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NYCB - Spring -- First week

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Your wish is my command. I saw the performance tonight. Divertimento #15, Zazouski, Ash and Violin Concerto.

The entire cast of Divert was making their debut, except Weese and Neal. As Croce says, the allure of Divert is the possibility of perfaction. It can never be achieved but the attempt is almost always worth seeing. The side boys were Jason Fowler and Stephen Hanna. Both are big men and lack the classical style needed for this work. I would have preferred to see Arch Higgins and Alex Ritter.

The ballerinas were Abi Stafford, Janie Taylor, Carla Korbes and Kristin Sloan replacing Asanelli. Everyone seemed a little tense but a few more performances should take care of that. Taylor was a disappointment, her wildness doesn't really work well in this piece. She was also carrying a lot of tension in her arms and neck, and at best her arms don't have the "classical style." I enjoyed both Sloan and Stafford particularily in their variations. The ppd were more problematic. Korbes was a revelation dancing the third variation and ppd. It was choreographed on Allegra Kent and for many years performed by Stephanie Saland. Korbes danced with a beautiful classical style and great serenity. A gorgeous debut and hopefully she will continue to grow into this part.

Zazouski is a long (17 minute) ppd to various Russian composers. Margaret Tracey and Benjamin Millepied performed well. Millepied continues to grow as a dancer and a partner. It was pleasant but Robbins did this better in "Other Dances."

I can not talk about Ash.

Violin Concerto is one of my favorite ballets but tonight's performance was not one of the best I've seen. Jock Soto and Nilas Martins looked heavy and sluggish and danced that way as well. Soto's partnering skills haven't deserted him but his dancing is becoming weaker. Whelan was fine as always as was the women's corps.

I have grave reservations about the male corps. I see very few men with any trace of classical style and refinement. Tonight, they barreled through Violin Concerto as though it was one of Martin's works. Wither the men of NYCB?

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I went Friday night which, overall, I thought was a very fine evening. (I don't have the program so apologies for any spelling errors in dancers' names.)

The middle section of the program was fabulous -- great ballets, great performances (from principles and ensembles alike): Monumentum pro Gesualdo with Charles Askegard and Maria Kowroski, Movments for Piano and Orchestra with Askegard and Helene Alexapolous, Duo Concertante with Darci Kistler and Hubbe. Although these three are all 'modernist' Balanchine set to Stravinsky, and Monumentum and Movements are traditionally paired as if one ballet, I was happily struck with how distinct each one is. In Monumentum Kowroski seemed to embody the whole spirit of the ballet; she danced with purity, austerity, and perfect control -- the whole ensemble seemed at once courtly yet very strange, because so very abstracted. The more self-consciously modern -- distorted, disjuntive -- look of Movements actually seemed less abstracted, partly because Alexapoulos and Askegard were very intensely connected -- constantly making real eye contact with each other etc. I would not say that they "acted" but that was almost the effect of the way they danced, as if straining to establish some kind of relationship through the unbalanced, extreme movements. Alexapoulos was as exciting as I've ever seen her -- daring, forceful, charismatic. In both ballets, I really enjoyed just watching the way the ensemble is used to reshape the stage perspective -- it's as if, in each movement, when they regroup, the stage is being 'turned' to a slightly different angle. Duo Concertante has a more tender, intimate quality than either of these works, almost a kind of fragrance. I've raved about Kistler in this before and I greatly enjoyed this performance with Hubbe. (I confess, though, that a crying child next to me and a hyperactive adult in front of me, meant that I was slightly distracted for part of it.)

The evening opened with a somewhat uneven performance of Divertimento no. 15. The ensemble was sloppy in the first movement though a little better later, and the five ballerinas were decidedly uneven. The principles were Martins/Angle/Higgins...M. Tracy, K. Tracy, Yvonne Borree, Jennifer Ringer and Jenny Somogyi. This is a beautiful ballet and after the first movement the cast did succeed in putting it over. Still, it was less than an ideal performance -- with one happy exception, Jenny Somogyi. She was ravishing throughout. Her dancing was utterly simple, articulate, elegant and, in the adagio even melting in a way I hadn't seen from her before. All of the solos were reasonably poised, but there is so much in each one, and most of the principles only succeeded in showing a rather small proportion. Margaret Tracy as the "central" ballerina had some of the speed and clear footwork to make that role work, but (I'm not sure if this is the right "technical" analysis) she doesn't seem to have the kind of open, turned out look to really expose the choreography. By the end of the solo she had gotten smaller. Ringer was, as one might expect, quite strong and lovely. When she first came out in the opening movement she looked a hint underpowered and has noticeably gained weight. However, she phrased her solo beautifully and looked lovely as well in the adagio...in the adagio she dances the moment when the ballerina extends her leg forward and arches backward (in Ringer's case, way backward) towards the man who holds her lightly under her upper arms; the way Ringer lets herself all but fall backward, it looks quite daring. A special word, too, for the "secondary" men, Higgins and Angle, who brought a kind of loving energy to their parts that really helped lift the performance (especially in the lackluster opening) -- notable in a ballet where the men sometimes just go through the motions.

