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New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule
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Author:  balletomaniac [ Wed May 07, 2014 10:58 am ]
Post subject:  New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

New York City Ballet has announced its performance schedule for 2014-2015:

Fall – The opening night is the Fall Gala, featuring world premieres by Liam Scarlett, Justin Peck, and Troy Schumacher. Later in the season will be the world premiere of a new piece by Alexei Ratmansky.

The 'regular' season begins the next night, with a performance of “Serenade," “Mozartiana, “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux,” and “Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3.” Other programs include (but are not limited to) “Apollo,” “Monumentum”/”Movements”; “Duo Concertante,” “Agon;” “Donizetti Variations,” “La Sonnambula,” “Firebird;” “Chaccone,” “Interplay, 'Morgan;" “Everywhere We Go” (new Peck which premieres 4/8). The content of the Wendy Whelan farewell program on October 18 has not been announced.

Winter -- Highlights include the return of “The Goldberg Variations” and “Romeo + Juliet,” and another world premiere by Justin Peck, to music by Aaron Copland.

The season begins with “Serenade,” “Agon,” and “Symphony in C.” Other programs include (but are not limited to) “Symphonic Dances,” “The Cage,” “Andantino,” “Cortege Hongrois;” “La Valse;” “Concerto Barocco, “Square Dance;” "The Concert," “Harlequinade.”

Spring – Highlights include a new production of “La Sylphide” (not “Scotch Symphony” – “La Sylphide”), paired with “Bournonville Divertissements,” and a week of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The season begins with "Monumentum"/"Movements," "Concerto Barocco," "Episodes," and "The Four Temperaments."
Other programs include (but are not limited to) “Symphony in Three Movements,” "Hallelujah Junction," "Mercurial Maneuvers," and “West Side Story Suite.”

The complete schedule for the full year is available on the NYCB website.

Comment -- When I wrote, in my review of the first two performances of the Spring 2014 Season, that I'd prefer that every season begin with "Serenade," I did not yet know the schedule for 2014-2015. Cheers for bringing back "The Goldberg Variations," and for the return of "Romeo + Juliet" and the casting opportunities it provides for both leads. And apparently it wasn't for nothing that Ashley Bouder danced an excerpt from "La Sylphide" at the recent YAGP gala.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Sep 22, 2014 12:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

In the New York Times, Marina Harss previews Troy Schumacher's premiere, "Clearing Dawn," at the Tuesday, September 23, 2014 opening gala at the David H. Koch Theatre.

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Sep 23, 2014 10:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

In the New York Times, Roslyn Sulcas previews Wendy Whelan's farewell performance on October 18, 2014, including made-to-order new works from Christopher Wheeldon and Alexei Ratmansky.

NY Times

Author:  balletomaniac [ Wed Sep 24, 2014 10:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

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

September 23, 2014
Fall Gala: “Morgen”; “This Bitter Earth”; “Clearing Dawn” (Schumacher World Premiere)
“Funerailles” (Scarlett World Premiere); “Belles-Lettres” (Peck World Premiere)

-- by Jerry Hochman

New York City Ballet’s Fall 2014 Season began last night with its annual Fall Gala – the company’s seasonal effort to celebrate itself, to secure additional donations from upscale patrons, and to throw a knockout-looking party/dinner where these patrons can hobnob with knockout-looking dancers, while the hoi polloi squeezes through narrow passageways to get to their nosebleed seats. Sort of NYCB’s version of Upstairs/Downstairs. This year’s gala also continued NYCB’s focus on fashion, integrating haute couture with ballet costume design – each of the pieces on the program was costumed by a well-known contemporary fashion designer. The only difference from immediate past seasons is that this year’s ‘red carpet’ was purple, and encompassed much of the Lincoln Center plaza rather than just the DHK Theater outside wall.

But a Gala that’s catered to the well-heeled downstairs crowd and that’s an extension of Fashion Week is not a surprise, and is somewhat of a necessity. That the program also included superb dancing isn’t a surprise either: as I’ve observed previously, NYCB’s dancers, particularly its young principals and soloists, are performing at an extraordinarily high level. What was a pleasant surprise is that last night’s Gala consisted entirely of skillfully created and executed pieces by contemporary choreographers, and included two flat out fabulous world premieres : Justin Peck’s “Belles-Lettres” and Liam Scarlett’s” Funerailles.” Troy Schumacher’s “Clearing Dawn” was lighter and less complex than the other pieces on the program, and though it was a nice introduction to his choreography, it suffered by being on the same program with the other premieres.

“Belles-Lettres” is yet another triumph for Mr. Peck, a company soloist (who demonstrated his partnering skills earlier in the evening in Mr. Martins’s “Morgen”) and its newly appointed Resident Choreographer. The ballet is complex on choreographic and intellectual levels, thrilling to watch evolve, lovely to look at, and endlessly entertaining. It’s Mr. Peck’s tightest piece to date, and – even given the justifiable success of his “Year of the Rabbit” (2012) and last season’s “Everywhere We Go”-- his best work. So far.

Mr. Peck’s choice of title could not have been accidental. Belles-Lettres is a term used to describe a particularly artistic form of writing that is particularly beautiful and/or pleasing, and is often associated with writing that sings of poetry and romance. The term also brings to mind the phrase “belle epoque,” descriptive of a period in Europe from the early 1870s to the beginning of World War I characterized by peace and prosperity, and a golden age of the arts. The piece’s accompanying score is an untitled chamber music composition, “Solo de piano avec accompagnement de quintette à cordes en mi majeur,” Opus 10, by Cesar Franck, a Belgian/French composer of the late Romantic and ‘Belle Epoque’ musical eras, which shows both Romantic influences (Franck was reportedly influenced by Franz Liszt, among others) and a ‘cyclic form’, a manner of repeating themes during the course of a work, that characterized his later pieces. The music is both passionate and lyrical, as is Mr. Peck’s ballet, which is very much of the same period. “Belles-Lettres” is an Art Nouveau ballet.

