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2018 Spring Season

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I saw the Robbins Programs No. 4 and 5 on Saturday. I was sorry to miss Bolle's Giselle, but I feared I'd be disappointed after the Osipova-Hallberg Giselle on Friday.

I agree with Cobweb on Chase Finlay's lamentable partnering of Sara Mearns in Dances at a Gathering. In their first variation together, it looked like he was struggling mightily to get her onto his shoulder for the exit, which was very shaky. It didn't improve in later sections. I was relieved in the three-and-three tossing section that Catazaro did the final high-risk catch, not Finlay. DAAG is a work of such genius that it never grows old and the other variations were fine. Tiler Peck was her usual fabulous Robbins interpreter. For all of Ashley Bouder's glorious technique, I can't get past that persistent smirk in her facial expressions. 

I've noticed Joseph Gordon in several pieces and wonder if he's on the verge of promotion to principal. He seems young, but it's all there.

I am sure I saw Opus 19/The Dreamer in May 1979 when Robbins made it for Baryshnikov, but don't specifically remember it. (And Baryshnikov withdrew with injuries from NYCB in October 1979, so there wouldn't have been many opportunities to perform it.) Taylor Stanley is superb in the lead role, but I was bothered by the many weird, quirky things Robbins threw in. It's almost as if he felt: I'm working with the super-star of the day and need to do something different, however bizarre. The weird angles and other oddities didn't connect with the music or theme and too often felt gimmicky.

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Dances at a Gathering was magnificent, marred only by Finlay’s partnering deficiencies, particularly in lifts. He is an accident waiting to happen. 

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I enjoyed last night's performance of DAAG, although Finlay's partnering of Mearns was even shakier than it was on Friday night. I'm not sure what that shoulder lift exit is supposed to look like, but the movement had the feeling of being aborted and incomplete. Even if he got it right, it was extremely shaky. And I agree with California about Joseph Gordon's future as a principal, although I hope they give him a little more time to consolidate his skills before burdening him with the responsibilities of a principal. He's definitely on his way, but IMHO he is still developing. On both Friday and Saturday night the section (don't know the names of the different sections) with Joaquin de Luz and Tiler Peck was luminous, humorous, musical, and touching. Just beautiful. Seeing de Luz and Tyler Angle in this piece (in the sections each had with Tiler), made me deeply appreciate fine partnering. It is satisfying and wonderful to watch, an art form all its own. It took Russell Janzen awhile but he got there, and I think Gordon is getting there too. Finally, I totally love all the dramatic, unexpected, partnering exits. 

Shifting to Glass Pieces, this season Russell Janzen is stepping into the shoes left by the injured Adrian Danchig-Waring. He has a more mature quality than he used to, has a grand presence, is dramatically compelling, and looks completely at home carrying around the company's august senior ballerina. Anyone who can do right by Maria Kowroski gets a thumbs up in my book. 

Awhile back we had a discussion about the unflattering white leotards in Symphony in 3 Movements. If there is any costume that is even more unforgiving, it is the pastel unitards in the first section of Glass Pieces. The fabric sticks to every curve and crevice of the body and seems to have a textured surface that glistens in the harsh light, highlighting absolutely every bulge and sinew, even more than if the dancers were nude. Fortunately, the six dancers assigned to wear this item all filled it out admirably.

Despite it looking a little ragged, I love the male section in the final movement of Glass Pieces. I get so pumped up with the pounding male energy, that I feel a little let down when the music shifts and the ladies come on. 

I will miss Cameron Dieck. He seems a prime candidate for promotion to soloist. I enjoyed him in Opus 19/the Dreamer and Glass Pieces, not to mention the opening movement of Symphony in C from the company's Paris tour (on video), and many other roles. Good luck in your new career, Cameron!

 

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On 5/18/2018 at 8:02 AM, California said:

Goldberg Variations is overwhelming. I had seen it years ago and knew what to expect, but there are just so many movement ideas packed in that it's hard to grasp the overall structure and relationships between sections. I wish a dance writer of the caliber of Nancy Goldner or Arlene Croce would take a good look at it and help us out.

 

That is a great idea. I have the same feeling about Goldberg Variations and would love some help in figuring it out. 

