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NYCB Spring 2008: Week 5

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sara and Tyler

Faycal Karoui was in his metier tonight, with Ravel and Debussy. First up was Mother Goose, light-weight fun with in references to other ballets, primarily through borrowed props and scenery. That tremendous dancer Tiler Peck as Princess Florine, who dreams most of the story, was impressive for her varying facial expressions. Now, if only in Balanchine... Many dancers have chances to shine and have fun. But Katherine Morgan stood out as Beauty. When Beast Adrian Danchig-Waring first approached her she expressed revulsion, although her almost impeccable manners would not allow her to refuse him this dance. Still, she had to avert her vision, often shielding him from sight with her hand. Ultimately they stopped dancing and she turned away from him, as he knelt, pleading, then just curled up on the floor, hopeless. But her compassion led her to approach him, caring, and he became her prince. Seeing this, her eyes momentarily dropped, in respect, or maybe just to say that if she'd known she would have worn a fancier dress. What a stunning dancer.

The middle pair of ballets began with Janie Taylor and Damian Woetzel dancing the dancers in Afternoon of a Faun. Soon after she joins him in the studio he pulls her up into attitude. What better way, in this dancers' world, to experience beauty as perfection? He gazes at her, a symbol of perfection, and something deep inside this cool, unemotional student-ballerina fires back a voracious stare, that never changes for the rest of the performance. She will have him, however abstractly the choreography dictates. This ballet of course could have been made on Ms. Taylor, so important is the ballerina's long hair, so often touched or tossed by her, and stroked by him. Her technical strength and control were much in evidence, and her radiance... Soon, he kneels. Her back to him she rises into attitude, Janie's rear leg caresses 'round his back... The eventual kiss, and the male dancer's final homage to Nijinsky's original shocker, are inevitable. As for Damian, well, every last performance is too soon, way too soon. This was followed by Antique Epigraphs, with solos, in order, taken by Rebecca Krohn, Rachel Rutherford, Teresa Reichlen, and Sara A. Mearns. Obviously pretty and well-danced, but perhaps it should have come before Faun.

The final work featured major individual debuts by Sara A. Mearns and Tyler Angle, or more precisely by their partnership. In G Major, to Ravel's piano (Cameron Grant) concerto is perhaps under valued, both as music and ballet, because its outer movements can in no way compare to the middle adagio. Still, in the "jazzy" opening Ms. Mearns was in fine allegro form, and so was Mr. Angle. When the music suddenly slowed, his control was also impressive. From early on in his career Tyler showed great promise as a partner, so effective in displaying his ballerina, in guiding audience eyes to her. What he needed was technical development, and tonight that was here. With this pair, on this debut night, the middle movement looked every bit a masterpiece. They rose to the heights of the music, in a way quite literally so. As a flute (?) solo begins, he begins to gently lift her. The dancers are so in, and adding to, the music. It is as if rubato and legato merge. It just isn't conceivable that this is a debut, so in harmony, physically, musically, spiritually, are these dancers. He sees only her; and her eyes, full of emotion, are only for him. This lyric intensity continued right through his final lift, carrying her offstage, and from my angle seemed to continue still. They looked ecstatic in the concerto's finale.

The program opened with a film, described by the printed program as "Afternoon of a Faun film sequence... [from] Peter Martins: A Dancer (1979." Mr. Robbins was coaching a romantic bit from the ballet to Mr. Martins and Suzanne Farrell (her name mentioned in the audio announcement but not in the program). Back in the day these were glorious performances to see. But instead of reliving those happy feelings, seeing these dancers so intimately together, I felt a sense of violation. Perhaps in light of events in years since. In 1953 Mr. Robbins dedicated this work to its originator, Tananquil Le Clercq. Could anyone describe her in this ballet?

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I saw the Ratmansky, Concerto Dsch, on Saturday night. It was very frothy and exuberant--the opening movement that introduces the the ensemble and soloists looks more like a grand finale than an opening. It's non-stop speedy brilliance, though the tone remains playful, humane, and lighthearted. Even the slow pas de deux in the middle section, for Whelan and Millepied, was more about gentle pleasures than keen longings. I thought the use of the background ensemble as semi-individualized community during this pas de deux--with the ensemble sometimes distant, sometimes near, and always shaping itself into unexpected images as Whelan and Millepied danced separately--was intriguing, possibly the most interesting thing about the ballet, though too much for my eye to take in on a first viewing.

