Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

NYCB in Chicago

Recommended Posts

I've been waiting for others to open this topic, but since no one has :beg: I'll take the plunge.

I'm hesitant to offer any sort of critique of these dancers and these works that many of you know so intimately. This performance of four Balanchine dances (Serenade, Concerto Barocco, Duo Concertante, and Symphony in C) tripled my exposure to Balanchine, which heretofore was limited to Apollo and Square Dance as performed by the Joffrey. While I have seen NYCB dance Robbins before, I have not seen them do Balanchine.

However, I will offer this: from the moment the curtain rose on the corps in their opening pose of Serenade, I was captivated. I completely understand now why those of you with access go to see this company 2-3 times a week, or more. I could watch them forever. Luckily, I get to see them again tonight!

For those who want a more substantive review, see Sid Smith in the Chicago Tribune or Hedy Weiss in the Sun Times.

Link to comment

Hedy Weiss in the Sun-Times refers to the "painfully thin Wendy Whelan." Being familiar with her dancing, I can state that there's nothing painful about seeing it. I also thought it rather weird that Ms. Weiss described Serenade as "Swan Lake on amphetamines." There's nothing wrong with newspaper critics, but I'm very much looking forward to the reactions of our own Ballet Talkers.

Link to comment

I confess, I didn't read Hedy Weiss' review until after I posted it. She and I seem to have been at different performances! I would not call Duo Concertant the highlight of the evening -- enigmatic and puzzling, yes; highlight, no. And, much as I love the Joffrey, it seems the height of hometown favoritism to remark -- gratuitously, I might add --

There is much to admire about the NYCB, yet for drama and individualism, the Joffrey is tops.

Maybe. Frankly, it's hard to compare because the choreography that the two companies customarily perform is so different. However, it seems to me that being able to milk the minimalist drama in Balanchine -- a pause, a movement just on the beat or just off, a rhythmic change, a pose whose impact rests in its mimicry of or counterpoint to what other bodies are doing -- is more challenging than showing individuality in the mish-mash choreography of Arpino and Joffrey.

But there, responding to Weiss has led me astray. I don't have time now for a full review, but I'd have to place Serenade as my highlight of the evening, with Symphony in C a very close second. Being a scientist, I'll have to note that there could well be a primacy effect, as Serenade led the evening. Something special is going on when the curtain rises, the dancers aren't moving ... and still your breath catches. It's a little like falling in love for the first time.

Link to comment

It's the rep, all right. While I think the greatness of the rep in the first two programs was seldom obscured, neither was it always fully revealed. Briefly:

Program I, Thursday, October 17

Serenade is a great ballet, all right, before they even start to move, but when they did, it looked brittle. My companion thought she lacked my eye, because of short experience relative to my years watching Balanchine's company (I say this NYCB is Peter Martins's company); but she's a former graphic designer interested in computer animation as well as natural body movement, and a current amateur musician, and generally cultured: "They raise their arms and then they lower them. They open them to the sides and then they close them. They're mechanical, like robots." Another friend, a young dancer: "They have no soul, but I liked Russian Girl." Maria Kowroski (Dark Angel) was "exquisite" according to a retired dancer, now teaching, and Ashley Bouder (Russian Girl) was "fearless"; and these two were generally liked by all of us.

Concerto Barocco was lacking in nuance, and the great second movement had the slowest tempos of my experience. The third movement was satisfying from a listening standpoint, but this is not a concert, it's a ballet, and if someone (Wendy Whelan, I believe) can't keep up, something needs to be adjusted, either cast or tempo.

Duo Concertant suffered the most this evening. Nikolaj Hubbe's first solo in the Gigue was unrecognisable to someone who had seen Kay Mazzo and Peter Martins (there's irony) perform it many times, not to mention the "Three by Balanchine" video material, and his second was little better; he was clearer with his partner, Yvonne Borree, who was much better herself, and the last movement went well enough. My young dancer friend had not seen Duo Concertant before, and she complained that watching Hubbe, she couldn't even tell what the role was suppsed to be.

