CriticalDance Forum

New York City Ballet 2013-14
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Oct 10, 2013 12:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

In the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay opines on the state of dancing at New York City Ballet.

NY Times

Author:  balletomaniac [ Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

October 12 (M&E), 2013

- by Jerry Hochman

By way of an update to my previous review, and for those interested, I saw two additional performances of New York City Ballet yesterday (matinee and evening) that repeated two of the same programs I had previously reviewed (“Contemporary Choreographers” and “Balanchine Short Stories”), but with certain cast changes.

The most significant cast change was in “La Sonnambula.” Robert Fairchild was “The Poet,” a role he has performed previously, and Sterling Hyltin danced “The Sleepwalker.” Ms. Hyltin debuted in the role the previously night.

Mr. Fairchild, whom I had not previously seen in the role, was extraordinary. In every role I’ve seen him dance that requires a dramatic component, Mr. Fairchild gives it an edge, an extra dimension, which no one else does. This “Poet was not simply impassioned, or bewildered – he was possessed.

Since the role of the Sleepwalker has no facial expression or extraneous body movement, It’s curious and revealing how different dancers can give different nuances to a role solely by their appearance and demeanor. I’ve seen Janie Taylor dance The Sleepwalker many times previously, including last week. It is a role she does very well. Her ‘Sleepwalker’ comes across as ethereal and ghostly, a lovely moving spirit, but vacant. The only part of the Sleepwalker’s brain that appears to be functioning is that which allows her to move and to sense the presence of an obstacle in her path.

Ms. Hyltin’s performance was not ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than Ms. Taylor’s – just different.

Although the choreography is the same, Ms. Hyltin gave the role a slightly different character just by her appearance. Through her performances, it’s clear that Ms. Hyltin doesn’t just dance a role – she thinks it, and I doubt that she could look ‘vacant’ if she tried. Accordingly, her ‘Sleepwalker’ was very different. This was a woman whose brain, as well as her body, was functioning as she walked in her sleep. You could see it in her face. Just that small difference carries huge significance. Ms. Hyltin’s "Sleepwalker" is a more complete person, not just a presence. She’s not just ethereal (indeed, Ms. Hyltin didn’t convey the incorporeal sense, of being a leaf blown by a breeze, as Ms. Taylor did). She’s curiously strong and fragile at the same time, but not weightless. And perhaps as a consequence, instead of just observing the Sleepwalker do what she does, and wondering where she came from and how she can sense obstacles in her path, with Ms. Hyltin's Sleepwalker you wonder about her – who she is; what happened to her; what will happen to her. It's more real.

With the same choreography and no facial movement, some of the ‘different character’ I sensed in Ms. Hyltin’s portrayal must be subjective. But enough people I spoke with after the performance shared my impression, so it’s clearly something about ‘her’, rather than something about any particular audience member’s idiosyncratic response to her.

The first “La Sonnambula” performance I saw featured Allegra Kent in the role of the ‘Sleepwalker’ late in her career. Ms. Kent attended last night’s performance. I would love to have heard her impression of Ms. Hyltin’s performance, but was unable to speak with her. [During intermission, Ms. Kent was monopolized by someone taking notes as she spoke with her, and who remained glued to her throughout intermission. So if Ms. Kent had any comments about Ms. Hyltin’s performance, I suspect we’ll see it soon.]

There were two other notable cast changes, though not in roles as prominent as the Sleepwalker.

In “Namouna, A Grand Divertissement,” Rebecca Krohn performed the ‘slave-girl’ at yesterday aftenoon’s performance (she debuted in the role on Thursday). [That charachter title is mine, based on the story; the role is not identified in the ballet.] While not as technically refined as the other dancers I’ve seen in the role, conveying a sense of character is something I’ve found lacking previously. Ms. Krohn’s portrayal provided an appropriate air of vulnerability to the role, which helped distinguish her character from other featured ballerinas more than simply because her tutu, unlike the others, is pure white.

