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Spring 2019


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Viewing a piece like Oltremare is not exactly what people have in mind when thinking of going to the ballet. In fact, it is a work of contemporary dance instead of a ballet, and it is surprising that NYCB has performed it three years in a row. Nevertheless, its subject matter resonates strongly with some in the audience and is ultimately part of the work's attraction. Even without other reasons, immigration was always and always will be a sensitive subject, since it reflects fundamental aspects of the human condition. Are not all human beings essentially journeyers—through the limitless dimensions of time and space—into the unknown?

Due to vintage photographs, motion pictures, fictional treatments of the topic the massive wave of immigration to the United States during the late 19th and early 20th century—the time period depicted in Mauro Bigonzetti’s Oltremare—looms large in our minds when contemplating the subject. For the vast majority of emigrants leaving their native country during that time extraordinary, daunting risks accompanied whatever promise the journey to America offered. Identifying with the various feelings they likely experienced is not difficult.

My initial bewilderment upon seeing Oltremare dissipated with every subsequent viewing. There is plentiful glamour, style, color showcased at the ballet. This work by Bigonzetti provides an interesting contrast in terms of its choreography, costumes and lusterless overall appearance. And the enthusiasm with which NYCB's dancers have always performed their roles as common people from that period is commendable. Although it may sound sentimental to some, Bruno Moretti's music is touching and effective.

Any criticism regarding the peculiar movement involved in the main pas de deux of Oltremare is offset by how naturally Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle perform it. An earlier pas de deux with Brittany Pollack and Peter Walker, both splendid in their parts, was as moving and superbly executed. Every other dancer in this run also deserves due credit, with an intriguing Lydia Wellington particularly capturing my own attention.

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Since performances of Judah are scheduled for later in the season, it is especially regrettable that Herman Schmerman—a ballet I am not that familiar with—will not be presented again tonight. Unfortunately, I was able to see the mighty trio of Sara Mearns, Unity Phelan and Brittany Pollack in its first part only once last week. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to tonight’s entire program—another gorgeous performance by Sterling Hyltin in Hallelujah Junction and that transcendent central section of Concerto DSCH with Mearns and Tyler Angle above all.

 

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Last night's gala program had its highs and lows. I'd never seen any of Pam Tanowitz's work before and was very much looking forward to seeing her first work for NYCB. Five minutes in I was thinking "Well, I don't love this, but I don't hate it either".  At about the 10 -15 minute mark I was solidly in the hate camp. I found her choreographic style inscrutable. Why were the dancers performing these ugly steps that were dull, repetitive and almost unmusical - though the music she chose was very difficult. This piece felt like it went on forever.

The Peck was slight and brief, but enjoyable.

I've seen sharper performances of Tchai Ste #3 but even with an occasionally out of sync corps, some flagging energy and less than ideal soloists it was the standout of the evening. I love Garcia, but he is not a virtuoso.  Fairchild looks to be in great shape but she will never be my favorite in T&V. She has the speed, but her arabesque isn't very high and she doesn't stretch them out or hold them very long so the ppd was not as expansive as I like. Laracey, however was simply gorgeous with J. Angle in the waltz and Pereira and Ulbricht were great in the Scherzo. I was particularly surprised at how much I liked Pereira.

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I did not see the performance last night, but I had a similar experience seeing Tanowitz's work for the first time at Martha Graham at the Joyce a few weeks ago. I had high expectations after reading all the hype about her in the press (the ballet world being so desperate for good female choreographers), but I found the piece boring and disjointed. 

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I felt like the Tanowtiz work was boring and overly long.  I couldn't wait for it to end.  The ballet steps were simplistic.  I had never before seen any of her work.

The Peck piece was pleasant enough and brief.

I  liked Garcia in DSCH earlier this season, but he is looking tired and low energy.  His performances in T&V last night and Sonatine earlier in the week were unimpressive.  Were any of his double tours in T&V last landed in proper position?  I don't think so.  Garcia is getting a lot of DeLuz's old roles, but every time I watch Garcia all I can think about was how much better DeLuz was in comparison.