Symphony in C was clouded, uneven, but Sofiane Sylve was "wonderful" in the adagio in all accounts, with the fine Charles Askegard; and Tiler Peck led off the fourth movement with an appropriate amount of her characteristic panache. "I can't believe she's sixteen," says my dancer friend.

Program II, Wednesday, October 18

Divertimento No. 15 was generally satisfactory, even if the variations sometimes looked a bit labored. Recalling Serenade, I thought, "This is more like it! This one's alive." Notably, corps girl Ana Sophia Scheller, subbing for Borree (Third Variation Girl) acquitted herself very admirably: For example, there is a passage toward the end of her variation where she alternates quick little steps to the right with stopping, sliding her right foot around to the back, and then repeating; Scheller gave all of this with great clarity and a luscious kind of soft sensuality at the same time. Nothing cold and brittle about her! And the following variations built and built, as they should. And then the Andante, in easy tempos, but beautiful.

In the Night looked maybe a little underpowered in the first movement, but the rest was very fine, if not so strong as in, excuse me, The Good Old Days; and there were some more instances of exaggerated minor gestures and movement which tends I think slightly to trivialize what's going on; but this ballet, too, was satisfactory and then some, very effective, and very good to see again. (I used to be annoyed that Robbins makes less of Chopin than another Balanchine would have, but I've changed, as well as adjusted to the fact that there's only one Balanchine.)

The Four Temperaments we found less satisfactory, afflicted in ways I don't find it easy to describe so far, except that the exaggeration of small detail was more prevalent here, clicking the head to the side and then clicking it back again, etc. But Teresa Reichlen's Choleric, while not as agitated as some I've seen over the years, was energetically, openly presented, without mannerism or clouding complication.

Link to comment

Treefrog, would you like to talk a little about the mystery in Duo Concertant? Is it all in the last movement, the one mostly in the dark? Is it about why the boy and girl part, and so on? Or about who they are, anyway?

Meanwhile, I went again this evening (Thursday, 19th October) and saw Program I from a few rows closer to the stage, which helped everything to be more effective for me, and even allowing for that, I thought Ask la Cour was better in "Phlegmatic" than Albert Evans had been, while Ellen Bar was different - more intense - in "Choleric" than Reichlen had been. But the exaggeration of minor movement still continued. For example, about the second thing that happens is that the First Theme girl brings her right arm up, over and down to her left; Faye Arthurs held it up there for an instant, opening her fingers wide (like the famous "flashing lights" bit in Apollo) and then moving it on rather than sweeping it through the space*. This sort of thing gave the performance a kind of creaky stop-start aspect alien to the ballet, an element of self-parody.

In "Divert", Scheller delighted me even more in Third Variation, and by the way, I noticed that NYCB's tempo for the Finale was rather easier, that is to say, slower, than the Suzanne Farrell Ballet's had been last December and July (which was by no means rushed, just quite lively). Jonathan Stafford's silent landings were impressive again for that, but Sterling Hyltin's Second Variation looked just as uncontrolled, and she spoils her line to move her head about unnecessarily, compared to the others**.

*Not exactly. See below in Post #17.

**Later on I thought that the comparison would be better the other way, in other words, it would have been better if the others had "done more" rather than if Hyltin had done less. She was one of the (few) good standouts.

Edited by Jack Reed
Link to comment

Just a footnote... Albert Evan's was coached in Phlegmatic by the late Todd Bolender who originated the part... whether he was using that coaching in the performance you saw, I wouldn't know.... I remember Bolender saying something about how different in style the part is now performed.

But you might be interested -- having just seen him live -- to check out the video. I would imagine it's available somewhere in Chicagoland, though you will no doubt have to watch it on site.

Link to comment

For those who wanted to hear from us in Chicago, here goes. I've been a fan for decades, and when I lived in New York, I often went to the ballet three or four times a week. The excitement of seeing my favorite ballet company in my own backyard was almost unbearable! Although I must say, at first glance, the new Harris Theater has all the charm and ambience of an interstate bus terminal. There are no amenities in the lobby whatsoever, just a bench formed from a slab of corrugated steel, and except for wonderful huge photos of the dancers, no decoration. But the design is unique - once past the lobby, you go down to the balconies. The entire theater is underground, with the orchestra level about four stories below the street. The seats are very comfortable, and the sightlines are incredible.