The other significant performance yesterday, also in “La Sonnambula,” was Lauren Lovette (partnered by Craig Hall) in the pas de deux that is included in the divertissement during the masked ball. She, too, debuted in the role the night before. Both she and Mr. Hall, who has previously danced the male role in the pas de deux, were superb. In this pas de deux, the female dancer must perform the stylized choreography, but be believably seductive at the same time. Ms. Lovette cut through the exaggerated choreography with razor-sharp precision. More than that, however, other dancers I’ve seen in this role have the sensuality grafted on – they perform it well, but they’re performing. With Ms. Lovette, it comes from within.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Oct 16, 2013 1:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

In the New York Observer, Robert Gottlieb reviews Balanchine's "The Four Temperaments," "The Prodigal Son," "La Sonnambula," and "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," plus Robbins' "Dances at a Gathering."

NY Observer

Author:  Buddy [ Mon Nov 04, 2013 2:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

This is an excellent documentary released today for internet viewing --

" City.Ballet. "

Without having yet seen the very end and not wanting to rush through it to comment I'd like to say that this is a very sympathetic and comprehensive documentary that I would definitely recommend viewing. ... /517957280

Author:  Buddy [ Tue Nov 05, 2013 4:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

Numerous rave comments coming in today at New York City Ballet Twitter.
(thanks to Helene at Ballet Alert for posting this)

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Nov 19, 2013 1:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

Four principal dancers have announced their retirement during the 2014 Winter and Spring Seasons: Jenifer Ringer, Janie Taylor, Sebastien Marcovici and Jonathan Stafford. Michael Cooper reports for the New York Times.

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

In the New York Times, Michael Cooper reports on the many ways that NYCB dancers customize their pointe shoes.

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Jan 22, 2014 8:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

In the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay reviews the Tuesday, January 21, 2014 opening performance of Winter Season at the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center. The all-Balanchine program includes "Concerto Barocco," "Kammermusik No. 2" and "Who Cares?"

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Jan 23, 2014 10:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

In the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay reviews the Wednesday, January 22, 2014 performances of "Jewels."

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Jan 26, 2014 10:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

Roslyn Sulcas interviews choreographer Liam Scarlett about his new work for New York City Ballet.

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Jan 28, 2014 12:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

Apollinaire Scherr reviews "Dances at a Gathering" for the Financial Times.

Financial Times

Author:  balletomaniac [ Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

January 25 (M); 29
“Concerto Barocco;” “Kammermusik No. 2;” “Who Cares?”

-- by Jerry Hochman

“Concerto Barocco” is one of George Balanchine’s signature pieces, a short (18 minute) masterpiece that not only integrates ballet and J.S. Bach’s baroque music, but, for its time and in a timeless manner, assembles and presents ballet steps in a different way. “Kammermusik No. 2,” although generally well-regarded, is not considered in the same league. Both ballets opened New York City Ballet’s Winter Season at the D.H.K. Theater, and I saw performances of each, as well as the third ballet on the program, “Who Cares?,” this past Saturday (part of NYCB’s annual “Saturday at the Ballet With George” program), and again last night.

Commentators may want to reconsider their evaluation of “Kammermusik No. 2.” It’s every bit as masterful, in its own way, as “Concerto Barocco.”

Choreographed to J.S. Bach’s “Double Violin Concerto in D Minor,” “Concerto Barocco” has been a staple of NYCB’s repertoire from its opening company performance in 1948. It was created on a predecessor company, American Ballet Caravan (which was comprised of students from the ballet school that Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein created – the School of American Ballet), and premiered in 1941 in Rio de Janeiro, during Ballet Caravan’s tour of South America. Balanchine’s “Kammermusik No. 2,” to the composition of that name by Paul Hindemith that is part of a series of chamber pieces he composed between 1923 and 1933. The latter ballet is considered by many to be the inverse of “Concerto Barocco” in that it has a similar structure, but instead of a corps of eight women it has a corps of eight men, instead of contrapuntal violins it features contrapuntal pianos, and instead of a classical appearance it looks contemporary. Be that as it may, “Concerto Barocco,” for its time, is the more revolutionary work, resembling nothing that preceded it, while “Kammermusik No. 2” is remindful to me of pieces that Balanchine previously choreographed to Stravinsky (eg., “Symphony in Three Movements”).

