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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2015 6:59 pm 
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In the New York Times, Brian Seibert reviews Balanchine's "Harlequinade" on Wednesday, February 18, 2015.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2015 1:40 pm 
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New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

February 21M, 22, 2015
“Romeo + Juliet”: Lovette/Finlay debut

-- by Jerry Hochman

In a review of New York City Ballet’s September 30, 2011 performance, I wrote that Lauren Lovette, then still in her first year in the corps, would be a natural Juliet, with Chase Finlay, then a newly-promoted soloist, as her Romeo. On Saturday afternoon, in her first full-length role, Lovette debuted as Juliet. Her Romeo, in his debut in the role, was Finlay. I should always be so prescient.

It was a remarkable debut – for both of them. And a remarkable afternoon for the NYCB audience, which braved the chill and the forecast of a significant snowstorm to fill practically every seat in the house.

For a company supposedly without stars, NYCB has had more than its share of star ballerinas. Still a soloist (don’t expect that rank to last long), Lovette is already one of them. In the past year, she’s become practically ubiquitous; she’s New York ballet’s current ‘it’ girl. But even though she looks the part and can do the steps and act the role, none of which surprised me, actually pulling off Juliet, first time out, with the texture and nuance of a veteran, is an exceptional achievement.

Of course, it’s not just the technique, or the acting, or looking the part. Every ballerina who dances any role, particularly roles in story ballets, necessarily brings a special quality to it – a special ‘something’ that makes her performance different. Except in the most rigidly abstract pieces, they don’t leave their personalities in the wings. (This is true for male dancers as well, but for me that special quality in men is more difficult to decode.) The steps might be the same, and the story (if there is one) certainly is, but the spirit is her own. Of NYCB’s current crop of Juliets – Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck, Erica Pereira, and now Lovette, each brings to the stage this distinctive personal quality.

But Lovette, already, is past that point. She makes you feel things differently. It’s not just that quality of innocence and sensuality that I’ve noted previously, or her ability to become, and to project, her character with every core of her being. It’s more basic. It’s something in the way she moves; an indescribable ‘something’ that transcends the choreography and transcends the proscenium and makes an audience not just want to watch her dance a role, but want to live it with her. It’s the ‘something’ that made her Calliope (in “Apollo”) different – a different angle of her head or upward thrust of her arms that made her muse irresistible. The ‘something’ that made her Rubies (in “Jewels”) different, by magnifying the role’s distinct sensuality and making choreographic details more stunningly apparent. The ‘something’ that made her Julie Jordan (in “Carousel: A Dance”) different, performed with a degree of innocence and inherent radiance that grabbed the heart. The ‘something’ that made her Novice (in “The Cage”) different, and unforgettably vicious and erotic. And the ‘something’ that made her performance in “DGV” different, simply by being unable to suppress her natural effervescence a second longer than necessary. As an acquaintance observed a few seasons ago, her performances are magical.

And Lovette’s ability to express emotion full to the fingertips in every role where it’s called for couldn’t be more apparent than it was as Juliet. Literally. In the balcony scene, for example, at one point Romeo lifts Juliet above his head; her upper body falling backward behind him, with her arms and fingers stretched out in ecstasy. The image is repeated in the crypt, when Romeo lifts the apparently dead Juliet up until her upper body falls backward over his shoulder. In all the Juliets, one can see the difference in the way her arms are displayed: in the balcony scene, they’re alive with ecstasy; in the crypt, they’re in the same position, but they’re lifeless. With Lovette, even her fingers have no life left in them.

