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Dale, January 22, 2003 in New York City Ballet
A new thread for the 3rd week.
What an absolutely extraordinary performance tonight (Thursday) by Janie Taylor as the Russian Girl in Serenade. It was beyond perfection, not a foot, not a toe but set perfectly all evening. And Kyra Nichols and Sophiane Sylve were not far behind her in perfection. Sylve still may not understand some of the dramatic touches (I thought her dramatic timing a bit weak at the end in the arm flapping part when she re-enfolds James Fayette and places her hand again before his eyes) but I've never seen the Dark Angel danced (qua dance, I wish I could underline) as well as she did tonight, what a way of moving she has, and the passage where Nichols was kneeling crushed on the floor and the Dark Angel was slowly spun around in Developee Rear with her arms extended (or arabesque? I'm not sure what step it is, probably developee because she does not bend over in the pose but rather extends) while holding the pose was breathtakiingly unforgettable. It was a very moving performance, Nichols quite tragic.
The Corps too was very strong in the opening section, although both corps and orchestra could be a bit sharper, later on, in the sudden transitions in the score, such as the re-entry of the opening musical theme, towards the end. The transitions lacked dramatic clarity, although I'm not sure if it might not have been the conductor who didn't manage the timing and the framing of it.
As for Mecurial Manoeuvres, I'm still not sure what to make of it. There seems to be an awful lot of content for the time. It starts red, the Red Boy dances around, two girls come out, the three of them dance, then the blue corps struts around, then the Red Boy again and the girls in various combinations and pairings, then the stage goes all red, then it goes peach and Weese and Angle do their adagio, then the stage goes blue and various groups of dancers come in and go out in various combinations .... etc. Is there a meaningful structure to this. Perhaps the music is a bit unfelicitious?
Someone else will have to address Thou Swell, dedicated tonight by Martins (in a printed insert to the program) to the memory of Irene Diamond who passed away yesterday.
I was at the performance last night (Fri) and was very disapointed. Square dance was the most dissapointing of all. I thought the corps was in general not up to the task with the exception of Elizabeth Walker, Pauline Golbin and especially Amanda Edge. I actually thought at times that she should be doing the lead. Yvonne Boree and Peter Boal were the principals. I think this is a perfect ballet for Boal because it shows off his perfect placement and technical ability, but also his soul. What a wonderful solo and he does it perfectly.
Yvonne on the other had does not have solid technique at all and this ballet reqires that and much much more. She worries me the whole time and that is not what I pay to see. I can go to a horror flick for that. She shakes and if that is not destracting enough she then has her shoulders in her ears, her head down and she can't pull off a clean double turn. I know she can have soul and there are some ballets where her expression comes out and it is beautiful, but not here when I think she is a little overwhelmed by her nerves. Square Dance needs a dancer that is so secure in her technique that she can play with it like Krya and Merril did. Miranda Weese should be doing this role.
Then there was Slaughter on 10th Ave.
This is not a ballet that is just about leg extention, yet that is all that Maria Kowroski does with this ballet. There is no sexiness. She barely even flirts with Damian. I just think the company thinks that Maria is sexy looking and tall so she should do this part, when some one with less natural sex apeal could be a lot more sexy in it.
I am sorry to say that with the exception of a few moments with the more seasoned ballerinas in Davidsbundlertanze, I walked out annoyed and uninspired.
The Saturday matinee started out with Thou Swell. I thoroughly enjoyed it -- nothing like some hot chocolate at Starbuck's on a cold winter's day!
After that, In the Night received a fine, if not perfect, performance. Rachel Rutherford swirled and swooned showing her usual strong sense of plastique, matched with an attentive, elegant but slightly subdued Arch Higgins. They were both quite good, but Rutherford can sometimes retreat from her partner into her prettiness, and while Higgins, with his thick dark hair, certainly looked Romantic, if not Byronic, I missed the edgy electric shocks that seemed to pass between Yvonne Borree and Sebastien Marcovici last time I saw this ballet. Rutherford and Higgins made this duet about the blush of youngsters discovering love; with Borree and Marcovici it was a bit darker, more interesting, and, I imagine, closer to what Robbins may have had in mind.