1 hour ago, canbelto said:

My review of the Robbins festival, and also my last blog entry for a very long time:

http://poisonivywalloftext.blogspot.com/2018/05/robbins-festival-ends-supergiselle-at.html

canbelto, will you continue to post on BA? Hope so!

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Posted (edited)
On 5/18/2018 at 8:02 AM, California said:

Goldberg Variations is overwhelming. I had seen it years ago and knew what to expect, but there are just so many movement ideas packed in that it's hard to grasp the overall structure and relationships between sections. I wish a dance writer of the caliber of Nancy Goldner or Arlene Croce would take a good look at it and help us out. Hallberg posted a Tweet about an earlier performance and, quite appropriately, was stunned at the choreographic genius. 

Croce was not a fan. From "The Relevance of Robbins," Ballet Review, Spring 1972:

"Partly because of the costumes, which illuminate nothing, Goldberg is ninety minutes at hard labor."

"The trouble with Goldberg is that it doesn't exist as a ballet. When Robbins has wrestled every last musical repeat to the mat, we don't come away with a theatrical experience but with an impression of endless ingenious music-visualizations, some of which—like the exquisite dance for Gelsey Kirkland and the many good variations for the boys—stick in the mind but most of which fade away like skywriting."

I happen to enjoy watching Goldberg, but the analogy to skywriting strikes me as pretty apt. It may be because I don't see it often enough, but the thing that tends to stick in my mind the most is the costume gimmick. In any event, I do make a point of seeing it whenever the company deigns to revive it. 

This time around I saw the Wednesday, May 16 performance. I thought the Part I cast (Gerrity, Lovette, Applebaum, Huxley, Gordon, and Stanley) was particularly delightful. 

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell

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I agree with Croce, but although I know it's coming, the second costume change always gets me, a conceit I love anyway.   Christopher Wheeldon came to make a work on PNB, and he was only able to come for two of a planned three-week period.  He said that it was better that he'd had only two weeks, because he would have spent the third week revising, and not for the better.  "Goldberg Variations" always seemed to me to be overthunk.

My favorite part of the ballet was listening to Jerry Zimmerman play it.  I never heard Gordon Boelzner, about whom Joseph Mazo quipped in "Dance as a Contact Sport" that  -- as a result of Robbins having worked and rehearsed it so many times with so many versions -- Boelzner played it more often than anyone since Goldberg.

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Posted (edited)

Neither the lighthearted Interplay nor (bafflingly, given the excellent cast and Chopin's haunting music) the earnest In the Night made for particularly compelling viewing during the first segment of the "All Robbins No. 3" program. Undoubtedly, I am eager to revisit the latter work soon. 

By contrast, despite having seen it often during the past few years and notwithstanding its controversial character, I was engrossed by the performance of The Cage—a ballet that contains some of the most inventive and original choreography for both soloists and corps in the entire NYCB repertoire. Stravinsky's score is appealing throughout, and truly moving during the outlandish yet marvelous pas de deux. Savannah Lowery as the Queen, and Justin Peck and Sean Suozzi as the Intruders were highly convincing. Although longtime balletgoers are seemingly dissatisfied with how expertly the role of the Novice is performed nowadays, I found Sterling Hyltin’s portrayal mesmerizing. 

Similar and perhaps even greater issues are at play, of course, with contemporary presentations of Other Dances. Suffice it to say that watching Tiler Peck’s exquisite dancing in a work almost totally new to me brought indescribable joy. 

While I can understand why Fanfare is offered infrequently on account of its educational nature, what a pity that is! Viewing it for the first time, I was dazzled by the ballet’s magnificence—matching that of Purcell’s theme—the moment the curtain went up. The representation of the woodwinds and strings (a lovely Lauren King among them) was spectacular! And right at the center was situated the regal, breathtaking Ashley Laracey—in my view, uniquely suited to “distill[ing] the essence of [the] instrument into movement”—personifying the harp. Unfortunately, the role is brief and made me wish that Robbins had created another suite of dances: a solo work for a ballerina set to music for the harp!

Edited by Royal Blue

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4 hours ago, Royal Blue said:

While I can understand why Fanfare is offered infrequently on account of its educational nature, what a pity that is! Viewing it for the first time, I was dazzled by the ballet’s magnificence—matching that of Purcell’s theme—the moment the curtain went up. The representation of the woodwinds and strings (a lovely Lauren King among them) was spectacular! 

