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NYCB Season Wrap Up

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Well 14 weeks have passed since the beginning of the season. This is probably the longest unbroken stretch of ballet in the world, some 50 works in repertoire. High points, low points - what were the good, the bad and the ugly at NYCB in the Winter season?

Here are my candidates:

All new low - Eliot Feld's new ballet, what a waste of money.

High points - Dances at a Gathering on the final Sunday, Baiser de la Fee with Boal and Tracey, Jennifer Ringer in anything, Four T's with Boal, Evans and Kowrowski, the return of Episodes.

Biggest disappontment- La Valse, it just didn't come together for me.

Why are these careers on hold? - Arch Higging and Alex Ritter seem on a long road to nowhere, a very sad waste of talent. I saw Higgins in rehearsal for Dances at a Gathering, he looked great. I wish I had seen the performance.

Welcome back to Alexandra Asanelli and Monique Meunier, it is great to see them back in form.

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I think in general the company looked in pretty good shape. True there were the occasional ragged performances, but what do you expect with this behemoth of a season? I was gratified that the dancers could muster the energy to finish the season with Sunday's beautiful matinee.

I will doubtless remember many more high points (Organon is certainly the low point!), but here are a few, in no particular order. Liebs, I certainly agree with you about Tracey and Boal in Baiser. It's a beautiful and strange ballet, and I never realized before how much it's a precursor to Mozartiana (there were also echoes of Scotch Symphony in places). Tracey is a generous dancer who strives to "give good weight" to the choreography, and, although I never would've imagined it before, in Baiser the dancer and the role really met. I liked it that she didn't "interpret" the role, but just danced it, and let the movement speak for itself. Boal was, of course, perfectly lyrical -- if anyone could've danced that role as well as Helgi, it's Peter.

I found myself increasingly fond of Janie Taylor's dancing. She's obviously a favorite of Peter's -- she's got the kind of attack that Martins clearly seems to favor, and I do admire the way she seldom holds back. I loved her Dewdrop, and thought her performance in La Valse last Tuesday was magnificent. And she's abou the only reason to see Martins' Burleske. I don't think she can dance this way for an entire career, but I'm also looking forward to seeing how she'll mature.

More when I'm a bit more awake.

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Slightly off-topic: Manhattnik, would you call Baiser a precursor to Mozartiana? I ask because both Mozartiana and Baiser have been around in earlier incarnations by Balanchine as early as the Les Ballets 1933 for Mozartiana and American Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera in '37 for Baiser. I think there is a connection, I just wouldn't know which was the chicken and which the egg.

Back to the wrap-up:

Most deserved promotion: Jennie Somogyi.

Most deserving of a promotion: Pascale van Kipnis

Most deserving of being groomed for promotion: Jason Fowler

Best new face: Ashley Bouder

Dancers I didn't see enough of: Monique Meunier, Pascale van Kipnis.

Could we bring these ballets back?: Apollo with the birth scene, Haieff Divertimento (which showed up for a few performances at the Balanchine Festival and was dropped) Gounod Symphony, Danses Concertantes, Ballade, Liebeslieder Walzer (only because it should never leave repertory!)

If I were King and got to cast on my birthday: Orpheus with Peter Boal in the title role.


Leigh Witchel - dae@panix.com

Personal Page and Dance Writing

Dance as Ever

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I enjoyed seeing Scotch Symphony.

Watching Janie Taylor emerge (and get promoted).

I look forward to next season where some of the ballets above will be brought back, including "The Concert" which is one of my favorites.

A big Brava to some of the senior corps dancers, particularly Amanda Edge and Elizabeth Walker, who are always so solid and whenever they are on stage I walk away happy.

Disappointed that Rachel Rutherford didn't get a promotion, and I believe she missed the last few weeks due to injury, but that meant Janie Taylor took up some of those roles.

And I lament not seeing Jessy Hendrickson back in full form. She's another solid dancer that I miss seeing dance.