The Thursday matinee appeared sold out. The first ballet was Serenade, with gorgeous Jenifer Ringer, and Sarah Mearns, Ashley Bouder, and Ask La Cour making impressive debuts in their roles in Chicago. When the curtain went up on the familiar "orange grove" of young dancers, the audience burst into applause. Because the ensemble was so young, it struck me that the original spirit of the ballet was revealed. After all, Balanchine made the piece on students, and like students, you could almost see the wheels turning as the dancers moved their arms en haut and en bas, and turned out their feet into first. If it struck someone as "robotic", well, that's the choreography.

As the performance got underway, the disadvantage of a theater built for music and dance became evident: while the acoustics are probably great for a singer onstage, the thump of the dancers' pointe shoes was distractingly loud and took some getting used to. I felt the ensemble's attack was slightly tentative at first, but after a few minutes, they began to immerse themselves in the music and movement. And then something wonderful happened - Ashley Bouder fell.

She hit the deck with so much force, she almost somersaulted. She ended beautifully, with one foot pointed upward and her back eloquently curved forward. If Balanchine had been in the wings, he would have said "Keep it in!" She recovered immediately, and as often happens when someone takes a spill, it upped the ante for everyone. So what started out as a good performance became a terrific one.

The second ballet was Concerto Barocco. My only criticism of the corps is that the little hops on pointe in fifth seemed a bit too deliberate. Otherwise they were fine, and the audience hardly registered it when one of them also went down. Maybe it's because things like that don't matter when you are witness to the greatness that is Wendy Whelan. She was absolutely transcendent. Albert Evans' partnering was superb - on the repeated lifts in the second movement, she appeared to float on her own power - and what stage presence he has!

After the pause came Duo Concertante, with Yvonne Borree and Nikolaj Hubbe. I saw Peter Martins and Kay Mazzo in these roles, and others as well. It's a piece I don't feel strongly about, but I thought the performance was excellent. It's interesting that Hedy Weiss, the lead drama critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, described Borree as "tiny" and Wendy Whelan as "painfully thin". You expect comments like that from "regular"- sized people unfamiliar with the slight figures of ballerinas. But Weiss, a New York transplant herself - and a former ballet student - is a teeny little wisp of a woman!

The performance ended with Symphony in C, one of my favorites. The Stafford siblings were excellent in the first movement, as were the adorable Megan Fairchild and Joaquin de Luz in the third, and Tiler Peck and Jared Angle in the fourth. But the ballet belonged to Sofiane Sylve (wonderfully partnered by Charles Askegard) in the second movement. What a magnificently lush performance! Referring to her tiara, my companion whispered "She's the queen, so she gets the crown." Of course, all the women were wearing them, but Sylve was feeling hers.

The guest conductor was named Briskin, and boy did he live up to his name! But the dancers seemed to enjoy his challenging tempi, and the finale ended with thunderous applause and cheers. I hope that the next time the company comes (soon, soon!), they bring one or two more ballets that showcase the men more. But I'm glad they didn't "dumb down" the repertory. Hell hath no fury like a Chicago audience that feels patronized by New Yorkers.

One little quibble - I came prepared to load up on souvenir programs, calendars, books, t-shirts, etc., but there wasn't one single NYCB item on sale! I'm sure it's a bother to shlep that stuff, but it enhances the performance experience, and looking at it long after the company has departed keeps them in the public's mind and energizes the fan base until the next engagement

Link to comment

Oh, pulling up the rear here .. I saw Tuesday night's performance (in the company of a lovely BT family -- you know who you are! :dry: ), and still feel enveloped in that nice glow of a really engaging program. (I must be talking about it a lot -- my husband and I were watching the seventh game of the NL championships, and at one point, when the announcers were talking about a Met named Valentin, he said, "I keep thinking they're saying, Balanchine!")

