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Winter Season

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I came to NY for a chance to see a mix of works new and old--some once familiar to me that I hadn't seen in a long time. But I'd like to begin by saying a word for Bouder: I thought she was fantastic in Rubies Thursday night--really made the case for it as major Balanchine (which I don't really believe it is). Her engaged facial expressions seemed entirely organic arising out of the total performance which I found powerful, sexy, and fun. I also thought she was excellent in Who Cares? on Sat afternoon. Her musical playfulness softened--or, at any rate, lightened the texture of the hard hitting showgirliness of the other lead women (Hyltin and Lowery). She certainly seemed utterly confident, but I would not say the least bit smug.

In other roles, in Acheron, for example on Friday night, her extremely accomplished dancing was presented in an almost subdued way; if anything I wished she would do more to draw attention to herself. I have in the past found that in some roles she seemed more cheerleader than ballerina and in still others put too much of a damper on her personality--but in her dancing this past weekend at least I saw not only extraordinary skill but tremendous vitality.

For me Dances at a Gathering has aged...I did love it at one time, but not since performances in the 70's and perhaps early 80's have I ever entirely enjoyed it as I once did and indeed I stopped trying to see it since I can only go to the ballet occasionally in any case. But this weekend I was in NY for a slew of performances and happy to give it another chance. I liked it, but...and I am still trying to figure out where the "but" comes from. I think the tone very quickly turns too cutesy for me--some of it is performances (I don't remember Verdi being as archly comic as Kowroski as the woman in green), but I think some of it is the choreography. When the music/choreography does seem to go deeper and darker, I did not always feel the dancers got to the same place. I did think the quality of dancing at the performance I saw Saturday night was very fine -- Peck (in pink) is always flawless and dances with subtle musicality and there was one tour jete where, among a group of men, Catazaro (in blue) went lightly soaring with real ballon and I thought--'oh no wonder they are pushing him'--and all the other men as well were very skillful, Tyler Angle especially. Still, with the exception of Mearns the performances mostly remained generic for me and I'm not sure the problem is entirely the dancers. Mearns is another story. In Dances (as in other roles) I found her remarkable in her ability to convey the sense of an entire world within her and around her. (She did slip at one point which broke some of the spell, but then in an instant she restored that spell.) I know Peck can do it--I saw her do it two nights earlier in Emeralds--but somehow even her performance didn't take flight for me.

In general, Mearns was the heroine of my visit, dancing at every performance I attended--Thursday, Friday, and Saturday matinee and evening and indeed Sat night dancing in both ballets on the program. I felt lucky because I find her the most compulsively watchable woman in the company and her Diamonds was especially memorable, even thrilling. (I did think her tights looked odd when I looked through opera glasses from the first ring--one could see her ankles; someone told me she sometimes wears stirrup tights. I don't know if there is a physical reason for that--protecting blisters or some such--but it's not a choice I care for aesthetically and certainly not in Diamonds.) She also helped make Union Jack an event for me: forceful and severe as she led her regiment dancing to a pounding section of the music in the opening and adorably silly and energetic in her sailor suit at the end.

I hesitate to say I was pleasantly surprised by Spectral Evidence, but I found it disturbing in a way that genuinely affected me. It was decidedly not generic and seemed to draw on a wellspring of imagery that percolates through American fantasies about the Salem trials that were its inspiration--hysteria, child abuse, repression, violent death and almost equally violent rebirth. I found it to be a serious work and very powerfully danced by Robert Fairchild, Peck and the entire cast. I had not really been looking forward to it and ended up very glad I saw it.

However the big emotional event for me during my visit to NY was...uh...the Costermonger bit in Union Jack, for it gave me a final chance to see one of my very favorite ballerinas Jenifer Ringer for one final time before she retires. I was so focused on her, so flooded with memories watching her, and so tearful [sic] that I actually missed the donkey poop. That is I knew the donkey was doing something it wasn't supposed to because it was moving and the audience was giggling, but it just passed me by...As for Ringer, she was utterly beautiful and funny/expressive in all of her pantomime/dancing. I found myself thinking what a great Massine ballerina she could have been. And she knows how to wear a costume! I am sorry not to have been living in NY for much of her career--just writing about it makes me emotional.

