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Director's Choice: Casting and Reviews

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Well, it took me two viewings to like Dances at a Gathering........

Well done!

I can't exactly say why I loved it from the get go, but I can easily imagine that I might not have liked it had I seen it at a different point in my life.

I ended up seeing it 4 times. I loved it every time. What surprised me is that the piece seemed shorter every time I saw it! Each time I found myself saying to myself, "Damn, it's almost over already". I would have guessed it would have seemed longer each time. Maybe that's one sign of a masterpiece (at least when masterfully danced -- as it was by PNB).

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Just a few comments on Friday night's performance.

Both Lallone's (Green) and Imler's (Apricot) performances were bigger than their first for these roles. For Lallone, it meant that the humor in the Waltz Walk was crisper, and for Imler, I wasn't sure this was possible. Sometimes the debut performance has all of the energy, and the second is more subdued, but in this ballet, every cast, even the one that had the advantage of the stage dress rehearsal, looked bigger and stronger in the second (and subsequent) performances.

Just as I was about to jettison the second solo for Boy in Brown (or give it to Boy in Brick), James Moore gave one of the best performances of it that I've seen in almost three decades, especially in the dynamic weight and direction changes, giving them weight and power. (My first Boys in Brown were Helgi Tomasson and Ib Andersen; Moore is in very good company.)

Louise Nadeau was luminous in "After the Rain Pas de Deux". In the Q&A afterwards, Peter Boal said that Nadeau spent the last rep in "business as usual" mode, but that the fact of her retirement was just starting to hit.

Kaori Nakamura danced with crystalline simplicity leading the First Movement of "Symphony in C". Even towards the end of the run there were debuts, with Lindsi Dec and Kiyon Gaines dancing Third Movement. (Dec must have done at least four roles in the ballet; I'm not sure how she kept it all straight.) It was a fine debut for both. Dec looked cautious in the killer repeat opening segment. This may have been due partly to the very hard schedule she had and partly in doing the blocking on the stage for the first time. We had been privileged to see Imler and Nakamura in the same part earlier in the run, and what distinguishes these two from many dancers I've seen in the role are their calm, articulated upper bodies and the precise focus of their head and eyes. In the inevitable comparisons, Dec didn't have these qualities in the opening repeat, but by the final section, she did. I look forward to seeing them again the next time the ballet is presented.

Gaines and Dec were the Q&A guests. Friends offstage, they are a delight together, energetic and funny, goading each other on to tell stories. For example, Dec and Lesley Rausch, and Gaines and David (?) Schneider were called into the office the day they were offered contracts. Each pair was delighted that the other pair was there, but waiting for Francia Russell, they all squished onto a seat built for two, with Russell likening them to sardines. Gaines had requested "Symphony in C" Third Movement, but didn't have a partner; Dec, who had a busy schedule, found herself on the rehearsal schedule again, wondering why.

Gaines also teased Dec until she told the story of her engagement to Karel Cruz. Cruz had arranged a trip for the two of them to Europe, visiting childhood friends he hadn't seen in years and exploring the countries, when after a long walking day, Dec resisted going out to dinner, then dressing up. Of course, this was The Dinner, but even after he brought up marriage, she didn't catch on until he pulled out the ring box. They'll be married this summer: congratulations :( to them both!

I was cleaning out my Inbox when I found an email from PNB that I had missed, with Peter Boal's comments about the Director's Choice program:

Here are a few facts about this rep that you may find interesting:

In Dances at a Gathering, The Brick boy usually learns the Purple boy's part in the grand waltz because the Purple boy's back usually goes out.

Originally, Violette Verdy (the Green girl) only danced one two-minute solo and the finale. Her first entrance comes thirty-five minutes into the ballet. Her part was later expanded to include the "Walk Waltz."

Dances at a Gathering took two years to choreograph. At the end of the two years, most of the cast was requesting to be taken out of the ballet.

In the two boys' dance, Robbins likened the dancers to a great dane and a terrier.

After the Rain pas de deux was Christopher Wheeldon's last creation in honor of the great partnership of New York City Ballet dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto.

This was Chris's first work that didn't have the ballerina in pointe shoes.

Georges Bizet composed his Symphony in C when he was 17 years old. It was lost for many years. When found, Stravinsky recommended the music to Balanchine, who choreographed it for the Paris Opera Ballet when he was guest ballet master there in 1947.

Francia Russell has been staging Symphony in C since 1964, when she first began staging ballets for Balanchine

New York City Ballet performed Symphony in C the day Balanchine died, April 30, 1983. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when Suzanne Farrell and Peter Martins danced the second movement.

Hardly alone, I missed Carla Korbes in this rep. She suffered a rib injury during a lift in the Dress Rehearsal of "Dances at a Gathering", and I watched for lifts in the last performance. I knew before there were a lot of them in "Dances", but I don't know how any of the women survived rehearsals and performances, with the exception of Girl in Green, who isn't lifted. Add in Boal's fact above about Boy in Purple, and I wonder if/how much Robbins thought about the dancers bodies when choreographing.

The day Balanchine died, early in the morning, not all of the audience were aware at the matinee until Lincoln Kirstein's curtain announcement. He specifically said there wouldn't be a program change; I remember Robbins' "Mother Goose", Balanchine's "Kammermusik No. 2", and there was a third, non-Balanchine. (Maybe Robbins' "Four Seasons"?). By the evening performance, the news had reached much of the audience; it was like a wake, a combination of shock, mourning, and gathering. Martins and Farrell weren't the original cast in "Symphony in C" -- Martins had cut down the number of his performances by then -- but it was moving and fitting that they danced in Balanchine's memory that night, and Boal's description was apt.

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