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NYCB Week 4: January 23-28


drb

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January 23

The Power of Maria Kowroski

Mario Bigonzetti's masterwork, In Vento, dominated tonight's program, in terms of the audience's response and mine. Benjamin Millepied danced the lead, while Maria Kowroski's partner was Edwaard Liang, who frequently danced the lead last season (her partner then was Jason Fowler). This ballet was much discussed on BT during the Diamond Project. Unlike Slice, which seemed to tire (the dancers, I assume) in repeat performances, the Bigonzetti/Moretti work is holding up admirably.

Thanks, Michael, for your tip re Tiler Peck. She is indeed not locked into her usual smile, but is beginning to show some stage persona, and related well to Ben in their PdD.

Not long after this, Ben and his 10 friends form a line across the stage as a delicate throb, hinting at Sacre, enters the music. He pulls the line off, stage right, but The Chosen One remains alone: Maria Kowroski begins her erotic dance of attraction. Tremendous control for steps and movement of such amplitude. Finally, her back to the audience, she folds her arms across her torso, hands and wrists extending to be visible to the audience. She seems to be saying to the darkness she's facing: come on out boy, if you dare, and know what you are facing. Courageous Edwaard dares, and the extraordinary pas begins. Both of the key male roles in this ballet look as if they were meant to be for Mr. Liang. He holds his own against, or with, Maria. Since returning from her illness last season, Ms. Kowroski seems stronger and more emotionally charged than before. She inhabits this role like it was life itself.

As the pas ends and the music prepares for its Bruckner-like adagio finale, the couple forms an arch through which Ben enters from the darkness. They part, and he dances a solo, but not of dispair: He moves toward stage left, and leads his 10 friends back. In the middle of the line is Maria. She is still in the throws of her encounter. Fully still there. She is now one of the wonders of our city's ballet universe.

During the early bows, as Ben steps back into the line he stumbles (just a little) and Maria laughs and is freed from the spell. After the curtain closes, dancers are called out four times.

Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 closed the program, with Wendy Whelan, obviously on her leg, dancing with ease and freedom, partnered by Charles Askegard, who gave his all. Seconda donna was again Tess Reichlen, sparkling as she awaits her turn at Prima.

The evening began with Mozartiana danced by Kyra Nichols, Philip Neal, and Tom Gold. Kyra's Pregheira, very clean and simple, passed the goose-bumps test. Soon there will be no-one who actually knew Mr. B. to act as his intercessor in this prayer. Of course Sainte Suzanne will never be duplicated. But the company is not taking care of this ballet. Why has Maria had this, and so many other Farrell roles, taken from her, especially as her interpretive powers magnify? And who will be the future ballerinas, and where will they find a male as fast and elegant as Ib Andersen?

At least try.

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All in all, not a great night for senior ballerinas.

I watched from my usual area -- the Fourth Ring. It looked to me as though Kyra's Prayer sprang from serenity, not sorrow. Until I lifted my opera glasses and saw suffering on her face. I should have left my glasses down. I was more intrigued by what I saw from the body than the face. In the pas, Philip Neal saved her more than a couple of times, but unfortunately not as they went for the final pose.

Tom Gold, the "single" guy," brought back some of the courtliness missing from Ullbricht's performance last week. As usual, Dena Abergel stood out radiantly in the women's quartet.

I'm not sure I found all the narrative drb did in In Vento, but I found myself enjoying it in spite of myself. At second viewing, my inner commentator kept saying, "This is the kind of thing I don't like" (suggestions of S&M, writhing on the floor, overly contrived lifts), but the melodious commissioned score (Bruno Moretti) seems to have tipped the the balance in favor of my right-brain.

It's never a good thing when a dancer omits steps from a Balanchine work, but to leave out something as emblematic as the supported backward hops on pointe from Piano Concerto, well, shame on you Wendy Whelan! But then, perhaps Wendy has a problem with her feet. They never fully pointed in her entrechats. Askegard valiantly pulled her through. Reichlen, the solo woman, was less exuberant than last week but more musical. She manages to pull off technique which should, by the laws of physics, not be possible on a body like hers.