As the second couple, Jennie Somogyi and Peter Boal were just perfect. Here were two strong and beautifully classical dancers portraying a cold, distant, elegant couple, for whom the fires of passion may have cooled, yet aren't immune to careful stoking. Here, when Boal swoops Somogyi into that big, climactic feet-to-the ceiling lift, that literally head-over-heels moment, combined with the little White-Swannish serres Somogyi beats out against one ankle with her other foot, make it clear that this couple knows how to connect, in a big way, when they need to. Boal's refinement made an interesting complement to Somogyi's unique forceful, indeed muscular, lyricism. As it sometimes appears that there's a brilliant adagio dancer hidden in Somogyi's allegro-dancer physique, this duet's implication of their inner worlds of emotion working their way to the outside made this a perfect role for Somogyi. I was also happy to see she seemed more relaxed onstage; her face looked relaxed, animated and less mask-like than it sometimes appears.
By contrast, I remember Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard made this couple very calm and comfortable with each other from the beginnings. Beautiful indeed (Kowroski's legs seemed to brush the ceiling in that upside-down lift), but without the hints of hidden emotional depths Somogyi and Boal gave us.
I had been looking forward to Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto as the final pair (I look foreward to Whelan in just about anything), and, in one sense, I wasn't disappointed. Whelan and Soto are a truly great partnership -- her unsurpassed lyricism and phrasing grounded, supported and subtly yet powerfully enhanced by Soto's unmatched partnering strength and sensitivity. By the way, Soto appears to have slimmed down a bit, looking sharper than he has in some time. Some of the lifts were awe-inspiring, particularly the swoops over his back, where the orange underdress of Anthony Dowell's brilliant dark (black?) costume for Whelan flashed forth like a little volcanic eruption, or when Soto dragged whelan across the floor, practically yanking her airborne before they vanished into the wings.
What I missed, though, was the sense that Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette gave this couple, of truly fighting and butting heads, or at least having turned fighting and making up into a kind of ritualized game. Although by the evening performance (this was done twice yesterday), Whelan seemed much more elusive and contrary, it did seem that they'd been dancing together for so long, and Soto had the "supportive partner" mindset so engrained, they couldn't overcome their long-steated cooperativeness to make the kind of boiling-over emotional battlefield Ringer and Fayette created.
The evening performance started with a good rendition of Serenade. Much better than the first of the season I saw a couple of weeks ago, but even though the energy level was higher, there were still dutiful stretches, and only occasional flashes of the kind of transcendent abandon I love to see in this ballet. Kyra Nichols was divine as the Waltz Girl -- of all things, the moment when Fayette holds her, supine in a backbend, just above the stage before putting her down and leaving with the Dark Angel (Kowroski) was just heart-stoppingly beatiful -- and Nichols seemed not to move a muscle for those few moments, or was it a few years? Just astonishing. Kowroski does well in this role (that supported arabesque turn has become a bit of a trademark of hers), and Somogyi a powerful and earthy Russian Girl (although I really adore Taylor's elemental wildness here).
Saturday night closed on a sad note, with Nikolaj Hubbe suffering some sort of injury in Jeu de Cartes. He ran onstage for his first entrance, and, clearly, something was wrong from the first moment, as he just kept on running off into the other wing, hobbling lower and lower as it seemed one of his legs just couldn't support him -- leaving the corps girls to dance around a Hubbe-sized hole in the stage.
Perhaps it was just a bad cramp, as he didn't seem to have had a chance to actually do anything which might've caused an injury other than just run on.
I don't know Jeu well enough to say for sure whether Janie Taylor and/or Benjamin Millepied came on to ad-lib a bit at times when Hubbe should've been dancing. I thought perhaps Taylor did, but sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between Martins' choreography and improvisation, isn't it?
Until then it had been a promising performance, with Millepied, strong and aerial, taking over Woetzel's Ace of Spades role, although not quite with Woetzel's unmatcheable bravura and wit. Tewsley made a tolerable debut in Millepied's old role, (Jack of something? I forget) but it looks as if he's still feeling his way into the quirky world of the Balanchine/Martins modern repertory. Taylor was her usualy spunky, danger-high-voltage self.
I hope Hubbe will be back soon!
This business of "Yvonne has no technique" seems to be a recurring theme in this forum. Last year when it came up, I asked why they would give such a notoriously difficult role to someone with no technique. I didn't get any satisfactory answers other than that there's a "hard" version and an "easy" version which doesn't make much sense given how few people have danced the role.
