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Winter Season Opening Night


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Well, it finally felt like a gala when the orchestra stuck up Sousa, and Woetzel and Bouder flew out of the wings, but more on that later.

The theme of the program (yes, it had a theme, as all of this season's programs do, however tenuous) is "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Purple." I figured purple is the eponymous duet from Ecstatic Orange, borrowed is MiddleDuet, old is NY Export: Op. Jazz and Stars & Stripes; new is SliceToSharp and probably Friandises. So what are Carousel (A Dance) and Walpurgisnacht?

New apprentice Kathryn Morgan a petite brunette in her NYST debut, made a terrific impression leading Carousel (A Dance). (Most of the set was not used -- only the strung lights.) She showed sensitivity to mood and the ability to scale herself larger or smaller as the music demanded. A more seasoned dancer would have been able to disguise the thinness of the choreography, but she's off to a promising start. Seth Orza partnered ably, danced somewhat heavily.

This was my first look at Slice, and my second look at Elos's work. Already I see a pattern -- novelty lighting that accentuates shadows and makes it difficult to see. This really is a shame, because there were passages I'd really like to see again. (Maybe "again" is not the mot juste in this case.) It makes the act of watching exhausting without being consuming. It places a barrier between the viewer and the stage. I think this may have been easier to see from the closer seats, but I wasn't there. I'd like to think that when rehearsals start to include the lighting plots, someone sees how it works from the upper levels. I can't believe that the same effect can't be achieved if visibility improves. The problem arose again with Ratmasky's Middle Duet.

Great to have Taylor back in the Ecstatic Orange excerpt, with Marcovici. The astringent contortions of the pas benefit greatly from her delicacy and vulnerability.

The first half concluded with the whirlwind finale of Friandises. A tiny quiggle in her first set of turns didn't hurt Peck's momentum. Ulbricht is dancing more and punching out the steps less than he did last year. Much improved, thank you very much!

So ends Act I.

Act II opened with excerpts from Walpurgisnacht Ballet -- Nichols and Neal with Abi Stafford and (more notably) Riggins and Scheller. Kyra was in her element. One of my problems with Kyra over the years was her tendency to cry out , "HEY! EVERYBODY! Look how this goes!" She now smiles, "See? . . . See?" Like Ulbricht, a clear case of less is more. Neal exuded a somewhat stronger and more noble presence than usual.

The Ratmansky pdd -- what I could see of it -- had some promising moments. I hope they bring it back some time just a tad brighter.

A brief excerpt for the ensemble of NY Export: Op. Jazz had sass and brio, but seemed out of place.

Then Bouder hit the stage, and the party began. Her daring (she has no fear), her musicality, her uncontainable joy gave us fireworks like the Fourth of July. Woetzel was "on", too, and the evening ended (at long last) with the kind of excitement we hope to find on this kind of smorgasbord gala program. The Playbill notes, "Stars and Stripes will be performed in loving memory of Melissa Hayden." She'd have loved it.

Also in the Playbill, Jenifer Ringer's recollection of her "terrifying" debut as Aurora and Robert Sandla's appreciation of Karinska's costumes.

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I just got home, and felt much the same as carbro did about S+S, as if finally something was happening after a generally miscellaneous set of tidbits. For all the use of a theme, the evening had no shape or coherence, and was less satisfying than I had hoped for. I'm not entirely sure why, because recent galas I've attended at Boston and from San Francisco this past summer in NYC were both more exhilarating, even if both were considerably longer. It may be that I was frustrated by all the little excerpts, or that I was sitting farther from the stage than usual, or that most of the dancers were known quantities and I got little in the way of surprise. Or even the sense I got that the dancing was secondary to all the schmoozing going on among the deep-pocketed denizens of the First Ring.

High points - Carousel, Purple, Stars and Stripes. Each had its very cool aspects: in Carousel Ms. Morgan, whose name I can't even find on the company website, and some of the choreography for the ensemble, especially the part where the boys shoulder the girls who are holding poles to become a human carousel. In Purple, which I had never seen before, more stimulating choreography than I would have expected from Peter Martins, and Janie Taylor, who has an almost otherworldly character and long blonde tresses that took a starring role in themselves. And Woetzel, Bouder, Hendrickson, Sousa, Balanchine, and the stars and stripes themselves to end the evening.

Not so hot - the rest. Slicing up Slice to Sharp, Friandises, and NY Export didn't help; they all felt like incomplete snippets. Why not instead just perform several self-contained excerpts or short ballets? I've seen all three of these before complete and they all worked better. Still, I have to admit that NY Export struck me as dated and not top-drawer Robbins; he did better with West Side Story to a much better score. I felt neutral on Slice to Sharp tonight, though last year it seemed stronger than Glow-Stop did at ABT last month. Having seen Friandises complete twice, I felt more than before how clichéd the Christopher Rouse score was; as for the dancing, I'd rather see the finale that was danced tonight than most of the rest of it, and I'm pleased carbro had something good to say about Danny Ulbricht's performance. I have a soft spot for this dynamic young guy even though I've recognized his tendency to try harder than he needs to; in this respect he's the total opposite to Damien Woetzel. (In fact, Damien's performance at the Boston gala to a Robbins ballet of four Bach cello suite movements - sorry, I forget the name - was a highpoint of that evening because of its insouciance and understatement. I didn't know how the audience would react because there were a number of real hard hitters in the company, but it got a huge ovation.)