But that doesn’t make “Kammermusik No. 2” any less of a work of genius – and based on the two performances I saw, it resonates today at least as much, if not more, than “Concerto Barocco.” Not only is the choreography as contemporary-looking today as it must have been in 1978, it masterfully integrates relatively novel (for the time) movement qualities – flexed hands and feet, for example, but adds both dynamism and an inherent sense of excitement. It’s alive – not preserved in aspic.

The casts for the two performances I saw were quite remarkable.

On Saturday, Rebecca Krohn and Abi Stafford, the lead women who dance in counterpoint to each other and to the male corps, executed the piece with crystal clarity and manifest enthusiasm (particularly in contrast to the preceding performance that day of “Concerto Barocco”), bringing out not just the jazzy overlay of the piece, but also its somewhat opaque heart. They complemented each other well. Although the piece has no plot, it has abundant energy and style, both of which were clearly and enthusiastically delivered.

The performance of “Kammermusik No. 2” last night was equally strong, if not more so. Led by Teresa Reichlen and Sara Mearns, one sensed drama, as well as clarity and enthusiasm. Ms. Reichlen was at her best, which is first-rate. She was neither mechanical nor overly expressive, and she executed to perfection. I’ve often found Ms. Mearns to be either overly dramatic, milking pathos from every pore, or confined emotionally to her own world. Last night I saw a different Sara Mearns. Although she wasn’t the center of attention, she seemed to relish the role, dancing with extraordinary attack, but attack tempered with enthusiasm. For me, and aside from her performances in full-length ballets, this was Ms. Mearns’s finest effort that I've seen to date.

At Saturday’s performance, Ms. Krohn and Ms. Stafford were ably partnered, respectively, by Jared Angle and Amar Ramasar. Last night, Mr. Angle was a refined partner for Ms. Reichlen, and, in a role debut, Zachary Catazaro, did a fine job partnering Ms. Mearns. The male corps, filled by Devin Alberta, Daniel Applebaum, Cameron Dieck, Joseph Gordon, Ralph Ippolito, Lars Nelson, Andrew Scordato, and Joshua Thew, and which was identical at both performances, executed admirably.

Although “Concerto Barocco” will always be a masterpiece, not only for its neo-classicism in general, but for integrating more contemporary concepts (contrapuntal and syncopated choreography) and intriguing movement qualities (slides, for example) within the neo-classic framework. Nevertheless, Saturday’s performance was disappointing. Nothing looked ‘wrong’ about it technically – but the performance, led by Maria Kowroski and Ms. Mearns, lacked the crispness and spark that should be given in any performance, and certainly in the performance of a Balanchine classic. It looked unexceptional. And, worse, it looked dull.

Several years ago, in connection with an American Ballet Theater performance of Balanchine’s “Theme and Variations,” I complained about dancers performing Balanchine classics ‘reverentially’ (and complimented ABT dances Sarah Lane and Cory Stearns for not doing so). And as I’ve previously noted, in recent years NYCB dancers also have replaced simple reverential execution with vivacity, converting what often appeared to be a performance homage into a performance celebration. This renewed enthusiasm, coupled with NYCB’s usual flawless execution, has been a component of NYCB’s recent extraordinary rebirth and renewal. But these qualities were absent from Saturday’s performance. The performance wasn’t helped by Ms. Kowroski and Ms. Mearns appearing to be, at best, indifferent to each other. They were like identical magnetic poles that could never connect: they were independent, vacant, robotic entities capable of perfect execution but little more. And try as I could to think otherwise, and heretical though it may be, I couldn’t help thinking that I’d rather have been watching a different piece choreographed to the same composition -- Paul Taylor’s magnificently joyous “Esplanade.”

Last night’s performance, on the other hand, made me remember why “Concerto Barocco” is the masterpiece it is. A different cast brought it back to life. Ms. Krohn and Ms. Stafford, who danced the lead roles, not only complemented each other and crisply executed the steps, they added that quality of contagious excitement that was completely absent from Saturday’s performance. Perhaps more importantly, neither hesitated to express the spiritual and emotional pleasure that is inherent in the Bach music. It wasn’t a reverential performance – it was a joyful one. Even the corps, which was identical at both performances, executed at a higher level than on Saturday. They consisted of Sara Adams, Faye Arthurs, Likolani Brown, Alina Dronova, Meagan Mann, Kristen Segin, Gretchen Smith, and Lydia Wellington.

