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Winter 2019


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On 2/6/2019 at 5:18 PM, Balletwannabe said:

Oh I didn't realize she was tall.  I'm seeing her dance for the first time on the 15th (courage fairy I think?).  Looking forward to it!

Nadon was outstanding, btw, as Courage.  I cannot remember anyone dancing Aurora in their teens.  Bouder debuted at 20.

 

On 1/30/2019 at 9:50 AM, DC Export said:

So many debuts during the variations! Glad to see Dutton-O'Hara getting more opportunities.

Overall, there were dancers that had been overlooked for too long finally getting a few roles - but not enough.  Dutton-O, Habony, Alberda, Applebaum ... some new faces in the corps this year that truly shined!  It will be interesting to see what happens in the Spring and Fall with Whelan on the team.  Hopefully Justin Peck will cast something other than his regular dancers and give someone else a chance to shine.  There are so many dancers on the roster.  Many are capable of much, much more if they were given an opportunity to rehearse and grow.  Fingers Crossed!

 

13 hours ago, canbelto said:

I did a wrapup of the Winter Season which includes a link to my review of the last All-Balanchine program at Bachtrack:

https://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com/2019/03/a-review-of-nycb-at-bachtrack-winter.html

great write up!  Totally Agree on Devin Alberda.  Both this season and last fall.  He has flourished since Martins left.

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I don't have time for a more comprehensive wrap-up, but I thought I'd pass along a brief take on the 2/10/19 Herman Shmerman / Principia / The Runaway triple bill.

My husband was only going to be able to take in one NYCB performance during the winter season. I asked him if he'd like to see either the Balanchine / Stravinsky program or the Balanchine / Tchaikovsky program since these ballets have been among his favorites. "No!" he said, "I want to see something new!" So, off to Forsythe / Peck / Abraham we went.

His thoughts, in no particular order:

1) He thought Herman Schmerman was the most well-crafted ballet of the three and thought that in the end it would prove to have the longest legs of any of them.

2) He LOVED Emily Kitka in Herman Schmerman. (And truly, what's not to love?) He thought that she, along with Taylor Stanley, was one of the afternoon's standout performers.

3) He thought Principia was  ... meh. He found Sufjan Stevens' score to be very well orchestrated, but badly in need of editing with little by way of thematic or stylistic unity or clarity. 

4) He really enjoyed The Runaway and was in awe of Taylor Stanley's performance. He liked the costumes and lighting, and enjoyed the music so much that when we got home he fired up our streaming service of choice and spent an hour or two listening to Kanye et al at full volume. He would like to see more Abraham, too.

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell
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4 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

I don't have time for a more comprehensive wrap-up, but I thought I'd pass along a brief take on the 2/10/19 Herman Shmerman / Principia / The Runaway triple bill.

My husband was only going to be able to take in one NYCB performance during the winter season. I asked him if he'd like to see either the Balanchine / Stravinsky program or the Balanchine / Tchaikovsky program since these ballets have been among his favorites. "No!" he said, "I want to see something new!" So, off to Forsythe / Peck / Abraham we went.

His thoughts, in no particular order:

1) He thought Herman Schmerman was the most well-crafted ballet of the three and thought that in the end it would prove to have the longest legs of any of them.

 

Thank you for this report. Staying power is the key IMO. I've seen a lot of new ballets at NYCB over the years. Most of them were there for one season only. The big exceptions being pieces by Peck, Wheeldon and Ratmansky. NYCB has a huge and impressive rep of Balanchine and Robbins, so deciding that there is room for new works to enter that rep on a permanent basis must be a challenge.

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On 2/13/2019 at 1:42 PM, fondoffouettes said:

Sean Suozzi seems to be another soloist who has been completely absent, and not cast in any Sleeping Beauties. Is he injured?

I should have checked the dates. It was actually three weeks during which she wasn't cast at all.

I don’t think it’s unusual for soloists to go several weeks without performing. Reading memoirs many dancers write about the shock of being promoted and adjusting to a more limited performance schedule. Serenade only has 3 principal women, and there were fewer in the Stravinsky evening. Laracey not being cast sounds like happenstance to me. 