I'm seeing a trend in the new leadership where they are enlisting choreographers who have no understanding or background in ballet.  The Kyle Abraham piece they premiered in the fall also had this issue of being largely a modern dance work, with some very basic ballet steps tossed in.

Hopefully the Tanowitz ballet scheduled to premiere next season will be better.  Hope springs eternal!

Tschai. Suite No 3 was a balm for the soul.  Even though Garcia lacks excellence, all the other perforers were wonderful.  A masterpiece.

Edited by abatt
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Jonothan Stafford and Wendy Whelan spoke again before last night's performance, with Stafford introducing Whelan once more. Whelan's speech was well structured (Jon and I shared this stage for 20 years, but rarely together—the Stravinsky girl/Balanchine boy line—so excited to be exploring a new partnership. Maintain Balanchine and Robbins, and City Ballet's history of cultivating new choreographic talent, etc.) but both were rehearsed and to the point. 

I'm still trying to decide how I feel about "Bright." It was short, fresh, and lively, but I didn't love the music, and felt like I could have used a little more to grab onto in terms of understanding the piece (Peck commented in the Playbill article that it is about people coming and going into our lives, which didn't read to me). I thought the costumes were beautiful but didn't love the open gray stage/background, especially for a cast of only six dancers. Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen did a lovely job, and, based off of Mearns Instagram comments, returning to the piece that Peck first used for her for Fall for Dance in 2013 was an emotional and rewarding experience. 

I'd listened to the music for Bartok Ballet (thank you to @DC Export, the playlists are wonderful and so helpful!), and was intrigued to see what Tanowitz would do with such a complex piece of music. I didn't have the same negative response that some others on the board had, but I wished I'd seen more of Pam Tanowitz' work so that I had a better understanding of how this piece fits within her oeuvre. Though I was intrigued by many of its component parts (Indiana Woodward, all four men in the piece (Daniel Applebaum, Kennard Henson, Devin Alberda, and Jonothan Fahoury, the mazurka-esque group section, the use of the proscenium/the back of the stage/the wings, etc.), the piece was long and didn't quite come together for me. I enjoyed the gender neutrality of the costumes (leotards with black and gold shimmering tunic-esque tops transition into bright gold)—pointe shoes are the only distinguisher between the male and female costumes—and after looking at the pictures of the costumes NYCB posted to Instagram with Gretchen Smith and sitting up high with a great perspective of the entire theater, it was fascinating to think about how they referenced the space. In terms of choreography, it was very grounded compared to anything I can recall seeing at NYCB, and the choreography had some very staunch anti-balletic elements (a relaxed arm at the dancer's side in turns, most notably, but arms behind the dancer's head, too). Even though it didn't fully come together for me, I was impressed by Tanowitz's ability to revisit motifs and evoke them through subtle references to their previous use. I appreciated the legibility of the piece's presentation  (in terms of structure and presentation), which, especially upon viewing the piece for a second time, might allow me to dig into the choreography a bit more. I believe this is Tanowitz's first time incorporating pointe work, but I thought it worked well with the piece. 

Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 was a lovely way to round out the evening. Tess Reichlen and Adrian Danchig-Waring were beautiful in the Elegie, though the corps of that section felt the least unified to me. I was impressed by Ashley Laracey and Erica Pereira (who has been looking absolutely fantastic recently, and historically wasn't someone I'd go out of my way to see) in the second and third sections (respectively). Megan Fairchild and Gonzalo Garcia's culminating T&V wasn't as majestic as it can be. I thought Fairchild did a nice job, but it didn't have the sharpness or fluidity that make that role so magical to me. In particular, the moments where she taps the box of her shoe in some of the low lifts really stuck out to me—I honestly thought she'd put her foot down or tripped. Like Abatt said, Garcia just didn't look as clean as De Luz did in this sort of role, and it wasn't my favorite last night. Lydia Wellington was one of the demi-soloists, and I was curious when I saw the demi-soloist roster for T&V, but she and Gretchen Smith (who also looked great in Bartok) were lovely. 