For Ms. Krohn and Ms. Stafford, these performances were particularly noteworthy. After being promoted to principal a couple of years ago, Ms. Krohn seemed to have lost a degree of confidence – or was simply taking awhile to adjust to new roles. Whatever the reason, based on these two performances, she’s back. Always a somewhat reserved presence, Ms. Krohn now is dancing with finesse and fervor. Ms. Stafford’s transformation has been even more remarkable. In recent years, her performances have seemed lackluster to me, as if she’d decided to stop trying. So far this season, she’s back in total control, executing flawlessly and with bubbly effervescence.

Both programs were completed by “Who Cares?,” Balanchine’s gloriously entertaining tribute to George Gershwin and the spirit of American music. As in previous performances I’ve seen and reviewed, the piece brought the house down. Highlighting individual performances would be prohibitively lengthy, but there wasn’t a less than stellar effort by either cast of four principals, ten soloists, and ten corps dancers. But I must recognize, once again, the outstanding efforts by the lead couple, Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild on Saturday, and Sterling Hyltin and Mr. Ramasar last night. I’ve seen each couple dance their roles previously, but they outdo themselves each time, and their most recent performance is always their best one.

Saturday’s performance also marked the return of NYCB’s “Saturday at the Ballet with George” festivities. Nominally a tribute to Balanchine on the anniversary of his birth, the day is a tribute to NYCB, and a gift to those fortunate enough to attend, or knowledgeable enough to know not to miss it. It’s a hugely popular event. In addition to special classes offered for children, the day featured a presentation showcasing the evolution of an SAB student through ‘class-like’ exhibits by students at different levels, as well as the evolution of performance execution once the student enters the company. Anchored by Ashley Bouder, who had performed brilliantly in “Who Cares?” moments earlier, class exhibits were explained by former company members and now teachers Darci Kistler for the younger classes; Kay Mazzo for the older classes; Arch Higgins for the older boys; and Jonathan Stafford (who will retire from the company later this season) narrating a partnering class. The program then segued into Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins leading two promising young dancers through corrections in the Sugarplum Fairy pas de deux, followed by an out-of-costume performance of the pas de deux, demonstrating the way the choreography should look, danced impeccably by Ms. Peck and Mr. Fairchild.

Finally, NYCB has renewed the Art Series, featuring exhibitions of artwork by contemporary artists, which it began last year. While I thought last year’s effort was disappointing and more an example of artistic egotism than merit (obviously, an opinion not shared by others), the current effort, by French artist JR, is wonderful. Essentially, the NYCB dancers were photographed in various non-performance poses, which JR then assembled and converted into a new first promenade floor. The images of the dancers were assembled so as to collectively appear to form an eye – representative, perhaps of another way to ‘see’ the dancers. Ballet patrons walk across this image-filled floor, trying to identify a particular dancer or just marveling at the extraordinary images of perfect bodies beneath their feet. To me, and irreverent though it may be, it looked like the DHK Theater’s mezzanine had been transformed into a sort of a secular shrine – a Sistine Chapel of sorts with god's acrobats at earth level.

It’s my understanding that this exhibition will be open to the public at various times next week. Don’t miss it.

Author:  balletomaniac [ Sat Feb 01, 2014 2:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

January 31, 2014
“Vespro;” “Spectral Evidence;” “Acheron” (Scarlett premiere)

-- by Jerry Hochman

Last night New York City Ballet unveiled another program of dances in its Winter 2014 season, this one under the rubrick: ‘New Combinations’. The centerpiece of the program was the world premiere of Liam Scarlett’s first NYCB piece: “Acheron.”

In summary, “Acheron” is not as bad as I suspect some critics may say, but it’s not particularly good either. Be that as it may, and regardless of one’s reaction to the piece’s dreary tone and sexual images, “Achelon” is worth seeing for the performances alone. Led by Rebecca Krohn and Tyler Angle, Sara Mearns and Adrian Danchig-Waring, and Ashley Bouder and Amar Ramasar, the dancers executed Mr. Scarlett’s choreography brilliantly. But aside from the partnering demonstration by the three lead couples, the choreography was repetitious, the partnering stuffed with show-off tricks, and, worst, the piece looks patently misogynistic.

