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NYCB 1/5 evening-Dan and Damian.....

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Well, I was going to start this review commenting on Dan Ulbricht's great debut in "Mozartiana", but all that changed after last part of "Four Seasons"...Ulbricht's faun was one of the best ballet performances I've ever seen...ever. I'm a big Woetzel fan, but I think Ulbricht outdid him tonight both in performance and applause!

Ulbricht made his debut as the faun in the "Fall" section of "Four Seasons" this afternoon, and reprised the role this evening. It was nothing less than SPECTACULAR. His delayed split jumps are unbelievabley high and seem to hover. To my eye, they are much higher than any of the other men despite Ulbricht's 5ft 6 height. As previously mentioned, he also is very crisp, accenting each movement, which made his faun seem all the more out-of-this-world virtuostic. Yet, he still added the taste of humor necessary to make the faun a bit impish and playful.

I could almost imagine Woetzel watching from the wings and thinking...hmmmm, what can I do to one-up that... Among Woetzel's tricks, a multiple revolution pirouette into (I think) a triple tour le en air directly into triple tour le en air. In skating terms..a triple-triple. Perfect landing, no wobbles. Also, his hops in the middle of the turns in second rank up there in my book.

Needless to say, the evening with a bang! Now back to the beginning.

Mozartiana was well performed, but I think that Kowrowski is also missing that "something" that makes the role more than just well danced. Philip Neal did a good job in the lead male role, and handled the partnering with aplomb. There was only one apparent glitch: when Kowrowski went into the deep flat footed arabasque penchee, Neal seemed a bit far from her and appeared to pull her slighty off balance as a result.

Ulbricht made his debut in the Gigue section, a section which I think suits him well. It requires precision and crispness, qualities which Ulbricht has in abundance.

Martin seems to be finding quite a few roles for Ulbricht. If this talent is nutured properly, and his knees hold out (I remember hearing that he's had a couple of knee surgeries already), I wonder if he might be on a relatively fast track to soloist. With his lack of height, his partnering possibilities are limited, but there are many soloist roles for him to tackle when the time comes.

I was pleasantly pleased with Polyphonia. I'd not taken much notice of Jason Fowler before, but was taken with his nice long lines. Jock Soto and Wendy Whelan were excellent in the rather creepy solo to the "Eyes Wide Shut theme music", but he just looks old. I hope for his sake and NYCB's that he chooses to retire before he really starts to decline onstage. He's too wonderful a dancer to watch him decline onstage. I think my favorite section was the pas de deux with Ansanelli and Hall-they are well matched and both suited to Wheeldon's chereography.

"Four Seasons" was a treat. Suozzi, Bouder and Carmena weren't picture perfect, but it didn't take away any from the youthfulness and playfulness of the section. The corps was also very impressive in this section.

Neal replaced Angle in Spring, both matinee and evening, and was spot on, save one slightly wobbly pirouettte ending. The male corps, Capps, Froman (Ky), Hall and Hanna, was excellent-some very minor timing booboos, but it didn't matter-the jumps and leg beats matched the tone and playfulness of the music. Definately an affirmation of the talent and depth of the male corps-these are some of the older corps guys and they are all very talented.

Monique Meunier and James Fayette, well matched, did a great job with the slower Summer section, but compared with the energy and virtuoisty in the other sections, these performances didn't get the credit deserved. It's so nice to see Meunier back onstage-this chereography doesn't allow her to show off her talents to the best, but she had a brief chance with a flawless series of spot-on, fast chaine turns (2 foot turns on point across the stage, right?. Fayette looks like he may have added a few pounds. His pirouettes were on the slower side, but always perfectly in balance, and the music does not call for great speed.

I've pretty much covered fall....Dan, Damian, more Dan and more Damian. Ansanelli stood her ground, but I think all eyes were on the two guys.

It's late...(early?)

Well worth the 6hour commute!


