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NYCB season recap

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NO7, I'm stealing your good idea :)

NO7 did an end of season wrap up on the Kirov Fokine Programme thread (it's several posts down, not her first one) where she listed her "bests" of the season.

Could we have the same thing for NYCB (and I'm going to put up the same thing for ABT). If anyone in another city would like to do the same thing for the home company there, please do so. I'm only picking New York because we've had so many posts already on ABT and NYCB.

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This isn't quite in the format of NO7's list, but here are a few of my Great Dancer Moments:

Maria Kowroski in "Monumentum Pro Gesualdo" and her debut in "The Concert."

Nikolaj Hubbe, Wendy Whelan, and Jenifer Ringer in "La Sonnambula."

Miranda Weese in "Theme and Variations" and "Stravinsky Violin Concerto."

Antonio Carmena's debut in "Dances at a Gathering."

Alexandra Ansanelli in "Variations Serieuses" and "Midsummer."

Darci Kistler in "Duo Concertant." (I think I saw every performance she did!)

Corps member I couldn't take my eyes off of: Amanda Hankes.

[ 07-07-2001: Message edited by: Alla ]

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Charles Askegard in just about anything. Here's a dancer who is constantly improving.

Jennifer Ringer in Spring (4 Seasons). Also Carmena's Faun.

Carla Korbes in Divet #15, the perfect match of dancer and role. Also Weese in Divert with nice debuts by other corps members.

My first sight of Polyphonia with Ansanelli (I missed it last season).

Kathleen Tracey as the stage manager and the broom dance for four "stagehands" in Wheeldon's piece.

Wendy Whelan and Philip Neal in a Sun mat performance of Swan Lake. Both danced with great passion and although unconventional in physique, Whelan made the role her own.

Meunier in Walpurgisnacht, no one can erase my memories of Farrell but she made the role work on her own terms.

Wonderful dancing throughout the season by Elizabeth Walker, McBrearty, Abi Stafford and many other ladies of the corp. They are the heart and soul of NYCB.

Biggest disappointments:

We don't see enough of dancers such as Arch Higgins, Alex Ritter, Meunier and Van Kipnis. In a repertory as rich as NYCB's, there must be roles for them.

Janie Taylor, who seems to me to have hit a plateau in her development. It seems to me to be time for her to temper her wildness and begin to show some polish in the use of her arms and her epaulment. I don't think she is getting much help from the choreographers, everyone seems to be exploiting her daring without seeking any new facets in her dancing.

And the rise of Melissa Barak as a choreographer. I think her piece for SAB is just the tip of the iceberg.

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Ditto Kathleen Tracey in Wheeldon's piece, Liebs. For me, that little dance was the highlight of the ballet. Also ditto Arch Higgins. I saw him in Divertimento No. 15 back in May, and could hardly believe it was him -- such beautiful tendus and classical port de bras! He is really developing wonderfully, though we don't see him too often lately....

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Rachel Rutherford in La Valse.

Ashley Bouder in Firebird, Maria Kowroski in a bunch of things (Monumentum Pro, Swan Lake).

It's quite amazing, isn't it, how much of the load Charles Askegaard carried this spring and how well he did it all?

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Re: Askegard. I think this might have been discussed in another thread, but it was such a triumphant moment that I just have to mention it. The night he stepped in for Woetzel, partnering Weese in "Theme and Variations," I was very nervous (and so was the critic sitting next to me). Once he started, though, I thought: okay, he knows what he's doing! He didn't merely "get through it," as I feared he would. He really committed himself to the role and showed some wonderful things in the choreography. I remember his long body leaning back in those opening tendus -- beautiful.

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I only saw two NYCB performances this Spring, but they were two wonderful afternoons at the ballet.

I also was impressed with "La Sonnambula", especially with Wendy Whelan's acting as the Sleepwalker. There are so many levels to this ballet - I tried to write about it on this board, but just couldn't find the words to do so.

I also loved Jennifer Ringer in "The Four Seasons". And Wendy Whelan, Benjamin Millipied and especially Damian Woetzl were outstanding in the last section of that ballet.

And I was so glad to see Balanchine's "Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3" after not seeing it for many years. What a lush and beautiful ballet it was. I too was disappointed when I saw that Askegard was to replace Woetzl in the "Theme and Variations" section, but Askegard (as has already been mentioned) gave a great performance. And Miranda Weese is just pefect in the ballerina role of "Theme and Variations". I don't think anyone at ABT can hold a candle to her (And I am a big ABT fan.)

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I absolutely loved their "Dances at a Gathering," particularly with Ringer and Carmena.

Alexandra Ansanelli was also very memorable.

Wendy Whelan has always impressed me, but I think I prefer her in contemporary roles rather than the real classical ones.

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Well, there's my usual general highlight of Kistler, Ringer, Somogyi, Bouder, and Hubbe in anything. but, to be more specific.

Ringer in Four Seasons, Romeo & Juliet with Hubbe (breathed new life into that eh piece), Tributary (though I hate the ballet)

the entire cast performances of Ash, Morgen, and Soiree

Somogyi in Ash, Brandenburg, Midsummer's

Bouder in La Source, Firebird, Midsummer's

Weese in Theme & Variations, though it was the very speedy version, & Swan Lake

Korbes in Midsummer's

Evans, too, in Midsummer's

Boal in Square Dance

Hubbe in Brandenburg

Whelan and Neal in Chaconne

and, of course, Kistler in Duo Concertant

alas, i did not see the Whelan, Hubbe, Ringer cast of La Somnambula

The season is also notable for how many people were injured (missed my Ringer for the last half :-( ). At least Jessy Hendrickson and Jenny Blascovich finally made it back from what seemed like eons of being gone from everything but Four Seasons.