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I think there are certain soloists who are cast fairly regularly.  Among the women it's Unity Phelan, Emily Gerrity and to a lesser extent Megan LeCrone .  Lauren King finally got some important new roles this season.

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5 minutes ago, abatt said:

I think there are certain soloists who are cast fairly regularly.  Among the women it's Unity Phelan, Emily Gerrity and to a lesser extent Megan LeCrone .  Lauren King finally got some important new roles this season.

I feel like Erica Pereira and Brittany Pollack are cast quite often, as is Indiana Woodward (I'm hoping she will be promoted soon, though I have no idea if and when new leadership will decide to make roster adjustments). 

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On 2/23/2019 at 11:06 AM, atm711 said:

Replacing R&J is a good start..I suggest they pay homage to one of their 'giant' choreographers by reviving Tudor's R&J--and he did it all in one hour!

Martins’ R & J has got to go!! It has no redeeming features. They can sell the costumes to a football team. 

What offended me about Martins’ behavior, as reported in the article, was that he went against Jonathan Stafford’s instructions not to go backstage. I would dump his choreography just for that (and the choreography being hideous, of course). Ashley Bouder hardly comes into it, since a choreographer does have the right to change casting. But the how and when of the changes should be looked at. 

I’d love to see the Tudor R&J. Who would restage it?

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On 3/2/2019 at 6:36 PM, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Sigh. Liebeslieder is like Halley's Ballet: it only comes around every seven seasons. This wouldn't be the first time that NYCB threw a bunch of new dancers at Liebeslieder for a single performance at the tail end of the season and then didn't bother to give them a chance to dance in it again until three years later (if then). The last time this happened I had the same happy thought you did, cobweb, but alas it wasn't to be.

I agree that today's performance was a uncharacteristically muted, which I chalked up to a mostly new cast. It looked as if they hadn't quite sorted out who they were, or at least, how to convey who they were. The vocal quartet and the two pianists were very, very good, however. 

 

Well, I attended the Friday and Saturday matinee performances of LW and i respectfully disagree with the above assessment. 

I was eager to see Tiler, and the debuts of Joseph Gordon, Taylor Stanley and Unity Phelan. I consider those four to be the most well suited to Brahms’ music and phrasing among this company of stellar dancers. Yes, Maria and Sterling are beautiful in LW. Truly astounding. But the four I mentioned all have an innate liquidity to their phrasing, a potential for heartbreaking musicality.  That matinee performance had me and my companion gasping for breath with tears in our eyes. It was as if Brahms, Goethe and Balanchine came back from the dead and spoke to us through the artistry of those young dancers. 

What a performance. Hopefully it will be done again before Haley’s comet returns. 

Edited by BalanchineFan
typos
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3 minutes ago, BalanchineFan said:

I was eager to see Tiler, and the debuts of Joseph Gordon, Taylor Stanley and Unity Phelan. I consider those four to be the most well suited to Brahms’ music and phrasing among this company of stellar dancers. Yes, Maria and Sterling are beautiful in LB. Truly astounding. But the four I mentioned all have an innate liquidity to their phrasing, a potential for heartbreaking musicality.  That matinee performance had me and my companion gasping for breath with tears in our eyes. It was as if Brahms, Goethe and Balanchine came back from the dead and spoke to us through the artistry of those young dancers. 

What a performance. Hopefully it will be done again before Haley’s comet returns. 

 I'm glad the performance moved you and your companion! While I might disagree with you regarding Phelan, Stanley, and Gordon's Liebeslieder debuts, I certainly won't dismiss your response to the performance or to their dancing.

I think there's no denying that Gordon and Stanley in particular are very talented and exceptionally musical dancers with a style and an artistry that are uniquely theirs, which bodes well for their future success in Liebeslieder—assuming that they get to dance it again, of course. (I'm a little less sold on Phelan in general; I find her a tad generic.) My complaint was directed primarily at the company for not finding a way to give them another performance or two to find their way into ballet. 

(And I apologize in advance for the pedantry, but the texts for all of the songs save the last were written by Georg Friedrich Daumer. Only the text of the final song is by Goethe.)