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Such an embarassment of riches we have been having at NYCB lately. I've attended every repertory performance so far (except for yesterday's matinee), and only written about one. For shame. High points of the week which deserve more mention were Pascale van Kipnis' beatific and dead-on performance of the 4th movement of Bizet Friday night, and Monique Meunier's grand, diva-ish Hungarian Princess in Courtege Hongrois. Peter Martins, perhaps mindful of certain Danish traditions, has once again given ballet-goers a "Starbuck's Act," which is where you'll find me for the middle of this afternoon's repeat of Quartet for Strings.

As for last night, I thought Maria Kowroski made a very decent effort with Mozartiana, although it wasn't the richest or most moving I've seen. Kowroski tends to come across as a bit of an Ice Queen. Although she's never afraid of technical risks, she's often a bit distant and affectless, and when she does try to overcome this blandness she sometimes goes too far in the other direction, affecting more of an emotional demeanor than she can quite bring off. Nevertheless, she was always gorgeous and quite often stunning, particularly in the many places where the choreography let her flaunt her incomparable arabesque penchee. Philip Neal, sporting an inexplicably short haircut this season, had a few rough moments, as noted, partnering Kowroski, and his solos showed that, while indeed posessed of an elegant, even sensual, line, Neal is not quite as elvishly fleet of foot (or as secure a turner) as called for here. As for Ulbricht, well, he was quite fine, although perhaps a bit nervous at the beginning of the gigue. He's very strong and clean, with a big jump and nicely finished positions. A promising debut, I though, although not, perhaps, enough to erase one's memory of Victor Castelli.

It was fun seeing Polyphonia from way up front (I'd moved down to the orchestra from 4th Ring at the intermission), but I must remember to sit on the side of the first row away from the piano next time! Ouch. I found myself noticing subtle niceties in Wheeldon's choreography (the way motifs echo from dance to dance, for instance) as well as some unendearing cutenesses (enough with the semaphoring wrist-flicks already). Overall I still think it's a worthy exploration of the angular, neo-classical world Balanchine created in pieces like Agon and Episodes. Does it borrow heavily from these? Yes, but I prefer to think of Wheeldon as reverentially quoting rather than copying. I love his fluency at creating shapes on his dancers' bodies, and the duet for Ansanelli and Hall (and her following solo) has become more quietly mysterious and lovely with each repeated viewing. At such a close vantage, it was hard not to be impressed by Whelan's amazing flexibility and Soto's strength as a partner, but also by how carefully they keep their three empretzelled duets from any kind of cheap or easy sensuality.

Four Seasons was, as always, a delight, silly enough to almost qualify as a Guilty Pleasure. I'd been lookig forward with great anticipation to Ashley Bouder's debut leading Winter, and she didn't disappoint. In addition to her killer technique, Bouder has the stage smarts and presence of a dancer twice her age -- it's as if she were born a diva and knows, almost instinctively, the most correctly dramatic way to phrase a step. She has the good sense not to abuse this gift, although I'm sure she could, but keeps the glamor down to the point where your eye is simply drawn to her, no matter where she is on the stage (I found in Cortege I couldn't keep my eyes off her, even though she was dancing only a fairly minor corps role). Winter is a silly, showy, jumpy role, and Bouder made the most of every leap -- I can't wait to see her dance Ballo de la Regina, or even third movement of Symphony in C. Of course, Meunier was also appropriately diva-ish in Summer, smolderingly sensual with James Fayette, who looked, to these eyes, lighter and in better form than in recent memory. His new haircut works, too (unlike Neal's).

In Fall, well, I did find Ulbright exciting as the faun, but I can't help but observe that shorter dancers look as if they're jumping higher than taller ones. I remember thinking back when that Peter Martins could jump every bit as high as Baryshnikov, but it just didn't seem that way, because Martins was so much taller. Ulbricht danced well, but no more so than others who've danced this role recently, like Benjamin Millepied. It's a measure of Woetzal's talent that the goodies he pulled out of his technical bag of tricks can be called "typical Damian."

