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NYCB Spring Season 2011

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Chase Finlay, I hate to say, looked wiped out, and I don’t blame him, he’s had an amazing season and is still so young. He didn’t do a bad job, just a tired one.

Martins may be killing Finlay with kindness by casting him in so many new leading roles. Finlay is debuting in yet another role this week - Tony in West Side Story Suite (per casting on line). Millepied - NYCB's phantom employee -was originally listed for that role this week, but Finlay is replacing him.

Wow - just as I was being amazed that Millepied was making an appearance he's gone. How long will he remain on the roster one only knows

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You think Finlay is being overworked? How about Justin Peck having featured roles in 8 different ballets this month, for a total of nearly 20 performances. This plus his additional corps work, plus his choreographic work on the side. He looks pretty fresh to me. I think Justin is the most solid, versatile performer in the corps. I think he has earned promotion to soloist.

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You think Finlay is being overworked? How about Justin Peck having featured roles in 8 different ballets this month, for a total of nearly 20 performances. This plus his additional corps work, plus his choreographic work on the side. He looks pretty fresh to me. I think Justin is the most solid, versatile performer in the corps. I think he has earned promotion to soloist.

I'd happily sign on to any Promotion for Peck campaign.

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Martins appeared unannounced at today's matinee as the Big Boss in SLAUGHTER ON TENTH AVENUE.

he didn't wear Sharaff's costume, but instead wore a trim, double breasted, charcoal gray suit, w/ black dance oxfords and a fedora.

one knew immediately it wasn't La Cour.

as this was his second 'return to the stage' (at least for this weekend), he seemed very confident and mimed with his usual authority and clarity. he certainly made an impression.

a number of audience members i ran into atn the intermission hadn't even realized who they'd seen, tho' i trust most knew it wasn't La Cour, who i gather is indisposed as of last night.

here is the house program page: there was no insert and no announcement; tho' Martins appeared in the background of the group curtain call, he didn't take a bow, per se.

the co. seemed amused to have its big boss as the Big Boss.

post-848-091792800 1306711402_thumb.jpg

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The program consisted of two masterpieces by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins (Slaughter on Tenth Avenue and West Side Story Suite) and one very forgettable ballet by Susan Stroman (For the Love of Duke). I loved Stroman’s choreography for the Broadway musicals Contact and The Producers. I was entranced by her two act ballet for the New York City Ballet, Double Feature. I will very happy that the New York City Ballet will be reviving Double Feature during their 2012 spring season.

That being said, For the Love of Duke is a very slight ballet set to the iconic jazz rhythms of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. As already stated, For the Love of Duke is a very flimsy work with fantastic music, tremendously talented dancers and repetitious choreography. If only the choreography had lived up to the Ellington/Strayhorn score and the power of the dancers performing the steps. All the cast is spectacular – Amar Ramasar as Johnny, Tiler Peck as Rose, Sara Mearns as Frankie, Lauren Lovette as Sunset, Savannah Lowery as Blossom and Robert Fairchild as the musician. Hopefully someone will soon create a ballet worthy of these dancers’ talents and abilities.

Now on to the masterworks. George Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue is a show within a show. It was originally created for the Broadway musical On Your Toes in 1936. Slaughter is a perfect blend of Balanchine’s choreography and Richard Rodgers’ music.

As the Striptease Girl, Sara Mearns is unbearably lovely. Her long legs, which seem to go on to eternity, show off her high kicks to their best advantage. Mearns’ gorgeous backbends highlight the suppleness of her upper body. Andrew Veyette’s Hoofer stands out for his stylish tap dancing and his goofy, but endearing take on the role.

Anthony Huxley, Troy Schumacher and Giovanni Villalobus are very funny as the high flying “three blind mice” policemen, who can’t see the patrons and workers at the speakeasy hiding right under their noises. The bartenders, Justin Peck and Andrew Scardato, dance smartly in unison and sweep up the dead bodies with aplomb.