In any event, I was at Friday's performance and I thought it was dazzling. I asked my wife (who is a former dancer, and has seen every Square Dance since Pat Wilde) what her view was. She said that, while Borree is not her favorite in the role, she didn't notice any particular technical concerns.
As far as being worried about a particular dancer, I worry a lot more about Ansanelli who fell off pointe twice in a recent Western Symphony.
I am more than sorry to hear that Nickolaj Hubbe was apparently injured, whether in Jeu de Cartes or beforehand. He is a beautiful dancer, with a vital presence and depth that's all too rare within the ranks of male dancers at NYCB (and of course he is an unparalleled Bournonville interpreter). Yet he is so underused in general, and his talents so often squandered in ballets such as Jeu de Cartes, that an injury that may keep him offstage is doubly tragic.
Hubbe was superlatif when I saw him the first week of this Winter Season. As a matter of fact I have never been disappointed with any of his performances and I hate to think he has too deal with injury again.
I was at both performances described by foryourinfo and manhattnik--that would be Friday night and Saturday mat.
One of my goals was to see something that would exorcise the memory of that dreadful Serenade on January 11. I can't even tell all of you how disturbing I found that performance. I haven't been able to fit another Serenade into my Winter season and since it is now going on hiatus I guess I won't, at least for a good while, unless I can find another company doing it. I certainly would love to see a good, if not a stellar performance, but the need to exorcise a bad memory has been assuaged, thanks to Saturday afternoon's In the Night, which was magical.
Foryourinfo, I am so sorry that you found Friday night such a disapppointment. I know how it feels to look forward to a performance and then to feel so let down and frustrated. Again, that Serenade. I didn't have the same reaction as you, at least not as forcefully. Although it certainly wasn't the best night I have ever spent at the State Theater, I did find things to enjoy.
First and foremost, Peter Boal. The man is the jewel in the NYCB crown. I rarely watch the man closely--I confess that for me it is all about the woman and really so much about the woman's feet that is where most of my attention goes. But I knew that Borree would be a disappointment (I had attended the afternoon rehearsal with a friend who is a guild member) so I didn't even watch her. I focused on Amanda Edge, Pauline Golbin and, mostly, Elizabeth Walker, when I wasn't staring awestruck at Peter. The few times I found Yvonne in my field of vision I wanted to scream: "point your foot! relax your arms! attack the floor!". Why, oh why, does that beautiful role that requires perfect allegro technique and a sparkling witty personality go to this girl?
Foryourinfo, if you find yourself in that spot again, just watch Peter. You will be completely satisfied by the beauty of his technique. At the end, you will know that the majority of the applause will be for him, and that he will present Yvonne with the utmost humility and grace for her curtain call.
Davids.....Oh well. I had never seen it before and was eager for it. Sorry to say that it was my major disappointment of the weekend. I wasn't especially moved by the "story". I thought it was danced adequately by all, but it didn't take my breath away. I was beginning to wonder if I have lost the ability to become emotionally involved--oh not to worry. More about In the Night later.
Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. Well I love it. That's all. I've never met a performance of Slaughter that I didn't like. Unlike foryourinfo, I thought that Maria was brilliant. I haven't liked her in much of anything lately. She was just too icy in the abstract or the dramatic roles. But this was just fabulous! She mugged, she swooned, she threw her leg up in the air, and yes her incredible extension does thrill me. The audience surrounding us did not seem to be familiar with the ballet and I am sure there was some speculation about who the two lunatics were who were laughing hysterically while people on stage were being shot. Great work from the "ladies and gentlemen of the ballet" too.
I left the theater feeling pretty happy and thinking that I could at least enjoy NYCB, even if I couldn't be transported to another place. Well--In the Night. I had only seen it during one SPAC season but I loved it then and I love it now. I found it so much more moving than Davids.... I do prefer Chopin to Schumann, but I also found the choreography just breathtaking. Did I read here that Mr B thought it was BORING? BORING??? It was gorgeous.
The repeat of Slaughter was just as much fun as the first time, although Sofiane didn't quite get the humor that Maria did, but I liked Philip Neal as the Hoofer more than Damian Woetzel. You could just read Philip like a book. What expressions!
The big surprise for me was how much I enjoyed Thou Swell, after really panning it on Opening Night. I guess my expectations were lower--and I thoroughly delighted in it. I don't know that it is lasting Great Art, but it surely was fun.