The evening closed with an energetic and well danced performance of the Concert (led by Miranda Weese who looks great in hats)...but for me, it couldn't help but feel a bit of a let down after the other works. I've only seen it once before though (many, many years ago) and I'm not sorry to have seen it again. The dancers, too, seemed to have a good time.

I may go one more time this week and I will try to post on that...One final thought, though: I was a little more than 2/3 back in the orchestra center, and many seats in the rows in back of me were empty as well as some scattered seats on the sides. I thought this a surprisingly disappointing showing for an excellent and varied program.

[ 05-06-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]

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(formerly eWolf)

I saw Divertimento for the first time Saturday night (I’ve seen the Andante on video) and I thought it was wonderful. It was just what I needed after standing through the dull Cinderella at ABT earlier in the day. The only criticism I have of the performance itself is that the corps lines looked very crooked in spots. Otherwise I thought everyone danced well. I was disappointed that Alexandra Ansanelli couldn’t dance, but I agree with liebs about Carla Korbes; I thought she was stunning. She’s a beautiful dancer with real stage presence.

As for the rest of the program, I think Ash is the most watchable of Martins’ hyperactive ballets. At any rate I could see some logic to the choreography. With the other Martins ballets of this type (Fearful Symmetries, Slonimsky’s Earbox, e.g.), I usually can’t; the steps seem to me as if they could have been made for any fast, pounding music. That wasn’t a problem with Ash, and though it isn’t really to my taste, I thought it was kind of fun to watch. And I liked the pale turquoise (or whatever color it was) lighting.

I agree with liebs about Stravinsky Violin Concerto too. I thought it looked a little flat Saturday night. Tuesday’s performance was much sharper, in my opinion.

To add something to what Drew said about the attendance: The Fourth Ring was as close to empty as I’ve ever seen it Saturday night, and Tuesday, opening night and an all-Balanchine program, wasn’t much better.

[ 05-06-2001: Message edited by: Mike ]

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Thank you, all, for posting about these performances and writing in such detail about what you saw. I hope you (and others) will continue to write about the season as the weeks go on -- gives a whole new meaning to "keep you posted" :)

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Attended a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon performance. It opened with an all round excellent performance of Four Temperaments -- the dancing (everyone) seemed focused, energized, musical, precise. At the end when the ensemble forms parallel lines and the women are lifted and carried between those lines, their legs and arms extended wide, they all had a kind of expansive springy energy in the air, as if they could have continued the ballet, dancing beyond the stage and upwards. From an individual point of view, not everyone was the very "best" in their role that I've seen, but everyone was just "on." A terrific performance. The Garland/Lafosse ballet Tributary was new to me. I gather this was originally done w. the Dance Theater of Harlem, but this afternoon was just NYCB...Anyway, the ballet didn't make much of an impression on me, and there was some peculiar mishap with a couple in the corps who, I guess, missed an entrance, so that some of the formations that were presumably meant to be symmetrical were not symmetrical. But for one viewing it was pleasant, and the leads Nicolaj Hubbe and Jennifer Ringer were excellent. She has such a beautiful epaulement, she makes every shift in pose and position a rich dance event, and she's just always dancing, even when she's still or in a pose...She also always manages to have a connection with her partner. Wonderful!

An unexpected pleasure of the program (unexpected for me) was The Four Seasons -- I saw this last season with a largely different cast and was more or less bored silly. (I was even more bored at the one other post-Farrell performance I have seen of this ballet and had more or less given up on it.) This afternoon it was a joy to watch, a sheer pleasure; top to bottom everyone was dancing beautifully -- a few really exceptionally. Winter was Riggins/Ritter (really high, soft jumps)/and Jeroen Hofmans...Spring Philip Neal and Ringer. She was absolutely gorgeous in this. She dances as if dancing -- BALLET dancing -- were her native element. Neal was an appreciative partner and offered some particularly strong, beautiful chaine turns. Summer was Helene Alexopoulos and James Fayette; she is always gorgeously sensual in this, but what was particularly fun about this performance is that he just about matched her in lush intensity. In Fall all three principals were terrific -- Whelan had real ballerina flash: she didn't just dance the role beautifully, but really put over its absurd splashiness. Woetzel was as engaged as I've ever seen him -- it wasn't so much that he was jumpig and turning brilliantly (he was, though not quite the best I've seen him) as that he was performing the life out of it, which is exactly what this ballet needs; he was even preening at times, to which the audience decidedly responded. One thing I don't remember seeing before was a series of turns with leg extended a la seconde which he punctuated by periodically jumping from and landing on the turning leg [sic] and immediately resuming his turns all the while keeping his working leg a la seconde. Millepied, as the faun, was both funny and spectacular and in a jump or two genuinely hovered in the air. The whole ensemble danced wonderfully -- even the four pantomime figures symbolizing the seasons seemed galvanized. Altogether a happy afternoon.