I saw this once last week and also love it. The School of American Ballet performed it at their annual  Workshop in 2015. Much more interesting than the occasional "See the Music" feature at NYCB.

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Saw the Saturday evening 5/19 performance.  While DAG was decently danced what was missing for me was the feeling of dances at a gathering.  The dancers seemed to have no relationship to each other or a particular place (with the exception of Tyler Angle, Joseph Gordon and Lauren Lovette).  It doesn’t matter specifically where that place is or who these people are because each of us will bring our own perception of that.  “Who am I and why am I here.”  Most of today’s DAG dancers have no sense of that and it has been so for a few years with DAG.  Ballet Alert old timers will remember Villela and Verdy as examples of what I mean.

As Anna Kisselgoff said in the NY Times June 14, 1994 “No matter how plotless, a Robbins ballet is about relationships.”

I agree that Taylor Stanley was excellent in Opus 19/The Dreamer as were Russell Janzen and Maria Kowroski in Glass Pieces.  What fun to have seen Stanley and Janzen develop.

I remember Joseph Gordon in class at SAB and it is wonderful to see what a fine, fine dancer (and principal soon I hope) he has become.  Bravo.

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Posted (edited)

Like many here, I thoroughly enjoyed DAAG on Saturday night. It's a rich playground of Robbins's imagination and sensibilities, and the dancers gave thoughtful and expressive articulation to them. I had seen the Paris Opera recording of this ballet in full and my impression then was just "a bunch of dancers looking pretty for too long".  But I was engrossed by Sat. night's performance, noticing many passages of playful intelligence and lyricism, and wanting to reach for the meanings and figurative images suggested but never made fully explicit.  For someone not familiar with Robbins or not a fan of Chopin though, it could still feel too long. One guy behind me remarked as such to his friend ("But it was sooo looong.") 

Tiler Peck always a joy, and her slow segment with TAngle is probably my favorite, alongside her duet with De Luz and the segment with Gordon and Lovette. I think it was the first time that I truly see what many other saw in Gordon, his lines and speed were both excellent. De Luz's solo in the middle was joyfully clean and dynamic, plus I think he has one of the best "epaulement" in the company, of a very noble masculine elegance. There was one moment where De Luz was walking, facing upstage, holding onto the waist of a bourreeing Lovette who's facing the audience, leaning his head slightly onto her cheek, and I was inexplicably touched by the tender melancholy in that image. I noticed the partnering problem between Finlay and Mearns too, which never quite settled down and that "jump and sit on his shoulder" moment looked labored indeed---he needed a moment to steady and adjust her position and I was worried they were going to miss the music for the exit. My impression is that Mearns's dancing became just a bit cautious because of that. To be honest that 3 consecutive throw and catch was less confident than could have been, and the applause from the audience was almost as unsure.  Still, I find Finlay's upper body articulation to be excellent--a genuine danseur noble air, one of the best among the principal men, and certainly much better than Catazaro who despite a striking figure tends to lack clarity and articulation in his shoulders, arms and head movements. 

I have to say, DAAG has my favorite type of ballet costume, well, for a 20th century ballet at least. All in solid colors and for the men a darker shade in the tights than the "billowy" top, with faux leather boots reaching the lower calf. The women's ribbons and flowing knee-length dresses, only slightly cinched at the waist. Just an elegant and clean silhouette throughout. I wonder if Robbins came up with this look himself, as it appears in variations in many of his ballets. 

The photo exhibition that NYPL put up in celebration of the Robbins centennial has some great content. The 3rd and 4th photos are of Dances at a Gathering.  Anybody know which ballet was being rehearsed in the photo after the Glass Pieces one?

 

Edited by bcash

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Posted (edited)

Hi, thanks to the ingenious suggestion of a friend I figured out I could change the blog title and URL and thus make it harder for kids to find my blog. So therefore my new blog url is: http://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com

So for example the review of Giselle/Robbins Festival is:

https://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com/2018/05/robbins-festival-ends-supergiselle-at.html

Edited by canbelto

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Posted (edited)
35 minutes ago, canbelto said:

Hi, thanks to the ingenious suggestion of a friend I figured out I could change the blog title and URL and thus make it harder for kids to find my blog. So therefore my new blog url is: http://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com

Hope that means we will continue to be reading your reflections on dance and other arts...at least should you want to resume. I realize you may wish for a break.