In a surprise bit of casting,(which has already been mentioned on Ballet Talk) New York City Ballet’s Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins, was the Big Boss. He mimes the role with power and precision. There was no announcement either in the program or from the stage that Martins would appearing in the May 29th matinee of Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. The entire cast seemed to get a kick out of seeing their ballet chief perform with them.

The program ended with Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story Suite. In 1995 Robbins staged West Side Story Suite for New York City Ballet. It is a compilation of six numbers from the musical West Side Story, plus a new solo for Tony to “Something’s Coming”.

West Side Story Suite is an energetic ballet which showcases virtuoso male dancing. Chase Finlay is a very young, optimistic Tony. The way he leaps toward the sky in his “Something’s Coming” solo is both poignant and exuberant. As Riff, Andrew Veyette leads the Jets with his bravura dancing. Veyette also has a strong singing voice, which he uses to great effect in “Cool”. In the role of Bernardo, Amar Ramasar scowls appropriately while dancing up a storm.

The ladies also do their part to make West Side Story Suite memorable. Georgina Pazcoguin’s Anita is reminiscent of Rita Moreno’s performance in the movie version of West Side Story. (I never saw Chita Rivera, Broadway’s original Anita, in the role.) All flashing limbs and brazen attitude, Pazcoguin belts out a wry and cynical “America”. The Latin ladies accompanying her are all excellent, especially Gretchen Smith, the naïve yet hopeful Rosalia. Lauren Lovette is a strikingly sweet and innocent Maria.

Even though West Side Story Suite changes the ending of the musical West Side Story, I tear up every time I see the concluding “Somewhere” ballet. The combination of Leonard Bernstein’s lushly beautiful music and Jerome Robbins’ transcendent choreography transports me to that wonderful “place for us”. It’s only for a few moments, but they are such glorious ones.

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I just wanted to mention that before Sunday's matinee I saw several NYCB ballerinas having lunch outside near the Koch theater. I went over and talked to them briefly, saying what a fan I was, etc. They were all lovely. (All the dancers I've briefly talked to - both ABT and NYCB dancers, have been super nice.) They were Wendy Whelan, Sterling Hyltin, Abby Stafford, Savannah Lowery and Gretchen Smith. Wendy asked me if I were going to that afternoon's show. When I said I was she told me to watch for something special at the end of Slaughter. I told her that I had seen it many times before. I saw On Your Toes when it was revived on Broadway in 1983. I knew about the hit man sitting in the box. But she said no, no, it's something else. Watch for it at the end. When the curtain went down on Slaughter, I'm thinking there's no surprise. Where's the surprise? Then it hit me. I knew (as has already been said) that the Big Boss was definitely not Ask La Cour. Ask is taller and considerably younger than the Big Boss on stage. But due to the fedora it was hard to tell who it was. Then it clicked. The Big Boss is Peter Martins!!! And when he took off his hat, I knew for sure. He was very good. Vipa is right. He should definitely do more character roles at NYCB. I can see him as Drosselmeyer (as has already been mentioned) Dr. Coppelius (wouldn't that be fun) Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet. And on and on.

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In his pointed, opinionated way, Robert Gottlieb asked one of the questions we've all been wondering about: who or what is responsible for the incredible quality of dancing, especially in the Balanchine repertory, this season? (Here's the link to his article in "The Observer.") My own guess is that the question really comes down to WHO is responsible? Is someone new is coaching, or acting as Ballet Master? Has someone who really clicks with the dancers begun to work with them?

Does anyone have any insight into this?

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Here's the link to his article in "The Observer."

I love this line from Gottlieb's review, re Seven Deadly Sins: "Sloth, Pride, Anger, Gluttony, Lust, Avarice, Envy? No. Taylor-Corbett's sins were deadlier: Blandness, boredom, confusion, vacuity, dreariness, pointlessness, pretention [sic]."

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"Who or what is responsible for the incredible quality of dancing." Well, the dancers concluding a successful but tedious contract negotiation right before the start of the season didn't hurt. It probably energized them some.

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I love this line from Gottlieb's review, re Seven Deadly Sins: "Sloth, Pride, Anger, Gluttony, Lust, Avarice, Envy? No. Taylor-Corbett's sins were deadlier: Blandness, boredom, confusion, vacuity, dreariness, pointlessness, pretention [sic]."