Union Jack itself is well, an oddity of sorts. I had forgotten Kirstein's typically eccentric program note for it. He refers the "tepid euphoria" of bicentennial celebrations to the Watergate scandal and then refers to the" sacerdotal function" of the soldier--completely leaving out the post-Vietnam mood of the 70's which would rather have complicated his latter point while changing one's view of "tepid euphoria." The opening parade seems to me an impressive tribute to the company qua company, and stunning to watch--especially when the regimental leaders have real stage presence (Mearns, Janie Taylor too, on Sat night) but not all of them do and for me it meant something different and more moving when the ballet was first done and, at the end of the first section, Farrell was at the front of the entire company. Likewise the silliness at the end. I love Reichlen and she has the legs for Wrens--but not the oddly witty sexiness and daring elan that enabled Farrell take the silliness to another realm.

Final thoughts on my visit? An older gentleman sitting behind me Sat afternoon (subscriber I infer) turned to his wife at the end of Concerto Barocco to comment on how wonderful it was--she concurred--then he paused before summing up: "They should do that one more often!" Truer words never spoken.

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I attended last night's performance. Bal de Couture is very dull in terms of the choreography, and every time Janie Taylor's big, billowing sleeve covered her face or her partner's, it reinforced how inept and unsuitable these Valentino designs are for ballet.

I once again marveled at the inventiveness of Wheeldon's DGV. I'm a big fan of this ballet. Maria K. was absolutely stunning. Her long lines and sensuous interpretation are perfectly suited to this ballet. The entire cast performed well, although I thought Megan Fairchild looked out of place in this ballet. She is not a leotard ballet kind of dancer. (Based on the casting list, it looks like Lauren Lovette is debuting in Maria's role next week w. Hall as her partner. I have a hard time imagining how someone so short could make an impression in this role.)

Four Seasons was the final ballet of the evening. Special mention for the lovely and lyrical performances of Mearns and J. Angle in the Spring Section of the ballet. It chased away these awful winter days from my mind for a few minutes. DeLuz, Bouder and Ulbricht were firing on all cylinders in the Fall secton with bravura execution of their difficult parts. (I thought Bouder's mugging for the audience became a bit distracting. Arguably since this is a show off role, the mugging was not entirely out of place .)

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I attended the February 2nd performance of "Jewels' and am surprised that no one has mentioned Teresa Reichlen performance in "Diamonds".

When I first saw 'Jewels' more than 30 years ago, the ballerina role was danced by the imcomparable Suzanne Farrell. It was a performance I thought I would never see equalled until I saw Reichlen on February 3rd. Reichlen stood out for her meltingly expressive upper body and gorgeous deep back bends. Her arabesquues were absolutely gorgeous and her musical phrasing was creamy and luscious. Reichlen enriched "Diamonds" with a regal grandeur not often seen in 21st centiury ballerinas. A very young corps member, Russell Janzen, was Reichlen's cavalier. He was a very good partner and was doing pretty well in his solos until he slipped as he was about to leave the stage. I do think he has real potential and will look for him in the future.

All the other dancers were great, except for Savannah Lowery as the Tall Girl in Rubies. I think the problem is that Teresa Reichlen's performance in Rubies is embeded in my mind. I thought Lowery was pretty bland in the part. Her dancing lacked sharpness and explosive stage presence. Is there any one at NYCB besides Reichlen who can dance this role? I can't remember who danced the Tall Girl the first time I saw 'Jewels'. Who were the great Tall Girls of the past? Can one of them help turn a current NYCB dancer into a a great Tall Girl in the future?

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All the other dancers were great, except for Savannah Lowery as the Tall Girl in Rubies. I think the problem is that Teresa Reichlen's performance in Rubies is embeded in my mind. I thought Lowery was pretty bland in the part. Her dancing lacked sharpness and explosive stage presence. Is there any one at NYCB besides Reichlen who can dance this role? I can't remember who danced the Tall Girl the first time I saw 'Jewels'. Who were the great Tall Girls of the past? Can one of them help turn a current NYCB dancer into a a great Tall Girl in the future?