Perhaps because of her distinctive stage personality or the differences in the way she draws an audience in, I was able to see details more clearly, and to see things in Martins’s work I’d not previously appreciated. I still think the choreography itself is mediocre. But there are ideas in this version that are fresh and interesting, even if the choreography isn’t; ideas that make this production visually rich. As just one example, when Juliet and Paris dance together in the ballroom scene, and Paris places his hand on her thigh, all of the Juliets seem unpleasantly surprised by it. Lovette’s reaction is slightly different – she is immediately angered by it. And that little glimpse out of the corner of her eye was all that was necessary to reveal Juliet’s feisty temperament, and to 'set up' a clear contrast with her response to Paris’s identical conduct later in the ballet, during their dance together after she’s agreed to marry him. This time, she did not respond at all. But it wasn't that she didn't notice or wasn't paying attention: this Juliet would never have just 'not noticed' it. By that point she was emotionally numb and not feeling anything. There are many more examples, too numerous to set forth here. With Lovette, I expected nothing less than this kind of detail and emotional clarity.

Finlay, however, is tougher to predict. He always dances competently; at times (as with his Apollo) extraordinarily. And his stage presence is never an issue. But he also can appear wooden, not necessarily inappropriately so given the absence of an emotional component in many of Balanchine’s abstract pieces, but in a way that makes it appear as if he’s not engaged. Not so Saturday afternoon. His Romeo was the most complete of those I’ve previously seen, because to me he was the first to successfully fuse Martins’s conception of the innocent/dreamer Romeo with the killer who executes Tybalt and then Paris in fits of rage.

Where Finlay’s performance took Romeo to another level was in his partnering. For a variety of reasons, one would expect the partnering to be seamless and filled with emotion. And it was. But there was something else here, an edginess, a degree of risk-taking, that the two might not have done with other partners – particularly in the balcony scene.

Martins’s balcony scene comes nowhere near MacMillan’s in the ferocity of its passion or the complexity of its choreography. It’s on a smaller scale, too simple-looking, too repetitious. Even at its best, it doesn’t soar. With Lovette and Finlay, it did – because they added an emotional overlay and degree of calculated risk-taking that took the choreography to a higher level. Lovette nailed every unassisted turn up to the balcony scene. But there are two points during the balcony scene where Juliet turns en pointe slowly as if in ecstasy. The turn begins unassisted, with Romeo catching her in mid turn, keeping her line straight. In each of these turns, Lovette was slightly off center, and Finlay, each time, and in the nick of time, was there to rein her in. I initially thought this was a minor flaw in an otherwise flawless performance to that point, but with the second identical ‘flaw’, I began to think it was rehearsed – intentionally making those turns look more precarious, and Romeo’s secure rescue each time look more meaningful – as if she wasn’t just ecstatic, but in a romantic swoon. I’ve not seen (or noticed) this with any of the other pairs.

(Without advance knowledge that the scheduled cast would be the same as that on Saturday afternoon, I had also purchased a ticket to Sunday afternoon’s performance. But as that performance began, an announcement was made that Finlay would be replaced by Taylor Stanley. Stanley performed extraordinarily well (much improved over his portrayal two years ago), as did Lovette, again. And the two worked together very well – particularly remarkable since it’s my understanding that they had very little time to rehearse together. But with respect to the balcony scene partnering – that degree of risk-taking wasn’t there.)

Lovette and Finlay’s performance of this relatively mediocre scene took it to another dimension, one that the audience recognized. For the first time in eight “Romeo + Juliet” performances I’ve seen over the years, I could hear audience members near me exhale and sigh, and different people simultaneously murmuring in low, overwhelmed voices, ‘wow’.

Lovette and Finlay were not the only ones to deliver superlative performances. There were three other significant debuts, and more portrayals that were debuts the previous weekend.

The entire ‘team’ of Mercutio, Benvolio, and Tybalt debuted Saturday afternoon, and danced as if they’d been playing these roles for years. Harrison Ball played Mercutio with vitality and appropriate braggadocio, and Harrison Coll’s Benvolio was equally, but somewhat more cautiously, boisterous. Their individual strengths, however, were matched by their compatibility when they shared the stage. They worked very well together, and were as seamless together as Lovette and Finlay were. Sebastian Villarini-Velez was not as flashy a Tybalt as others in the role, and was somewhat less nasty and self-inflated – which fits Martins’s conception of the role. (But someone needs to fix the moment when Tybalt stabs Mercutio. In three performances this year, I never saw Tybalt’s dagger or sword actually connect with, or look like it connected with, Mercutio’s body. At each performance Mercutio’s fatal injury seemed to have been spontaneously generated.)