For the 2011-12 season, they are once again programming every performance of Vienna Waltzes with the Seven Deadly Sins. :wallbash:

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I have loved every ballet performed by NYCB during the 2011-12 season except for The Seven Deadly Sins. To me it's incredibly boring and I couldn't understand any thing Patti Lupone was singing. (I know this has already been mentioned). When I saw her in Gypsy in 2008 I could understand her perfectly. I think Ms. Lupone tends to overannunciate (if that's a word.) At first I thought it was the infamous acoustics of the David Koch Theatre. But when I saw West Side Story Suite I understood every word they sang. Maybe that's because I know the songs so well. I'm not sure. Did any Ballet Talkers have trouble understanding the words sung in West Side Suite? Would I see Seven Deadly Sins again? Only if I wanted to see the other ballets in the program. (And I do so love Vienna Waltzes.) I've sat through many a boring Peter Martins ballet to see the Balanchine/Robbins ballets before and after, so I'm sure I can sit through Seven Deadly Sins again.

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Inspite of the fall, she gave a beautiful performance. Great amplitude, soulfulness and musicality. Askegard was a terrific partner and they had great rapport. As a whole, Jewels was a little uneven but had many strong performances. I thought Reichlen was witty and sexy in Rubies and A. Stafford was lovely in the "arms" solo.

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I just returned from the June 3 performance of Jewels, and it was a fantastic evening! The night started with Tiler Peck debuting in Emeralds. Ms. Peck's musicality is stunning, and it was on full display in this role. She had especially lovely moments in the swift bourree turns. This was my first time seeing Sara Mearns perform (she did the second solo in Emeralds). I was looking forward to making my own decision about her since I have heard such glowing reviews from critics. Luckily, Ms. Mearns did not disappoint. She really seems to have a presence that draws your eye right to her, and I don't know if I've ever seen a dancer use her back so well. The corps seemed very in sync and Emeralds is easily my favorite portion of Jewels.

When Rubies began, there was an audible gasp from the audience at the dancers' striking beginning pose. The costumes were gorgeous, and the quick tempo and intricate steps for the corps were very well danced. Savannah Lowery reads very tall from the audience, and she did a stand-up job with her very quick choreography. Megan Fairchild and Joaquin de Luz were the other Rubies leads. de Luz has great attack in his dancing and was a joy to watch. However, to me Ms. Fairchild came of as cutesy and not much more. She completed all of her footwork and turns, but I was left wishing she had given more artistry.

The final treat of the evening was seeing Wendy Whelan in diamonds. Ms. Whelan uses her arms very long arms incredibly, right down to her fingertips. Her placement is impeccable but she is also a real performer. Tyler Angle had a strong debut as her cavalier. Megan LeCrone and Gwyneth Muller both stood out in a good way in the demi-soloist roles.

I was in the first ring and didn't see many open seats in the audience from my vantage point. I'm excited to come back for the Sunday matinee mixed-rep performance. Sorry to hear about Maria K's spill in the Thursday night performance. I saw her walking on my way over to Lincoln Center for tonight's show and she seemed to be walking completely normal!

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I was excited to compare a different cast of Jewels to the Friday evening performers tonight. Abi Stafford started off the evening in Emeralds, and I have to say I didn't find her as captivating as I had found Tiler Peck the previous evening. Jeni Ringer was great in the second Emeralds solo, even if her extensions weren't fantastic. She makes you remember that the best ballet dancing is about more than high extensions and multiple turns.

This cast of Rubies was about as opposite as possible from the Lowery/Fairchild cast. Tess Reichlen is a marvel! She is technically perfect and every move was exciting. And just when I didn't think anyone could even come close to Tess's level of dancing, Ashley Bouder came onto the stage. She attacked the steps with pure gusto, and the excitement from her dancing seemed to ripple through the audience. She articulated steps that I thought Megan Fairchild glossed over the previous evening. The corps was strong and in unison, and I felt like I had seen a very special performance when the curtain came down on Rubies.

