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NYTB Presents Tudor & Ashton Rarities, also Limon & de Mille

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New York Theatre Ballet presents rarely seen classics April 23 & 24

***Dancer Steven Melendez returns to company as Guest Artist***

New York, NY – New York Theatre Ballet recreates classic ballets by legendary choreographers at Signatures 10, April 23 & 24 @ 7:00 pm at intimate Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street, NYC. Tickets are $25; student tickets are $15 (plus a $1 facility fee). Go to www.nytb.org for online reservations or call Ticketmaster at 212-307-4100 or the Box Office at 212-355-6160.

Antony Tudor's Soiree Musicale will be performed professionally for the first time in decades by New York Theatre Ballet, which is known for its Tudor repertoire. The classic ballet, danced to a suite of Rossini melodies arranged by Benjamin Britten, premiered at London's Palladium Theatre in 1938.

NYTB's repertoire also includes Frederick Ashton's fanciful Capriol Suite. Based on a collection of period dances from the 16th century, the ballet maintains a fresh, charming and poignantly inventive style throughout. The dance was an immediate sensation at its 1930 London premiere.

The company exuberantly captures the variety of emotions – from playful to profound - in Suite from Mazurkas, an energetic sequence of dances by Jose Limón. Set to music by Frederick Chopin, Limon choreographed this tribute to the heroic spirit of the Polish in 1958.

Agnes de Mille's Three Virgins and a Devil, a humorous work in which the devil plots to entice the virgins on their way to a nunnery, was a hit at its 1938 premiere in London. It continues to delight audiences at NYTB performances in New York and throughout the country.

New York Theatre Ballet is pleased to announce the return of Steven Melendez, who appears as Guest Artist. Steven began his training at age 7 in NYTB's LIFT Program, a community outreach program that provides scholarships for year-round study at NYTB (as well as books, clothing, mentoring and other help) to children from New York City shelters.

As a teen, Steven performed leading roles with the company from 2001 through 2005. In 2006 he was invited to Buenos Aires as a Guest Soloist with Ballet Concierto where his repertory included Carmen, Don Quixote, Symphonic Variations and Borodin. The following year, he joined the Vanemuine Theater Ballet Company in Tartu, Estonia as a Principal dancer, performing in Onegin, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Peter Pan, Par Isberg's Sleeping Beauty and Ruslan Stepanov's Kevade. He is currently a Principal Artist on leave from The Ballet Company of Yokohama. Steven received a Diploma from the 5th Rudolf Nureyev International Ballet Competition in Budapest, Hungary in 2008.

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If I were still living in NYC, I owuld certainly follow this company closely. Macaulay's review -- with even more than his usual attention to visual detail -- is fascinating. (And please check out the lovely photo of four men in Ashton\'s Capriol Suite.)

I learned much from the review. For example, about Dances at a Gathering, via the company\'s treatment of Limon's "Suite From Mazurkas," a work I'd never even heard of:

n “Suite From Mazurkas” José Limón addresses the Polish heritage of the mazurka as presented in Chopin’s music. [ ... ] [A]s one of the ... male dancers takes time to place the palm of his hand on the ground, anyone who knows “Dances at a Gathering,” the 1969 Jerome Robbins work that also makes use of Chopin mazurkas, must wonder if Robbins had seen Limón’s work. This year is Chopin’s bicentennial: too few dance companies are commemorating it, but in this Limón revival Theater Ballet does the composer honor.

And Ashton:

Like all of Ashton’s choreography this needs dancers as vivid in their torsos as in their feet and a group sense that each dancer may be continuing a neighbor’s line. The Theater Ballet performers bend from the waist, exhibit vivacious insteps and elegantly catch one another’s eyes in best Ashton style. The blend of formal grace and comedy in one pas de trois for a woman and her two suitors is extraordinary. The placing of the heel of a flexed foot on the floor and the change of the body’s angle from addressing one diagonal to another become as expressive as the fleeting dance suggestions of each lover’s frustration.

And Tudor:

Tudor was known as a great ballet teacher, and many of his alumni regretted that he seldom applied the inventiveness he showed in the classroom to dance-for-dance’s-sake choreography. “Soirée” is surely the best view we now have of that side of him.

Was anyone from BT there? What did you think?


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The company has added two performances of the same program at 7:00 on Friday, May 14 and 7:00 on Saturday, May 15. Location, ticket and contact info remains the same.

A friend who attended the performance I did not, complained about the company's lack of polish -- a shortcoming I acknowledge -- and wondered whether it did anyone any good reviving the works in the face of that handicap. I wholeheartedly endorse the effort, even though the result is less than 100%.

I liked best Tudor's Soiree Musicale, a Bournonville-flavored bonbon for nine dancers and the only piece on the program danced in pointe shoes. As with Ashton's Capriol Suite, it drew from ballet's historical past. Probably a good exercise for all aspiring choreographers -- to create ballets in the style of X, Y and Z.

I have seen the company's Three Virgins and a Devil (de Mille) and Suite from Mazurkas (Limon) several times before. Three Virgins looks better in the small theater of Florence Gould Hall, where details are clearer, than in the vast Met. There is no doubt in my mind that Dances at a Gathering is Robbins' answer to Limon's Mazurkas. Another historical reference and a reason to grab this program if you can.

What impressed me about the evening overall was the dancers' abilities to change their weight, from the fleet effervescence Soiree Musicale to the modern dance Mazurkas and the heavy-footed Capriol Suite. Each ballet was distinct in that regard, and not every company can make those important distinctions as clear as NYTB did.

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There is no doubt in my mind that Dances at a Gathering is Robbins' answer to Limon's Mazurkas. Another historical reference and a reason to grab this program if you can.

You're not the only one who has made the connection between Mazurkas and Dances at a Gathering. Every single review I've read of NYTB's 2008 and 2010 performances of Suite from Mazurkas has remarked about it.

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