As Lord and Lady Capulet, Ask la Cour and Rebecca Krohn significantly improved their portrayals from the previous week. Lady Capulet here is a much less volatile, but more nuanced role here than it is in the MacMillan version, and Ms. Krohn makes the role believable. La Cour has tough shoes to fill – the original Lord Capulet in this production, Jock Soto, was unforgettable. But his portrayal on Saturday was far superior to his portrayal the previous week. Russell Janzen, who debuted last week as Paris, gave a particularly remarkable performance. In this production, Paris has a distinct personality – he’s a creep. But Janzen, who could just as easily have portrayed Romeo, gave Paris an appropriate air of nobility. His was by far the most distinctive and memorable Paris I’ve seen. As the Prince of Verona, Joshua Thew, who also debuted in his role last week, did a fine job as well, and was less flamboyant (but also less dramatic) than last week’s other debut in the role, Silas Farley. And Gwyneth Muller was a noteworthy Nurse, every bit as fine a portrayal as I’ve seen by other dancers on other occasions.

Except for Ms. Krohn, Mr. la Cour, and Mr. Janzen, each of these dancers is a member of NYCB’s corps.

Saturday’s entire performance was a moving visual and emotional experience. But with this cast, Act II was particularly extraordinary, and Lovette’s Act II is nothing short of miraculous. One can clearly see her, in the bedroom scene, at first angry with Romeo, pushing him away, resisting him, and then yielding to his apologies and entreaties. They all do that. But Lovette makes it look real, and the crypt scene was as emotionally draining as any I’ve seen, in any performance, in any production.

When the final curtain calls ended, I exited the theater interior with a generally hushed set of audience members. But two bunheads who looked to be about 15 years old couldn’t contain themselves. I overheard one say to the other: “That was amazing.” The other girl responded: “That was absurd it was so amazing. It was insane amazing.” Exactly.

And as if to punctuate the occasion, when we all walked outside, the sky was filled with white confetti.

Now where did I put that crystal ball?


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2015 10:36 pm 
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In the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay reviews the latter portion of the 2015 Winter Season.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2015 2:31 am 
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Robert Gottlieb reviews some later Winter Season performances in the New York Observer.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 7:45 pm 
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In the Washington Post, Sarah Kaufman reviews the Tuesday, April 7, 2015 performance of Balanchine's "Serenade," "Agon" and "Symphony in C" at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2015 11:28 am 
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Sarah Kaufman reviews the Wednesday, April 8, 2015 performance of Justin Peck's "Everywhere We Go," Peter Martins' "Symphonic Dances," Christopher Wheeldon's "This Bitter Earth" and Alexei Ratmansky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" at the Kennedy Center for the Washington Post.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Sat Apr 11, 2015 10:19 am 
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The Economist reviews the two Washington, D.C. programs at the Kennedy Center.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2015 9:26 pm 
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Carla Escoda reviews both of the Kennedy Center programs for the Huffington Post.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2015 12:25 pm 
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Broadway World previews the April 28 through June 7, 2015 Spring Season at the Koch Theatre in New York's Lincoln Center.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2015 12:39 pm 
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Alastair Macaulay reviews the Tuesday, April 28, 2015 opening performance of the 2015 Spring Season for the New York Times. The all-Balanchine program included Monumentum pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Concerto Barocco, The Four Temperaments and Episodes.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Sat May 02, 2015 11:32 am 
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In the New York Times, Roslyn Sulcas previews La Sylphide and Bournonville Variations, to be premiered as part of the May 7, 2015 Spring Gala.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Sat May 02, 2015 11:53 am 
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In the New York Times, Gia Kourlas reviews the Wednesday and Thursday, April 29-30, 2015 performances of Apollo, Square Dance, Le Tombeau de Couperin, Agon, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Symphony in Three Movements and Duo Concertant.