I say ‘looks’ rather than ‘is’ because I think establishing an absolute difference between men and women was a necessary precondition to the inescapable intent of the piece. Consequently, perhaps, what looks like misogyny may just be a reflection of ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’, rather than any inherent bias against women. On the other hand, when the relationships on display are so obviously male-dominant/female-submissive, a misogynistic tone is difficult to ignore. If it looks like a duck….

Divorced from any plotted undertone, the dance is an abstract work of some, but not overwhelming, interest, with staging that segues seamlessly from one focus of attention to another, showcasing the intricate partnering. It’s not nearly as successful as “Viscera,” a fabulous piece which Mr. Scarlett choreographed in January, 2012 for Miami City Ballet. But in “Acheron” Mr. Scharlett has a clear choreographic point of view.

The piece is without program notes, so Mr. Scarlett’s intent must be gleaned solely from what one sees on stage, and perhaps from the ballet’s title. Acheron is a river in northern Greece, one of the mythological rivers of the Underworld known as the ‘river of woe’. In Greek mythology, Acheron was the god of pain, who was turned into a river as punishment for giving aid and comfort to the Titans in their war with Zeus.

To a score by Francis Poulenc (“Concerto in G for Organ, Strings, and Timpani” – the same piece used by Glen Tetley in “Voluntaries”) that provides an ominous, otherworldly undercurrent combined with a somewhat diabolical feigned gloss of giddiness, Scarlett creates a dark atmosphere of love and lust as a series of ‘combat a deux’, with the men as the powerful and dominating aggressors and the women as willing and compliant partners but with emotional needs that their partners do not understand. So instead of being a source of harmony, the relationships are a source of unresolved, and unresolvable, discord.

Accordingly, if the piece is ‘about’ anything (and simplistic as it sounds), it’s ‘about’ pain – the pain that is an inevitable consequence of sexual relationships between men and women whose mutual and seemingly contradictory expectations can never be fulfilled.

Through all the couplings there is one lone man who does not attach to a partner. At times he sprints across the stage like a sort of underworld Puck surveying a midsummer night’s nightmare; at other times he’s just a lone spirit unencumbered by the painful physical/emotional attachments that surround him. But whether he’s above the fray and a happy survivor, or safe and free and miserably alone, is not clearly expressed. On first view, it appears more likely to me that this lone man, danced by Anthony Huxley with his typical (and this time appropriate) lack of connection, is intended to be a survivor – that is, because he’s alone, he avoids being swept along the river of Achelon to Hades.

The costumes, created by Mr. Scarlett (and supervised by Marc Happel) reflect the aggressive/submissive tone of the piece. The men are shirtless, with tights that begin around the waist in deep, muted purple, which change to light grey down the abdomen to the thighs, and then to a dark grey. It’s a virile, powerful, but dangerous-looking appearance – they looks somewhat like satyrs preying on young and vulnerable female does who are costumed in leotards and tights, with short ballet skirts. And the piece is bathed in muted light, to me resembling light in a cave. The lighting is by Mark Stanley.

The piece opens with the full complement of seven leads (three couples and the lone male), and ten corps dancers (five couples), in shadow and apparently (from what I could see) unattached. In silence, one male (Mr. Angle) grabs another (Ms. Krohn), and they dance together while other couples pair off and leave the stage, some of whom return and join, and eventually replace, the first isolated couple. I thought of ‘rape of the Sabine women’, but although there is male aggressiveness, there’s no violence, and the women are compliant and enjoy the physical attention. But they want an emotional attachment, a demand to which the men are either resistant or clueless. So no one is satisfied.

Choreographically the piece is filled with sweeping lifts and deep arabesques that happen over and over again with numbing repetitiveness. The coupled duets include complex partnering transitions and novel-looking (sometimes death-defying-looking) overhead balances and sudden drops toward the stage floor – in one of which Mr. Angle lifts Ms. Krohn, turns her 180 degrees, and holds her upright over his head by the calves of her crossed legs. Nifty. And a little scary-looking. But it’s more form than substance.