Actually, for me at least, the revelation of the evening was indeed Ansanelli's performance in Fall. Technically, she was pretty much flawless, showing once again she's a demon turner (knocking off some very pretty triple fouettes), and seems to be just as fearless now as before the injury that kept her out for so very long. She doesn't have the searing intensity of the also-fearless Janie Taylor, though, but an enduring, and even all-conquering sweetness which is far too natural to be cloying. She looked like she was having the time of her life up there playing around with Woetzal and Ulbricht. I know I did, watching her.

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We were there last night to...where for were't thou, Juliet? wink.gif

I enjoyed Mozartiana - never having seen it before, I cannot comment on comparisons. I only know what I've read about it in Suzanne Farrell's autobiography.

Polyphonia was interesting - yes, I admired Whelan and Soto in their moves but I can't say that I liked it...on the other hand Ansanelli and Hall were a true pleasure for me.

And now to Four Seasons - really can't add much of anything to what you two have written except I might lean a little more towards Sned's review.

Ulbricht did a great job - very "puckish" in his approach...but my first joy was to watch Jennifer Ringer in Spring...when, ultimately, I fell in "love" with Alexandra Ansanelli in Fall. She was amazing - pure, unadulterated enjoyment.

Damian Woetzel and Daniel Ulbricht were both exciting in their own distinct ways.... and I agree that Stuart Capps and his other Spring corps members added tremendously to Spring in their own obvious enjoyment of their roles!

[ January 07, 2002: Message edited by: BW ]

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I was up in the 4th ring the whole time, which was a great vantage point from which to see "Four Seasons". This was the first time I'd seen "Four Seasons", so I can only compare it to other ballets and seeing the dancers do similar things in other ballets.

Forgive me for being a bit carried away in my review of Dan Ulbricht, but I think he's an incredible and rare breed of dancer. It's not only his virtuosity, but the fact that he has a finished look-pointed toes & crisp positions and seems to be comfortable in adding humor and character to his roles when need be (his faun was delightfully impish). Most of all it's that he has all this at 5ft6 and he has yet to turn 18.

I do think Ulbricht gets incredible height, and it's not just the "short guy seems to jump higher" effect (just look at the muscularity in his calves and thighs!) It appeared that Ulbricht was higher than Woetzel, judging from their elevation relative to the heads of the other dancers. I've never thought of Woetzel has having particularly great height-he has those pretzeloid positions, and fast spins, but not huge height. Plus, I think Ulbricht accents the height because he seems to hover and you can see the crisp shape of the jumps. Some dancers get height, but they go and up and down so fast that you don't notice it. You can't miss it when Ulbricht is up there!

Did Woetzel in fact do a triple-triple?

My first impression during the finale was that with their height and build differential, Dan and Damian looked like a skating pairs team. Only in this case, the shorter partner was bulky and the taller, lean. (BTW-Damian must have 0% body fat-you can count his ribs up in the 4th ring-not a bad thing but just noticable).

I'd agree that Ulbricht look a bit nervous in "Mozartiana", but it was his debut. I think with time and experience, he will be more comfortable with the role and feel freer to explore the nuances of the steps. How old was Victor Castelli when he danced the role?

Looking back at what I wrote at 3am..a futher explanation of one point... I don't feel that he will/should be a soloist that soon. However, it is my feeling that he if he continues to display his considerable talents, devlops them accordingly, and avoids injury issues, that he would be a top candidate for promotion sooner rather than later. He's unlikely to get much use in the many "male corps partner" roles, and more likely to dance soloist roles (many of his roles are also danced by soloists).

Anyway, I look forward to seeing more of Ulbricht...here's to hoping that Martins can find a variety of roles for him (as of now he does Nutcracker, 4 Seasons, Soiree, Mozartiana, Variations Seriueses etc), but not wear him out a la the past "flavors of the month".

I have to add that, if any had any doubts before, now I am very confident in NYCB' next generation of men. All three ballets demonstrated the talent and depth in the corps-there are definately many more good evenings of ballet to be seen!


