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NYCB Gala: Fall 2007


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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Balanchine and Petitpa got this gala off to a good start, with a well-rehearsed Garland Dance flowing nicely into the Rose Adagio from Chief Peter Martins's masterpiece, Sleeping Beauty. Here were the clean look and splendid dancing so often missing in some more creative productions. Something of a triumph for Megan Fairchild, who not only danced the part with seeming ease, but also was at ease, enriching in her characterization and with balances that were near Ideal. Her suitors looked like suitors, not fops; Jared Angle, Stephen Hanna, Jonathan Stafford, and Amar Ramasar partnered with such confidence that you know, had one of them been chosen, that their marriage would have got off to a fine start. One fun moment: the last rose given her was missing the flower. The stem did not phase this Aurora!

After a pause Ellen Bar and Sean Suozzi introduced a section of their in-progress video of the Robbins N. Y. Export: Opus Jazz. They gave the happy news that it had just won an International Dance Film competition in Europe. Then we saw a portion that featured Rachel Rutherford and Craig Hall dancing on urban railroad tracks, backed by the setting sun. Dancers, perhaps, should be in charge of all ballet vids! Yet for all its simplicity, it was a subtle work of videographic art. Just showing that you don't need MTV jump-cutting to vary the view, they did it smoothly, in the spirit of the music and choreography.

Then came Wendy Whelan and Albert Evans in Wheeldon's Liturgy; their self-replicating movement as the ballet's conclusion made them one, was perhaps the creative highlight of the evening. The first half concluded with Balanchine's Western Symphony, fourth movement, headed by a particularly gamerous Maria Kowroski and a particulary enthusiastic Damian Woetzel, M. A.

The second half belonged to Chief Martins. There was a fine compilation of vids of Lincoln Kirstein, including, of course, Mr. B's telling of meeting the tall American who promised him a future here. Lots on building the State Theater. Especially touching: the scene where Suzanne Farrell leans on his shoulder... During the Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla a large projection of a portrait (profile) of Mr. Kirstein filled the stage in noble splendor. Then came Chief Martins's premiere, Grazioso. Ashley Bouder (in a somehow cheap costume that needs rethinking) was partnered by Gonzalo Garcia, Andrew Veyette (her main partner), and Daniel Ulbricht (with some truly spectacular solos). I'm not sure if this is a piece d'occassion or meant to survive beyond tonight. As so often, The Chief seemed so taken up with creating sequences of steps (some quite brilliant), that the whole just didn't add up to the sum of its parts. Yet some of the virtuosity was so entertaining that it will probably please many people, for a while. Ms. Bouder's was the largest part, but she seemed a virtuosa in search of a story. Was she Swanhilde, or Lise, or Apollo with her three Muses, as it looked for one wry moment...? The Glinka/Martins segment ended with a repeat of the 1993 A Life for the Tsar. This finished with a serenade to Mr. K of "Happy Birthday to You," followed most anticlimactically with "Happy Birthday to You," rather outlasting the applause of an otherwise rather appreciative audience.

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As much as I enjoyed the first half of the evening -- Garland Dance leading in to the Rose Adagio; the film, which was indeed very well photographed, and a "jump for joy" Western Symphony finale -- I really enjoyed Peter Martins' premier, Grazioso, and hope it does come back. The dancing was wonderful, and it was a pleasure to see such interesting footwork from all of them. The men were fabulous, as was Ashley Bouder, and all were well received. Her costume was really awful though. I didn't miss a plot or characterization, I just enjoyed the dancing and the footwork. What a relief from the constant running running to Adams, et al.

I was up in the 4th ring, without benefit of opera glasses, and could have sworn that the third man, in addition to Garcia and Veyette, was Stephen Hannah. However, I just saw on "Oberon's Grove" that the man I thought was stephen Hannah was indeed Garcia. Oh well..... should have brought the binocs, but it's been so long since I've been to the theater that I forgot.

The final piece, again to music from A life for the Tsar, was the defile, with everyone from the littlest student (always gets a reaction) to the most senior Principal. The parade was beautifully designed, with complex patterns, curves and switchbacks, and even a line of small boys dashing towards downstage right from upstage left THROUGH two lines of dancers. Their salute to Lincoln nearly made me cry, and why they sang happy birthday to him (May 4th!!) and then again, facing us, is beyond me. At the very, very end, it looked like a few people didn't know where to go, and that Damian was gesturing off stage right, expecting someone to come to join them...... Despite that bit of chaos, it was delightful

(Edited to correct misidentifications)

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It's hard for me to believe that what used to be a major event on my calandar in decades gone by -- Opening Night of New York City Ballet -- came and went while I remained oblivious. This is partly because it conflicted with Opening Night of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet at the Kennedy Center. I didn't go to that either, but I would have liked to. At any rate, thanks to drb and ViolinConcerto for the reports from Chief Martins's territory, and to zerbinetta for rightly calling attention to drb's way with words. So far, no reports from Washington.

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I was also up high in the fourth ring and with my poor eyesight and my wife forgetting the opera glasses... I really couldn't see faces. That being said I have to agree with most of the posters about the evening. It was really quite wonderful. The highlights for me were of course Whelan and Evens in Liturgy. They were really fantastic. And Maria and Woetzel seemed to be having a ball and were dancing full out. What a great first half it was. And it sure sent everyone to intermission with big smiles on their faces.

The second half was - well less interesting. The Overture to Rusian and Ludmilla was ... well ... an overture. I thought Grazioso deserves to come back. It was really a tour de force for the three male dancers. I had a lot of trouble seeing who's who from where I sat... mainly just being able to identify Veyette as he is taller than the other two.

The final piece A Life for the Tsar was a lovely staged piece d'occassion (sp?). The patterns were lovely and to see that many dancers on the stage at one time was breathtaking. It made sitting up high worthwhile. There were about 150 dancers on stage - it seemed like everyone from the corps to the principals as wall as tons of students from SAB. And another 25 opera singers. Quite the spectaacle.

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You can see some of the Bar/Suozzi film that we saw here:


The site shows some of the telecast on the Ed Sullivan show, technical details on how the segment with Rutherford/Hall was photographed, how it came to be shot at sunset, and concludes with the finale to their section. Everyone that films ballet for DVD or TV should be required to view this "how to" vid first. Don't forget to click the teaser vid as well...

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