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I wrote a review for bachtrack about the spring gala that hasn't been published yet but I agree about the disappointment with Tanowitz's work. I thought the Bartok String Quartet had a lot of possibilities but Tanowitz didn't seem to know what to do with the dancers. I can't remember a ballet with so much movement with so little to actually remember.

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I didn't see the Tanowitz/Bartok ballet so reading the diverging points of view is intriguing. I read that it's her first time choreographing point work .  I saw her Goldberg Variations and thought it was terrific.  Four Quartets got even more favorable reviews.  I'm curious to see more of her dances.  

I don't understand why Garcia is cast in De Luz's repertory or in any ballet requiring virtuosity and fast feet.  

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On 4/18/2019 at 8:38 AM, Leah said:

I see that Western Symphony only has 3 couples listed. I know that NYC ballet doesn’t usually include the third movement. The only full performance I’ve seen of the piece is the MCB version on YouTube which does the complete version.

How does NYCB treat the finale when the four couples come out? Is the choreography modified for just the three couples or does some random couple come out of nowhere at the end?

 

 

The Third Movement is treated as a run on.  The both male/female role is performed by a corp member - usually a stepping stone.  Last time NYCB had WS on the rep Harrison Coll and Laine Habony were the 3rd Mov runs ons.  They basically jumped in pre-finale and in the finale.  They were adorable!  And obviously Harrison Coll has jumped up as soloist!  Hopefully we will see more of Laine Habony this season.  I missed the Gala last night but I saw in video clips she was on Megan's right hand in Theme and Variations.

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13 hours ago, abatt said:

I'm seeing a trend in the new leadership where they are enlisting choreographers who have no understanding or background in ballet.  The Kyle Abraham piece they premiered in the fall also had this issue of being largely a modern dance work, with some very basic ballet steps tossed in.

 

One of the things I liked best about Martins' leadership was his commitment to inviting choreographers who had some real relationship to ballet--not necessarily an exclusive relationship to ballet, but some knowledge or background with it. I suppose that was bound to end at some point, because there are so few good ballet choreographers (and as we all know, most premiers in all dance traditions are mediocre or worse) -- but it really felt important that NYCB, unlike several other major ballet companies seeking new choreography, remained genuinely ballet-centric.

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I don’t follow NYCB nearly as closely as others here, but I’ve always felt that Wendy Whelan was most beautiful when in tandem with Christopher Wheeldon. She did some of the loveliest ‘lyrical’ dancing that I’ve seen, somewhat akin to what I love so much at the Mariinsky. Now it appears that Jonathan Stafford will more or less take charge of the Balanchine/Robbins part of the repertoire, certainly the essence of the company, and Wendy Whelan will oversee, more or less, new commissions. With the return, hopefully on a long term basis, of Suzanne Farrell, the Balanchine repertoire should be enriched and entrenched significantly.

I’ve gone so far as to call Wendy Whelan’s work with Christopher Wheeldon to be post-Balanchine or what I would hope to see a lot more of. It’s just so lovely. Maybe she’ll pursue this direction in the new works that she ‘commissions.’ Even better, maybe she’ll do some of her own creating in the spirit of her collaborations with Christopher Wheeldon.

Added:

Or in contrast to what Kathleen has just posted -- 'Post-Balanchine' Balanchine from a more 'Lyrical' side of the spectrum. 

 

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6 hours ago, Drew said:

One of the things I liked best about Martins' leadership was his commitment to inviting choreographers who had some real relationship to ballet--not necessarily an exclusive relationship to ballet, but some knowledge or background with it. 

Well, there is a Cunningham work in NYCB's repertory (Summerspace) and Balanchine himself invited Martha Graham to collaborate with him on Episodes.  I'd consider some of Martins' choices to be further removed from the ballet mothership than Cunningham—or Tanowitz, for that matter, who is in a clear line of descent from Cunningham. On the evidence of The Runaway, I'd say Kyle Abraham was more intrigued by the potential of classical ballet vocabulary as exemplified by the NYCB dancers he worked with, than, say, Angelin Preljocaj. (To be clear, I don't much mind that NYCB has commissioned works by Preljocaj; Spectral Evidence is a cherished guilty pleasure and I delight in an occaisional La Stravaganza hate-watch. But enough with the Bigonzetti already. I can't even hate-watch Oltremare.) 