I went to Borders today and bought a Richard Rodgers CD, with Slaughter, Isn't it Romantic, and lots of other good stuff on it!
Thanks "rk," I felt the same way about Slaughter on Tenth Ave. I guess sexiness is in the eye of the beholder. ;)
I attended last night, Tuesday's, performance to see "Haiku" and I was not disappointed! My daughter had seen it last summer at SPAC and I'd never heard her so excited in her short life about anything - she insisted we had to go; that I had to see it!
How to describe it? I'm not up to it but I found it refreshing, striking, amazing, shocking, fun, thoughtful and dramatic. Great costumes - really beautiful and flattering to Aesha Ash, who was mesmerizing throughout, Faye Arthurs and Carla Korbes. Stephen Hanna, Sebastien Marcovici and Seth Orza were their partners and I loved seeing them fly across the stage on their own, as well as, watch their skills in partnering in this very unusual and stylized performance.
The lighting was very effective. The music by John Cage is certainly not what one usually hears when one attends the ballet but in my opinion it worked really well with the provactive choreography on stage.
Albert Evans did a great job. I hope he is encouraged to continue while still performing, himself, at NYCB.
A friend who went with me said she thought it was something one needed to see a second time in order to really appreciate it fully due to its "different" nature... I would like to see it again to have a second chance to really watch it... Sadly, it's not featured in too many of the season's performances and I don't think it's going to be in the Spring season either.
I would love to have seen them learn it and rehearse it because, as a non musician, I can't even begin to understand how they did it!
I, too, would like to see Haiku again. It's an unusual and well-done piece. But I don't want to see the current version of Jeu de Cartes (which ended last night's program) ever again. The Stravinsky score deserves better.
I was the friend with BW at last nights performance. I think with Haiku the shock of the music and the silences makes it hard to focus because you are saying "What is this..." If I saw it again knowing what to expect ear-wise I could focus on the dancing more. My dancer said that the "music" and silences were wierd but being a dancer she focused on the dancing. Aesha Ash is a joy to watch in this regardless of the percussive music. Albert Evans shows promise as a choreographer and I hope he gets more chances to choreograph.
Jeu De Cartes...all I kept looking at were those darn red tights and shoes. Tewsley looked so tentative and I noticed his preparation for his turns. Hopefully time will take care of the look of learning to be a NYCB dancer. I always love watching Benjamin Millipied!
I forgot Square Dance with Peter Boal and Yvonne Borree. Peter was as usual so perfect in what he does. I went in not expecting much of Yvonne...I have to say I have a prejudged idea of what I was going to see. To my eyes she actually looked much better than I have seen in a while. She seems to do so much better in leotard ballets than the story ballets like Nut and Swan Lake. Of course, that being said, when I turned to my dancer and said she actually looked rather good my daughter dissected her dancing as only a dancer can telling me all the "whoops" I missed as a "lay person".
Thursday 1/30: Square Dance, Piano Pieces, Slaughter
I'm so glad I saw this tonight.
First, Abi Stafford's performance in Square Dance just may be the best I've ever seen this danced. It's not that I've seen it that much, but watching it, I suddenly realized how many times I must recently have suffered through Yvonne Borree or Margaret Tracey in this part over the past three or four years. So that seeing Stafford last night so crystal clear in the part and dancing it effortlessly was a revelation. All of a sudden I remembered what made me so excited, three years ago, when she suddenly appeared out of nowhere to dance Valse Fantaisie and Ballo della Regina. If you want someone in this company right now to perform Balanchine point work sublimely, that dancer is Abi Stafford. I'm not sure there is another dancer in NY who could perform this part as she did it tonight. Perhaps Gillian Murphy, but I don't think so, she's a little too tall, I think you'd have to go to Europe and particularly to one of the Russian companies to see Stafford equalled in this. She has among other things such command of her roll ups onto point, she can both spring there a la Vaganova when clarity is called for, and at other times have demi point, to high demi point, to point be all one seamless continuum for her, and her beats are extremely clear. It was above all a very finished performance, totally at ease with the music, danced with her entire body (not just from the waist down) and in which she even reflected, towards the end, a measure of joy in her dancing -- not something we've seen from her much these past two grueling years. Now I maybe even know why she (and we) had to suffer through those painful and controversial Themes and Variations last Spring (where she even started to breakdown technically a little by her 3d performance) . . . It was in order that La Stafford could come out last night and dance something as difficult as Square Dance, and have it be EASY for her. Even Nilas Martins seemed buoyed by her performance (on the principle of "a rising tide floats all boats"). If the adagio was a little exposing for him (and it was, he's not at all the type), he was very good and elegant leading the ensemble passages for the other men and was so very solid as a partner presenting and framing La Stafford.