NY Times


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 5:22 pm 
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Alastair Macaulay previews the Thursday, May 7, 2015 performance of La Sylphide for the New York Times.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Thu May 07, 2015 9:58 am 
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Location: New Jersey
New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

May 2M, 3, 2015
Balanchine Black & White I
Monumentum pro Gesualdo
Concerto Barocco
Movements for Piano and Orchestra
Episodes
The Four Temperaments

Balanchine Black & White II
Apollo
Agon
Duo Concertant
Symphony in Three Movements


-- by Jerry Hochman

New York City Ballet began its Spring, 2015 season with two weeks of performances celebrating George Balanchine’s ‘Black & White’ ballets. This past fall, NYCB began its season with separate programs dedicated to Balanchine/Tchaikovsky and Balanchine/Stravinsky masterpieces, and I commented that full evenings devoted to one choreographer and one composer might have been too much of a good thing. The same holds true for a ‘festival’ of Balanchine’s Black & White ballets – no matter how good they may be, eleven nearly consecutive performances exclusively devoted to them is a little much.

More than that, Balanchine’s Black & White ballets, though concededly groundbreaking, are more cerebral than emotional, and – with a few exceptions – are more appreciated for their intellectual rigor than their ability to capture a viewer’s heart. And a season that begins with Monumentum/Movements fails to stir the soul as does a season that begins with Serenade.

Further, not all of Balanchine’s ‘Black & White’ ballets are ‘Black & White ballets’ in the sense generally understood to apply to the term. In Apollo, choreographed in 1928 for the Ballet Russes, the dancers are costumed in white. But Apollo is hardly a “Black and White” ballet to be considered in the same breath as, say, Concerto Barocco or Episodes – it has more in kinship with Balanchine’s “Orpheus,” or even “Prodigal Son” (which is long overdue to be returned to NYCB’s repertoire).

All that being said, it’s enlightening to see all these ballets in one place at one time, even though, unfortunately, they’re not presented in chronological order. Those ballets included in this series that spans most of the initial two weeks of the company’s spring season, in the order presented, are: Monumentum pro Gesualdo (1960) and Movements for Piano and Orchestra (1963), both to Stravinsky and both presented together since 1966, Concerto Barocco (1941), to J.S. Bach, Episodes(1959), to Webern, and The Four Temperaments (1946), to Hindemith (Program I); Apollo (1928), Agon (1957), Duo Concertant (1972), and Symphony in Three Movements (1972), all to Stravinsky (Program II); and Square Dance (1957, revised since), to Corelli and Vivaldi, Le Tombeau de Couperin (1975), to Ravel; and Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972) (Program III). All have been the subject of prior reviews.

What impresses me most about these pieces is – consistent with Balanchine’s genius – not how homogenous they are, but how different they are. And, if you blend in other ballets that Balanchine created in between these ‘black and whites’, how different they are from others as well. The common denominator, if there is one, is not that they’re Black & White, but (and ‘story’ ballets are the exception), how they collectively illustrate the evolution of Balanchine’s style, how they distill movement to its essence, and, how they translate the music to which they’re choreographed into visual terms and complement, reflect, and enhance the music.

Of those I saw this week, those ballets that are the most enduring to me are those that are generally agreed to be masterpieces: Apollo, Concerto Barocco, Agon, The Four Temperaments, Duo Concertant, and most of all Symphony in Three Movements. These ballets are known quantities.