Like Treefrog, I hestitate to say too much -- although this is my favorite company, I see them all too infrequently so I'm probably not all that discerning and tend to love everything! :clapping: The highlights for me were the Bach and the Bizet. As different as they were, with Concerto Barocco so spare and Symphony in C such a spectacle, they both struck me as signature pieces for the company -- you understand from them, from the inventive use of the music and the ballet vocabulary, what makes the NYCB the NYCB.

Wendy Whelan continues to astonish me. She is at such a special stage in her career, where she's dancing with complete confidence and maturity and joy. Even at the most devilishly fast and tricky parts of Concerto Barocco, she seemed to be riding the music, enjoying choreography that seemed as natural to her as breathing.

Symphony in C was great fun -- just when you thought every last dancer in the company was already on stage, another line galloped in. I loved how it ended, with the four ballerinas downstage, knocking off pirouettes and jumps one after the other -- I held my breath for their partners, wondering how on earth they would catch them by the waists at just the right moment to keep them from flying into the orchestra pit.

Duo Concertant left me a bit cold -- I was surprised at what an enthusiastic response it got from the audience. Yvonne Borree seemed awkward to me, kind of hunched over at the start, as if she was trying to imitate that shy quality that Kay Mazzo had (at least as I remember it from the video).

Serenade was the piece I was least looking forward to seeing -- for some reason, as infrequently as I go to the ballet, this always seems to be on the program! This was a terrific performance though, and unlike in the past, where I just sort of watched it as pure dance, the drama of the ending really grabbed me.

Link to comment

I was astounded at the idea that Hubbe was less than brilliant and Borree more than barely passable in Duo. I saw Martins and Mazzo in the roles in their time, had no difficulty understanding OR distinguishing the steps, role, or choreography in Hubbe's dazzling performance, and preferred him to Martins. To think that Croce used to complain about Mazzo...!!!! "sketchy, infirm legs and feet", a phrase Croce applied to Mazzo once, defines Borree. Tension in every part of the body, so severe that it is literally debilitating, an utter lack of presence or dramatic capability ( Mazzo had not only shy vulnerability and intimacy but the capacity for deep emotion, imperative-- and utterly lacking in this performance-- in the Dithyrambe)-- steps which literally bore no resemblance to what Mazzo did (or for that matter Ashley or Kistler even a few years ago)... I was happy to read others' raves about Whelan, who now has a delicacy and chastity in serious roles unheard-of these days, in addition to her many other obvious virtues. her first slow turns in Barocco were ravishing and nearly without impulse, and the lifts in the second movement some of the loveliest I've ever seen. the orchestra was even worse-- and slower-- than usual... Hyltin was marvelous to watch, if slightly less controlled than some of the other dancers in Divert; she, like Scheller and Peck, instantly commands the eye. (It is indeed hard to believe that Peck is sixteen; she has the confidence and presence of a ballerina) No one mentioned Mearns' debut as the Dark Angel, which was interesting, and promising. Not having seen Reichlen before, I was instantly bowled over by her first steps as one of the First Movement demis in Bizet; sadly, the temperature dropped precipitously with Stafford's first entrance. A ballerina role calling for effortless, expansive grandeur is not well served by strenuous efficiency, to say the least. I could not help wanting to see Reichlen as the ballerina in this and several other roles. Sylve was all they say and more: grand, regal, silken (the balance was so simple for her it appeared just another part of the choreography, which is rare indeed). Bouder falls a lot (a quality Balanchine very much appreciated...) as she herself says, and her brio in the Tema Russo was impressive. I have always found In the Night trivial, predictable, and cliche-ridden (even with Mazzo, McBride, and Verdy!) but was very impressed by the dancers' efforts to make it dramatically plausible; they almost succeeded. Somogyi was wonderful in Sanguinic:, clean, candid, and looking much more like her old self. Scheller in one ballerina role (Divert) made me long for her in Square Dance, Bizet Third Movement, Harlequinade, Tarantella, Rubies......

Link to comment
steps which literally bore no resemblance to what Mazzo did (or for that matter Ashley or Kistler even a few years ago).

tempusfugit, that's a strong statement. Are you really saying she changed Balanchine's text? I know that Balanchine often did that himself to suit one dancer or another, and if I'm not mistaken it's not uncommon for dancers to substitute one "trick" for another, but this is something else again.