Edited by Drew

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47 minutes ago, Drew said:

Hope that means we will continue to be reading your reflections on dance and other arts...at least should you want to resume. I realize you may wish for a break.

The plan is to eventually start writing again. Idk. Maybe I'll get really excited about the Harlequinade restoration.

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1 hour ago, canbelto said:

Hi, thanks to the ingenious suggestion of a friend I figured out I could change the blog title and URL and thus make it harder for kids to find my blog. So therefore my new blog url is: http://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com

So for example the review of Giselle/Robbins Festival is:

https://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com/2018/05/robbins-festival-ends-supergiselle-at.html

I like your new title. Hope that you have much pleasure and success.

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5 hours ago, canbelto said:

The plan is to eventually start writing again. Idk. Maybe I'll get really excited about the Harlequinade restoration.

I hope that you continue to write -- I know you expressed some reservations about the work, but I think we're all better off with a multiplicity of voices from all kinds of sources.

Plus I did think I was the only person I knew who used "gobsmacked," and it's nice to realize I have company...

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15 hours ago, canbelto said:

Hi, thanks to the ingenious suggestion of a friend I figured out I could change the blog title and URL and thus make it harder for kids to find my blog. So therefore my new blog url is: http://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com

So for example the review of Giselle/Robbins Festival is:

https://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com/2018/05/robbins-festival-ends-supergiselle-at.html

It never dawned on me that your students would  try to find a blog written by their teacher.  Hope you can remain incognito with the new blog title.

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My position on the "See the Music..." talks affixed to certain programs is neutral. Nevertheless, the one at the start of Saturday's matinee "All Robbins No. 4" program proved arduous and vexatious. After relating some amusing personal experiences and providing the audience with a few intriguing facts about Ravel and his music, Andrew Litton eventually began what suddenly loomed as an interminable discussion of the "Piano Concerto in G" which included snippets played by himself on the instrument. Unlike his case, this piece—atypically—was familiar to me long before attending a performance of Robbins' ballet at NYCB, and I consider its second movement among the most hauntingly beautiful music ever created. (The section during which Robbins has the ballerina execute bourrées forwards and backwards is a supreme musical expression of the pathos of human existence.) Analyzing it before a performance is, to put it kindly, superfluous. 

Consequently, it took a while on account of this annoyance for me enjoy In G Major once it begun. Maria Kowroski with her superlative form in the pas de deux which is the heart of Robbins' work, however, saved the day! Observing this artist masterfully weaving her spell to the strains of Ravel's unforgettable music made all my previous irritation promptly disappear. Nor should the value of Tyler Angle's highly skilled and dependable partnering ever be underestimated.

A mysterious, hypnotic quality in Debussy’s music; using the front of the stage (beyond which the audience—significantly—is located) to represent a mirror; the splendid recreation of a brightly lit and exquisitely colored dance studio; the simple yet alluring costumes; the adorable, gentle kiss on the cheek—all of these made Afternoon of a Faun spellbinding and a work which beckons one to dig deeper into. Both Sterling Hyltin (bewitching with her lush blonde hair loose) and Chase Finley looked fabulous, and danced and acted admirably.

Perceiving a connection between painting and sculpture on the one hand and ballet on the other is uncomplicated. That a choreographer should derive inspiration for a ballet from ancient Greek art is completely natural. One work in NYCB's repertoire I eagerly waited to view was Antique Epigraphs, apparently last presented seven years ago. Partly due to the languorous harmonies of Debussy's score, it will never be a crowd-pleaser. After Tuesday's rendering, for example, an elderly woman in the elevator uttered in a quiet, displeased manner, "That last piece almost killed me." Nevertheless, it is as elegant and refined as I suspected and the fact that no presentations of it lie in the horizon after only two during the past seven years is frustrating and deeply troubling. Unity Phelan and Ashley Laracey were perfectly cast in the ballet, with the more experienced ballerina particularly offering another striking performance.

