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

NYCB Spring 2008: Week 3

Recommended Posts

Saturday evening, May 17

Kaitlyn Gilliland

Tonight I bought a ticket just to see Janie Taylor debut in my favorite Robbins ballet, Opus 19/The Dreamer. What promise, that most mysterious of dancers in this dance full of mysteries. The dreaded program insert: "due to illness and injury...". I pray this is just a one-show thing, with so much yet to see of her this season.

The program began with Robbins' PdD Andantino, a setting of the second movement of Tschaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, danced by Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz. This looked like Robbins was cheating, using applause-grabbing music without bothering much about choreography.

But then came The Dreamer. At its beginning, with McBride/Baryshnikov, it seemed something of an off-effort, compared to other dances the choreographer made on the all-round greatest male dancer I've ever seen. The evening-opening film showed Robbins teaching the part to Jeffrey Edwards (1990). Ib Andersen was an early successor to Baryshnikov, and found more in it. But it was Peter Boal who caught its greatness. It has been said that Mr. Boal's only (relative) weakness was acting. If so, it was a blessing in this role. He was just there, only a human, vulnerable in that moment of falling asleep and awakening into a dreamscape. This was my favorite of all the great classicist's ballet roles.

Tonight Gonzalo Garcia had the Boal role. His dream began in the form of six female dancers, with one quickly separating from the rest, with grander amplitude, arms wildly swinging, yet in harmony with the rest of her body, almost as if those arms were reaching toward him from some other dimension, perhaps from reality that he'd just left behind? This was Wendy Whelan, Boal's great partner in this dance. Her dancing tonight was remarkably huge, fluid, emotional. Toward the end of the first movement, Prokofiev's violin soloist (Erin Keefe) plays over a bed of violins, an intensely moving masterstroke, and Robbins sees his dancers moving as if in some other medium than air, a more viscous space, where time slows, and straight lines curve, deep sleep. And all there is in the world are Wendy and Gonzalo.

Then comes some allegro, Wendy incredibly on, dancing with the speed and clarity of youth. One has been waiting to see Garcia the technician that we saw with the San Francisco Ballet, and here we finally see his virtuosity flower at NYCB.

As the dance nears its end, the dream nears its end, Mr. Garcia, whose sense of being at home in the part grew throughout the dance, begins to experience fitful jerks in his body. In some performances past, I've heard the occasional snicker. Not here. Gonzalo really aced this part of the ballet. Perhaps his real-world body signaling him home? The body eases. He is stage front, in line with seven dancers behind him. The bodies weave, as one of them, Wendy, moves in front of him. The other six dissolve, leaving Gonzalo alone with Wendy. Their heads nestle. They are about to wake together?

Next was Tschaikovsky's Piano Pieces. This begins with four short folksy pieces for a corps of 7 men and 7 women (7 brides for 7 brothers?). Then a bridge is formed by the first of three impressively danced virtuosic solos for Antonio Carmena.

Reverie, a PdD for Sara A. Mearns and Jared Angle follows. This is Ms. Mearns as dream-woman. She was also very on-form technically, so that her musicality was in full play. There are various times when she is a couple of steps away from Jared, and must go to receive his hand. It is how she gets there. At first the eyes, as if they make an elastic connection that pulls her toward him, but then it is no simple law-of-physics pull, for it is most lusciously danced. Another virtuosic turn by Antonio, and then the next duo, Abi Stafford and Amar Ramasar, have a happy up-tempo dance. Variations for Sara and Jared follow. And then it happens.