Which leaves me with Walpurgisnacht, which struck me as instantly forgettable even though it's by Balanchine, and the new Middle Duet by Ratmansky. Between the low lighting that prevented me from seeing much of anything, and the incredibly monotonous music, this one just bored me.

Too bad. Better programming above all might have made this a less tepid experience.

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This was my first look at Slice, and my second look at Elos's work. Already I see a pattern -- novelty lighting that accentuates shadows and makes it difficult to see.

It was my first look at Slice, and I thought that it could benifit greatly from complete darkness.

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Everything was well rehearsed and performed -- The company as a whole was very impressive.

Look how deep and well trained they are: a strong group of apprentices – one apprentice, K. Morgan dancing a principal role in Carousel; a young corps de ballet with great placement, style and depth on both sides of the dressing rooms (Seth Orza danced a principal role opposite K. Morgan; the senior women’s corps is now Labean, Laracey, Keenan, Barak, Muller, Flack, Beskow, Riggins, Walker, etc. – great look, superbly musical, beautifully and uniformly trained and placed and everyone in great shape – the corps de ballet has a company style now that is unprecedented in recent memory); a strong and definite group of soloists, both the official ones and those who solo de facto (e.g., Reichlen, Scheller, Peck, Ulbricht, Ramassar, Riggins, Krohn, Jon Stafford – you won't find a stronger group in any other company, here or abroad; and superb principal dancing last night and a spread of ages here too (Neal, Taylor, Evans, Kowroski, Nichols, Whelan, Sylve, Bouder, Woetzel), even though half the principals didn’t dance (Weese, Fairchild, Hubbe, Kistler, Ringer, Somogyi, etc.). The sole lack is the need for one or two more strong principal men – but that’s not unique to this company either.

It’s been years since the company opened a season looking this good, strong and deep. Let’s see now what they do with it, six weeks of Nutcracker, alas, pay the bills.

I very much liked the Ratmansky, and Kowroski and Evans in it. Ratmansky has a gift for silhouette and form, and for using the personalities of his dancers. It was inventive and fresh without being ugly or straining after effect. Always classical. Who were the principal dancers this was made on?

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As NYCB Galas go, this was a pretty good one. The crowd was relatively responsive, especially from the second ring on up, but looking down, even some socialites showed enthusiasm.

Artistically, it was rewarding to see an early work by Ratmansky, his 1998 Middle Duet , originally created on the Mariinsky, yet looking as if it were made on Maria Kowroski. Abstract, with lighting suggesting sun through window, first from our left, later from our right. There seemed an emotional ambivalence between Maria and Albert Evans, a kind of simultaneous attraction and repulsion (in the sense of pushing away, not disgust). It would be good to see again, since it is, after all, by the creator of the 21st Century's first masterpiece, The Bright Stream.

Kyra Nichols captured the Love that Balanchine choreographed for Farrell in Walpurgisnacht . That, plus Ana Sophia Scheller and Kaitlyn Gilliland was plenty for me!

Kathryn Morgan, while not Ansanelli, was superb in the Wheeldon. She has the ability to relate: to really see her partner, and thus conveys much beyond technic. She already has her stage face, unlike some of the other greatly talented teens on display at the Gala.

Slice , while not packing the punch of its premiere, did give Craig Hall his chance to excel. His partnering of Wendy was a highlight, and overall he was the male standout of the evening.

WELCOME BACK JANIE TAYLOR!. Beautiful, so graceful, and THAT HAIR. If only it had been in Faun .

Stars and Stripes, of course!

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Michael, if I am not mistaken, when 'Middle Duet' was being made, it was set on several couples. At the time, I believe, Ratmansky used to bring prepared steps to the studio and teach them to the dancers, though I don't think he works this way now. Pavlenko and Islom Baymuradov danced the premiere, but Ayupova and Sologub were among the women Ratmansky worked with during the rehearsal process. The original had two angels (dark and light) framing the pricipals on either side of the stage, and when the couple "died", the light angel walked them off the stage, as another couple came on and began to reprise the opening, and then the curtain fell. It was affective.

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The original had two angels (dark and light) framing the pricipals on either side of the stage, and when the couple "died", the light angel walked them off the stage, as another couple came on and began to reprise the opening, and then the curtain fell. It was affective.

Very interesting, such a different context, I imagine it would markedly change the way I saw it, taking it from a formal ballet to a surreal, or symbolic one, or maybe surreal narrative would be the phrase.

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Carbro is a genius and a brilliant reviewer. Ny Jazz is stupid, a third rate West Side Story dance. I am in love with Janie Taylor and her return was delectable. Bouder and Woetzel glowed. Kyra is after all 48 and retiring. Evans is at the best of his game. I feel thrilled that I "discovered" Kathryn Morgan two years ago at SAB.

This I ask my much more knowledgable BT folk: How do the wonderful women of the corps and soloist ranks feel when an apprentice not yet listed on the program takes a lead role at 18?? in Carousel at the Gala? I believe Keenan and Golbin and Lowery should be soloists. I also love Georgina Pazcoquin, and I want Kristin Sloan to be healed of her dreadful hip problems and return to us.

To all: Happy Thanksgiving.

Jim

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