If this wasn't enough, In Piano Pieces, we then saw an amazingly musical, confident, and indeed dominating performance from Jenny Somogyi, both with Jared Angle in the Reverie, and without him in the Waltz, holding the stage and audience breathless for minutes alone in a slow, off key Waltz, beautifully played by Cameron Grant. (Grant played beautifully throughout this, a tour de force, he's very fine, isn't he?) And then, when I thought my cup already ran over, occurred a wonderful solo Barcarolle by Alexandra Ansanelli, who managed the transitions in emotional tone in this piece with an emotional depth and a high dramatic seriousness I've not seen from her lately, along with her ethereal beauty. She filled the silence. Her pas earlier with Marcovici had, however, been a bit technically exposing for them both.
In general, though, besides these wonderful individual performances, Piano Pieces seemed a bit uneven. The choreograpy for the corps, in the dances which open and close the ballet, either seemed a bit perfunctory and insipid, or were performed that way last night. Even the final Rondo. Robbins can sometimes be a little trite and facile with his corps de ballet. The ballet seemed to be "In the Night" meets Cortege Hongroise interpreted in the manner of West Side Story Suite.
Finally, I loved Sylve and Neal in Slaughter. Certainly, it was an exposing part for Sofian Sylve in quite another sense of the word, the grand jetees were consistently way beyond twelve o'clock, but it was just the point to give scope to that, it was quite a contrast and a complement to her Nutcrackers, and I love the way Sylve holds nothing back. There is something very very appealing in her stage presence and her personality -- beyond her fascinating beauty -- Sofiane Sylve may have a great deal of Ego on the stage but she is never vain, never appears self satisfied, she really appears hungry for the part.
I too was at last night's performance and can echo Michael's enthusiasm. And it was indeed gratifying to see the female lead try to dance Square Dance Merrill-style, i.e., as a showcase for bravua dancing. (I understand that Abi Stafford learned the role from Merrill.) Did Abi succeed? I would say it was a very respectable first try. Surprisingly, the allegro work was quite good; the signature grand jetes were really "grand." However, in the opening adagio, Abi didn't "hold" the signature arabesques and attitudes as long she might have. I'm not sure whether that was because of nerves, lack of dance power, or her (frequent) predilection for rushing through a musical phrase. In any event, I want to thank Peter Martins for casting someone new in this wonderful ballet.
Piano Pieces was very enjoyable. And I agree with Michael that Jennie Somogyi stole the show. My only reservation about Jennie (and Ansanelli) has been the turnout issue. (I admit I am prejudiced in favor of dancers with beautiful lines.) However, in flowing chifon, they were both stunning last night. Jennie was totally in command and indeed evidenced moments of "plastique" in some gorgeously held attitudes. It was a real ballerina-level performance. Let's hope she gets to do the Piano Concertos in the spring. And Ansanelli and Robbins ballets are made for each other, as she has a flare for the dramatic and evocative.
Slaughter was its usual fun self. At first, I was disappointed that Damian wasn't dancing, but Philip Neal turned out to be a good actor as well as a good "hoofer." I am a great admirer of Sofiane Sylve in everything I've seen her in and she turned in a very good performance. That being said, I found myself missing Maria K. last night. (That old gorgeous "line" thing again.)
Special kudos to Antonio Carmena who danced in all three ballets and is getting stronger with each performance. In Square Dance, he was the one I had my eye on in the male section right behind Nilas. In Piano Pieces, his arms and upper body are just perfectly elegant, and in Slaughter, he gave a comic turn as the policeman.
I'm glad to hear that Stafford was good in Square Dance. Although she usually hasn't been to my taste (she seems rather bland and without inflection), I have seen flashes, in recent seasons, that she's getting more musical, and more savvy, although there certainly have been setbacks along the way.
I've never quite been able to fathom why Martins would give her Theme, promote her, then cast her sparingly, and shove her back in the corps when he does. Perhaps he was teaching her a Lesson in that straightforward, forthright Danish way. (Why is it that so many dancers vanish after being made soloist there, anyway? Trying to fathom NYCB is like watching a goldfish bowl where all the good stuff happens when the fish are inside the little plastic castle.)