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Here are some random thoughts on both the winter and spring NYCB seasons, which were the most satisfying overall that I’ve experienced in a while. I’ve hardly ever written about dancing before, so apologies in advance for struggling to put into words things that I can hardly think of how to describe! I'm sure I'll sound either harsher or more slavishly uncritical (or both) than I intend to!

Favorite Costumes -- Carole Divet's tutus for the women in Soirée. I adored them, especially in the context of the music and the overall tone of the ballet. (This was clearly NOT your polite evening social ...) I thought the girls looked both knowing and innocent at the same time -- kind of like Columbine on a bender. I despised the costumes for the men, however: they looked like croupiers, when they should have looked like boulevardiers.

Least Favorite Costumes (which have driven me batty for 20+ years) -- a) The sorority girl cocktail dresses the women wear in Walpurgisnacht. I’ve been mystified since the first time I saw them. I always think that these women should look rather more supernatural and maybe even sinister -- this is, after all, the music of a witches' sabbath. I'm not suggesting that they have to wear pointy hats and hag hair, of course, but something a bit more atmospheric would be appropriate. B) the headgear in Dream, especially whatever it is that has been affixed to the butterflies' heads and Theseus' historically correct but extremely unflattering doge's cap. No one, in my experience, has ever looked anything but utterly goofy in it. C'mon, the guy's in charge of a major city-state and he's enamoured of a warrior queen with big bow, a pack of hounds, and multiple fouettées as her signature step -- give him something appropriately dignified to wear! I happen to think that George Balanchine was one of *the* great geniuses of the 20th century period – not just one of the great dance geniuses – but matters of theatrical décor were not his strong suit. Don’t get me started on Jewels. I probably fall in the “conservator” camp – except for the costumes. (I actually think the question of whether or not a ballet’s original costumes and sets are an integral part of the whole and therefore should be preserved more or less intact along with the choreography is an interesting one. Balanchine himself abandoned the much more elaborate original costumes for Apollo and Four Temperaments. Does his having done so mean we are now free to change them again to suit current tastes, or should we retain his final vision intact?)

Most Instructive Experience -- The opportunity to see two VERY different dancers -- Wency Whelan and Monique Meunier -- take possession of roles I particularly associate with Suzanne Farrell (the dancer I miss the most). They were both magnificent in Walpurgisnacht -- but stikingly different -- and proof that one doesn't have to LOOK like Farrell to succeed in her roles. (This is something that I wish Maria Kowroski would realize. There have been a couple of times -- Davidsbundlertanze especially -- where I felt that she was trying to emulate Farrell rather than just dance like her own wonderful self.) It was like seeing two equally gorgeous manifestations of the same substance: Whelan was sparkling Waterford, Meunier sinuous Lalique. One of Meunier's turning combinations just took my breath away -- like a white hot lava flow, but with every shape her body made in space absolutely and clearly delineated -- even if just for a nanosecond -- before melting into the next one. Whelan is more crystalline, but what's interesting to me is the fact that even though she can repeat the same step three times in succession in *exactly* the same way each time (for instance, the travelling sequence of developpés in second in Walpurgisnacht), it *never* seems mechanical. It's as if she were transmitting to us glimpses of ideal forms from some platonic realm that we can't normally see.

Most Moving Experience -- Following on from the point above, Whelan in Chaconne. I thought she got it just right. It's hard to think of a dancer who is less like Farrell physically or temperamentally than Whelan is, but I thought she did something that few other dancers have been able to do with this role: present Chaconne's unique "gestures" (e.g., the "snooty walks" passage in the central pas de deux) as something genuinely integrated into the fabric of the dance and the world it creates (or maybe represents) rather than as something just pasted on for momentary effect. As Whelan danced it, the persona of the woman at the heart of the ballet came through so clearly just from the steps -- no acting required. (And kudos to Philip Neal for matching her in this. I think Chaconne is really suited to him temperamentally -- it makes a virtue of his characteristic reserve and seeming hauteur.)

Best New Look at Old Steps -- Jenny Somogyi in Concerto Barocco and as Hippolyta in Dream. I don't know how else to describe her dancing except as completely three dimensional and thoroughly musical (thus exploiting the fourth dimension -- time). This is a dancer who takes up SPACE -- not by dancing "big" so much as revealing an additional plane of movement. I really don't know how else to describe it.

Biggest Unsolved Mystery -- Why we saw more of Yvonne Borree than [fill in name of favorite underused or MIA dancer here]. Try as I might to appreciate her, Borree is a dancer I just don't "get." Although she seemed somewhat more self-posessed than last season, I still find her dancing clenched and joyless. I was surprised to learn that she is thought to posess something of a bravura technique; to my eyes, her unstretched feet, her seemingly underpowered turnout, her slackness of attack, and her tendency to skitter through the steps rather than clearly and forthrightly articulate them leaves her with little but gesture to rely on for expressive effect. It's not that she's awful (she isn't) so much as that she's just sketched in. I thought she absolutely vanished on stage in Dances at a Gathering in the company of the radiant Ringer and Rutherford, the witty Kowroski, and the smoldering Alexopoulos. If one didn’t know the ballet, one might have been surprised to see Girl in Pink (Boree) rather than Girl in Yellow (Ringer) given the privilege of the final bow after the curtain. I hate to be harsh, but tickets aren't cheap and there are other dancers waiting for their chance at the spotlight. I do sense that there may be a fine dancer in there, but for some reason -- lack of commitment, lack of confidence, anxiety, whatever -- she can't seem to get out. Help! What am I missing?

Well, I went on longer than I intended, and *still* haven’t complimented everyone who deserves it or noted even a fraction of what made this a thoroughly enjoyable season – but many thanks to all the dancers (and musicians, and stagehands, and wardrobe personnel) for so much joy!

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