Here's an oddity about Piano Concerto. The corps women and the ballerina wear chiffon bodices, which look barely constructed, but the soloist and demis wear brocade, which looks constructed. This may be an illusion because of the fabric. But I can't help but wonder why the demis and soloist would have fancier costumes than the ballerina. I wonder if there's an unfinished costume in the shop.

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I wonder if I was at the same performance............

not the consistent Nichols admirer that many of my friends are, I was not surprised last night: I was brought up with a jolt. I saw the steps, I saw this danced with some soul (I am sorry, Ms. Kowrowski, but I don't miss you one bit in this), I saw a beautiful Preghiera and a pdd that made up in clarity and musicality what it may have lacked in a rock-solid pose at the end.

Who cares? Mozartiana is not about one pose. She made it sing through her performance.

I didn't stay for the remainder of the program (and PC2 is one of my favourite ballets)....I wanted to remember this Mozartiana. I watched an old recording of Suzanne Farrell this afternoon in it, and they were very different, but Kyra is leaving with flags flying, that is certain.

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I saw the Robbins program last night. In the past I've been one of the few people who seemed to enjoy Old Fashioned, but last night it looked really lackluster to me. Mearns had ample occasion to luxuriate in the beautiful use of her upper body, but beautiful as it is it can't carry a whole ballet - especially when she's barely on stage for 10 minutes. Ringer was missing her usual elan and Krohn (subbing for Bar) was ok but had little to do. The men were a mixed bag but the whole production dragged and the one thing that stood out was how badly the live dancers were outclassed by the celluloid ones.

Despite some wonderful dancing by young dancers I love I also found 3 & 4 Part Inventions pretty dull. Woetzel is always fascinating but Suite of Dances did nothing but remind me of Baryshnikov (and I never even saw him dance in it). Fortunately "In Memory of" saved the evening for me. It's not a ballet I'd want to see often, but it was given a wonderful, very moving performance by Whalen, Askegard, Orza et al. Whalen's ethereal persona is perfect for this- she brought just the right degree of otherworldliness to the role and her struggle with Askegard's "death" was gut wrenching.

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For the Stravinsky program tonight, both AGON and SYMPHONY IN 3 MOVEMENTS were outstanding for their energy, jazzy-ness and pacing. Amar was excellent in both AGON (second pas de 3) and SYMPH in 3 (the pas de 2). He has grown and improved so much since he joined the company -- at first he just didn't have the "core" strength, and was very wobbly in the middle -- now he projects strength, competence and intelligence -- and he's so good natured and unself-conscious, too!

Maria K and Sebastian did the pas de 2 in AGON. I was a bit skeptical about Marcovicci, since I've always felt he was too "hulky" and without finesse or polish (and also with no real core strength), but he did very well, and was an equal partner to Maria.

The orchestra, again, especially in AGON was not good. I hope that it's not either the new conductor -- or the musician's response to him.

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Thursday night was heaven for me. Agon and Maria Kowroski what more can one ask for? My favorite ballet with my favoite dancer. It just doesn't get better than that. And the performance lived up to my hype. Maria was wonderful - those legs are a national treasure. And the sexy pdd was amazing. Marcovici did a nice job and Ramasar was particularly good.

A night of all black and white Stravinsky/Balanchine ballets. Can there be a better program than that?

I thought Agon was certainly the highlight of the evening. If the program ended there I would have felt I had gotten my money's worth. Following the intermission Monuments/Movements with Krohn and Askegard was a little pedestrian. No fireworks but a decent performance. I cheered heartily - I like to encourage the younger dancers. This was followed by Duo Concertant with Borree and Hubbe. Again, a lesser work - but I thought the Violinist was particularly good.

Last bue certainly not least was the Symphony in 3 Movements. Fantastic. I thought that Somogyi, Hyltin and Stafford partnered by Ramasar, Hendricks and Danchig-Waring were all outstanding. They were full of life and movement. I loved the performance.

Inteesting note. We meet a friend who was also at the ballet for dinner afterwards. She brought a young man who had never been to a ballet before. He had no idea of what he was going to see and was completely surprised by it. It was not at all what he expected (of course)! But he did say he enjoyed it very much and would like to come again. So even someone seeing this for the first time found a lot to enjoy.