Kaitlyn Gilliland generated great anticipation from the School, only to have her apprenticeship suffer a long gap due to injury. As she came back one would often spot her in the Corps, partnered by William Lin-Yee, somehow placed in line-of-sight with that ballet's lead couple. How often I missed seeing what the leads did, so captivated by what the kids were dancing. And now here she was, with partner Stephen Hanna (he was to be perfection), to dance October-Chant d'Automme. All that promise, vanished. Reality, beyond what one could imagine. She entered with a gravitas, a profound inner glow, that might remind old-timers of the mythic Muse. Yet, within, fire. A confidence, this was her stage. A line of staggering beauty. Have you ever seen a leg sigh? Tonight I did. And more than once. What joy it must be for a dancer to feel that in her own leg! The exiting upside-down lift with Mr. Angle was an icon. Then some exceptional virtuosity by Mr. Carmena, one could breath again. Next, Kaitlyn's solo to June-Barcarolle. Having scaled the adagio to Everest heights, it was a treat to see she's a virtuosa too. It is as if every minute's joy missed during that time of delay were released as she soared in that final grand jete.

Link to comment
But no thoughts from you, drb, about that thrilling Les Noces?

OK, I’ll bite since I saw the same program on Wednesday evening, May 14:

I thought that Les Noces sounded great - it just blew me away! I’d never had a ready opportunity to hear the work live before and was very pleased with the both performance and (for once) with NYST acoustics; because the chorus, soloists, four pianos, and percussion were all on stage (with the chorus and soloists on steeply raked risers right in front of the backdrop) the sound carried out into the hall with more immediacy than it usually does there. And the piece is just terrific anyway. (I studied the score in a course on 20th century music; it struck me as being the kind of thing that is much harder to do than it sounds, so kudos to all the musicians involved.)

I’d seen Les Noces during NYCB’s 1997(?) revival, done to a recording by a Russian folk music group, and thought it (Robbins’ ballet) was only OK. I liked the raw sound of the singers just fine, but it was perhaps a bit too “authentic” to be paired with Robbins’ choreography and the whole didn’t really do justice to Stravinsky’s score, IMO. Furthermore, the stage picture wasn’t really full enough without the musicians. (I don’t remember if the 97 revival used the current backdrop, which is very striking. Since it looks as if it was designed to fill in the space above the chorus, it might not have been usable without them.) I still don’t think Robbins’ Les Noces is a masterwork in and of itself, but the whole package on Wednesday evening was a pretty decent piece of theater. One of its (to me) significant drawbacks is that it’s difficult to figure out who’s who just from the stage action or from the steps the dancers have been given, which in turn makes it hard to sort out what’s going on, which in turn undercuts some of the emotional impact the ritual scenes might have. (And maybe this is as Robbins intended: he might have been aiming for a more removed, more distanced experience of the proceedings. But it felt a bit like “Postcards of a Painting of a Gathering.”). I knew who the matchmakers were, for instance, because I know what Scheller and Veyette look like, but I’m not sure if someone unfamiliar with the dancers could have sorted out the matchmakers and the bride and groom’s respective parents.

Of the dancers, I thought Ana-Sophie Scheller was the most effective – just fierce, fierce, fierce in a role that’s more in the Gina Pazcougin line (who I think would be wonderful in it, by the way). Austin Laurent threw himself at the floor with rather alarming ferocity in one of the group dances for the men; I like him a lot, and while I appreciate the enthusiasm, I would prefer that he not actually break anything. Jonathan Stafford and Rebecca Krohn are lovely, elegant dancers, and I’m always happy to see their names on the program, but can we just say “least likely Russian peasants ever”? (Stafford is my current Prince Ivan of choice, however.)

Anyway, I’d go again just to hear this terrific performance of Stravinsky's terrific music, but Robbins’ choreography at the very least “does no harm” and does have some genuinely effective moments.

I'm in the process of typing up some thoughts about the rest of the program and will try to post them later.

Link to comment
I'm in the process of typing up some thoughts about the rest of the program and will try to post them later.

I'll say some more tomorrow myself. Busy day today. I thought it was quite a special night at NYCB.

Sorry not to have replied, Klavier. The exceptional dancing, role inhabiting, by Wendy and Kaitlyn left me too full to see Noces, which I'd already, like Kathleen, seen to not major pleasure before. Looking forward to reading both your thoughts, especially since it seems you've seen the same program, different evenings.