If you saw Farrell in Diamonds, I wonder if you saw Colleen Neary as Tall Girl? That would have been the original cast.

I agree no one else currently dancing the role can touch Reichlen. Kowroski was great too, but she hasn't done it in ages.

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I saw three performances of Jewels over the past few weeks and have a few random comments.

I saw both Zachary Catazaro and Russell Janzen in their debuts in Diamonds: Catazaro with Sara Mearns and Janzen with Teresa Reichlen.

I thought Catazaro was a good partner and a good dancer and he certainly looks the handsome dancer. My issue with him is that he can be too casual in his manner, you can see the effort and even more, he appears as a regular person rather than a danseur noble. He doesn't always carry himself with the noble bearing, the impenetrable and unflappable stage demeanor that a ballet dancer should have. (See, for example, the brothers Angle who have this down to perfection.)

Russell Janzen has a more noble and gracious air, but he looked a bit nervous and perhaps underprepared to me. The only other time I've seen him in any major role was in his debut as the Cavalier with Ashley Laracey in Nutcracker, and I thought he (both of them!) looked excellent then. Maybe just a few more rehearsals would help.

Mearns, Reichlen, and Maria Kowroski (grand and totally at ease in her special connection with Tyler Angle) were all wonderful. I feel fortunate to be able to see all of them!

Ashley Laracey was absolutely lovely in the pas de trois of Emeralds. She so often grabs attention in soloist or demi-soloist roles (the second movement of Symphony in C comes to mind) that I think it's high time she move on to principal roles. I know I just said NYCB already has three wonderful interpreters of Diamonds, but maybe there's room for a fourth?

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I didn't see Jewels (or New York City Ballet for that matter) until the early 1980s. I don't think I saw Patricia Neary as the Tall Girl in Rubies, but I can't remember who I did see. I didn't see Jacques D'Ambroise as the cavalier in Diamonds, I saw Peter Martins (who was wonderful). Anyway, it's good to see that for the most part Jewels is looking very good after almost 50 years.

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among the dancers who performed the soloist woman in "Rubies," in addition to M. Morris, were Renee Estopinal and Karin Von Aroldingen and likely? Gloria Govrin, in Balanchine's day that is. many more has done the role since.

maybe Wilhemina Frankfurt...

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Lauren Lovette made a spectacular debut in DAAG in the Apricot role last night. She moved with dizzying abandon and perfect timing. Ringer brought tears to my eyes as the girl in Pink. She was luminous and gorgeous. She touches the soul in this role. Joseph Gordon did Brick. He is new to me, but he did an excellent job. Lauren King also had a very fine debut in Blue. Rebecca Krohn often looked mechanical in Mauve, and she didn't have much chemistry w. Ramasar in Green. (Far superior were the earlier performances of Mearns and Adrain D-W in Mauve and Green a week ago.)I didn't stay for Union Jack. How was La Bouder in Wrens?

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I was also at the Dances/Union Jack performance on Thursday. I agree Jenifer Ringer was lovely! It will be hard for me to see her go... I have one question: as I was brushing my teeth, I realized I had no memory of Maria (as the girl in green) dancing her solo. Was this omitted? Or am I losing my mind? I enjoyed Bouder in Union Jack. For a moment I did think "this is the shortest Wren I've ever seen" (for some reason this was not as striking in the R.C.A.F. section), but then forgot all about that--I could not take my eyes off her, even when there were scores of dancers on the stage. BTW, I thought she may have left out the N in Queen, but my semaphore is hardly perfect, like Lady Sophia Garfield in Nancy Mitford's Pigeon Pie.

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I was at the DAAG/Union Jack program on Thursday night. Lauren Lovette lights up the stage like the sun itself. The section of three men tossing the three women has stayed in my mind for days now, especially the final throw with Lovette spinning fearlessly in the air above Catazaro's head, then being caught securely and swooped so dramatically low.