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A friend of mine who does not post on (or read, actually) BT sent me a lovely response to last Friday's program. I asked if I could share it with all of you, and he said yes. Thought you'd all enjoy his take, since it also brought back some fond memories of the "Balinese" section in days past:

Just to tell you I saw a near-glorious performance of Mozartiana last Friday. In other words, it was truly excellent and then some, if not literally stunning. Philip Neal performed like I've never seen him. I haven't seen such footwork from him in over ten years! His timing to the music was masterly and his little battements in those difficult variations would have done Ib Anderson proud. As for Kyra, she forced you to somehow focus on the upper body in terms of the sheer beauty of her line - but just like in familiar music when one forces oneself to hear the harmonies in simultanaity with the known melody - one looked at her legs as well as her upper line and received delightful little shocks of sheer beauty that one cannot take in for any sustained period, no matter how learned your eye. Hers was a masterly performance. I hope the younger dancers were in the wings seeing this lesson in "what its all about".

Far more enthusiasm came from the novelty-loving crowd for "In Vento", which premiered last summer. The title is a pun on "invention" in Italian.

The Symphony in 3 mov. was again excellent and Ramasar is the right "template". Look at him only to judge how all around him should move and gesture. He was in the pas de deux. No one could do that left wing entry as marvelously as Bart Cook. Heather Watts, Balanchine's "rare orchid", as he fondly called her, was also inimitable in such contortionist roles.

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The preimier of Tribute on Saturday night was well received. It started with a wonderful solo by Delvin Alberda. I wonder if both him and Robert Fairchild were in the original SAB production. They all looked very confident and assured. Highly recommended.

I was at Row B near the conductor. Fayçal Karoui is huming with the orchestra during the Episodes. My friend could hear at Row L. It drove me nuts. I wish someone will tell him to stop doing that. Then again, it may be very hard to change.

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At the matinee I sat in A-123 and he hummed during Monumentum and in Symphony in 3.

It was annoying, yet fascinating to hear a melody line that wasn't always obvious. Maybe

he only hums to complex scores. I asked the people seated near me what they thought -

no one I asked heard it - guess I was the youngest in the area :)

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I was at Row B near the conductor. Fayçal Karoui is huming with the orchestra during the Episodes. My friend could hear at Row L. It drove me nuts. I wish someone will tell him to stop doing that. Then again, it may be very hard to change.

Maybe he thinks he is the reincarnation of Toscanini who hummed along with some of his NBC concerts and operas. Some were transmitted over the radio and later transferred to disc and the humming is pretty prominent.

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I recently heard humming on Karoui nights -- from the FOURTH RING!!! Is it even possible that it was Karoui himself??? :)

But I returned to this thread -- very belatedly -- to congratulate the company on one of its finest performances in years, Sunday, 1/28. The corps exhibited what it is capable of -- energy, musicality, vitality, unity. It has been replaying in my mind since. It was a pleasure to put down the opera glasses and admire the full, changing stage pictures, particularly in the full-company sections of Agon and Monumentum.

Also, in what may be her best-yet Duo Concertant, Yvonne Borree with Nikolaj Hubbe was tender and playful, as the various passages required. But most outstandingly was the clarity of detail. The many ways that a man's hand takes a woman's, or vice versa, suddenly became the uniting drama that held the ballet together from beginning to end. Very moving.

Savannah Lowery has been noticeable in the past for her awkward, stiff upper body. This season she has shown some improvement, but the Sunday matinee was a major relapse. I don't think she's yet ready for the several featured roles she's gotten -- this time in Agon's first pdt.

As if the overall level of dancing weren't satisfying enough, this was a truly great program. As the curtain rose on Monumentum (after an intermission following Agon), there was the momentary, "Didn't we just see this?" :huh: But as soon as the dance got underway, it was the contrast between these two court-danced based works rather than the similarities which came to the fore. I hope that in future seasons, this program (or at least the Agon-M/M sequence) will be shown together from time to time.

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The preimier of Tribute on Saturday night was well received. It started with a wonderful solo by Delvin Alberda. I wonder if both him and Robert Fairchild were in the original SAB production. They all looked very confident and assured. Highly recommended.

I was at Row B near the conductor. Fayçal Karoui is huming with the orchestra during the Episodes. My friend could hear at Row L. It drove me nuts. I wish someone will tell him to stop doing that. Then again, it may be very hard to change.

Yes, both Devin and Robbie were in the original SAB production of Tribute.

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