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NYCB - Saturday 2/16

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I saw the afternoon performance: Div. No 15, Morgen and the Concert.

Divertimento Number 15:

I was particularly surprised at how good Divertimento 15 looked with the cast of Katherine Tracey, Jenny Somogyi, Pascale Van Kipnis, Rachel Rutherford and Yvonne Borree, with Jason Fowler, Stephen Hanna and Philip Neal. Katherine Tracey in particular looked almost transformed to me and I have to wonder whether Margaret Tracey's retirement is not going to leave me free to see her in some different way or even whether her sister's retirement isn't going to liberate her from a long shadow. I don't think I imagined seeing, in fact, that Katherine yesterday had even stopped parting her hair on the side and had done her hair and her make-up in such a way that the resemblance to Margaret was emphasized -- only Katherine has always been the more interesting sister. Anyway, she was very centered and beautifully placed in the first variation and related pdd, very strong and nuanced on point, yet soft and delicate at the same time. A beautiful performance and one I'd love to see again.

Also, this was without doubt the best I've seen Yvonne Borree dance since being made a principal. Unlike roles like Lavery's Balcony Scene from R & J, which can be considered something just to make her look good, there is nowhere to hide in the 6th variation and related pdd in Divertimento. The entrechats need to be fast, clean and clear. The multiple pirouettes perfectly timed and spotted up to the rear corners. Etc. Borree was flawless in this the entire time and even lost the forced nervous smile after the first fifteen seconds, leaving me free to consider that Yvonne Borree is is, in fact, a very warm dancer who uses her eyes very well and relates strongly to the audience. Which is why, on a bad day, she is so easily freaked out.

It was good to see Somogyi and Van Kipnis paired again, as they have been so often from their school days. Although Pascale is so fair and Jenny so dark, they are of very similar build and visual weight and dance together beautifully.

I notice that I would like to see Somogyi sink into her partners more, surrender to them more fully, in adagios. She is such a strong turner in her upper body that sometimes she seems to want to be given space and to relax only when she gets away from her partner -- At times she seems more comfortable in the open floor and I think her pdd dancing is the place for her to improve. Pascale Van Kipnis for her part is having such a beautiful winter. Nor should Rachel Rutherford be ignored, as she was wonderful, although I would like to see a little softer attack at times in her relevees.


Having sat through this three times I think I can be allowed a little freedom of speech.

Martins choreography, and this work amongst others, at times suffers from a kind of aimless, meaningless quality. One waits in vain for a real structure to emerge. In particular, Peter Martins has recently often used changes of partners among couples not so much as a plot as a substitute for having one.

Watching Morgen, where extremely intimate pdds follow each other with multiple changing partners, one wonders how someone can dance so intimately with one person and then immediately do it with someone else. The choreography can also at times approach indecency in some odd way (not so much physical). And in Morgen we even have a man (Nilas Martin) dancing in this fashion with his stepmother (Darci Kistler), not something you see every day.

Morgen seems to me, with its Alain Vaes set, a further exploration of the landscape already somewhat aimlessly wandered through in Stabat Mater, with pairs of couples in draped costumes again lounging around dimly lit columns, only here the suggestion is of the Baroque and not the Antique. And the Music to this one is much more sublime.

But therein also lies a problem. Morgen is set to a cycle of gorgeously melodic, richly orchestrated and moody Richard Strauss songs and yesterday's performance approached musical perfection, with Andrea Quinn conducting beautifully and a young Mezzo-soprano named Jessica Jones performing a tour de force which rendered me weak at the knees at times. I love these songs, having listened to an old recording of them by Elizabeth Swartzkopf for years -- but the result of this was that I found myself constantly watching the singer when I should have been watching the dance. It was just irresistible and much more consistently interesting than what was going on on the stage.

Still Peter Martins' choreography has its unexpected and undeniable strengths. Here, as in Stabat Mater, juat when I'm about to dismiss it as repetitive and aimless, it suddenly takes fire into passages of unexpect luminous beauty, dance images which are almost unforgettably expressive, emerging as it were out of nowhere and sinking back as it were into nowhere but leaving one almost speechless while it lasts. Only, because of the lack of any real structure, it seems almost as if you've been trying to light a wet sparkler. After some attempts, when you've almost given up, suddenly it explodes into fire but then inevitably it goes out.

In Morgen there is a most beautiful, extremely slow waltz for Jenny Ringer and Jock Soto, to a long soto-voce song for the Soprano, when you think you might swoon. And at least two stunning dances for Janie Taylor -- one with James Fayette and another with Nilas Martins. (Taylor should not be paired with Soto, even though he looked good yesterday and appears to have lost weight since January).

Watching Taylor in this yesterday I thought, as I did in watching her twice in Jeu de Cartes in the past two weeks, that the Dance Gods seem almost to have made a Faustian pact with her, along these lines: "Janie Taylor, you will be a star dancer, exquisitely beautiful. You will dance principal roles . . . And they will all be choreographed by Peter Martins."

At the end of this, as at the end of Jeu de Cartes, something in me wanted to give a heart felt bravo to these wonderful creatures -- But it is my final reservation, or the sum of my reservations, about Peter Martins' choreography that I just can't do it. It seems to me that PM, in making dances, is defining some kind of Newtonian Law of Ballet which describes at precisely what point one's unbounded and irresistible admiration for Beautiful Dancers will ultimately and inevitably be restrained by seeing them dance mediocre and aimless choreography.

But then I don't need to cheer -- At the End, The entire House erupts into Bravos and people are standing and cheering. This ballet is very popular with the audience and I'm happy for them, and for the dancers, and for Martins, that it is.

The Concert:

I love this ballet. For the steps which emerge so artfully amongst the somewhat heavy wit, for giving a dancer like Melissa Walter a moment in the limelight, for bringing out what it does in all the dancers, who have a chance to do something so different and seem animated by that, and finally for giving myself the chance to see Something Different.

Yesterday, watching this, it occurred to me that the example of Balanchine has not entirely been a felicitous one for those who have less talent than him and who have attempted to follow him. The idea that a ballet can be plotless, that one may mount a piece of music and then make a perfect dance to it, relying on the music to provide the structure, so brilliant in his hands, has -- in the hands of those without his talent and imagination -- led diretly to the Diamond Project. And has also involved the abandonment of hundreds of years of dramatic tradtion and experience on the Dance Stage.

Now Robbins can be shallow and slapstick and is no Frederick Ashton in his handling of genre. But given the chance to sit through either the Concert or Morgen one more time, I'll choose the Concert.

Sorry, this is much too long.

[ February 17, 2002: Message edited by: Michael1 ]

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Thanks for the report Michael! I was wondering how the Divert went.

And I too hope that Kathleen Tracey is able to come out from her sister's shadow. She seems to have resurrected her career after being stuck in soloist limbo for so long. I'll miss seeing Barocco with Margaret and Kathleen it was a nice contrast between the two.

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