Link to comment

Friday evening performance:

Concerto Barocco was given a lovely performance. Wendy Whelen dances this part the way I like it. Pure, clean and simple. No added adornment other than those Balanchine built in. She danced it as if she was almost moved by some otherworldly force but again still kept it pure and unmannered. Rachel Rutherford makes a fine second violin.

Duo Concertant got an enthusiastic reaction from the crowd. I've seen Hubbe dance better, but he wasn't awful in my opinion just a little off.

I thought Symphony In C was top-notch. It looked well rehearsed and the dancers looked energetic and happy. The big suprise of the evening for me was Abi Stafford. It's been quite a while since I've seen her dance. When I last saw the company in 2003 Abi was scheduled to dance and then was replaced at the last minute so it's been 5 or 6 years? since I've seen her. She looked wonderful!!! I read that one of the dancers call the first movement Bizet ballerina "the hostess with the mostest". Abi was a warm, gracious lovely hostess. It's so good to see her recovered from injuries and dancing with such love and serenity. Antonio Carmena is one of my favorites and danced the third movement with gusto and elegance. Tiler Peck is one of the new dancers I've never seen before. She is lovely girl and an exciting dancer but her facial expression seemed too fixed. She seems to just need to relax her face a bit more. The finale of the ballet found the theater erupting into thunderous applause.

I have a bit of a sob story to tell about Serenade. We were staying in one of the northern suberbs of Chicago. The drive time to downtown is supposed to take 28 minutes according to mapquest. Because of a horrendous traffic jam it took 2 hours. We ran into the theater just as I heard the opening strings of Serenade so we had to end up watching it in the donor room on a small tv. :bash: The first time NYCB comes to Chicago in over 25 years and I miss the opening ballet. I hate Chicago traffic!!! Anyway I did hear something funny in the donor room. When Miranda Weese as the heroine falls to the floor and lays awhile a fellow next to me turned to his wife and said "Wow, she fell, I hope she's ok, she looks hurt!" then as Maria makes her entrance to hover over her he says " oh good, that dancer is going to help her." :clapping:

I did read in one of the local papers that over 1 million was raised the bring NYCB to Chicago. It's an expensive company to tour. Thank you to all of those who contributed to bring them. Please bring them back!

Link to comment

Amy, which video are you talking about having to see on site? One with Bolender in Phlegmatic?

Reading over these posts, I'm reminded again that, because we are all different, we will respond differently to the same thing, and so we will disagree sometimes; and also, that it's only possible to disagree with those who care about the same thing. In this instance, we seem to disagree the most about Wendy Whelan and much less about relative differences among other dancers.

When I had a chance to check part of the 1977 Nonesuch video of The Four Temperaments, I found that I had remembered the quiet, even flow of the dancers' first gestures to the quiet, evenly flowing music although I hadn't remembered exactly what the movement was; what I saw again Thursday evening in the Harris Theatre was the jarringly exaggerated gesture I described above, the first of many, many such which made it look to me like this ballet was alien to this company.

I've been posting under considerable time restraint, and maybe Treefrog had the better idea, to wait and take more time, because as I see more performances I realize that what I wrote sometimes doesn't match what I think so well as I'd like. On the other hand, having thought about what I saw in order to write about it helps me to see more the next time, especially where it diverges from what I said, but I think I owe it to our community to try again.

Watching Program I again last (Friday) night, I was reminded that for most of Serenade the girls' arms were fine; it was the brief scene in the first movement where the girl is on the floor and the corps is ranged around her in three terraced lines where their arms move stiffly and mechanically; I've seen this in other productions, too, and it's one of the things I wonder about, but in this production it looked extreme. And at the end of this movement, the boy taps the girl on the shoulder with a big flourish which looks totally out of place, like the distortions in The Four Temperaments. (Steven Hanna subbed for Nilas Martins both times I was there, but - sorry - I didn't get sorted out who was in which role. Help us out, Treefrog? Anybody?)