With appropriate coaching and nurturing, I think Stafford could be a very solid, dependable, workhorse of a ballerina; perhaps even more. Given Peter Martins' evident sink-or-swim approach to casting (as described by Wendy Whelan in Marc Haegman's very perceptive interview in the latest Dance View -- you really should subscribe!), it's a good thing for Stafford that Merrill Ashley appears to have taken an interest. Now that Stafford is no longer Martins' flavor-of-the week, perhaps she will be able to find herself as an artist. It seems to have worked for Ansanelli!
Very favorably impressed by female leads in Kammermusik. Frankly, the best thing I've seen Kowroski do. It fit Sylve like a glove -- or she it. Overall, however, the piece has lost its edge. Wonder if that's due to the fact that the "future" suggested in earlier stagings is now the past. Huh?
Ballade is a piece I've always found insipid and trite, with a few inventive moments thrown in. But Whelan knew how to keep my interest, looked fine with a properly romantic, if slightly tentative, Tewsley.
Haiku: I enthusiastically join BW, Dancermom and Farrell Fan's praise for this piece. Most impressive is Evans' ability to deliver the big moment without drawing attention to himself. There is no "Oh, look how smart and creative I am to have thought of this!" It all develops organically, and suddenly you find yourself startled, amused, satisfied. Unusually acute devotion to craft. (So that's where it's been hiding all these years! ;)) I DEMAND more Evans ballets! And yes, the simple costumes are very beautiful.
The best moments of Symphony in C were delivered in 2nd Movement by Whelan with Neal. I loved how, after the grand jete en tournant, she walked toward the other side of the stage, not letting the third arabesque arms quite hit their position. It was so in keeping with the music's mood. Overall, however, the Bizet was (shockingly! :eek: ) the afternoon's low point. You see good performances here and there, a dancer standing out in the corps, but the company as a whole looked dreary. You don't want to leave the theater in that mood.
(Just noticed I've become a Senior Member! Yay!)
Kammermusik was very uneven. The women were fine, but Neal & Askegard got very out of synchfor a long stretch in their duo, and Antonio Carmena, very uncharacteristically, missed a split leap while dancing alongside Craig Hall.
Whelan and Tewsley were individually solid in Ballade, but their was almost no connection. Tewsley has a wonderful attention to detail, but doesn't seem to have adjusted to the speed of Balanchine's choreography yet.
I actually enjoyed Symphony in C, except for the third movement. Antonio Carmena was a late substitution for Ben Millepied, and it seemed like he was getting very little "help" from Taylor (I don't think he's done the role this season, and not sure whether he did it before with Taylor). Given, Carmena was probably a little off the music, but it seemed like Taylor was dancing to her own beat, almost being kicked by Carmena a few times and never seeming to try to work with him. Also, in the ending section, Taylor was slighly, but distinctly off in timing from the other three ballerinas. I hope this is not an indication of illness or injury (
Kudos to Carmena for doing a good job in a difficult role, and for smiling through out! He's been used a lot recently, and it's not an easy role.
I thought the corps looked stellar in the finale-and the ballet well performed.
I just wanted to add that, as Taylor is a native of Houston, TX, the events of today may well have affected her performance....
I feel that the events of today have affected everyone's performance.
I don't feel comfortable speculating on what was Taylor's state of mind today. It wouldn't be fair.
I wasn't trying to speculate. Just, that given the events and the number of uncharacteristic performances, I wanted to make sure that my comments were read with the events of the day in mind-for Taylor and other dancers.
I did not intend to indicate anything further-just a point to keep in mind when reading the review.
A few more thoughts on Saturday matinee: The musical selections -- Hindemith, Faure, Cage and then Bizet -- made for a good contrast and compare afternoon.
On the Ballade: I enjoyed the rapid directional changes which Wendy handled expertly. As I remember (or don't remember it), the premiere of this work seemed to me very, very difficult. Then Merrill got injured and when it reappeared, it was "watered" down a bit. But in any event, it seems to be a very tricky ballet to dance.
I'm on board with all the other comments on Haiku. I hope that Albert Evans gets the chance to show us what he can invent for groups of dancers, not just pairings.