From what I could tell Tuesday evening's rendition of The Concert was successful. However, the notion of viewing the comical work after having seen Kowroski in the second part of In G Major, Hyltin in Afternoon of a Faun and barely twenty-five minutes before Laracey's sublime impersonation of a statuesque woman from a distant time was unpalatable to me. On Saturday afternoon I did not repeat my egregious error of earlier in the week and left the theater at the second intermission. No work of art is designed for everyone; nor can it be enjoyed at all times. Presumably the aforementioned woman in the elevator had prudently steered clear of The Goldberg Variations.

 

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, Royal Blue said:

Perceiving a connection between painting and sculpture on the one hand and ballet on the other is uncomplicated. That a choreographer should derive inspiration for a ballet from ancient Greek art is completely natural. One work in NYCB's repertoire I eagerly waited to view was Antique Epigraphs, apparently last presented seven years ago. Partly due to the languorous harmonies of Debussy's score, it will never be a crowd-pleaser. After Tuesday's rendering, for example, an elderly woman in the elevator uttered in a quiet, displeased manner, "That last piece almost killed me." Nevertheless, it is as elegant and refined as I suspected and the fact that no presentations of it lie in the horizon after only two during the past seven years is frustrating and deeply troubling. Unity Phelan and Ashley Laracey were perfectly cast in the ballet, with the more experienced ballerina particularly offering another striking performance.

From what I could tell Tuesday evening's rendition of The Concert was successful. However, the notion of viewing the comical work after having seen Kowroski in the second part of In G Major, Hyltin in Afternoon of a Faun and barely twenty-five minutes before Laracey's sublime impersonation of a statuesque woman from a distant time was unpalatable to me. On Saturday afternoon I did not repeat my egregious error of earlier in the week and left the theater at the second intermission. No work of art is designed for everyone; nor can it be enjoyed at all times. Presumably the aforementioned woman in the elevator had prudently steered clear of The Goldberg Variations.

 

Unfortunately I am missing the Robbins celebration this year, but speaking from personal experience of past performances  -- and as someone who might plausibly be described as headed in the direction of "elderly" -- let me say that it is entirely possible to like Goldberg Variations a lot and still not much like Antique Epigraphs.

Edited by Drew

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2 hours ago, Drew said:

Unfortunately I am missing the Robbins celebration this year, but speaking from personal experience of past performances  -- and as someone who might plausibly be described as headed in the direction of "elderly" -- let me say that it is entirely possible to like Goldberg Variations a lot and still not much like Antique Epigraphs.

It is also entirely possible—irrespective of one’s age—to like Antique Epigraphs a lot and still not much like The Goldberg Variations. Or, of course, to not much like either. And that is why, in part, I used the word "presumably" in my sentence.

Every child born "might plausibly be described as headed in the direction of 'elderly'." Any person who does not respect the oldest among us on account of their age is a fool. There has to be a way of describing people, however, without offending anyone. Since I consider you as one of the wisest posters on BA, Drew, I do not believe you took offense. Nevertheless, in view of the fact that you highlighted the term "elderly" I have to point all this out for the benefit of those readers of the subforum who may not be as wise as you. I thought the woman in the elevator actually displayed a sharp sense of humor.

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4 minutes ago, Royal Blue said:

Every child born "might plausibly be described as headed in the direction of 'elderly'." Any person who does not respect the oldest among us on account of their age is a fool. There has to be a way of describing people, however, without offending anyone. 

Why did her age matter in this particular instance? If it didn't, then perhaps there was no need to refer to it all. Nor to her gender for that matter. 

Including details about age, gender, and appearance suggests that they are important. It may not have been intended, but the implication seemed to be that her being elderly had something to do with her not liking Antique Epigraphs, or worse, only liking "crowd pleasers" and not something "elegant" and "refined."  "Sharp sense of humor" — now that would have been an interesting detail to include from the outset: it tells us something about her cast of mind.

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8 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Why did her age matter in this particular instance? If it didn't, then perhaps there was no need to refer to it all. Nor to her gender for that matter. 