I've been including the comments of people with much keener perceptions than I have to try to make my posts more valuable to read, and I got another take on Sterling Hyltin's Second Variation in Divertimento No. 15 from a dancer taking up teaching, who liked her head movements in particular and her all-out dancing in general, in contrast to that of most of the others in the cast; this person liked Scheller, too. I certainly agree that Hyltin did not hold back. And watching the last movement of Concerto Barocco Friday evening it seemed to me again that Wendy Whelan just did not have what it took to keep up, and in the second movement, although she was not a lot thinner than Rachel Rutherford, her dancing seemed "thin," as though she lacked physical strength and energy. (I don't know her story, but I hope she is only going through a bad patch, and my heart goes out to her.)

The exaggerated details in some ballets, not to mention the brute-strength approach Hubbe brought to his role in Duo Concertant, disturb me as distortions verging on caricature, when I see them some more. Does NYCB claim to be maintaining or preserving the Balanchine repertory? It doesn't look like it onstage. Is there only one way to dance Balanchine, then? Yes, and it was different every night; and you don't dance each ballet the same always. So it's not easy to catch that way in so many words, but there is one, and it was rarely to be seen here this week.

So was this run a wash, IMO? Hardly, although it depends some on your point of view. Certainly anyone who hasn't seen these ballets before got pretty good introductions to Divertimento No. 15, In the Night, and Symphony in C, especially with Sylve, and a fairly good one to Serenade. And I'm glad for the enjoyment many of you got, even though I didn't fully share it. (In this conection I remember a typically self-deprecating crack by Woody Allen I heard repeated recently by a pianist I admire when he was asked why he only played certain composers and not more. Allen said, "Sometimes I wish I were some one else," and the pianist went on to say, "I wish I could hear in other music what some people hear in it. But I don't, so I leave it alone.") By the way, Balanchine - some of the same Balanchine, too - another way may be glimpsed in the Chicago Cultural Center next Thursday; here's a link to my post about that:


We've commented on another thread on some apparent emotional vacuum in Martins's own dancing, still to be seen in some videos, and I remember the idea Robert Gottlieb recently expressed (in the New York Observer for 7th August) that most companies reflect the characteristics of their leaders. And so at the end, for me, the "soul" problem remains. With the exception of some individual dancers noted, generally younger ones too, there's not a lot of joy to be seen in this company's dancing. I don't mean big smiles all around; anyway, you can put on a smile, just as you can say something and mean something else. When I look at MCB and especially the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, I have a sense that those dancers are moving with some pleasure, with some gladness to be there doing that. With brio. That's part of what makes them thrilling to watch. There's joy in their movement, in their bodies. The body doesn't lie.

Link to comment

Here's my second take on NYCB in Chicago. The program on the Saturday matinee was Divertimento No. 15, In the Night, and Four Temperaments. This time I was seated in the fourth row of the orchestra. Normally I dislike seeing ballet on the orchestra level, but in this theater, there are evidently no bad seats. The theater was again full, and among the well-heeled retirees were dancers from the Joffrey and other companies. During intermission, three little girls ran down to the orchestra pit to take a peek, but otherwise, there were very few children in the house.

Along with the admonition to turn off our cell phones and pagers, it was announced that Ana Sophia Scheller would be dancing in place of Yvonne Borree in Divertimento No. 15. I don't know if she has done this role before Chicago, but she was marvelously self-assured. I was blown away by Sterling Hyltin. I had never seen her before and I found her very impressive - beautiful upper body as well as outstanding legs and feet, with a fierce appetite for movement and eagerness to "take stage". And there was a tall blonde girl (sorry I couldn't figure out who she was) who made me think the announcement had been incomplete: surely that was a principal dancer filling in in the ensemble as a lark! As my ballet teacher used to say, "You don't look for talent. It hits you in the eye."

In my opinion, In the Night is not Robbins at his greatest, but sometimes a weak ballet gives dancers strong opportunities, and Jenifer Ringer was heart-stopping in the piece. I expected Maria Kowroski to be beautiful, and indeed she was. Rachel Rutherford has been a de facto principal dancer for some time, and I've often wondered why she hasn't yet been promoted. And the men, Tyler Angle, Charles Askegard, and Sebastien Marcovici were gallant partners. I had forgotten that the great Anthony Dowell designed the costumes! (Which, when you think about it, is very odd indeed. I don't believe he went on to a career as a designer.)