I won't see Tanowitz' new work for NYCB until next weekend, but I have seen a lot of Tanowitz and to my eye, she doesn't just know the steps (and she does know the steps), she's also alert to their potential as a vocabulary. Here are some excerpts of previous work she's presented with ballet dancers you know, plus and excerpt from Goldberg Variations, with members from her own company. When I look at works like these, I see a choreographer who is more than open to the possibilities of ballet's vocabulary, and not just its wham-pow effects (like extreme extensions, blinding speed, and pretzel partnering).

Here's an excerpt from Day for Night for Vail with Joseph Gordon, Calvin Royall III, and Gretchen Smith:

 

Here's Solo for Patricia with Patricia Delgado: ETA: Solo for Patricia is followed by another Tanowitz work, Entr'acte, which looks a bit more Merce-y, but is very much in line with Tanowitz' work.

Here's Blueprint, also with Delgado as well as two dancers from Tanowitz' company:

 

And finally, an excerpt from Goldberg Variations

 

 

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell
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Choreography has melted into the contemporary genre, and there is a smaller pool of modern, let alone ballet-centric modern choreographers, from whom to choose. 

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Thanks @Kathleen O'Connell  for the links to Tanowitz’s work. Obviously to comment on her ballet in particular I would need to see it. 

And though it is hardly consistent of me, I admit I am thrilled the company is reviving Summerspace even if I doubt I will get to see it...Cunningham fills me with the kind of pleasure I get from Balanchine,

The thought that...

2 hours ago, Helene said:

Choreography has melted into the contemporary genre, and there is a smaller pool of modern, let alone ballet-centric modern choreographers, from whom to choose. 

...is probably a part of what vaguely concerns me. (Even when using pointe work and turn out, some of what Atlanta Ballet has recently pitched as neoclassical looks a lot more like contemporary/eclectic to me.) 

To put things in another way I thought Millepied’s comment about POB being the greatest contemporary dance company in the world was pretty stinging. But it may be that this is just shaking my head at the future, or even at the present, which is rather pointless when it comes to the arts. Obviously NYCB —the version of it I love—needs to be a home for new choreography.  

(On the other end: I have little interest in seeing NYCB dance Giselle and I sometimes think that could happen too ....and I know R&J is there to make money, but I wish it didn’t have to be.)

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I’m curious if anyone saw Scotch Symphony both Tuesday and today and if today’s performance may have been more satisfying. Bouder’s shoes only squeaked a bit that I could hear and the adagio was better than I’d expected. I wouldn’t call her a delicate sylph but then this is Balanchine not La Sylphide, and she did have more lightness than I’ve often seen from her. (And few facial Ashleyisms except in bit of the final movement.) Gordon was lovely. Alec Knight’s dancing is so large — on some kicks to the front he got his leg a good foot higher than Lars Nelson, it seemed.

India Bradley was in the corps and while I always like her dancing she was noticeably behind the beat compared with others onstage.

I know Mendelssohn doesn’t give Balanchine a ton to work with in the final portion of the finale but I find the ending sequence so disappointing. After the bower, there’s hardly any real inspiration in the choreography. I like when the man kind of throws the woman to the side into something like a pas de chat, but otherwise yawn.

Overall though I do love the piece, and it’s a great opener. It was my first time getting to see it live.

Edited by nanushka
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I mostly thoroughly enjoyed this afternoon's performance. It was a great pleasure to see Adrian Danchig-Waring back onstage; I didn't realize how much I'd missed him. Sometimes the dancers seem like dear old friends that I'm happy to see; that's how I felt about Danchig-Waring and Kowroski in Stravinsky Violin Concerto. Megan Fairchild, in Duo Concertant, danced with a very appealing sense of freedom and humor. I found Lauren Lovette beautiful in Sonatine, and Garcia has an earthy quality that I enjoy, but overall it seemed lacking in excitement, or something. As for Scotch Symphony, Baily Jones was wonderfully charming. Among much wonderful dancing of the afternoon, I most enjoyed Joseph Gordon. He has some intangible quality that makes me just love him. 

