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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet: 2011 Spring Season
PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2011 4:22 pm 
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Alastair Macaulay reviews the Tuesday, May 31 performance of Balanchine's "Donizetti Variations," Wheeldon's "Polyphonia" and Martins' "Thou Swell" in the New York Times.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet: 2011 Spring Season
PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2011 4:43 pm 
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Alastair Macaulay reviews the Wednesday, June 1 performance of Balanchine's "Divertimento No. 15," Robbins' "2 and 3 Part Inventions," and Wheeldon's "Mercurial Manoeuvres" in the New York Times.

NY Times

Apollinaire Scherr reviews "Mercurial Manoeuvres" in the Financial Times.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet: 2011 Spring Season
PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2011 4:47 pm 
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Gia Kourlas interviews Chase Finlay in the New York Times.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet: 2011 Spring Season
PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 9:17 pm 
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In The Faster Times, Marina Harss reviews the June 3 performance of "Jewels," the June 1 performance of Robbins' "2 7 3 Part Inventions" and Wheeldon's "Mercurial Manoeuvres."

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet: 2011 Spring Season
PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2011 9:35 pm 
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Roslyn Sulcas reviews the Thursday and Friday, June 2-3 performances of "Jewels" in the New York Times.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet: 2011 Spring Season
PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:21 am 
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Location: New Jersey
New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York
June 4 (E)

“Jewels”

-- by Jerry Hochman

Last year, as part of its “Architecture of Dance” theme, New York City Ballet used the phrase “See the Music” to describe a number of its specially-created programs (and still describes some of its programs this way). To this viewer the phrase seems superfluous – seeing a choreographer’s interpretation of a piece of music and application of that music to movement is something that one expects to happen in all ballets that are choreographed to music. That ‘seeing the music’ is nothing new is particularly evident in the ballets created by George Balanchine – whose ability to enhance, rather than mimic, whatever music he selected is unmatched.

One of the best of the Balanchine ballets that allows an audience to “see the music’ is “Jewels.”

Premiered in 1967, “Jewels” is a stunning evening-length program consisting of three separate plotless ballets unified by an overall theme that purportedly was inspired by Balanchine’s having seen certain jewelry in the window of Van Cleef & Arpels. I take Balanchine anecdotes, particularly those authored by him, with a grain of salt – but whether inspired by jewelry displayed in a high-end shop window or not, “Jewels” is a magnificent ballet, and magnificent theater in the sense of its marriage of choreography, music, sets, and costumes.

Precious gems lend themselves to emotional attributes: the rich green of an emerald suggests dreamily romantic old world elegance; the red of a ruby arouses the senses with its innate effervescent energy and sensuality; and a diamond, aside from being forever, evokes the brilliance and majesty of stars in the night sky. Well, truthfully, these qualities can be mixed and matched and reflected in any precious gem. But Balanchine selected these three precious gems on which to craft his dances, bestowed these emotional characteristics on them, selected music that perfectly reflects these ‘personalities,’ and choreographed dances that convert the incorporeal essences of the gems into movement. The jaw-droppingly beautiful sets (created by Peter Harvey) and the stunning costumes (by Karinska, of course) further amplify the character of each gem. Without any one of these components, the ballet wouldn’t be as glorious as it is. [Indeed, when the curtain rises on each dance, the audience is treated to a breathtaking visual representation, as reflected in the sets and costumes, of the essence of each gem. The audience gasps with pleasure – and always applauds – before a single choreographed step is taken.] But together, the whole is even greater than the sum of its individually incomparable parts.

With respect to Saturday’s performance the extraordinarily high quality of all of the dancers must be acknowledged and emphasized at the outset. [Actually, there really isn’t anything ‘extraordinary’ about it – as I’ve previously stated, the performance level of all of the NYCB dancers of late has been routinely extraordinary, from corps dancers to principals.] “Emeralds” was led by Abi Stafford and Sebastien Marcovici, and Jenifer Ringer and Jonathan Stafford, and also featured Ana Sophia Scheller, Antonio Carmena, and Erica Pereira; “Rubies” by Ashley Bouder, Gonzalo Garcia, and Teresa Reichlen; and “Diamonds” by Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard. There was not a less than stellar performance from any of them, and although I may specifically note certain individual performances, this is not meant to suggest than any one performance was superior to another.