In Four Temperaments, I thought that the girls in the grand battement entrance could have used more attack and push from the hips, but the other women in the ensemble were suitably sharp and aggressive. There were a number of dancers (apprentices?) in this ballet who were not listed on the roster as yet. I know that traditionally the Fourth Movement of Symphony in C is where many get there first taste of performing with the company, but I don't recall that many newbies being cast in Four Ts in the past. It was great seeing Jennie Somogyi restored to health and dancing fearlessly. I thought Teresa Reichlen was outstanding in the fourth movement. (She reminds me a bit of Nicole Kidman.) Everyone displayed the easy high legs that are a NYCB trademark, especially Albert Evans, which you don't necessarily expect from a man.

One thing that struck me, from Divertimento on, was the very evident joy of the dancers, in their performance, in the music, in each other. So I disagree respectfully, but strongly, with another poster on this site. It seems to me that this is a very happy company indeed.

As to style and authenticity, I do not think that it's a good idea to compare a flesh-and-blood performance of today with a videotape made nearly thirty years ago. For one thing, as a medium of preservation, videotape is just not that good. Aspect ratios can drastically change the look of choreography. And Balanchine famously would alter movement for the demands of the television camera; sometimes the changes would stay in, sometimes they wouldn't. But my main objection is that that approach discounts the individuality, the artistry, even the humanity, of the dancers.

Opening night was dedicated to Maria Tallchief, and there is an exquisite picture of her in the program, from Symphony in C. Tallchief was the first ballerina I ever saw dance. I was a small child, with no knowledge of the niceties of ballet technique. But I will never forget her presence and beauty, her piercing intelligence. But also, as that photo makes clear, Tallchief was a great ballerina of her time. It would be absurd to expect Ashley Bouder, or Sofiane Sylve, or Wendy Whelan to recreate Tallchief's performances of the roles she danced. As Balanchine himself said, "Ballet belongs to a dancer who is right now in front of your face."

In the past, I often flew to New York just to see the company, and I feel very privileged that this time, they flew to me! The planning and logistics involved must have been massive, and I appreciate the contributions of the five (very rich!) ladies who made this engagement happen. Hopefully it is the harbinger of regular visits from NYCB in the future.

Link to comment
And there was a tall blonde girl (sorry I couldn't figure out who she was) who made me think the announcement had been incomplete: surely that was a principal dancer filling in in the ensemble as a lark! As my ballet teacher used to say, "You don't look for talent. It hits you in the eye."

My guess would be it was Kaitlyn Gilliland.

Link to comment
Reading over these posts, I'm reminded again that, because we are all different, we will respond differently to the same thing, and so we will disagree sometimes; and also, that it's only possible to disagree with those who care about the same thing. In this instance, we seem to disagree the most about Wendy Whelan and much less about relative differences among other dancers.

Jack, although we disagree on some points, to me it is interesting to read your postings. I know you see Miami City Ballet and Suzanne Farrell Ballet quite frequently. Both of these companies have much Balanchine in the repetory and are run by two of Mr. B's finest dancers. I don't agree that NYCB dancers look unhappy. They looked very happy in some ballets and downright joyous in some. I do agree that coaching from former dancers is much needed in NYCB. I recently saw the video with Maria

Tallchief coaching Jennie Somogyi in the first movement Bizet. It's facinating to watch these videos and see the corrections the older dancers give the younger dancers. Little details only they know. I was hoping to see Somogyi dance this role in Chicago to see if she retained any of Tallchief's teachings, but got Abi Stafford instead. Now, if I compare Abi's performance to what Tallchief was trying to teach to Jennie in the video than I see what you mean about a decline in the way Balanchine's ballets are being performed by his own company these days. But much to my suprise I didn't look at the ballet that way. I was impressed by Stafford's authority. It wasn't Tallchief's authority, is was more of a serene, warm authority. It was different. But I really liked it. And I really liked Abi's performance. So what does this teach me? I really don't know. I think I need to digest the performances some more and see what I think again in a few days.

