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New York City Ballet - American Festival Mixed Repertory

'Interplay,' 'Ivesiana,' 'Tarantella,' 'Stars and Stripes'

by Kate Snedeker

May 30, 2004 -- New York State Theater, New York City

Part of the fortnight-long American Festival, the New York City Ballet's Sunday matinee performance embraced the theme by including ballets that represented homegrown choreographers and composers. The afternoon also included performances by guest dancers from two other American ballet companies.

The matinee opened with "Interplay," a lighthearted ballet by Jerome Robbins, one of the pre-eminent American choreographers of the 20th century. The deceptively simple-seeming choreography is packed with tricky technical feats, and the energetic cast was well up to the challenge. Carla Körbes and the recently promoted Stephen Hanna stood out in the "ByPlay" pas de deux. The maturity embodied in the flow and depth of their performance was a pleasant contrast to the more youthful feel of the other sections.

Equally as exciting was "HorsePlay," where Körbes, Carrie Lee Riggins, Jennifer Tinsley and Lindy Mandradjieff spun like tops, and Hanna, Adam Hendrickson, Jonathan Stafford and Daniel Ulbricht were impressive in the double tour "competition," with Ulbricht nearly completing four double tours in a row. Richard Moredock conducted the Morton Gould score, with Elaine Chelton on the piano.

Due to injury and illness, Martins' "Calcium Night Light" was replaced by George Balanchine's "Ivesiana." "Ivesiana" is set to selections by Charles Ives, who was the son of a Civil War bandleader and is often considered to be one of the "greatest native born composers."

In the ballet's four contrasting sections, Balanchine explores the emotional range of Ives' music, starting with the dark and moody 'Central Park in the Dark' and 'The Unanswered Question.' In the former, James Fayette pursues Jennifer Tinsley through a forest of dancers in brown unitards, and the theme of pursuit and the unattainable woman is continued in 'The Unanswered Question.'

Taylor enters standing on the shoulders of four men, lit from the waist up, giving her an unearthly appearance. Manipulated by her bearers, she goes through a series of splits and backbends, nearly touching the hand of her pursuer, danced by Tom Gold. For a brief second they touch, but then she is pulled back up, and leaves just as she arrived. In a way, Taylor's being is a modern sylph, a creature who captivates a man, but is not of his world and thus unattainable. And the man is left ruined, in this case, shuddering on the bare stage floor. Both Gold and Taylor were superb in the eerily dramatic choreography.

The ballet continues with an upbeat pas de deux, danced with just the right quirkiness by Sofiane Sylve and Albert Evans. With Sylve in a short pink dress and Evans in black pants and white shirt, the piece almost seems like a twisted version of a dance from "Who Cares." The ballet concludes with a return to the forest creatures of the first act. This time they "walk" across the stage on their knees, lit from mid thigh up, which gives the appearance of creatures walking on a stage below the stage -- an unusual ending for an unusual ballet.

The afternoon returned to more traditional fare in the form of Balanchine's "Tarantella," set to Hershey Kay's orchestration of Louis Gottschalk's music. Dancing the giddy pas de deux were Amy Aldridge, a principal with the Pennsylvania Ballet, and in a role debut, Joaquin De Luz, who danced with the Pennsylvania Ballet during his first year in the United States. The pair were well matched, with Aldridge particularly impressive in the deep second plies on pointe.

De Luz's footwork was delightfully quick and precise and his bravura dancing outstanding, especially the pirouettes. However, the overall quality of his performance was marred by excessive forcefulness and a very rushed feeling, which resulted in De Luz's dancing often having an oddly frenetic look. "Tarantella" is inspired in part by the choreography of August Bournonville -- a style where the steps should look effortless, and De Luz needs to let the natural buoyancy of the music and choreography dictate the pace of his dancing, not the preparation for the next trick. Daniel Alfred Wachs conducted, with Nancy McDill on the piano.

Closing the afternoon was an uneven performance of Balanchine's "Stars and Stripes." Tom Gold was a powerful and snappily spinning men's regiment leader in "Thunder and Gladiator," with a rousing and technically outstanding performance by the male corps. Jennifer Tinsley and Ellen Bar led the two women's regiments, who were powerful, if not completely tidy.

Unfortunately the performance level was not maintained in the final pas de deux, danced by Tai Jiminez and Duncan Cooper, guests from the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Though they imbued the characters with pleasant and rakish charm, both looked stiff and had technical difficulties, including a nasty fall out of the turns a la seconde by Mr. Cooper. As Mr. Cooper was a late replacement for the originally scheduled Rasta Thomas, perhaps it might have been better to showcase the talents of Dance Theatre of Harlem in a different Balanchine ballet.

All lighting was by Mark Stanley, with costumes in the first ballet by Santo Loquasto, and for the final two ballets by Karinska. Carolyn Kuan conducted "Ivesiana," and David Hays was the set designer for "Stars and Stripes."

Edited by Lori Ibay

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