At Sunday’s performance, Apollo was danced by Adrian Danchig-Waring, who had debuted in the role this past Wednesday at the program’s first performance. While it lacks a measure of excitement and does not yet match the superlative work in this ballet by his fellow principal Chase Finlay, who is injured and is not scheduled to dance it this season, Danchig-Waring puts his own stamp on the role, and it’s very well done. Danchig-Waring’s portrayal is not quite as god-like as others, but he conveys the essence of a god-in-training appropriately, and he visibly matures before the audience’s eyes – an essential element of any Apollo portrayal. [And, as an aside, isn’t it refreshing that, when the ‘usual’ leads are injured or otherwise occupied (Finlay, and Robert Fairchild on Broadway in An American In Paris), Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins gives opportunities to other dancers in the company rather than inviting guest artists who may already have danced the role.]

The three muses, Lauren Lovette as Calliope, Ashly Isaacs as Polyhymnia, and Tiler Peck as Terpsichore, have danced their roles before, and were uniformly excellent. Technically, Isaacs debuted in her role on Wednesday, but in fact these this casting represent a reunion of the three who danced the roles at a “Dancers’ Choice” program in 2011 (a program which, unfortunately, NYCB has abandoned in recent years), but Isaacs was unable to join Lovette and Peck in their “official” premieres last fall because of injury. Isaacs’s portrayal has gained considerable depth, and the performance of the three muses was remarkably well-balanced.

Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D Minor is a Baroque masterpiece. Among other things, the genius of Concerto Barocco, choreographed to Bach’s piece, is that there’s nothing particularly Baroque about it. Balanchine doesn’t just make the music come alive, he transforms it. The juxtaposition of contemporary (at the time, revolutionary) movement quality with the Baroque music creates a visual and aural feast, and it explains why Concerto Barocco has rarely been absent from NYCB’s repertoire. Seeing the corps translate Bach’s off-beat counterpoint (an antecedent of syncopation) is breathtaking, and watching the principals, here Teresa Reichlen and Sara Mearns, deliver their performances in perfect sync with the timing of the two violins, is watching Balanchine’s brilliance condensed and encapsulated.

But in order for the ballet to work, the timing must be impeccable, and while Saturday’s performance was an improvement over that of the same cast last fall, and Mearns was a little less dour, it still didn’t equal the best that I’ve seen NYCB do. Still, Concerto Barocco is one of many Balanchine landmark pieces worth seeing at any time.

Agon also did not receive the same level of quality that I’ve seen from NYCB previously. Particularly, I noted that the men generally appeared more stiff than usual. But with NYCB, the performances are at such a high level that such criticism is nitpicking. I particularly appreciated the work of Ashley Hod, a member of the corps, in one of the lead roles. Her performance was somewhat understated compared to her more experienced colleagues, but her execution was crisp and clear as a bell.

Sunday’s performance of Duo Concertant was a pleasant surprise. Balanchine’s Black & White ballets, among other things, are noteworthy for the dancers being relatively blank slates – stoic instruments of, and conduits for, Balanchine’s genius. That’s not entirely true, but Black & White ballets created the erroneous impression that NYCB dancers lacked acting ability. Regardless, even for a Black & White ballet, Duo Concertant is notable for requiring a measure of emotional gloss – which possibly is why I’ve loved it since I first saw it, with Martins and Kay Mazzo.

Ashley Bouder is a chameleon who seems to change moods as the role requires, and as a result doesn’t transmit a particular stage persona – admirably, she usually excels displaying whatever stage personality a particular role might require. However, Anthony Huxley is more problematic. He’s a supreme technician and classicist, and on his own he consistently performs at a high level. But his partnering has been suspect – he pays attention to his ballerina, but seems to have a difficult time interacting emotionally with her, and as a result an essential component of the partnership is lost. Duo Concertant requires that kind of stage relationship. And Huxley, who debuted in the piece on Wednesday, was relatively stone-faced at first, but he quickly warmed up to the role, and although not as warm or effusive as Bouder, did a fine job with the emotional, as well as technical, components.