On the Bizet, I'm with Sneds on this one: I very much enjoyed the performance. Wendy and Philip Neal were outstanding, and what a good partner Neal is!! As others commented, Janie Taylor was unusually grim yesterday and there was a disconnect between her and the music. In fact, my reading was that Antonio Carmena handled it with aplomb and kept her on the music. Arch Higgins also handled himself very well in the fourth movement. Maybe what Carbro noticed was that about one third of the corps girls who were listed were not those who actually were dancing, so maybe these last-minute shuffles didn't result in the smoothest of Bizets, but, boy, it was very well received by the audience.
I actually thought Taylor was fine and that hers was one of the better performances in a generally under-rehearsed and slightly ragged Symphony in C. (1st of the Season -- Eric and others rightly note that the company is using 1st performances of Balanchine as, in effect, dress rehearsals). And in fact Taylor made a great deal of eye contact with Carmena and with the audience. It is not an easy role for her, though, it is a little against type. (Taylor in 1st movement and Somogyi in 3d would work better maybe on balance).
Sylve and Kowroski were interestng together in Kammermusik. What one notices about Sylve's training, what differentiates her most from NYCB dancers (her gorgeous upper body aside) is the development and use of the pliee -- She is very muscular in her legs and a subtle but powerful pliee motion shapes and informs all of her steps. You see it in the inherent spring in her pas de chats and pas de chevals, even in those little sexy, trotting runs Balanchine uses to move the dancers around in transitions. As a whole -- what with that and her upper body -- the contrast between La Sylve and La Kowroski (and the other NYCB women) is how much more volume Sofiane seems to inhabit on the stage, how she occupies and displaces space in a fundamentally different manner than Maria or anyone else in the company. I hope she stays beyond the winter. My biggest criticism of Sylve yesterday would iinvolve facial expression as I thought she could have been more neutral in that department in Kammermusik. And Maria K was very very very good yesterday, I think it does her good to have some competition. Indeed, the addition of Sylve and the return of Weese have restored a balance to the company's female principal situation. (Although gosh does the corps look to be in disarray at the moment).
Since Bobbi posted simultaneously with me and I didn't see hers when I wrote, a point of clarification.
I don't mean to imply that I didn't enjoy Symphony in C. In fact, I enjoyed it very much. It is just that I did find all of the principal performances a bit sloppy and I thought Taylor's, in fact, far from the worst, where one couldn't distinguish La Stafford in 4th Movement from the rest of the corps (so little did she hold the stage); where Somogyi fell out of 2 of her turns and 1 series of pirouettes in 1st movement; and where what can we say at all about Nilas Martins, who, as a friend of a friend aptly noticed, even used the wrong arms in one of the ensembles. And Wendy, who, as the same viewer remarked, had danced so brilliantly and passionately in Friday Night's Chaconne, that she seemed a bit tired Saturday, in both Balldade and Symphony in C, particulary in her jumps in Ballade which were nearly marked instead of fully performed.
As for Taylor -- She is a dancer who really seems to need rehearsal and a number of efforts at a role to make it her own. One often sees her searching for something in the phrasing and both Sneds and Bobbi are right that you could see that yesterday, for instance in the phrasing and timing of the repeated step where, on a musical climax, she is spun in a pirouette into arabesque penchee with a big extension, on the music. But what I really appreciate about Taylor is that she tries so hard to get it right, she doesn't just bail and mark the step, create the effect and forget about it. And as we saw in Serenade, when she does get the musicality and the phrasing and finally make it her own, the result is extraordinary.
Actually from my seat in the orchestra, it didn't appear that Taylor was making any eye contact with Carmena at all.
Originally posted by sneds Whelan and Tewsley were individually solid in Ballade, but their was almost no connection.
Whelan and Tewsley were individually solid in Ballade, but their was almost no connection.
Ah, so you were seated in the orchestra and saw "almost no connection." Interesting, Sneds, because from my perch in the Fourth Ring, I saw a connection. Not continuous nor in mutual measure, but I felt a sweet rapport between them. Maybe we should note our seat locations when posting, to account for some of our different perspectives (both literal and figurative) of the performances!
Also, with Michael, I noticed how Nilas was marking much of his dancing and even left out a step or two. It could be due to the sadness of the day, but this was unusual for Nilas only as a matter of degree. (Wasn't this also characteristic of Heather's post-Balanchine career?) Is it a fault of management that we are left these days to discuss the appearance of widespread fatigue among the dancers?
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