Link to comment

Wednesday evening, May 14

DRB – I too almost left before Les Noces! I had an early meeting the next morning and thought “Well, I don’t really need to see this again” – and then at the last minute it occurred to me that I might not get another opportunity to hear it again, so I decided to stay.

Andantino – Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz

Agreeable Robbins filler. I can’t say that I’m particularly hankering to see it again, but I certainly enjoyed it while it was happening. I’m trying to enjoy De Luz – if for no other reason than the fact that he so frequently partners Megan Fairchild, whom I enjoy very much – but I can’t work up the full complement of enthusiasm that he probably deserves. To my eye, he doesn’t so much dance as dart from one pyrotechnic display to the next; for this reason I prefer Millepied or Hendrickson in the same roles even thought they don’t have his technical chops. Here’s an example of what’s bugging me: his performance of the long and difficult male solo in Le Baiser de la Fée a couple of seasons ago was notable for his getting through it with out the least appearance of strain, but I also found it notably inexpressive. Baiser is a weird little ballet: it starts out like it’s going to be Donizetti Variations but morphs into something odder and darker well before the end – but none of that really came through in De Luz’ performance. (Whereas I think Baiser is the standout best thing M. Fairchild has done yet; as far as I’m concerned she owns the role.) He treated the connecting material between the solo’s virtuoso episodes as little more than a mechanism to transport him from one launching pad to the next – as if it had no theatrical or expressive possibilities of its own or as if dancing comprised only the jumping and turning bits. (As Hübbe demonstrated in Watermill, it comprises the standing stone still in one place for five minutes entirely enveloped in a cloak bits, too.) I do believe that De Luz’ emphasis on the fireworks arises from a genuine desire to please his audience and not from the need to prove something to it – he’s generous in that regard and the audience responds warmly to him; I’m definitely in the minority. And for the record, there are roles in which I find him immensely likeable, too. I thought he was terrific in Fancy Free: he brought a sunny winsomeness to a role that can turn disagreeably brittle in the hands of someone determined to prove that he can jump higher faster than anyone else. I liked him as Pierrot in Harlequinade, too. But. Even though Andantino (finally, back to the program!) doesn’t present any of Baiser’s interpretive challenges, it certainly does have changes of mood and this is not something I see captured in De Luz’ dancing yet. I don’t find him to be successful as a partner, either; he’s just not big enough to frame Fairchild or Bouder (the two ballerinas I’ve seen him partner) in the way the choreography demands in the particular ballets they’ve been cast in. I can imagine De Luz being entirely successful in something Bournonville-ish, in which the man and woman move together exuberantly and at speed with closely paired steps, say. (De Luz had a less-than-lucky draw in being paired with Bouder in the Fall section of The Four Seasons, where she’s at her brassiest and most prone to dance at her partner rather than with him. To date, I think J. Stafford has been the most successful of Bouder’s partners; his physical size relative to hers and his apparent alertness to the theatrical possibilities of partnering tether her to the proceedings more effectively than attempts to match her in sheer prowess or vividness, I think. But I digress ...)

While it’s not a great ballet, Andantino is nonetheless the kind of ballet that showcases M. Fairchild’s supple and subtle musicality – reminiscent of Miranda Weese’s – and the lovely, unmannered harmoniousness of her upper and lower body. Like Weese, Fairchild dances through a phrase, not inside it; and while she doesn’t have Weese’s uncanny ability to shapeshift from one moment of diamond clarity to another (and who does?) she can – with unforced delicacy – catch your eye with something that might otherwise flash by unnoticed. She doesn’t appear hell-bent on clubbing you over the head with bold effects, and that’s fine by me.

Well, I see that if I keep moving at this pace, we’ll be well into the winter season before I wrap up 5/14/08 – especially if I keep going off on tangents – and I haven’t even gotten to the evening’s highlight, which was Gonzalo Garcia and Wendy Whelan in Opus 19 – totally unexpected and out of nowhere! More tomorrow, I hope …

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

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