P.S. Did Woetzel ever dance the faun in 4 Seasons when he was younger?

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This is Leigh in Cheerleading Administrator mode biggrin.gif :

Reading the variety of opinion makes this an opportune time to encourage everyone to post and not be afraid of even huge differences of opinion.

I'd also like to encourage new or hesitant people to post. There are a lot of passionate, literate and astute viewers here, and their contributions are something that I value about discussions at BalletAlert. But we all started talking about dance somewhere and this is as good a place as any (what the heck, I think better!) So if you've been reading and lurking or hesitating, state your piece. There's something really refreshing about having friends to share a performance with.

I know from personal experience that there will be several different takes on the same program (Fr'instance, my eyes were all on Ansanelli in Fall.) For everyone who posts, don't worry if your opinion doesn't seem to jibe with others. It's healthy to ask yourself, "Can I explain why I liked X" and being able to articulate why makes you a better viewer (and a more interesting conversationalist!) but you should not feel you have to ask "Should I have liked X?" You liked it, and that's that.

As I mentioned, I was really impressed with Ansanelli. Who would have thought the indescribably frail and vulnerable little girl in that haunting waltz in Polyphonia would be the same confident turning virtuoso in Fall? I am so pleased at how far she has come. She's a good lesson as well - it didn't matter how easy the road seemed for her; she still worked like a dog, and that's why she's succeeded.

[ January 06, 2002: Message edited by: Leigh Witchel ]

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I can only enjoy all these performances vicariously through your reviews, so thank you very much, everyone, for posting.

Leigh, thanks also for encouraging newer ballet lovers to post their comments. I'm feeling vindicated reading some of your posts. I remember that about three years ago when I first got online, I posted something on another dance forum about Ansanelli - her great musicality and joy while dancing - and my comments were ridiculed by someone who had much greater experience than I with ballet and the NYCB in particular. His statement that Ansanelli was the least musical dancer at NYCB stung and I had to wonder if I really just didn't "get it" when it came to watching dance and knowing what to like. It caused me to wait a couple more years before I ventured to comment again about a dance performance. So of course I'm happy to see that others are delighted with Ansanelli - I thought she was lovely in the only performance where I had the pleasure to see her dancing.

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Vagansmom -

Three years ago I could have been one of those people disagreeing with you on Ansanelli! I never thought she was unmusical, actually, just that her body wasn't strong enough and I wasn't sure she would develop. I never mind being proven wrong about things like this.

Again, it never hurts to ask yourself "Why did I like Ansanelli, and why didn't that other person?" But do you have to stop liking her once you ask that?

Meanwhile -

Who else saw a performance this week (NYCB or otherwise) and what did you think?

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Although I agree with you, Leigh, Ulbricht is a rustic type, I enjoyed his performance because it had the details that have recently been blurred by dancers like Gold. I would love to see Ritter in the role, he is much more like Castelli than the others who have been cast recently.

The best thing about Polyphonia, for me, is the portraits it paints of Whelan and Ansanelli. The choreography shows a softer, more vulnerable side of Whelan than we usually see. Asanelli in this piece seems like the "sleeping princess" just waiting for her future to arrive. And on Sat night, it did with an incredibly accomplished performance in Fall.

I had seen her debut in the role in Parma but wasn't prepared for the sheer joy and bravado of Sat's performance. I was also impressed by the wealth of choreographic detail Ansanelli showed us and by the great musicality in her performance. This is the first time I've thought she might develop into a ballerina.

All in all, a very enjoyable evening at the ballet with strong performances by Kowroski, Neal, Ringer, Meunier, Fayette and Bouder. I am particularly happy to see a revived Jennifer Tinsley and the development of Hall and Fowler (as seen in Polyphonia).

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Whoops, I better clarify something I wrote on the How tall should male dancers be?" thread. I wasn't specifically referring to Ulbricht when I said "rustic".

