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NYCB Winter 2008: week 3


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Friday, January 18

Tonight's program offered three substantial ballets, each also of substantial length. First up was Mr. B's Square Dance, with Andrew Veyette partnering Megan Fairchild, who replaced Abi Stafford. It was good to see Ms. Fairchild displaying a bit of appropriate gravitas, and also dancing with a nice flow in this killer of a role. The partnering went well with Mr. Veyette, who also danced very well. The audience received this performance with quite significant enthusiasm, including a pair of curtain calls for the lead couple. By the way, the posting boards at the State Theater were peppered with casting changes, to the degree that the two did not always agree.

Next up was Balanchine's Prodigal Sun, with soon to depart Damian Woetzel, my favorite in this part since Baryshnikov, partnered by the charismatic Maria Kowroski. Maria started out just being her beautiful self, gradually powering up her considerable erotic dimension, so as not to frighten the novice boy at the beginning. A very nicely worked out characterization. Looking very bloodied, fortunately father Jonathan Stafford took poor Damian back. The duo earned four curtain calls!

The Robbins/Verdi Four Seasons returned after a three year absence to close the program. Sterling Hyltin replaced Megan Fairchild in the Ashton-like Winter. Antonio Carmena and Adam Hendrickson supplied some high voltage support as Ms. Hyltin romped along with a terrific shivering corps. All three Juliets from this season appeared, as she was joined by Erica Pereira and Kathryn Morgan in the corps. It would be splendid to see the young-Darci-like Sterling in some real Ashton: she certainly made a point of the early triple display of the bottom of her toe-shoe, an Ashton signature of course.

Next the ballet's aesthetic summit, Spring, as created on the young Kyra Nichols. Tonight's debutante was Sara A. Mearns. She was a dream in this Farrellesque movement, dancing on a grand scale, yet at times lighter than a feather; aethereal, yet already putting the stamp of her musicality on the role. Such ravishing arabesques, even playing with off-balances a bit. What a fountain of youth she is for her partner Philip Neal, dancing with her (as in their already near legendary Diamonds) as if a full decade younger. He danced with great joy and virtuosity. Together, for me, the high point of the evening. Tyler Angle, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Austin Laurent, and Giovanni Villalobos were right on synch with their virtuosic/hilarious out-of-synch quartet. After seeing this, the cygnets in Swan Lake will never seem the same... The Farrellish nature of this movement was enhanced by the great presence of Kaitlyn Gilliland, who opens and closes it.

The Fokine-like Summer, opened by the majestic Briana Shepherd, featured the hot, in both ways, Rachel Rutherford and Stephen Hanna.

And then came the spectacular Bolshoi (of, say, Lavrosky, not Grigorovich) Fall. Ashley Bouder dominated with her Patty McBride. Our Assoluta, dancing for joy, I feel even surpasses that legend. Of course with Mr. Woetzel no longer dancing the Baryshnikov role, it must by definition be miscast. Ben Millepied wisely did not try the hops during his final pirouettes. The Puck/Jester-like character was ideal for Daniel Ulbricht, perhaps the best I've yet seen in the part. All four seasons came out for the rousing finale. A program not to be missed.

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I agree with drb about tonight's performance, in particular Sara Mearns, elegantly partnered by Philip Neal and backed up by the bouncing quartet of Tyler Angle, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Austin Laurent and Giovanni Villalobos. Rachel Rutherford and Stephen Hanna were appropriately langorous (sorry about the spelling) and Ashley Bouder and Daniel Ulbricht were marvelous. Daniel really outdid himself and just about everyone else in that role. I thought Benjamin Millepied was not up to their standard: he seemed a bit off the music, a bit hesitant about the bravura sections.

That, however, should be our worst problem as they say. It really was a wonderful performance. And, oh, Sean Suozzi and Kyle Froman as the Prodigal's servants were dynamite, especially in their fight sequence.

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ALL BALANCHINE this afternoon, starting with a very elegant, civilized, calm performance of Le Tombeau de Couperin. The male cast was "newer" than the women in the group, but no one was a very recent company member. It would be hard to single out any excellent performance -- what would stand out would be a mediocre one, and thankfully, there was none. Following up on drb's (and my) posting on this thread, and another posting in praise of Antonio Carmena, I would especially compliment Devin Alberda, Vincent Paradiso and Daniel Applebaum. Lots of great male talent here.

What could be more fun than Tarentella with Ashley Bouder and Gonzalo Garcia? I don't know, maybe a trip back in time to the original cast, but other than that, or maybe Daniel Ulbrecht cutting in now and then, or perhaps giving Garcia a few lessons on the tambourine, as he didn't quite seem to have the hang of it just yet. However, we wouldn't want Daniel to smash through the tambourine as he did a few times the last time I saw this.

I can't comment on Bugaku, because I didn't watch it.... it has gotten a bit stale for me lately. But La Sonnambula, as melodramatic as it is, really looked beautiful. It seemed that some of the costumes had been redone, but I could be totally off. Sara Mearns was beautiful as The Coquette, and was very expressive in her body movements and some of her facial expressions. I think she is the first blond that I've seen in the role. Amar Ramasar was restrained as The Baron, maybe too restrained. Adam Hendrickson was wonderful as Harlequin. Someday, soneone should blow one of those funny whistles as the harlequin flies off the stage.... Nikolaj Hubbe has mastered the role of The Poet, but keeps it fresh. And he is still flexible enough to pull his looped arms all the way down The Sleepwalker's body. Wendy Whelan, as The Sleepwalker, was floating above the ground as she bouree-ed across the stage.

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I simply adore 'le Tombeau'. If someone pinned me down and made be pick my favorite Balanchine ballet, this would be it. It wafts over you like a gentle summer breeze and the choreography has the fluidity of a running stream (, yes, I was carried away!) Gonzalo Garcia in the 'Tarantella' wasn't frenetic enough for me, and could have moved a bit faster...(my fault, though--Villella is still in my head). It's been a long time since I have seen 'Bugaku' and thoroughly enjoyed it. Hubbe was quite r emarkable as the Poet in 'Sonnambula'. He looked at home in the role; most performers I have seen in the role look a bit embarassed and don't quite know what to do with the non-dancing parts. Sara Mearns Coquette was a disappointment; she was a too wholesome girl-next-door type. This lady is not to be trifled with.

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>I thought Benjamin Millepied was not up to their standard:

>he seemed a bit off the music, a bit hesitant about the

>bravura sections.

Friday's (1/18) was a thin, re overly fast conducting, dress rehearsal in comparison to the beautiful, full performances

by all on Saturday night (1/19), including Millepied's

suave and technically elegant presence in Four Season's

Autumn section.

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