I'd like to see Martins choreograph a piece with different dancers. It seems he always picks the same 4 or 5. They're good, but they're not the only ones.

It must be hard to dance these ballets after doing a month of the Nutcracker. Looking forward to Spring.

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Leigh, regarding Mozartiana/Baiser, I was referring to their current incarnations, where Baiser predates Mozartiana by several years, maybe even a decade. I'm not familiar with their earlier existences to venture a guess as to how the echoes and reflections which are so striking today originally came about. I am certain it's no accident that both Baiser and Mozartiana use that striking image of the woman and man striking identical poses in 4th and then firing off pirouettes, his a beat after hers, as if they were both halves of the same person.

Anyway, back to NYCB.

I'd sorely missed Van Kipnis, and it was good to see her that season-ending Dances, although in one of the lesser roles. I hope her scarcity during the season had more to do with the pace of her recovery, rather than Martins' lessening interest in her.

It did seem a year ago that Rutherford would certainly be a soloist by now, given her glowing work in ballets like Liebeslider, yet here she is still in the corps, and dancing leads much less frequently.

I would not at all be surprised to see Jason Fowler promoted to soloist, and even beyond, if he continues to dance as he's been dancing. It's nice to see an up-and-coming guy at NYCB with Fowler's line and purity.

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It's a particularly good topic Liebs, because it gives us the chance to console ourselves for the end of the season by instantly reminiscing about it.

Re Janie Taylor -- I think she showed dramatic progress at the moment when Martins committed to her (or at least it happened contemporaneously with that). The transformation was astonishing. Taylor suddenly lost that strained look on her face. She stopped over-attacking and practically kicking herself in the head with every grand jetee. Instead she just began to dance. And with her gifts, that was all it took.

A very important accomplishment for the company has been the virtual remodeling of the corps de ballet completed this year. There has been huge makeover in the company here and also at the soloist level, with the departure of Samantha Allen, Stacy Calvert, Riolama Lorenzo, Michelle Gifford, Aura Dixon, Jennifer Porteous, Chris Wheeldon and others over the last two years. They've been replaced with an influx of young dancers from the last two SAB classes, and also by bringing forward a number of other dancers who previously were not used very much.

Elizabeth Walker, Amanda Edge, Elena Diner, Saskia Beskow, and Deana McBrearty have provided continuity and stability among the women, while Pauline Golbin and Dena Abergel stepped up and became regular demi-soloists and Ellen Bar, Laura Paulus and Jamie Wolf were used more prominently. Among those who came forward out of the deep shade were Aubrey Morgan and Andrea Hecker. Among those destined for bigger things, Kristin Sloan, Ashley Bouder and Rebecca Krohn. Among the newestcomers, Faye Arthurs, Amanda Hankes, Megan Pepin and Glenn Keenan (wasn't she beautiful leading the corps off stage in a semi circle in baiser de la fee?). Among the newest apprentices, Tess Reichlen, who danced two times a day and sometimes three ties a day during Nutcracker season. Among the men, Andy Robertson (back from his stint at ABT), Andy Veyette, Aaron Severini, and Antonio Carmena (Wow, is he talented). It's an impressive and large scale change and the fact that it has largely passed unnoticed is a tribute to the ballet masters and mistresses. This is the soul of the company.

I think Eva Natanya had a real breakthrough season, night in and night out. I began to look forward to seeing her. No matter what else was going on, you could always watch her and see great dancing. If I had to forecast a next promotion to soloist, it would be her. If it were done purely on merit, it would definitely be her. And Rachel Rutherford also deserves to move up.

My biggest disappointment this season was the the sustained under-use or non-use of Monique Meunier. To me she is a kind of "bell weather" for the company. When Monique is dancing regularly and dancing well the company is usually dancing at its peak. The periods when she not being used or not being well employed tend to coincide to an uncanny degree with the periods when the company is flat. She is, I think, one of the keys to NYCB. Her talents and employment are unique. Along with Jenny Ringer she leavens the loaf, and I think it's a major failure of NYCB management that they haven't managed, after all this time, to integrate her completely into the company and to give her a sufficient sense of just where she belongs.