I was sitting at a distance from the stage and forgot my opera glasses -- this turned out to be a blessing since I was able to focus on overall patterns, rather than zeroing in on my favorite dancers. I should forget the opera glasses more often! However, I didn't get a very clear sense of Ashley Bouder, except to note that she and her regiments (both the Scottish section and WRENS) were totally out of sync with each other -- Bouder was way ahead of her group. The ensemble effect was ruined.

Savannah Lowery doesn't bring enough force to MacDonald of Sleat -- nowhere near Sara Mearns. But, I liked her in the Royal Navy section, which seems to suit her sunny personality.

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Jenifer Ringer's farewell performance 2/9/2014

Although I’ve been in the audience for at least half a dozen farewell performances, it’s always been by accident rather design. Final performances are not how I want to remember dancers I love.

But I want to remember Jenifer Ringer exactly as she was yesterday as The Girl in Pink (Dances at a Gathering) and, especially, The Pearly Queen (Union Jack). She was the quintessence of herself — of what she was as a dancer — at its loveliest and most radiant. And she looked as if she could have kept dancing as beautifully forever had she chosen to.

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Yes, I agree. Ringer was fanstastic. Phillip Neal and Damian Woetzel returned to give her flowers and bid her farewell. Fayette of course also gave her flowers. (She did not bring her kids on stage.) So many great memories of Ringer's performances, especially her Aurora and her work in various Robbins ballets.

Saw Anna Kisselgoff on the Promenade. Let's hope she writes the review, and not AM.

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I'm still putting my thoughts together about yesterday's fantastic performances and will post later in the week. I just wanted to mention that I saw James Fayette in the lobby of the David Koch Theatre yesterday. I went over (he was by himself) and told him I was a big fan, etc., etc. He could not have been nicer. I asked him if his kids would be coming onstage during the final bows. He said they were too little and there was a fear they might fall off the stage. How old are they? 4 and 2, something like that? Anyway, as has been said so many times already I will really miss Jennifer Ringer.

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Here are my thoughts on Jennifer Ringer's farewell performance.

It is not surprising that someone with Jennifer Ringer’s generous nature chose two ensemble ballets – ‘Dances at a Gathering’ and ‘Union Jack’ for her farewell performance with New York City Ballet. ‘Dances’ is a gorgeous work choreographed in 1969 by Jerome Robbins to eighteen of Frederic Chopin’s piano pieces. There are ten dancers at this gathering – five women and five men. Each dancer is distinguished by the color of the outfit they are wearing.

There have been recent complaints in the social media about ‘Dances’. Some say it is too long. (The ballet lasts one hour.) Others say it has never been the same since the original cast retired (a common complaint about the works of both Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine). For me, however, time flew by while I was watching this ballet. I found myself wanting to stay in Jerome Robbins’ enchanting world for the whole afternoon.

Robbins always said there was no story to 'Dances' but I see real people with real human emotions at this outdoor gathering. All the dancers are fresh and natural whether they are performing alone, with one partner or in larger groupings. ‘Dances’ is truly a masterpiece. Robbins’ choreography flows seamlessly from Chopin’s music. His wittingly romantic lifts and steps are endlessly innovative and inventive.

All the dancers are marvelous, but it is Jennifer Ringer’s day. As the girl in pink, Ringer is radiantly lissome. Her body is the ideal vessel for Chopin’s gorgeous piano pieces. Other performers also deserve mention. Corps member Zachary Catazaro (in blue) stands out for his soaring leaps. As the boy in brown Gonzalo Garcia whips off exciting turns, most notably his turns a la seconde. Maria Kowroski (in green) is very funny as the girl who flirts with several partners but ends up losing them all. I am totally captivated by ‘Dances at a Gathering’ and hope to spend more time in Robbins’ sunny and poetic world.

The afternoon ends with ‘Union Jack’ choreographed by George Balanchine in 1976. It is a three part salute to Great Britain. It uses military tattoos, Scottish folk songs, music hall ditties and sailors’ hornpipes to set the mood. The score is adapted by Hersey Kay who did similar arrangements for Balanchine’s cowboy ballet, ‘Western Symphony’ and his Sousa piece, ‘Stars and Stripes’.