“Emeralds” is choreographed to music by Gabriel Faure (culled from “Pelleas et Melisande” and “Shylock”) that is neither Romantic nor Impressionist, but a combination of the two. The music sets a mood of French romanticism the way the Seine sets the mood for Paris – slow-moving but rich and sensual, and the equally rich and sensual set adds a hint of an enticing underwater grotto. To this music, Balanchine created dances evocative of French dances of the period – but also includes what to this viewer are repeated phrases that bring to mind Central European (Hungarian) images as well. Ms. Ringer’s solo was simply fabulous, and Ms. Pereira breathes fresh air into every performance she’s in. [At its premiere, “Emeralds” ended with the excerpt from “Shylock” titled “Final.” It was a ‘typically Balanchine’ emphatic visual climax involving the entire cast and corps that reflected the climax of the score (or, in this case, an ‘artificial’ climax applied to the selected musical excerpts). In 1976, Balanchine added two new sections to “Emeralds”: a pas de deux, and a pas de sept (limited to the seven lead dancers), choreographed to “La Mort de Melisande.” This pas de sept became the new closing section. Both the ‘endings’ are masterfully choreographed, of course, but “Emeralds” now seems to have two endings. In this viewer’s opinion the pas de sept, a sort of homage to the period, is the more appropriate way to conclude the piece, but the original ending now seems out of place, and it makes the pas de sept somewhat anti-climactic.]

Jazzy and sexy and a huge amount of fun to watch, “Rubies,” to Igor Sravinsky’s 1929 composition “Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra,” is a sloe gin fizz of a ballet evocative of the time that its music was created (the ‘roaring twenties,’ and the palpable sensory indulgence and excess of the period). Where “Emeralds” transports the audience to a world of slow-paced lush romanticism, “Rubies” excites, entices and energizes. Both Ms. Bouder and Mr. Garcia provided enough sizzling speed and electricity to light the house, but to this viewer Ms. Reichlen’s stage presence dominates the piece. The choreography for her role in “Rubies” clearly was created to emphasize and exploit the physical allure of the dancer performing it, but Ms. Reichlen carries the intrinsic sensuality of “Rubies” to another level.

In “Diamonds,” Balanchine returns to his Russian roots, choreographing a section that is truly regal and evocative of Russian imperial ballet theater. It is said that “Diamonds” was a revisit to the tribute to Russian classicism that Balanchine had previously created in 1947 in Symphony in C (then entitled “Palais de Crystal”). But that’s only half of it – I saw sections of “Diamonds” that appeared to have been lifted practically verbatim from “Theme and Variations,” a work also created by Balanchine in 1947 to music by Tchaikovsky. But even if “Diamonds” is Balanchine’s restatement of, and further exploration of, his previous choreographic ideas, it is a superb piece, majestically danced by Ms. Kowroski and Mr. Askegard.

No piece in the repertoire of NYCB or any other company has the distilled magnificence of “Jewels.” The three sections can stand on their own, and “Rubies” has frequently been performed independently of its sister pieces. But seeing all three balletic gems in one evening is an awesome experience. “Jewels” is scheduled to be presented again during NYCB’s upcoming fall season, and it is an experience not to be missed.


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet: 2011 Spring Season
PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2011 9:43 pm 
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Alastair Macaulay summarizes the 2011 Spring Season in the New York Times.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet: 2011 Spring Season
PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2011 9:31 am 
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Location: New Jersey
New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York
June 12, 2011

Dancers’ Choice: “Apollo,” “Liturgy,” “Agon”(excerpt), “La Stravaganza”(excerpt); “Rubies”

-- by Jerry Hochman


For the past two years, New York City Ballet has concluded its Spring season with what it calls a “Dancers’ Choice” performance to benefit the Dancers’ Emergency Fund, which, as the program notes indicate, was initiated in 1980 by Jerome Robbins to assist individual dancers who have had personal emergencies or unexpected hardships. The entire show is run by the dancers, who select the pieces and the performers. With lower than usual ticket prices and a house abundantly populated by dancers, the evening had the feel of a gala for the common balletomaniac.

This year’s program, principally supervised by Amanda Hankes and Adrian Danchig-Waring, focused on the significance of the “Muse” in inspiring the creation of ballets. While not an overwhelming artistic success, the program was notable on many levels, not the least of which is that it provided the audience with an opportunity to see pieces not frequently performed, and dancers in roles they have not previously attempted. For that reason, the evening was most notable, at least to this viewer, for “Apollo,” and specifically for its debut performances: Craig Hall as Apollo, Tiler Peck as Terpsichore, Ashly Isaacs as Polyhymnia, and Lauren Lovette as Calliope.

In a review of a NYCB program on May 4, 2010, I wrote that based on the ferocity and intensity of his performance in “The Four Temperaments,” in my mind’s eye Craig Hall would make a superb Prodigal Son. I still see him in that role, but his Apollo was a bit disappointing – perhaps because I expected too much. Mr. Hall did a fine job – he had the requisite intensity, and the mere fact that he was given the well-earned opportunity to assay this role is noteworthy on its own. But to this viewer he was unable to convey the command, the innate nobility, and the sense of power (including the perception of upper body strength) of the nascent god. But I don’t doubt that he will develop into a superb Apollo.

On the other hand, the three muses were spectacular. I’ve never seen Ms. Peck give less than a stellar performance in anything, and her Terpsichore was no exception. Ms. Isaacs was a pleasant surprise – her Polyhymnia was crisply and powerfully performed. But Ms. Lovette’s Calliope made the performance, and the evening.

