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New York City Ballet

'Ballo della Regina','Klavier', 'Union Jack'

by Carol Herron

March 2, 2006 -- Opera House, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.

The evening opened with George Balanchine's "Ballo della Regina," a pretty piece to music by Verdi. Megan Fairchild danced with energy and spirit. Her partner, Benjamin Millepied, was less effective in his spirit. Not exactly dull, but not nearly brilliant either. The corps looked poorly rehearsed, out of line frequently and out of sync occasionally.

The reason I attended this particular performance was to see the new Christopher Wheeldon piece "Klavier," set to music by Beethoven’s “Adagio Sostenuto” from Hammerklavier Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, Op. 106. Though other reviewers have questioned the use of this adagio based on its being too fragmentary, I thought it worked well standing alone. It set a tone of smoldering romantic passions.

The choreography, as usual for Wheeldon, was fluid and lyrical, but overall I was not enthralled. An interesting piece, but it did not live up to the drama and passion of the music. Miranda Weese danced beautifully, with competent partnering by Albert Evans. Wendy Whelan, however, did not look nearly as good. Perhaps she is slightly injured? She held neither her legs nor arms as high or as long as the dance requires. There were some “sliding” steps, especially when both pairs danced together, that evoked interest. I also liked the way the choreography was at times synchronized and other times in sequence. Wheeldon's asymmetrical but balanced patterns were also noteworthy. Overall, nice, but a bit disappointing. I was expecting much more.

The final dance on the evening's program was Balanchine's "Union Jack," a fun piece, but ruined in places by some extremely poor work by the corps. In Celtic dancing, one of the features is the very still shoulders and arms, while the legs work rapidly. At one point, the female corps reminded me of Matthew Bourne's cygnets, arms flapping erratically.

Damian Woetzel was the standout, especially in the Royal Navy section, where his dancing was wonderfully light, clean and joyful. The corps, both men and women, danced better in the Navy section.

Nilas Martin and Jenifer Ringer were fun as the Pearly King and Queen.

The Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra was conducted by David Briskin.

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