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I will never argue with more performances of Liebeslieder Waltzer. Shall we launch a campaign? 

I think I first saw the ballet in 2011 or 2012. I was blown away (Tiler with Amar, Megan Fairchild, Sterling and Rebecca Krohn were cast). I was struck that I’d been a Balanchine fan since the late 1970s and never seen the ballet. A lost opportunity.

And thank you for naming the poet of all but the last piece, Georg Friedrich Daumer. He deserves his due. 

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3 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

You betcha! 

I suspect that there would be a more enthusiastic audience for Liebeslieder if NYCB could somehow contrive to perform it in a more intimate venue. 

I agree with this. I have to admit that the first couple of times I saw LB I was in nosebleed territory and it did nothing for me. Then I saw it close up and was totally blown away. 

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4 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

I suspect that there would be a more enthusiastic audience for Liebeslieder if NYCB could somehow contrive to perform it in a more intimate venue. 

I also thought it would fare better in a more intimate venue. It would be easier to appreciate that way, and it also feels more suitable to the space, which I think contributes to audience expectations. In a huge place like the State Theater, many in the audience are expecting something with more of a wow factor, setting up Liebeslieder to be a letdown.

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29 minutes ago, cobweb said:

I also thought it would fare better in a more intimate venue. It would be easier to appreciate that way, and it also feels more suitable to the space, which I think contributes to audience expectations. In a huge place like the State Theater, many in the audience are expecting something with more of a wow factor, setting up Liebeslieder to be a letdown.

At the Friday evening performance I was surprised that people applauded after each of the waltzes. Each half of the ballet is one opus. I would expect the house to hold their applause until the end, which the Saturday matinee audience did (for all of Part 1, and most of Part 2). The applause struck me as strange, since the dances are so intimate and soul-baring. It's not like the dancers are performing for an audience (like Aurora's Wedding or the divertissement in Nutcracker). It was as if you walked in on a cultured husband and wife arguing about emotional betrayal and people burst into applause when they finished.

It did appear that the Fourth Ring was empty, or nearly empty. Perhaps it was just SAB students watching from the nosebleed seats.

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Agree with Kathleen and vipa that a more intimate venue would help.

Would also love to see this performed with better singers and pianists. (I imagine they'd draw more of the opera crowd, too.) NYCB's LW musicians have seemed sort of meh and uneventful, which is sad given the quality of both contemporary Brahms lieder recordings and recent lieder concerts in NY.

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LW is one of my private joys .... having first been introduced to it when I lived in NYC by the ever glorious NYCB.  Living in London I always long to catch a glimpse of it.  It was in the Royal Ballet rep for but one season and never repeated.  The Company now has a considerable wealth in rank and I have a feeling this could provide a treasure chest of possibility.  However I gave up putting it on my seasonal wish list when Hamburg Ballet this season introduced it in a programme alongside the Bard Balanchine's eternally ripe Brahms Schoenberg Quartet.  This will mean that for a few seasons at least in Hamburg repeat this will be repeated for a few performances.  I flew to Hamburg last month to catch two showings and was most pleased that I did. 

LW - indeed both - provided - without question - succour to my soul.  Wisely Neumeier saw that it was cast with many of the Company's senior dancers.  Riabko as ever gave a masterclass and the singing and orchestral contributions were sensitively exquisite throughout.  It did my heart great joy to see CAPACITY (1.690) audiences at both performances.  You could feel each audience - as one - breathe with Balanchine.  The sense of community was pungent. 

Aside:  The stunning Sylvia Azzoni was out in LW .... but in her place was a young Australian girl from the corps, Olivia Betteridge.  She was beyond radiant - with tremendous musicality.  In one performance she also danced the soloist role in the third movement of the BSQ.  There is no question but that hers will be a name to look out for.  In the second performance members of the audience were throwing bouquets to her from their seats.  Well they might.  I will be catching this programme again in June as it is repeated the night before the annual (six hour) Nijinsky Gala.   I so hope that I might again catch a glimpse of her  .... oh, and - just maybe - of the ever radiant Tiler Peck who so thrilled in the gala last season.  Neumeier is nothing if not loyal to talented artistes, Cojocaru et all.   