I’ve always considered Calliope to be a sort of second-fiddle role – easy to acknowledge when competently executed, and then equally easy to foget and move on to discuss the more ‘important’ performances. But Ms. Lovette made Calliope important.

As she demonstrated in her stunning debut in Christopher Wheeldon’s “Polyphonia” last season, Ms. Lovette has an innate ability to be strikingly expressive without adding anything to the choreography that isn’t already there. At the time, I observed that she appears small and pretty enough to be a cute soubrette, but has the potential to be much more than that. Based on her Calliope, she already is. Perhaps she’s not even aware that she’s doing it, but to this viewer Ms. Lovette was able to mine nuances not previously seen in the role just by the clarity of her execution and a perceived different emphasis to choreographic punctuation points. If I were able to deconstruct her performance, it might show slightly different angles of her head or upward thrusting of her arms at certain points; or more vigorously executed speech gestures, or similar seemingly minor but significant changes of accent as she attempted to convince Apollo to select her has his chosen muse. It was thrilling to watch her nail it, and to a long-established balletomaniac, the anticipation of being able to witness Ms. Lovette grow as a dancer is intoxicating.

The second ballet of the evening, Christopher Wheeldon’s “Liturgy,” choreographed to Arvo Part’s “Fratres,” was another knock-out. Created in 2003 for Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto, I had not had the opportunity to see “Liturgy” previously, but being able to watch Sara Adams and Jared Angle dance it at this performance more than compensated for the omission. “Liturgy” is a striking piece of work, and it was stunningly performed.

Mr. Part is known for the mesmerizing spiritual/religious passion of his music. Mr. Wheeldon has distilled this passion into a duet of overwhelming emotional intensity. Although the two bodies on stage wrap around each other in multiple complex permutations that at times make them appear to be one corporeal entity, and as a result the action on stage carries an inherent sensual quality, this was not a duet of romantic passion, but an expression of sacred spiritual passion. At times, I saw the two bodies, each facing toward the audience, assume a crucifix-like pose, with Mr. Angle standing with his body solidly placed and his arms horizontally outstretched, and with Ms. Adams draped over him. [I suspect there was other religious imagery in the piece that I was unable to recognize.] Although this description may make the images that Mr. Wheeldon created sound contrived, in performance they were naturally and effectively thrilling, and through it all the audience was deathly quiet – as if the piece was a collective religious experience, a physical expression of the force of prayer (as opposed to the act of prayer), and when it concluded, the entranced audience greeted Ms. Adams and Mr. Angle with the longest series of curtain calls of the night.

Ms. Adams and Mr. Angle were awesome, in the true sense of the word. Mr. Angle is a known quantity, but his seamless partnering – essential to make the short duet work – displayed ability beyond anything I’ve seen him do previously. For Ms. Adams, who was selected for the role and coached by Ms. Whelan, ‘extraordinary’ isn’t a strong enough word to describe her performance – she was the embodiment of naked spirituality. [Ms. Adams’s costume was a leotard that appeared transparent except for strategically placed covered areas. The resulting appearance was not at all salacious – on the contrary, the costume emphasized the purity of the force that she embodied.] I concede that I have not previously noticed Ms. Adams – I expect to pay more attention to her performances in the future.

The balance of the program was not quite as remarkable. I have a bias against seeing ‘excerpts’ of pieces (with the possible exception of classic pas de deux), and the remainder of the program consisted of excerpts from greater wholes: the pas de deux from “Agon;” a pas de deux from Angelin Preljocaj’s “La Stravaganza,” a piece with which I am not familiar; and “Rubies,” a free-standing gem from “Jewels.”

Amar Ramasar and Megan LeCrone, another of NYCB’s extraordinarily talented members of the corps, danced the “Agon” pas de deux to perfection. The pas de deux from “La Stravaganza” appeared to be well-performed also (by Gretchen Smith and Robert Fairchild), but other than displaying some sort of mysterious attraction to each other and rolling on the stagefloor, out-of-context it was meaningless to me – not because it didn’t have a meaning, but because it obviously had one that was not comprehensible from the pas de deux alone.

The evening concluded with “Rubies,” led by Janie Taylor, Sean Suozzi (in his debut in the role), and Teresa Reichlen (Sara Mearns was scheduled to debut in Ms. Reichlen’s role, but did not perform). Ms. Taylor and Mr. Suozzi danced their roles well, but without the pizzazz I saw in the cast I reviewed previously. But Ms. Reichlen’s performance somehow was even better than her performance the previous week. Perhaps because it was the final performance of the season, but Ms. Reichlen was noticeably more relaxed, and more sensual – though that hardly seems possible. It was a jewel of a performance, and a perfect way to end the evening, and NYCB's Spring season.


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