Including details about age, gender, and appearance suggests that they are important. It may not have been intended, but the implication seemed to be that her being elderly had something to do with her not liking Antique Epigraphs, or worse, only liking "crowd pleasers" and not something "elegant" and "refined."  "Sharp sense of humor" — now that would have been an interesting detail to include from the outset: it tells us something about her cast of mind.

Details provided by a writer about a person's "age, gender, and appearance" are as important as a reader makes them. I mentioned nothing about her appearance. Others may have understood why in context of her remark her age mattered. The person who made and deserves credit for the joke in the elevator was a woman.

A reader has the right to draw implications from a text. The implications a reader draws from a text, though, may be erroneous. Language is an imperfect instrument of communication invented and used by beings who are imperfect.

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6 hours ago, Royal Blue said:

Language is an imperfect instrument of communication invented and used by beings who are imperfect.

On this I think we can agree. 

We're perilously close to violating the "don't discuss the discussion rule," if we haven't done so already, so I'll leave it there.

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On 5/22/2018 at 1:14 PM, Royal Blue said:

My position on the "See the Music..." talks affixed to certain programs is neutral. Nevertheless, the one at the start of Saturday's matinee "All Robbins No. 4" program proved arduous and vexatious. After relating some amusing personal experiences and providing the audience with a few intriguing facts about Ravel and his music, Andrew Litton eventually began what suddenly loomed as an interminable discussion of the "Piano Concerto in G" which included snippets played by himself on the instrument. Unlike his case, this piece—atypically—was familiar to me long before attending a performance of Robbins' ballet at NYCB, and I consider its second movement among the most hauntingly beautiful music ever created. (The section during which Robbins has the ballerina execute bourrées forwards and backwards is a supreme musical expression of the pathos of human existence.) Analyzing it before a performance is, to put it kindly, superfluous. 

Consequently, it took a while on account of this annoyance for me enjoy In G Major once it begun. Maria Kowroski with her superlative form in the pas de deux which is the heart of Robbins' work, however, saved the day! Observing this artist masterfully weaving her spell to the strains of Ravel's unforgettable music made all my previous irritation promptly disappear. Nor should the value of Tyler Angle's highly skilled and dependable partnering ever be underestimated.

A mysterious, hypnotic quality in Debussy’s music; using the front of the stage (beyond which the audience—significantly—is located) to represent a mirror; the splendid recreation of a brightly lit and exquisitely colored dance studio; the simple yet alluring costumes; the adorable, gentle kiss on the cheek—all of these made Afternoon of a Faun spellbinding and a work which beckons one to dig deeper into. Both Sterling Hyltin (bewitching with her lush blonde hair loose) and Chase Finley looked fabulous, and danced and acted admirably.

Perceiving a connection between painting and sculpture on the one hand and ballet on the other is uncomplicated. That a choreographer should derive inspiration for a ballet from ancient Greek art is completely natural. One work in NYCB's repertoire I eagerly waited to view was Antique Epigraphs, apparently last presented seven years ago. Partly due to the languorous harmonies of Debussy's score, it will never be a crowd-pleaser. After Tuesday's rendering, for example, an elderly woman in the elevator uttered in a quiet, displeased manner, "That last piece almost killed me." Nevertheless, it is as elegant and refined as I suspected and the fact that no presentations of it lie in the horizon after only two during the past seven years is frustrating and deeply troubling. Unity Phelan and Ashley Laracey were perfectly cast in the ballet, with the more experienced ballerina particularly offering another striking performance.

From what I could tell Tuesday evening's rendition of The Concert was successful. However, the notion of viewing the comical work after having seen Kowroski in the second part of In G Major, Hyltin in Afternoon of a Faun and barely twenty-five minutes before Laracey's sublime impersonation of a statuesque woman from a distant time was unpalatable to me. On Saturday afternoon I did not repeat my egregious error of earlier in the week and left the theater at the second intermission. No work of art is designed for everyone; nor can it be enjoyed at all times. Presumably the aforementioned woman in the elevator had prudently steered clear of The Goldberg Variations.

Thank you for your comments, Royal Blue. You make me long to see Antique Epigraphs.

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Any info as to why the Pulcinella Variations was replaced for this one night? Injuries too many?

Tchai Pas: It's an interesting paring. I don't believe they've danced this together and it should be Catazaro's NY debut. 

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