 

Edited by meunier fan
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On 3/7/2019 at 12:25 PM, BalanchineFan said:

I’d love to see the Tudor R&J. Who would restage it?

I don't have the definitive news, but the general consensus I hear is that it would be very, very hard to get it all back.

 

 

Edited by sandik
technical glitch on my part
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On 3/1/2019 at 2:25 PM, California said:

Goldner's books are the first place many of us turn to for better understanding/seeing Balanchine's ballets. Worth the investment.

I just wanted to thank California and nanushka for the advice—I received my copy of More Balanchine Variations on Saturday, and was so thrilled for the additional reading material. Thanks to everyone who gave more context for Liebeslieder, too. 

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On 1/30/2019 at 3:55 PM, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Janzen is a vast improvement over Finlay, who absolutely butchered the role when I saw him dance it last year, so I enjoyed watching him tackle it even if he hasn't quite nailed the whole thing yet. Although Mearns looked better last night than she did last year (partnered by Finlay), I still don't think the ballet flatters her.  I know Mozartiana is a plum role that's generally given to the company's senior ballerinas, but it just doesn't suit Mearns' particular gifts. She! Tends! To! Put! An! Exclamation! Point! after every one of the ballerina's telling little throwaway gestures and it just ruins the effect. Mearns shines in a role like Walpurgisnacht, where being bigger than life is the whole point.

I know this is an old post, but I'm having NYCB withdrawl. I agree, Mearns has to stretch for Mozartiana, it's not in her wheelhouse. That said, I was surprised how well she did with it. I had seats First Ring center the most recent time I saw her dance it. When she rose on pointe I was startled by her simplicity and vulnerability. I had not imagined she could dance that way. It was like she was going to float into my soul. She did, in fact, bouree straight downstage right towards my seat.

Your description reminds me of the Variations section with the partner (I can hear the music in my head... Musically each phrase ends with three notes, I'm imagining they are the "throw away" gestures you mention). I don't recall her performance in that section bothering me at all. I saw Suzanne Farrell and Kyra Nichols dance it. With Nichols I was so moved I waited at the stage door to speak to her. (I didn't do that sort of thing back when Farrell was dancing, I wish I had!)

I also agree that Mearns is SPECTACULAR in Walpurgisnacht.

 

On 1/31/2019 at 2:48 PM, bcash said:

The last Tchaikovsky program last night was probably one of the flattest evenings I've witnessed at NYCB. Everything was done with competency but no spark, aura, fragrance. Orchestra sounded tired throughout. Much of Serenade looked like a student work; The male solo role in Mozartiana felt so sleeply (and with that awful period costume), Sara Mearns was all steps and no interior depth, and the use of children just puzzling.

Once while watching Mozartiana, I looked up expecting to see the four young girls who dance in the Preghira, and saw instead the four women of the corps de ballet. The Preghira seems like a musing on death, a response to death, a surrender to the passing of time. Partly because the dancers wear black, partly because it is among Balanchine's last ballets. To my eye, the use of the four young girls and four adult women dressed nearly identically to the children (often in similar formations) also emphasizes the passage of time. It's as if the girls grew into corps de ballet, or the corps represent the future for those young girls. One minute you're a child, the next a woman, the next you're praying, then... DEATH.  Of course the ballet doesn't lay it all out in order like that, but the passage of time and the stages of life are represented onstage. I find Balanchine's use of children quite profound here. It's the most serious ballet in which children are cast.

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54 minutes ago, BalanchineFan said:

Your description reminds me of the Variations section with the partner (I can hear the music in my head... Musically each phrase ends with three notes, I'm imagining they are the "throw away" gestures you mention). I don't recall her performance in that section bothering me at all. I saw Suzanne Farrell and Kyra Nichols dance it. With Nichols I was so moved I waited at the stage door to speak to her. (I didn't do that sort of thing back when Farrell was dancing, I wish I had!)

I also agree that Mearns is SPECTACULAR in Walpurgisnacht.

Yes, the variations section is the one I'm thinking of. Tossing off those gestures with the appropriate nonchalant insouciance is tricky. 

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