I agree with your assessments, liebs, except about Whelan in Polyphonia. I like her, but I've never been mad about the way the ballet uses her. Wheeldon gave us a new Ansanelli, but he gives us a persona for Wendy (manipulated Gumby doll) that seems recycled from several other roles for her. It's never been my favortie way to view a female dancer, and she can do more than that.

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I was going to make a "thank you for these reviews, and please, everyone join in" post this morning, but Leigh did it first -- so I'll just echo everything he said.

As this board's "mother" I've noticed, with great joy and satisfaction, that at the beginning of every season, we get a little bit better -- more voices joining in, more detailed reports, more friendly discussions. It's very nice to read smile.gif Now that we have enough space, we won't have to delete anything, so these reviews will be here for a long time, and provide a nice record, in the future, of past seasons.

I'd also like to stress that I hope newer posters won't feel intimidated by the length of some posts or the knowledge expressed therein. Everybody starts going to the ballet, and writing about it, somewhere. So if you have just a few sentences to say, that's fine, too.

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I'm always glad to see many opinions about performances. It's always interesting to me to see what people notice, and don't. I'm still aglow from yesterday's wonderful matinee, about which I may write something, if I survive a trifling four-and-a-half-hour performance at the Met tonight.

Sneds, I'm not sure Damian does a triple tour in Fall. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen someone actually do a triple tour. It's one of those steps, like entrechat dix, which are very seldom, if ever, actually done onstage. I would put them in the category of steps that shouldn't be done just because they can be done. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, wait, how many turns (or beats) did he do? But since there's no rewind at live performances, I never know what to do except nudge my companion and say, "was that a dix?" To which the response is invariably "huh?"

What I think you are referring to from Damian looks to me what I'd call a double-double. That is, he fires off one double tour then immediately upon landing, without breaking the rotational movement, launches himself into another double tour. (The late Yuri Soloviev was famous for this.) I could, however, be wrong. I have a bad habit of blinking at that moment.

One of my favorite moments of the weekend had to be the look Darci Kistler gave Jock Soto before she did the head-to-the-knee penchee in Symphony in C. Her balances up until then were not the most confidence-inspiring, and it looked very much like she was saying "Here I go. If I don't make it back up by Monday, send a search party."

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You're not the only one Manhattanik redface.gif )

I'm just as bad watching skating...I find it very hard sometimes to tell whether it was 2 revs or 3 revs. It all happens so darn quickly..often I judge just from the appearance in the air-triples look a little higher and faster rotating.

I know that it is possible to land a triple jump on the floor (though most skaters can only get 2 revs on the floor), but I wasn't sure. As for me, I'm really impressed with Damian's double-double, as I have trouble getting a single revolution on the floor or on the ice redface.gif )

Thanks for the insight though Manhattanik..that's what makes this board so wonderful!


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Not totally irrelevant interjection. Three men in the 1970s and '80s did triple air turns frequently -- Baryshnikov, Bujones and Richard Cragun. Really truly triple air turns. I remember reading an interview with Cragun that when he'd mastered that, he couldn't do doubles any more. I forget why smile.gif

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I'd just like to add something about the triple tours. I am an 18 year old girl (almost.. 13 days) and I can do three revolutions in the air, I didn't realize it was uncommon. When I was a little younger I was in serious training for skating, and it was required of all of us. We started with doubles in 5th grade I believe. I am in school and have very little time to travel so I can see performances, is it uncommon for anyone to do one, or is it just not in most choreography?

As I've said before I danced with Daniel when we were younger, and I have always remembered his jumps being amazing. It was always awful to get paired with him doing grand allegro across the floor! Hopefully I can get to New York one weekend to see him =)

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I recall in a conversation with Peter Boal that he said many of the young men the most advanced men's class at SAB could do triple tours.

They aren't common in choreography though, in my opinion because it's almost impossible to tell them without close observation from a double tour. But then again, as far as I'm concerned regarding pirouettes, in the choreographer's toolbox, there is "single", "double" and "multiple". Any number more than four has about the same effect, so why specify?

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