Must dash for the evening performance.  

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After a few hours struggling with the latest update of Quicken this afternoon, I was in dire need of the humor and good cheer of Western Symphony. Before we got there, though, my mood turned even more dark as I sat through the new Tanowitz piece. Maybe if I had ever seen a Tanowitz work before I might have a clue, but I have no idea how to read this piece. Baffling, heavy, and humorless (as far as I can see anyway). The only bright spot was the golden swimsuits that several of the women wore (I didn’t care for this item on the guys); I was only sorry that Emily Kikta didn’t get to wear one. After this the new Peck piece was a blessed relief. Actual ballet! Order! Brightness, light, and pleasing flowy watercolor-y outfits! Finally, on to the hijinks of Western Symphony. Perhaps not as much snap as it should have, but it revived my spirits. Roman Mejia subbed for Veyette in the Rondo, and he and Reichlen were FAB. I left with a smile. Thank you Mr B, I needed that!

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On 5/3/2019 at 5:21 PM, canbelto said:

I wrote a review for bachtrack about the spring gala that hasn't been published yet but I agree about the disappointment with Tanowitz's work. I thought the Bartok String Quartet had a lot of possibilities but Tanowitz didn't seem to know what to do with the dancers. I can't remember a ballet with so much movement with so little to actually remember.

Well, I agree that the Tanowitz was disappointing. I thought it was oddly static, lots of ideas, but no real movement, no sweep, no visually satisfying formations or changes of formation. It seemed influenced by Merce Cunningham, but his pieces had both a stronger visual sense and a stronger sense of movement, of dancing. Bartok Ballet would have been too long at 1/3 the length. I hope it adds to the dancers' mastery and that they had a good time in the studio, because otherwise.... not many pluses for this one. Some of the dancing, I admit, is spectacular (I think it's Devin Alberda who seems to hop/turn on one leg for two days. Indiana Woodward leads everyone quite capably. Miriam Miller looks fantastic in her gold leotard. Gretchen Smith returns from injury.) I really liked the last Tanowitz piece I saw at Fall For Dance to the Goldberg Variations. I remember more dance type movement in that one. Was the Bartok movement inspired by insects? Ants? Cicadas? It would have been nice to have a clue in the title. Would it have made me more generous? Doubtful.

Justin Peck's Bright was such a relief following the Bartok; sweeping movement, momentum, ebbs and flows of energy. People dancing as people. The piece is quite short. Next time they can dance it twice and skip the Tanowitz, imo.

Megan Fairchild is dancing with newfound radiance. She danced Duo Concertante in the matinee, and 2nd movement Western Symphony Saturday evening. She looks technically as sharp and brilliant as ever and her performing seems more relaxed and expansive. She looks so happy to be there, as if motherhood and her private life situation make her grateful for every moment onstage and helped her to put things into a proper perspective. She says as much in an interview in Refinery29

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/megan-fairchild-postpartum-ballet-interview

Roman Mejia replaced Andy Veyette in Western Symphony. He was amazing, all jumps, beats, multiple turns and bravado befitting a cowboy on a night out with his girl. They brought the house down. I think he and Tess Reichlen made a great couple and someone should revive Bourree Fantasque for them asap! NYCB could probably make a lot of tall gal-shorter guy couples with their current roster. Daniel Ulbright would be great in Bourree Fantasque too. Lauren King and Taylor Stanley started Western Symphony off quite well and it just kept building after that. King and Stanley have a nice partnership. I remember they did a movement of Symphony in C for the Balanchine Celebration last fall.

I hope Andy Veyette is ok.

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On 5/1/2019 at 4:59 PM, Royal Blue said:

Viewing a piece like Oltremare is not exactly what people have in mind when thinking of going to the ballet. In fact, it is a work of contemporary dance instead of a ballet, and it is surprising that NYCB has performed it three years in a row. Nevertheless, its subject matter resonates strongly with some in the audience and is ultimately part of the work's attraction. Even without other reasons, immigration was always and always will be a sensitive subject, since it reflects fundamental aspects of the human condition. Are not all human beings essentially journeyers—through the limitless dimensions of time and space—into the unknown?