You did hit the nail on the head for me regarding Hubbe's performance in Duo Concertant. I couldn't figure out what was "off" about it until I read your post. He was too aggressively ardent. The only other dancer I have seen dance this role is Peter Boal, who danced in a more restrained though no less ardent way.

I'm also interested to hear what other posters thought about Maria in Symphony In C. I though she was wonderful. She looked totally absorbed and yet slightly otherworldly to me.

Link to comment

The last time NYCB was here in Orange County, Maria danced in Symphony in C with Charles A. The performance brought tears to my eyes. It was beyond beautiful in the aesthetics scale. The feel of the movement was sublime and there definitely was a story going on in the Balanchine way (put a man and a woman on stage and there is story)

Link to comment


Here's the info on the Bolender/Evans/Phlegmatic video:

TODD BOLENDER coaching "Phlegmatic" variation from The Four Temperaments

Music: Paul Hindemith

Dancers: Albert Evans (New York City Ballet), with Christopher Barksdale (Kansas City Ballet)

Interviewer: Robert Greskovic

Taped: September 15, 1997, New York City; 113 minutes

A link to the Balanchine Foundation's page: Foundation Video Archives

A listing of archival libraries with Balanchine Foundation videos where it mentions

Chicago, IL: Visual & Performing Arts Division, Chicago Public Library


Alas, I hunted for the tape in card catalog, and although there were several of the Foundation's tapes there, including several of Maria Tallchief's coaching, the Bolender one did not crop up. However, if you requested they get it, perhaps they would. If I remember correctly, the Foundation was trying to make the tapes available to non-circulating libraries at cost, so it wouldn't be such a huge financial request on your part.

Link to comment

When the material on the "Choreography by Balanchine" DVD's was first broadcast on PBS in the late 70's, I was delighted by how well they captured the choreography I was seeing in the New York State Theatre at the time, when I saw about 40 NYCB programs a year. They provided much the same experience at home (only a little attenuated by the soft television image compared to the presence of a performance in the theatre) when the company wasn't performing. (And I could repeat any part at will on my VCR, and get to know a little of the repertory really well that way, as I had done with some of the classical-music repertory with my record player, so that when I did see something on stage again, I saw still more than before by using the video as a point of reference.)

So I still consider these particular videos authentic representations, although I would hasten to add that I do not look onstage for imitation of them. I don't want to see an imitation of anything, I would say I want to see something real happen, but it must preserve, if I may say so, the world of the ballet (I know that's a vague way of putting it; as I said before, it's hard to express my idea about this), and because some of these performances so distorted the original relation of movement qualities to music qualities (so important in Balanchine) as in the example I tried to give about the opening of The Four Temperaments that I consider the performances incomplete realizations of them, okay as introductions, maybe. It's because their performances diverge so far from the worlds NYCB showed us in Balanchine's day (and for a few years after his death, remarkably) that I and some others, like Farrell Fan, I think, refer to it as Martins's company. That's the way it looks onstage, regardless of whether it's the same legal entity or whatever.

I don't fault the dancers exclusively, although it may read that way, because of how we refer to the performances of each role. Doesn't it go without saying that we are seeing and commenting on a combination I think we can't exactly know of what they're taught and coached to do and what they bring to it themselves in the moment?

(P.S. Thank you, Amy! FWIW, I heard at the time that Mr. B. taught Adam Luders the role for the taping in Nashville.)

Link to comment
Treefrog, would you like to talk a little about the mystery in Duo Concertant? Is it all in the last movement, the one mostly in the dark? Is it about why the boy and girl part, and so on? Or about who they are, anyway?

The mystery for me was about who they are, and why they are dancing. I really couldn't figure out the setting -- where this couple is, why they are listening to this music, what their reaction is, or even what their relationship is.

I had an interesting revelation when we attended Thursday night (the program Jack reviewed). We sat just enough closer that the eye was drawn to individual dancers rather than the unfolding tableau. To my surprise, I had a whole different reaction than the one I'd had two nights before! Suddenly, many of the corps movements looked rather silly and abrupt (thinking here about Divert. No. 15).

In the Night may be a little trite and not Robbins' best, but we loved it anyway.

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...