The execution by the dancers looked flawless – and considering the partnering complexity, it had to be. The three couples were marvelous. Without denigrating in any way the performance of the other lead dancers, Mr. Angle and Ms. Krohn (who is already having a remarkable season) were particularly impressive, as was Ms. Mearns, whose natural pathos, in the form of confused-looking failure to connect emotionally with her partner, added texture to the piece.

The Poulenc score was executed brilliantly by the NYCB Orchestra, under the baton of Clotilde Otranto; Michael Hey played the solo organ. I cannot recall hearing a more dynamic, exciting live rendition of this composition.

“Acheron” is an interesting effort, but one that gets overwhelmed by Mr. Scarlett’s apparent foundational precondition. The piece does not contain the kind of mindless self-indulgence and cheap, puerile, exploitative sexuality expressed in Demis Volpi’s highly offensive-looking ”Private Light,” which American Ballet Theatre premiered during its Fall, 2011 season and which promptly and mercifully disappeared from its repertoire. But "Acheron" does include clearly indicated ersatz 'pawing' by the men, the women's enjoyment of this unsolicited physical attention, and the dominant/submissive overtones. Consequently, some will doubtless find “Acheron” similarly offensive, but on a more refined artistic level. Regardless, the performances save the piece, and it should be seen for that reason.

If the dancers in “Acheron” can be considered as being ‘possessed’ – possessed by the need to be sexually and emotionally fulfilled, the entire evening can be seen as reflections on ‘possession’, demonic or otherwise. The program began with repeat performances of Mario Bigonzetti’s “Vespro,” which premiered in 2002, and Angelin Preljocaj’s “Spectral Evidence,” which premiered last season. I’ve reviewed both previously. In the former, Andrew Veyette repeated his extraordinary performance as the spirit of the piano, ably embellished by Maria Kowroski and Mr. Angle, Ms. Bouder and Gonzalo Garcia, and the 4/4 corps, who were the expressions of his compositions. The commissioned score by Bruno Moretti was finely performed by Alan Moverman on piano, Ed Joffe on soprano saxophone, and mezzo-soprano Meg Bragle.

Mr. Preljocaj’s piece remains an intriguing and exciting take on the possessed souls – the young girls who were the accusers and the clergy who ultimately accepted the girls’ claims -- at the center of the Salem Witch trials. The entire cast, led by Tiler Peck and a once-again remarkable Robert Fairchild, gave a memorable performance.

edited 2/4 to correct a few egregious typos

Author:  balletomaniac [ Mon Feb 03, 2014 8:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

February 2, 2014

-- by Jerry Hochman

Frequently the story of a venerable ballet, even a contemporary abstract one, is not the ballet itself but the performances in it. So it was with yesterday’s New York City Ballet performance of George Balanchine’s “Jewels.” I’ve reviewed the ballet, or parts of it, several times previously, and did not expect to consider it again this season. But yesterday’s third segment in the trilogy of finely-danced choreographic gems merits special attention.

My bent, at least at the corps level, is to notice promising ballerinas rather than danseurs. But in one of this past season’s performances of “George Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker’,” I saw Russell Janzen, a member of the corps, dance the Cavalier in the Sugarplum Fairy pas de deux, and commented favorably on his performance, which to my knowledge was his first in a featured role.

Yesterday, Mr. Janzen took another step, assaying the lead male role in “Diamonds,” opposite Teresa Reichlen. It was an auspicious debut. Mr. Janzen, whom I previously described as a redwood tree of a dancer, is one of those rare male dancers who can execute cleanly, partner unobtrusively but confidently, and look noble rather than full of himself. His execution was a bit wooden (but in no way mechanical or vacant), and it seemed that his legs tired a bit toward the end. But he did everything he was supposed to do, exhibiting exceptional clarity of form, and appropriate presentation of, and attention to, his ballerina. Indeed, I found his partnering to be flawless – except at one point toward the end I saw him fail to keep Ms. Reichlen centered during a series of turns (there was no danger – she was just a bit off center). He was on it immediately, and corrected it in the next series of turns, keeping her ramrod straight.

