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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet Winter Season 2004-05
PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 12:44 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 27, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 3377
Location: Canada
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Just a note to posters who quote the Times: articles are available free online for seven days after publication. After that, the stories are available only for purchase from the archives.
It is possible, however, to select the entire story, then cut-and-paste the text into a message. The story will not disappear under these circumstances.
However it is a violation of copyright laws to post more than a small quote from the article (I can can't remember the exact word/percentage limit), and so we do not permit whole articles to be posted at CriticalDance.com.

So while it is a shame that the articles don't last forever - and often the link will keep working for more than a week or two, there's nothing we can do about that. If you really want to see a past article, you can pay for it or make a trip to your local library.

Kate


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet Winter Season 2004-05
PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 8:23 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2004 11:01 pm
Posts: 341
Location: New Jersey
New York City Ballet
New York State Theatre, Lincoln Center
February 19, 2005 – "Double Feature"

Unless you’ve been hibernating for the past few years, you know that Susan Stroman is the premier dance/theater choreographer of the day, and justifiably so. With few exceptions, everything she touches turns to gold. She has a string of Broadway hits to her credit, not the least of which is “The Producers,” and her all-dance “Contact” played to sold out houses and won several Tony Awards. But to my knowledge she has not been known as a choreographer for a ballet company. She is now.

“Double Feature”, a pair of pieces on the same theme that she created for New York City Ballet last year (but which I was unable to see until its presentation this season) is a wonderful escape – just like the old-time “double feature” movie presentations that she uses as the theme around which her “double feature” ballets are constructed. No matter that there is little choreographically inventive or exciting about either piece – that’s not the point. And no matter that she may be criticized for focusing more on style than on substance -that’s not the point either. Stroman is a master of concept and execution. She creates and crafts entertainments. And her works, though more audience-accessible than some, are no less works of art.

In brief, “Double Feature” tells two stories in the style of grade-B silent movies. With few exceptions, everything is in black and white or varying shades of grey. A screen placed behind the action provides intermittent written commentary to explain or propel the action forward, just as in silent movies. And the musical accompaniment sounds like the kind of music that might have accompanied silent films (except the arrangements are infinitely richer and more evocative than one would have seen at a silent movie).

The first piece, titled “The Blue Necklace”, is a reinvention of Cinderella, but with enough subtlety that it also appears to fit neatly into the framework of silent film themes. In this story (the libretto, for this as well as the second piece, is by Stroman and Glen Kelly), a rising star named Dorothy Brooks has become pregnant. With no source of support, Dorothy is forced to give up her child. Dorothy decides, reluctantly, to leave the child on a church doorstep. Momentarily thereafter, a Mr. Griffith reluctantly deposits his own child on the church steps, but, seeing Dorothy’s child, changes his mind and takes both his child and Dorothy’s back home with him, to the consternation of his wife, who wanted to abandon her own child (whether out of lack of love or poverty is unclear – one of the few mistakes in the piece) but is now obliged to raise two of them. Eventually, Mr. Gilbert dies, and little Mabel, Dorothy’s daughter, is raised by the widowed Mrs. Griffith. Mrs. Griffith treats Mabel like a servant, forcing her to remain closeted at home. Cinder-Mabel cleans house, and dreams of being a dancer. The “step-sister”, Florence, is an idiot. The story proceeds much like Cinderella, except the prince’s ball is a charity ball sponsored by Dorothy, the prince is Billy Randolph, a Fred Astaire-type movie star guest at the ball, and the glass slipper is a blue necklace that Dorothy left with baby Mabel at the church (the necklace is really blue – perhaps a nod to the occasional colorization in black and white movies).

The piece starts slowly, with short vignettes (again, much like in silent movies) recounting the preliminary events, leading up to the Cinderella story. Maria Kowroski, as Dorothy Brooks, was as much a fairy godmother as mother, and her dancing was lovely, but more restrained than Mabel’s (glowingly portrayed by Ashley Bouder). Megan Fairchild danced the “evil stepsister” Florence with delicious humor, and Damian Woetzel was the silky-smooth, debonair Billy Randolph. As Young Mabel and Young Florence, students Tara Sorine and Isabella Tobias were simply superb: their dance pedigrees are apparent. And it was wonderful to see Kyra Nichols once more (I hadn’t seen her dance for several years); she still looks fabulous, although her character, Mrs. Griffith, was more one-dimensional (stern) than it needed to be.