Another disappointment was the injury to Dana Hanson in mid-winter. She too was having a breakthrough season and would, I think, have been made soloist by now if she had not hurt herself. I'm hoping she's back in great form this spring.

The programming for the spring season is great, by the way.

[This message has been edited by Michael1 (edited February 27, 2001).]

Edited at Michael's request; his modem is down and he couldn't make a correction.

[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited February 28, 2001).]

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I only saw a handful of performances -- some of which I've "posted" about...one that I didn't and that was important to me this season was the revival of Variations Pour Une Porte et Un Soupir. I had never seen this work, and I went more out of a sense of duty than anything else and surprized myself by enjoying it a lot. This was well worth reviving, and the performance I saw, with Kowroski and Gold, was sensational. They maintained an extraordinary pitch of intensity throughout. Kowroski seemed powerful just gazing out at the audience. The ballet is one of Balanchine's works that could (and probably will) get "lost" over time, and that NYCB, more than other companies, seems to me to have an obligation to revive occasionaly. Within Balanchine's works, it's distinctive and revealing -- just by virtue of its bizarre literalness. It's also theatrically striking. Descriptions always make it sound silly (and it's not exactly subtle!), but the sheer directness of its castrating vision, with the ballerina as a phallic goddess, packs a certain punch, particularly in the hands of a choreographer who even at his least subtle is always a super craftsman. (Leigh Witchel, liking the ballet less than I, made a similar point about its craft.) Kowroski made every move an event -- I am not persuaded I would have been enjoyed the work as much if I had seen the ballet with a less gifted dancer -- and one can see the relation between the ballerinas role and other Balanchine choreography; the male dancer's part seemed to me unlike any other Balanchine I've seen and more genuinely "modern dance" than any Balanchine I've seen. (I have not, though, seen the male solo he created for Paul Taylor in Episodes.) So, for me, this was one of the events of the season...

I missed much of what's been referred to above (good and bad) but definitely agree with Liebs that a highlight of the season was "Jennifer Ringer in Anything." Plus -- rich, authoritative and beautiful performances by the company's senior ballerinas -- Nichols in Scotch Symphony, and the Schumman Davidsbundlertanze [imagine accents] and Kistler in Duo Concertante.

[This message has been edited by Drew (edited February 27, 2001).]

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Michael, I agree the corps has been remade. The downside of that is that almost everyone in the corp needs to learn even the most often performed Balanchine works from scratch. Some one I know who is a ballet master at NYCB told me that they put in alot of time this winter teaching the corp and soloists Stars and Stripes. And hardly anyone knew Baiser and Kammermusik, which are less frequently performed. Of course, Porte was reconstructed by Von Arnoldigen and IMO the company was lucky to have her. I'm sure her coaching is in part responsible for the rich performances by Kowrowski and Alexopolous (sp?). This might account for the under rehearsed look of Stars and Stripes that Colleen reported.

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Originally posted by liebs:

The downside of that is that almost everyone in the corp needs to learn even the most often performed Balanchine works from scratch.

What an irony! It's like saying the Kirov corps de ballet has to learn Swan Lake and other Petipa classics from scratch.

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An extremely late note to say that I, too, was very glad to see that Variations Pour Une Porte et Un Soupir was revived. (So glad, in fact, that in order to see it I left my less tahn a month-old son at home with his father for the first or second time after he was born.) I know many people hate it, and I imagine it would be laughable if not well-performed, but I really wanted to see it again (saw it first during the Balanchine Festival). Kowroski and, even more so, Tom Gold gave wonderful performances. The ballet was obviously extremely well coached. Not only was it a pleasure to see the ballet, but also I find the fact that Martins was willing to program it and allow the necessary time for it to be so well done a good sign. As others have said, its an extremely atypical Balanchine work and is worth preserving for that reason alone.

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