and with the dancers. Spectacular.

The new Wheeldon ballet is, as others have mentioned, different from what I'm used to seeing from him. It is not a lyrical ballet. There were parts that I definitely enjoyed-- the opening section with the girls in the center comes to mind. As I remember, it had a strange energy: it's often quite fast, but not in a typical allegro way, or in a contemporary (sleek/sexy) way. The women in the corps reminded me somewhat of rich, empty headed girls (or, if we were not in the city, I might have said suburban beauty queen types). The kind that talk often and enthusiastically, but don't think much of what they're saying. The dancers were busy, but didn't seem to savor the movement or make anything profound of it. It almost seemed as if it weren't presented for the audience, but rather as a checklist of steps to be done, like errands. I'm not saying that I didn't like it, but it definitely brought up that association.

I did enjoy his geometrical explorations of the tutu, but I am not convinced this is anything new. I feel like I've seen this incorporation of the tutu shape into the choreography before. Not sure what to think of the pas de deux (honestly, I don't remember it that well). Weese looked downright doll-like in the hugging pose, which didn't mesh with my ideas of the corps. Most of the pas de deux seemed out of place given the corps work.

I'd never seen Fancy Free, either. Good show. Nice to finally see Damien Woetzel dance. I thought parts of it probably could have been sharper, if done by stronger comedic performers.

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