A choreographic high point of the piece, aside from Bouder in general and Woetzel’s effortless tour de force, was Stroman’s gentle treatment of Mabel’s release from captivity. Upon unlocking the house door (after finding a key left by her adoptive father, who anticipated his wife’s cruel heart), Mabel dances first out the door, then back inside, and then out again, like a caged bird suddenly released but not sure that it really wants to leave the cage that it has known all it’s life. It was a wonderful moment. But perhaps the best part of “The Blue Necklace” was the meshing of Stroman’s choreography with the wonderful Irving Berlin classics, arranged by Mr. Kelly. The action came alive as dance theater, rather than just a mimicking of a silent movie, when Stroman’s steps merged with Berlin’s melodies. What may have been just a slick idea became enchanting.

“Makin’ Whoopee”, the second piece in the Double Feature, is high quality slapstick choreography; more of an extended guffaw than the heart tickler that is “The Blue Necklace”. And because it is shorter and tighter, it appears somewhat better constructed. The story is simple – boy loves girl, boy can’t bring himself to propose to girl, boy inherits $7M (enough to rescue his law firm from a fate worse than malpractice) on condition that he marries by the end of the day, boy goes back to girl and proposes, girl rejects him because she thinks he’s only doing it for the money, boy seeks bride, brides come out of the woodwork because of the money, boy fails, but in the nick of time girl reconsiders and marries him. Ta da.

But “Makin’ Whoopee” is much more fun than that summary would indicate. Tom Gold, as Jimmie Shannon (the boy) made the most of the deceptively simple-looking choreography, dancing like some mad scientist’s hybridization of Baryshnikov and Buster Keaton. As Anne Winslow (the girl), Alexandra Ansanelli looked sugar-sweet, but didn’t have much to do other than look like the ballerina next door. Albert Evans, Seth Orza, and Arch Higgins shined as Shannon’s dancing legal eagles, and Dana Hanson, Ellen Bar, Jessica Flynn, Carla Korbes, and particularly Rebecca Krohn did wonderful little comic cameos as girls whom Shannon attempts to propose to.

But the best part of “Makin’ Whoopee” was the extended gag of brides of all sizes, colors, and sexes emerging from the rafters in response to a newspaper article about Shannon’s $7M dilemma. The would-be brides, all dressed in bridal gowns (or reasonable facsimiles thereof), emerge first one at a time, then a few, then an onslaught. And suddenly, all these brides are chasing Shannon back and forth across the stage, mimicking scenes (and choreography) from Act II of Giselle. The brides were Giselle’s Wilis, and Shannon was Albrecht. From one glorious in-joke to another, it was all I could do to keep from laughing hysterically. The piece succeeds on any level, with or without knowledge of the ballet references, but being able to get the joke made the dance all the richer. And, as in “The Blue Necklace”, Stroman’s use of supporting music (this time by Walter Donaldson, as arranged by Kelly), less lush but more effervescent than the Berlin music, matched the slapstick, hyper-energized style of the piece.

And then there was this dog. A real dog. Straight out of those cute trained dogs in silent movies. Rumor has it that he graduated last year from SAB, but that couldn’t be confirmed.

All in all, Stroman’s “Double Feature” is a delightful evening, or perhaps weekend movie matinee, at NYCB. Of course, we’ll never know if Balanchine would have appreciated Stroman’s style (though I suspect he would have), but Jerome Robbins most certainly would have loved it. Indeed, in addition to Giselle, I saw echoes of and evolutions from both “Fancy Free” and “The Concert“ in Stroman’s choreography. Perhaps “Double Feature” is not blue blood ballet, but it is a ballet of deceptive character as well as pure fun, and a welcome addition to the NYCB repertory. I understand that “Double Feature” will be repeated during next spring’s NYCB season, and I would recommend it wholeheartedly. And bring the kids.


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet Winter Season 2004-05
PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 10:37 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
Quote:
Originally posted by Morris Neighbor:
As an NYCB regular, I can assure you that, for several years, Neal's career was based entirely on his partnering skills. For the unfamiliar, he is tall (6'3" I believe) and long-limbed, with a natural elegance and gift for closely observing his partner. But it's been only the past few seasons that he's managed to knock off solo variations with panache.
Ah, yes, when I first saw him walking in street clothes, in the Upper West Side, I thought he was rather ungainly. I would have not thought he was a dancer other than his straight back and open feet.


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet Winter Season 2004-05
PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 10:44 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
Quote:
Originally posted by Morris Neighbor:
Complaints about the NYCB corps are literally as old as the company itself.
I didn't realize this. I actually liked the corps before in past performances of "Jewels," as recent as their fall tour through Southern California. There was not only uniformity but even a certain flair among the corps. However, I was disappointed when I saw them at State Theater...