When Maria Kowroski began Diamonds, a thought crossed my mind that this ballet suited her so well that it looked like it could have been made for her. Her sky-high extensions produced audible gasps in the audience, and Charles Askegard showed highly developed partnering skills. I'm sure the tall women in the company will miss Askegard when he retires next season.

It is incredible how different a dance can seem with a fresh cast. I think my dream cast with this run of dancers would be Tiler Peck and Sara Mearns in Emeralds, Ashley Bouder and Tess Reichlen in Rubies and Wendy Whelan in Diamonds.

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I was worried that Maria Kowroski might have injured herself in Thursday's Diamonds, and so was greatly relieved when the curtain rose on Jewels Saturday night without an announcement that she was replaced.

Normally, I find Diamonds to be a bit bland, but when the lead couple is very good (for example, last night, as well as with Philip Neal and Wendy Whelan last year) their extended pas de deux can a real treat.  Last night Kowroski and Chuck Askegard danced it beautifully.  His partnering was flawless and both executed their solo jumps and turns superbly.  She looked glowingly at him throughout and he glowed back at her.  I found the performance somewhat poignant in its way because it's one of the last times I'll see the Chuck and Maria Show, a traditional pairing I love.

The stately latter portion of Emeralds, featuring the four principals and three soloists, ending with the three men kneeling, makes this my favorite act of Jewels.  I thought it was danced with great sensitivity last night.  Antonio Carmena was impressive, making quick, clean jumps and showing particularly good chemistry with his two solo women, Erica Pereira and Ana Sophia Scheller.  But the standout in this section for me was Jenifer Ringer's strong, yet delicate and unhurried solo.  She's obviously worked off the sugar plums, because she seemed to float through it.  In particular, I was captivated by a series of dreamy arabesque turns.  She is a mature and thoughtful dancer with that wealth of experience to bring something special to a role and who still has the physical capability to execute it—a golden spot in her career.

A fun aspect of Rubies was the contrast between the styles/body types of the two principal women, Ashley Bouder and Teresa Reichlen.  Both were fantastic, with their intricate footwork, tremendous speed and spectacular jumps.  A slight disappointment was Gonzalo Garcia, who struck me as a bit stiff (not bad, but not of the same caliber as the principal women).  To be frank, I haven't been happy with the Rubies leading men I've seen since Nikolaj Hübbe (Joaquin De Luz, whose dancing is normally jaw-droppingly good, Garcia, Mr. Portman).  I'd like to see others in the company get a crack at the principal male role.

All in all, a fantastic night in a fantastic season.

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I saw two different casts in Jewels over the weekend. Tiler Peck had a spectacular debut in the Verdy role in Emeralds. Her musicality and phrasing were exceptional. This role has been badly miscast in recent seasons. It was a pleasure to finally see someone in the role who could perform it well. Mearns did the walking duet. As always, she was breathtaking. The alternatate cast, with Abi Stafford and Ringer, was not as satisfying.

In Rubies, I've never been a fan of Megan Fairchild in the lead. She plays it cute, but lacks sophistication. I thought DeLuz, as her partner, did very well. He is technical wizard, and has the bravado style for the role. Lowery did the tall girl role. I much preferred the Bouder/Garcia/Reichlin cast. Reichlin owns the tall girl role at the moment. It is one of her signature roles. Rubies is perfectly suited to Bouder's extroverted style, and she performed with incredible speed and precision.

Whelan was partnered with Tyler Angle in Diamonds. This is becoming a frequent partnership at NYCB, but I could not believe for a second that he was her cavalier. Wendy did a lovely job in the pdd, but in her solos she tended to clip her movements short in order to keep up with the music. I preferred the pairing of Askegard and Kowrowski. She is a lush, grand dancer with sky high extensions. She is wonderful in Diamonds, and Askegard was a perfect partner. (By the way, Maria did not fall on Sat., and appeared to be fine after her fall on Thursday.)

Sadly I will miss Mearns' Diamonds performances this season, but I'm looking forward to seeing her in the Tall Girl role in Rubies at Dancers' Choice.

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