Part I is a salute to the Scottish and Canadian Guards Regiments. 70 clan members, dressed in complete tartan wear, march onto the stage in complex formations. Then the parading evolves into spectacular dancing.

Part II is the costermonger pas de deux. It is set in an Edwardian music hall where a down on their heels couple performs. Both Amar Ramasar and especially Jennifer Ringer are adorably hammy as the Pearly King and Queen. Ringer shows off spot on comic timing as well as gorgeous high kicks. At the end of the pas de deux the couple’s daughters, the Pearly Princesses, arrive in a pony cart. Then the whole family dances together, the Princesses as well as the Pearly King and Queen all trying to upstage each other.

Part III is a tribute to the Royal Navy. All the dancers join in the high-flying hijinks. For years no dancer in ‘Union Jack’ flew higher than former NYCB principal Damian Woetzl. In my mind’s eye I still Woetzl performing his solo, his endless leaps and turns so light asnd effortless. On Sunday, Tyler Angle does a good job in this role, but he’s still not up to Woetzl’s level of dancing. Ashley Bouder is a very impressive leader of the Wrens. Usually the part is danced by a tall performer, but Bouder, with her commanding presence and impeccable footwork, truly owns this role.

‘Union Jack’ ends on its usually happy note. As the orchestra plays “Rule Britannia”, the cast uses semaphore to signal “God Save the Queen” and the Union Jack flag rolls down the back wall of the stage at the David Koch Theater. Then it is Jennifer Ringer’s turn to take her final bows with NYCB. Company members past and present honor Ringer with huge bouquets of flowers and hugs. The audience gives her a standing ovation and throws flowers onto the stage. At one point Ringer holds up her hands in a mock gesture meaning “Please don’t hit me”. Jennifer Ringer is a ballerina who will truly be missed.

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Colleen, thank you for your thoughtful and informed review of Jenifer Ringer's farewell. I would have been there, but left New York last year unfortunately. Jenifer R always impressed me, whether appearing in the video on Jewels speaking about her role in Emeralds, or hosting a Dancer's Choice evening several years ago. She had refinement and presence. Most important, compared to many more pyrotechnic dancers, Jenifer Ringer was womanly. Her careful footsteps in Emerald evoked adult feminity. Of all the brilliant NYCB dancers I saw over the many years I attended NYCB faithfully - she is my personal favorite. I also remember her some twenty-five years ago as an apprentice (or corps newbie?) - she and Dena Abergel entered as the nurses in Sleeping Beauty holding the baby Aurora. At least that is my memory. Who would know she would become a principal? She has had a glorious career. And I'm glad the Times gave her full appreciation - and Macauley did not review her.

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New Combinations Program - Tuesday 2/11/14

I don’t have time for a full account of last night’s program, but I did want to rave about Sara Adams’ beautiful performance as one of the leads in Liam Scarlett’s Acheron. I saw the second cast, and I believe Adams took on the role danced by Rebecca Krohn at the premiere. Adams has Krohn’s brand of lovely, long-limbed grace, but she dances with more juice—at first I thought she might have been cast in Mearns’ role! Anyway, she looked terrific in the part, and I’m glad I had a chance to see her in it.

It was my first look at Acheron, so I’m only guessing, but here’s how I think the two casts line up:

Rebecca Krohn & Tyler Angle = Sara Adams & Andrew Veyette

Ashley Bouder & Amar Ramasar = Meghan Fairchild & Gonzalo Garcia

Sara Mearns & Adrian Danchig-Waring = Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild

Anthony Huxley = Antonio Carmena

It was my second look at Preljocaj’s Spectral Evidence. This one’s going to be a guilty pleasure. It’s hooey, but hooey of the very highest order. I love the selections from Cage, and Preljocaj is not shy about working a theatrical effect for everything that it’s worth. Oh, and I like the we get to see Gretchen Smith in a featured role.

Bigonzetti’s Vespro doesn’t even rise to the level of hooey, but everyone looked good in it anyway. There seemed to be an awful lot of shout-outs to several of Balanchine’s leotard ballets—especially in the big duet danced (gorgeously) by Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar. Has anyone notified the Trust?
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