Quote:
Originally posted by Morris Neighbor:
A dozen or so years ago, Newsday ran a feature article about rising young male dancers in the company. One of the featured dancers was Albert Evans (today a principal dancer), one of the few African-Americans in the classical dance world. At the time he was getting some solo roles but also appeared with the corps.
I notice there are no dancer of color -- any color -- among the women. In fact, has there ever been any Asian women in the company, which is a very common sight these days among most ballet companies? (Not a criticism but a very curious observation).


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet Winter Season 2004-05
PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 1:21 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 12389
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
Jack Anderson in the New York Times on "Double Feature" at NYCB:

http://nytimes.com/2005/02/26/arts/dance/26doub.html


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet Winter Season 2004-05
PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 8:31 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2003 11:01 pm
Posts: 219
I caught Saturday evening's performances of Glass Pieces, Chichester Psalms, and Symphony in Three Movements.

It was the third performance of Glass Pieces in fewer than 24 hours -- perhaps an effort to whip this piece into shape for the Kennedy Center. It was the best I've seen in many years, maybe ever. The corps in Rubric was purposefully pedestrian and musically spirited. The soloists (Rutherford, Tinsley, Krohn, Fowler, Higgins, LaCour) stabbed their parallel assembles into the floor whereas previous casts seemed more concerned with their soft landings. My only complaint is that the women soloists' costumes seem dated. Why not drop the silly headbands and take a little of the shine out of the Lycra unitards?

The highlight was the Facades pas with Maria Kowroski and Philip Neal. Spectacular, stunning, sensual. They exude the kind of glamour that Mr. Rockwell whines about wanting to see. MK added so many nice touches -- taking a clear, rising breath before melting into a plie; using the strength in her feet to propel those extraordinary legs into seamless rond de jambe from second to arabesque. PN looked like a god and danced heavenly.

Akhnaten showed that the men can indeed dance in unison. They not only looked wonderful, but they also appeared to enjoy what they were doing. All in all, it was a nice exhibit of responsible handling of the Robbins choreography.

Next came Peter Martins’ Chichester Psalms. I knew as soon as the little paper with prayers on both sides fell out of my program that this piece was going to have problems. (Was I suppose to say these prayers before the piece or after seeing it -- I didn’t know.) The choreography looked like Martins’ spin on the Graham/van Manen vocabularies. It was not entertaining, not enlightening, and above all was not a good vehicle for showing off his dancers. I can’t even say that the accompanying Juilliard Choral Union helped. Just because the guy gets paid more than $600,000 per year to run the company (per the public 2003 Form 990),it doesn’t mean he’s entitled to put his bad ideas on stage.

Last came Symphony In Three Movements with a cast change. Ashley Bouder substituted for Sofiane Sylve, and Jennifer Tinsley substituted for Ashley Bouder. Wendy Whelan was the third female principal. The curtain rose on the line of ladies in white, their feet and legs perfectly and identically placed, their arms and heads strewn about carelessly with each dancer offering her own interpretation of the claw hand. The highlight was Ashley Bouder dancing the “hot pink” role. It was child’s play for her. There was joy in every step. She seemingly dared the music to go faster and dared the audience not to love her. She’s a star personality along the lines of Angel Corella -- someone for Mr. Rockwell to muse over. She is so “out there” that one doesn’t pay much attention to anyone else on stage while she is moving. Even when standing still, you sense she is storing the energy in her body anxious for its next burst. I think Bouder has raised the bar for some of the other principals -- not a bad thing.

<small>[ 01 March 2005, 09:16 AM: Message edited by: Poohtunia ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet Winter Season 2004-05
PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 12:59 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 27, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 3377
Location: Canada
Quote:
A Season Ends Amid Drama, Off the Stage as Well as On

By JOHN ROCKWELL
The NY Times
March 1, 2005

the performance of Christopher Wheeldon's "Shambards" on Saturday afternoon, the last day of the New York City Ballet's winter season, was marked by two bits of drama. This was the last time Jock Soto danced the central male role. (The entire cast was to be the same as it was for the premiere last May.) He retires at the end of the spring season, when "Shambards" will not be in the repertory.

The other drama, curiously not announced to the audience, involved Joaquin De Luz, who twisted an ankle Saturday morning and couldn't go on. With Mr. Wheeldon in Europe, the company improvised a solution.
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