[ 05-06-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]

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I also saw NYCB's Sunday matinee. I agree with everything Drew said, and I'm glad he wrote it so well. I love Balanchine's "The Four Temperments" more every time I see it, and this was an especially good performance. It was great to see Monique Meunier dancing so strongly, and I thought Charles Akegard and Jennie Somogyi danced the Sanguinic variation beautifully. (Although the height difference between Askegarda and Somogyi was a bit distracting at first. I guess he can't always dance with Korowski or Meunier.) I was a bit disappointed with Arthur Evans in the Phlegmatic section. He seemed to just be doing the steps, and not really getting into the ballet. Maybe he was just miscast.

I also agree with Drew about the ballet "Tributary". It was a very pretty looking ballet, but there didn't seem to be much substance. The fact that it was sandwiched between ballets by Balanchine and Robbins also showed up the choreographic weaknesses of "Tributary" (IMO anyway). But I really loved the Mozart music.

"The Four Seasons" was the highlight of my afternoon. I haven't seen this ballet in years, but I don't remember being as impressed by it in the past. Since I share Drew's well written opinions, I don't need to say much more. Everyone danced beautifully, but I was especially impressed with Millipied and Woetzel. I've seen many outstanding performances by Damian Woetzel,

and this was truly one of the best. I also have never seen Woetzel (or anyone else for that matter) perform turns a la seconde the way Drew described. It was really exciting -it also looked rather dangerous which I guess added to the excitement. Millipied just keeps getting better all the time. And he was having so much fun with his part. It was great to see. I hope he'll be a principal dancer before too long.

And I don't think I've ever seen Carrie Lee Riggins in a solo part before. Is she still in the corps? She's a very impressive dancer with a great light jump (as Drew mentioned).

All in all it was a great afternoon at the ballet - NYCB at their finest!

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I will have More to Say about the performances I saw this past week tonight (now that it's already the next week), but I just wanted to say, for those readers who missed the discussion last season of the hopping turns a la seconde in Fall, that Robbins originally had Baryshnikov doing them at the ballet's premiere (he led Fall with Patricia McBride -- now that was a balletic Odd Couple). In the second cast, Peter Martins left them out (Martins and Farrell the "second" cast? Those were the days!). So there's ample precedent for doing the turns, or not doing them. I always thought they looked pretty silly.

[ 05-08-2001: Message edited by: Manhattnik ]

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Thanks Manhattnik -- I never saw the Baryshnikov cast in Four Seasons, only Farrell and Martins. As far as silly goes, though, I'd say the whole ballet is "pretty silly" -- nowhere more so than in the "Fall" section -- but when it's high spirited and terrifically danced silliness (which I thought it was Sunday) it works...

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Liebs, Baryshnikov and McBride were totally mis-matched in training, presentation and performing style. It's a tribute to their great professionalism that they managed to look as well together as they usually did, but they never seemed "right" to me, the way a great or even just appealing partnership should. Of course, I thought Baryshnikov was a fish out of water at NYCB, but that's another discussion altogether.

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The spring break seems to have done its usual work on the company's precision -- a factor particularly apparent during the classical footwork of Divertimento. Jerome Robbins' "Concert" suited the back-to-school mood better, with an almost crazed slapdash Weese driving the bus of clowns. (Much funnier than "The Producers" on B'way, which I saw yesterday.)

I'm very much looking forward to Christopher Wheeldon's ballet tonight (5/10).

My favorite review of Ash: "I can not talk about Ash." (who can?)

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Just commenting on the fabulous NYC Ballet!!! the company looks amazing right now about 50 times better than ABT. i feel that Janie Taylor is so amazine she is truly one of my favorites in the company. her por da bra' is beautiful and very controlled and not stiff at all. she tells a story when she dances. she uses every tool in here body when she is on stage it is so beautiful. i am so happy that she was promoted. i am so happy that the company i s back in their season. the look great so far and just are going to look better and better.

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