There was lots of playful back and forth for De Luz, Garcia and Bouder in the first and, especially, the third movement. Their interactions were comic/flirtacious/competitive--by the end Bouder had seemingly 'chosen' Garcia but kept glancing over curiously at the hyperactive De Luz. Their dancing was non-stop athletic, exuberant steps--jumps, tosses, turns, turning jumps, jumping tosses, tossing jumps etc. This was my first look at Garcia--would love to see more.

Up to a point I understand McCauley's enthusiasm in the Times--and I think the Times critic has a tough if terrific job, so I don't like to pick at him/her--but I almost feel that some of his praise and even some of his description of the ballet's many surprises etc., could be more appropriately applied to Ratmanksy's Russian Seasons. I'd be curious if Concerto Dsch grows richer on multiple viewings, which is very possible since it's full of clever details, or just starts to seem like cutesy fun. I don't feel equipped to say.

I enjoyed the rest of the evening--even Martins' River of Light which was led by the wonderful Teresa Reichlen dancing a very exposed, sensual role (including skin tight white costume) to which she brings a wonderful, simple grace that the ballet may or may not deserve, but which certainly made it watchable for me. The composer, Charles Wuorinen, whose music I had not heard before, conducted his own score, which Martins had commissioned. The orchestra sounded great...

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I. I'd be curious if Concerto Dsch grows richer on multiple viewings, which is very possible since it's full of clever details, or just starts to seem like cutesy fun. I don't feel equipped to say.

You raise something that everyone who sees new work has to think about seriously. Thanks, Drew. I've been reading Croce at length this week, and it's astonishing -- for instance -- how seriously she takes a number of Peter Martins works (as compared, for instance, to the work of d'Amboise, which she hated) and how she takes a "Wait and See" attitude leaning heavily towards "Hmm. Promising!"

:off topic:I It's been wonderful reading all the posts on the NYCB threads recently. (I should say, "NYCB FORUM" -- welcome back!) You all must have lots of thoughts about the High Points of the NYCB 2007-2008 season, now that it's winding down.

We'd love to hear what you have to say about the Good and -- in a kindly fashion, we hope -- the Disappointing at NYCB or anyplace else in the ballet universe. It's a way of honoring (briefly) the Best -- and possibly giving a little nudge or suggestion to the rest.

The thread is here --

What were the High Points of Your 2007-2008 Season?

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I saw the Ratmansky last Thursday and pretty much agree with Drew. It needs more viewing there was so much

going on. The way Whelan was spun around I thought she would get airborne. A very delightful evening.

We were also there last night for Brandenburg, In the Night and Opus Jazz. I forgot how much I loved Brandenburg. I

haven't time now to give a proper review of last night - maybe later.

The one thing that I feel the immediate need to SCREAM is that Alastar McCauley has to be the worst Ballet Reviewer

int the history of dance. Actually he is not even that good. In todays paper he essentially says that NYCB danced

"Dances at a Gathering" exactly the way Robbins wanted, but that the Royal Ballet was more exciting and gave more dance

value. WHAT????? I give up.

Have to run.... but what is he thinking?

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I saw the Dances at a Gathering/ Other Dances/The Concert program last night and really enjoyed it. I thought it would be too much Chopin for me and only got tickets because Cojocaru & Kobborg were scheduled for Other Dances (they were replaced on the casting sheets weeks ago due to injury and it was danced by Julie Kent & Gonzalo Garcia). I’m glad I decided to go anyway because it was a great evening from start to finish and the gentle persuasiveness of the first 2 pieces proved a particularly good change of pace after 2 nights of the Etudes/Tharp program over at ABT.

If it’s hard to single out one or two dancers perhaps it’s because the greatest pleasure of these works is the interaction of the dancers as an ensemble. The structure of the program highlighted the relationship between the “star” duet Other Dances and it’s choreographic predecessor Dances at a Gathering. It was as if the intermission between them was just a pause before a continuation, or maybe a variation on the thoughts & movement styles expressed in Gathering.

I thought all the dancers last night were wonderful and that includes 2 dancers I don’t always appreciate, Yvonne Borree & Julie Kent. I also thought Sterling Hyltin was delightful in The Concert. I mention this only because of Macauly’s inexplicable mini rant about her performance and his objection that her hair became the main point of her role. Huh? Someone please buy him a clue.

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