This was considerably more than a promising debut. Mr. Janzen looks younger than his capabilities would suggest, and with increasing opportunity and experience he will doubtless add a measure of excitement that isn’t yet there. But he already exhibits the qualities of a danseur noble. And once again, NYCB provides the opportunity to watch a dancer grow before our eyes.

But yesterday’s story was not just Mr. Janzen. Ms. Reichlen is that rare ballerina who can look both aloof and engaged at the same time. [Don’t ask me to explain; it just is.] But she’s never haughty or overly emotional – she dances with serenity. And for whatever reason – confidence in her young partner, comfort in having a partner taller than she is en pointe, or simply her own maturing as a dancer – hers was a superb performance. Of the three NYCB ballerinas who I’ve seen dance this role in recent years, hers was the purest, the most human, and the most appropriately regal. Between seeing Ms. Reichlen and Mr. Janzen, and hearing the glorious Tchaikovsky music (from “Symphony No 3 in D Major”), it was a thrilling conclusion to the day’s program.

“Diamonds” was set up by a fine performance of the gem that preceded it. “Rubies” is a rich, sensual, electric, and sophisticated creation to Stravinsky’s “Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra.” Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette (to my recollection the first time I’ve seen either dance these roles) were as scintillating as the score. For Ms. Hyltin, exceptional execution is nothing unusual – but she adds pizazz and intelligence that put her in a different league. And as I’ve previously observed, although she’s physically diminutive, in whatever she does she dances larger than life. Mr. Veyette is a jack-of-all-trades who seems to do everything right, and although he was not quite as fast as one or two others, his crisp execution matched that of Ms. Hyltin, and the difference was hardly noticeable.

“Emeralds,” the opening jewel, is the most difficult of the three for me to appreciate. Choreographed to excerpts from Gabriel Faure’s “Pelleas et Melisande” and “Shylock,” its roots are in French classical ballet, but the casual viewer wouldn’t know that. “Emeralds” is set in a shadowy, shrouded, otherworldly-looking area, and has a somber, almost maudlin tone. The setting could be intended to represent a dense, emerald-green forest glade, befitting the story on which the former composition is based, but the set also resembles, to me, a blue/green underwater grotto of sorts, or a verdant island from which there is no escape. Regardless, though muted, it’s gorgeous (scenery by Peter Harvey), as are the emerald-laden costumes (by Karinska). Ashley Bouder and Jared Angle danced the lead couple’s role to perfection, but although not inappropriate, Ms. Bouder’s dour demeanor seemed to me overdone. Sarah Mearns, ably assisted by Jonathan Stafford, danced her role without added emotional emphasis, and executed the role’s celebrated walk en pointe across the stage with aplomb.

The featured dancers supporting the leads in “Emeralds” were Ashley Laracey, Antonio Carmena, and Erica Pereira, each of whom added effervescence that lifted the mood considerably. Lauren King, Ms. Laracey, Megan LeCrone, Brittany Pollack, Daniel Applebaum, Cameron Dieck, Allen Peiffer, and Andrew Scordato led the supporting dancers in creating the rich atmosphere of “Diamonds.” And Savannah Lowery did a fine job as the rock-solid yet vibrant third lead in “Rubies.” Andrews Sill conducted the dazzling NYCB orchestra through each facet of the performance.

One last observation. Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday. Nevertheless, only a few miles from the stadium where The Game was played, the D.H.K. Theater was essentially filled to the brim – I saw only a few scattered open seats in the rear sides of the orchestra and fourth ring. Even the fifth ring, which usually can only be seen when the fog lifts, was occupied. Balletgoers are a dedicated bunch. And, as it turns out, a perspicacious bunch too. Unlike the Event across the river, “Jewels” was thrilling to watch – and although its audience may have been blown away by the quality of the choreography, the sets, and the dancers, it wasn’t a blowout.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Feb 03, 2014 10:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet 2013-14

In the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay reviews the "New Combinations" triple bill of works by Liam Scarlett, Mauro Bigonzetti and Angelin Preljocaj.

NY Times

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