Due to vintage photographs, motion pictures, fictional treatments of the topic the massive wave of immigration to the United States during the late 19th and early 20th century—the time period depicted in Mauro Bigonzetti’s Oltremare—looms large in our minds when contemplating the subject. For the vast majority of emigrants leaving their native country during that time extraordinary, daunting risks accompanied whatever promise the journey to America offered. Identifying with the various feelings they likely experienced is not difficult.

My initial bewilderment upon seeing Oltremare dissipated with every subsequent viewing. There is plentiful glamour, style, color showcased at the ballet. This work by Bigonzetti provides an interesting contrast in terms of its choreography, costumes and lusterless overall appearance. And the enthusiasm with which NYCB's dancers have always performed their roles as common people from that period is commendable. Although it may sound sentimental to some, Bruno Moretti's music is touching and effective.

Any criticism regarding the peculiar movement involved in the main pas de deux of Oltremare is offset by how naturally Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle perform it. An earlier pas de deux with Brittany Pollack and Peter Walker, both splendid in their parts, was as moving and superbly executed. Every other dancer in this run also deserves due credit, with an intriguing Lydia Wellington particularly capturing my own attention.                                                                                                                             *

I'm glad there are some that see the good side of Oltremare.

I've seen Oltremare a few times now. It was the piece that convinced me I am against sleeves in ballet. Women dancers should not wear sleeves if at all possible. These sleeves hide their lines, hide their bodies. I find the costumes so unflattering that it's difficult to see the ballet. (Drab colors are bad enough, though utterly in keeping with the subject of the ballet.) I know it's petty of me, but Maria K and Tiler Peck in buttons and ruffles up to their necks, sleeves down to their wrist bones... it's a waste.

Couldn't it have been about people who immigrate in the summer?    :wallbash:

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14 minutes ago, BalanchineFan said:

Well, I agree that the Tanowitz was disappointing. I thought it was oddly static, lots of ideas, but no real movement, no sweep, no visually satisfying formations or changes of formation. It seemed influenced by Merce Cunningham, but his pieces had both a stronger visual sense and a stronger sense of movement, of dancing. 

This is a completely accurate observation.  The choreography was clearly influenced and derivative of Cunningham, but lacking in the mastery of a Cunningham work.  There was also a direct quotation from Taylor's Esplanade, but again the Tanowitz usage  was completely static and unmusical.

  I bought a ticket for next week just to see Mejia in Western.  I feel like seeing him in everything is now essential viewing, and I go out of my way to see the performances in which he is appearing.

 

 

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1 minute ago, abatt said:

This is a completely accurate observation.  The choreography was clearly influenced and derivative of Cunningham, but lacking in the mastery of a Cunningham work.  There was also a direct quotation from Taylor's Esplanade, but again the Tanowitz usage  was completely static and unmusical.

  I bought a ticket for next week just to see Mejia in Western.  I feel like seeing him in everything is now essential viewing, and I go out of my way to see the performances in which he is appearing.

Thank you.

I've thought it since the first time I saw him onstage in the SAB workshop: Roman Mejia is a joy to behold.

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It was a treat to see both of yesterday’s performances.  Standouts for me were Lovette in Sonatine, who just glowed, and Fairchild in both roles. WOW, has she come back from maternity time with a renewed sense of herself that comes through.  I had a more positive impression of Tanowitz’s work than most, it seems.  Multiple people spoke to me at intermission to express their dismay, and I’m not one to engage with strangers (gross).  I agree that it was too long, and pretty difficult to love, but I found her movement vocabulary refreshing (in contrast to Peck’s, which seemed like, well, Peck with more lifts than average).  I quite enjoyed the gnarly quartet, and appreciated relationships I saw between the movement and, in particular, the folk themes.  Let me agree in hailing Alberda’s.  His unmannered dancing and beautiful lines should put him in line for promotion!

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