The Four Temperaments and Symphony in Three Movements are two of my favorite Balanchine ballets. And although both are Black & White ballets, they’re very different. Commissioned by Balanchine, the Hindemith composition embodies musical expressions of the ancient belief in ‘four humours’ – melancholic, sanguinic, phlegmatic, and choleric – that formed the human personality. Balanchine’s ballet does the same visually, but also releases the humanity that to me is somewhat buried within the score. And the closing moments, as women are lifted by their partners, sequentially, and carried across the stage, could not better demonstrate the ability of a human being to be more than the sum of his/her parts. Visually, it’s nothing less than a paean to the nobility, and inherent divinity, of the human spirit.

Although he’s danced this role previously, this is the first time I’ve seen Gonzalo Garcia assay the opening ‘melancholic’ variation, and he exceeded my expectations (which is not intended as a backhanded compliment). Ana Sophia Scheller, back from a lengthy period of recuperation from an injury, and Tyler Peck smartly led the ‘sanguinic’ variation. Amar Ramassar handled the ‘phlegmatic’ variation brilliantly, but quite differently from Craig Hall, who I’ve seen dance the role on several prior but relatively recent occasions. Rather than appearing somewhat tortured and tormented, Ramasar was more a neutral presence. Nevertheless, his execution of the choreography was immaculate, and his reception by the audience following the performance indicates that he finally may be gaining the recognition he has long deserved. Bouder’s fiery ‘choleric’ variation completed the variations.

The ballet the stands out for sheer invention and dazzle is the final masterpiece among the two Black & White programs I saw, Symphony in Three Movements. Complex but never tortured, endlessly fascinating despite being devoid of emotional gloss, the piece a marvel of geometric variety with all forms in perfect harmony, propelled forward – but not controlled – by the rhythm of the score. The opening and closing images alone sear into the memory – the opening line of ballerinas in white leotards and tights stretching from upstage left to downstage right, appearing concurrently both linear and soft-edged (and which is echoed and reemphasized at the end of the first movement when the same line suddenly softens and the ballerinas Romantically twist and turn in sequence to face the opposite direction); and the closing visual symphony of angled arms and bodies – are visual miracles of stagecraft, but there’s much more choreographic creativity that fills the piece. I’ve previously written that it’s an Art Deco ballet; a Chrysler Building of a ballet, filled with circularity combined with angularity, in perfect harmony. And while this piece is categorized as a Black & White ballet, it includes not only the visual variety of the choreography that to some extent is absent in others, but color punctuation as well – the principal ballerinas wear leotards of red, salmon, and purple.

The lead dancers at Sunday’s performance, Erica Pereira and Daniel Ulbricht, Sterling Hyltin and Taylor Stanley, and Savannah Lowery and Sean Suozzi, shined, as did the 5/5 featured dancers and the 16 woman corps. In particular, Pereira and Ulbricht danced with sublime vitality (though not as obvious here as in other pieces, Pereira continues to ‘play off’ Ulbricht in a way that adds texture to the overall performance), and Hyltin was her usual glorious force of nature.

A few final notes: although I have not discussed Monumentum/Movementsor Episodes in any depth simply because, gems though they may be (and similar, in a way, to the miniature masterpieces of Joseph Cornell), they’re too rigorous for my taste. But the lead performances in each by the incomparable Maria Kowroski and Ask la Cour must be recognized for their brilliance. And among the stellar leads in Episodes, Jennie Somogyi reappeared following a serious on-stage injury over a year ago. I and others were convinced that, having then only recently returned from another injury, her career was done. Rumors of her dancing demise, however, were greatly exaggerated. Partnered by the extraordinarily capable Craig Hall, Somogyi, miraculously, looks and performs as if the injury was a mere hiccup.

edited 5/9 to correct some color references. Maybe I'm going color blind.


Last edited by balletomaniac on Sat May 09, 2015 5:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
PostPosted: Thu May 07, 2015 12:01 pm 
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In the New York Times, Michael Cooper previews the set designs by Susan Tammany for the May 7, 2015 opening of La Sylphide.

NY Times


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