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New York City Ballet

'Allegro Brillante,' 'Liturgy,' 'Red Angels,' 'Zakouski,' 'Tarantella,' 'Thou Swell'

by Kate Snedeker

November 10-11, 2005 -- Tivoli, Denmark

Tivoli is a magical place, and truly amazing all decorated for Christmas. Millions of twinkling lights, stalls selling everything from crepes to Christmas decorations to hand knit sweaters to glogg (mulled wine), and people squealing on various rides. Charcoal burners are placed in strategic locations for warming cold hands, and as you approach the newly renovated Tivoli Concert Hall, there's a stunning two-story Merry-Go-Round.

The Concert Hall has two levels, with side boxes and a spacious stage. The curtains, which pull from side to side, are not the best for dance performances, but don't ruin the experience. The new foyer has Europe's longest salt water fish tank -- a 30m long oceanic experience. Watching the fish swim by makes for great intermission entertainment.

Friday night, Queen Margrethe attended the performance, sitting in the first row of nearly sold-out theatre.

The programme was a sampler of the New York City Ballet repertory -- two ballets by Peter Martins, two by Balanchine, with ballets by Christopher Wheeldon and Ulysses Dove to round it out. A long evening, but full of balletic treats, dragged down only by the finale, Martins' bland "Thou Swell".

With its rousing score, Balanchine's "Allegro Brillante" displayed the athleticism and precision of the NYCB male corps. The four men, Tyler Angle, Craig Hall, Christian Tworzyanski and Adrian Danchig-Waring soared through the air, their legs scissoring in the beats, the synchronization impeccable. Nilas Martins is not the most athletic of NYCB's "Allegro Brillante" male leads, but was a supportive partner for the elegant Miranda Weese. Nancy McGill accompanied on the piano.

Albert Evans has taken over Jock Soto's role in Christopher Wheeldon's "Liturgy", and has nearly succeeded in making it his own. The memory of Soto does linger, but Evans has a fluid, muscular power that nicely complements Wendy Whelan's wirey strength. Wheeldon's choreography is full of intriguing shapes; in one striking section Wheeldon stands in front of Evans in second position, slowly bending to put her palms flat on the stage. Then Evans quickly flips her smoothly upside-down, the shape of her uplifted, flat footed legs mirror his legs on the ground. Kurt Nikkanen played the violin solo.

In "Red Angels", by Ulysses Dove, it was the women who really grabbed my attention. Philip Neal, surprisingly supple, and Sébastian Marcovici held their own, but have not yet made their mark in the roles originated by Peter Boal and Albert Evans, but Sofiane Sylve and Ashley Bouder were stunning. Bouder, newly promoted to principal, attacks the choreography with fearlessness and verve, her dancing seamless but every position spot on. It was unfortunate however, that the sound system was not able to cope with Mary Rowell's electric violin, with audible 'fuzzing out'.

Martins' "Zakouski" is a trifle choreographically, but Nikolaj Hübbe, dancing in front of an adoring crowd, made it worthwhile. Created on him, shortly after his arrival at NYCB, it plays to his strengths - quick beats and powerful movements - while allowing for some playful moments between him and Yvonne Borree. And Hübbe proved, that at 38, he is still a magnificent dancer.

Pulling out all the stops for a "Tarantella" that was more 'Spanish bravura' than 'Danish finesse', Joaquin de Luz and Megan Fairchild drew an extra curtain call. de Luz's attack may be a bit over the top at times, but his big grin and infectious manner makes it all the more fun. Fairchild has crisp footwork and well placed arabesques in attitude; de Luz, airy jumps and fast spins -- a great combination.

After this high spirited performance, "Thou Swell" did just the opposite; an unfortunate ending to an otherwise well selected programme. Faye Arthurs, Jared Angle and Amar Ramasar have slipped elegantly into their roles, but the piece has not aged well. An interesting novelty when first premiered, Martins' choreography now seems bland, quickly becoming repetitive. The ballerinas look glamorous - though the design of the ball gowns is not flattering to those with little bust -- but the magic has left.

The men too, look oddly stomach-heavy in the cummerbunds (and who wears a white tie with black jackets?). Jennifer Ringer was one of the high points, as were the elegant Jared Angle and sexily smooth Charles Askegard.

The onstage trio and pit orchestra, conducted by Paul Gemignani, played well, though it sounded as if the two were not totally in synchronization at all times. The singers, Debbie Gravitte and Jonathan Dokuchitz were uneven, giving pleasant renditions of some songs and at other times struggling to stay in tune.

And so, it was a disappointing conclusion, and especially on Friday evening, the audience response was, at best, lukewarm. When the company does return, one hopes it will be with a better constructed program.

On both evenings, the curtain calls ended with a unique Tivoli tradition -- the presentation of a big basket of flowers by two fully uniformed Tivoli boy's guard members.

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