The Romantic/Art Nouveau/Belle Epoque feeling is given additional emphasis by the Victorian/French lacy designs on the costumes by Mary Katrantzou. The dresses on the ballerinas look like they were lifted from lithographs of the era (Alphonse Mucha in particular) – they’re lovely. (The same approach for the men didn’t work as well – they’re darker and come across as lazy, mottled mosaics, and looked more clownish than Klimptish.)

And there’s a theme to “Belle-Lettres’ that sort of fits this stylistic background. Greek revival architecture was a dominant style in the late nineteenth century, but a fascination with Greek culture during the belle epoque period wasn’t limited to architecture. (Curiously, in his later years, Franck composed a symphonic poem, “Psyche,” based on the Greek myth). In his ballet, the underlying theme is somewhat Dionysian, a celebration of affection, love and passion, with a central controlling Cupid/Eros-like character who gives the gift of affection, love and passion to the couples. This is not a cutesy ‘Don Q’ Amor, but a feisty god/spirit who gives his gifts freely, at one point transmitting his gift by fingertip touching, with the couples responding as if blessed.

But whether there’s a conscious style, or conscious theme, is not critical to appreciating Mr. Peck’s ballet. It works as a beautiful plotless piece, held together by passion and the Puck-like character around which everything else happens. Mr. Peck begins his ballet with his four couples, Lauren Lovette and Jared Angle, Ashley Laracey and Adrian Danchig-Waring, Brittany Pollack and Taylor Stanley, and Rebecca Krohn and Tyler Angle, dancing in circular celebration, surrounding a central figure, Anthony Huxley. At one point they sit and each dancer raises a leg and they touch their feet together as if they were collectively lighting a central torch. The image is repeated later. In the interim, the couples dance together, separately, around Mr. Huxley or with him, in varying patterns and shapes. There is no way to describe what Mr. Peck has accomplished here that does it justice – it sounds repetitive, but nothing is repetitious. It looks different from moment to moment, and Mr. Peck pulls patterns and repeating images out of nowhere, as if from thin air, utilizing every corner of the stage. It is a delicate, passionate, visual feast, culminating with the women returning to the stage with their hair down, ready to move to the next stage in the celebration. No one dancer stood out from the other couples – they all were top notch – except for Mr. Huxley, whose strengths as an extraordinarily capable solo dancer are utilized perfectly in this piece. Susan Walters was the accomplished piano soloist.

Although they’re nothing like each other, Mr. Scarlett’s “Funerailles” and Mr. Peck’s “Belles-Lettres” have a common thread – passion. Choreographed to “Funerailles” from “Harmonies poetiques et religieuses” by Franz Liszt, the ballet, a duet for Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild to a piano solo vibrantly played by Elaine Chelton, the piece takes awhile to get going, but once it does, it’s memorable. I had an immediate sense that this was a couple that had been through hell – perhaps this was happening in the wake of the failed French Revolution, after hope had long disappeared, and the couple was spent, tired and resigned. The costumes, by Sarah Burton, were of that era – a long frilly gown in black with gold trim for Ms. Peck that looked not so much dressy and opulent as tattered and now superfluous. Parts of it looked empty, as if the fabric had been torn off. Mr. Fairchild was outfitted in a late 18th/early 19th century jacket, also black with gold trim, which also looked somewhat disheveled, as if it had seen better days, and he wore no underlying shirt – as if it had been lost somewhere during the revolution and its aftermath. Another way to look at the couple is as if she were a ‘Camille’ figure, who had given up, and who her partner was desperately trying to keep alive. (It sounds somewhat like Manon in the Bayou, but the choreography is very different, and there's no stage set.) Regardless, it’s a pas de deux of heartache and passionate desperation; a ‘flames of Paris’ after the revolution was over, or after the ball was done.

Again, however, and as with Mr. Peck’s piece, whether there is a ‘theme’ doesn’t really matter. Mr. Scarlett creates characters who evolve throughout the course of the duet, from people left with nothing, to Mr. Fairchild’s efforts to revive and rekindle whatever passion there used to be, to Ms. Peck’s awakening and eventual return of passion, to her recognition of the futility of it all, to Mr. Fairchild’s refusal to accept her resignation, as he carries her off. The choreography and partnering are intricate and spell-binding, and Ms. Peck and Mr. Fairchild provided another demonstration of why they are two of the finest dancers of their generation anywhere.

Mr. Schumacher’s piece is playful and cute, but of little consequence. Six dancers, Ashley Bouder, Claire Kretzschmar, Georgina Pazcoguin, David Protas, Teresa Reichlen, and Andrew Veyette, first appear unidentifiable, covered by oversized coats (from my vantage point they looked like thick, nondescript school graduation gowns), and move about the stage like sedated bears. Then suddenly this outer garb is lifted up to the ceiling – a nifty bit of stagecraft – revealing the dancers as ‘kids’ – college kids, perhaps – dressed in ridiculous outfits (vertically striped short cheerleader-like skirts for the women, short pants for the men, all in varying shades of grey, and each with a jacket that looked like the upper half of a drab business suit). The costumes, by Thom Browne, contributed to the ‘school uniform’ sense, and were definitely eye-catching, but in a way that made them look more curious than appealing. It appeared to me that these ‘kids’, after their formal ‘gowns’ were lifted, were figuratively letting their hair down and being themselves. But it was all rather pointless and dull -- except for a brief but wonderful solo for Mr. Veyette (at a point when the music, by Judd Greenstein, seemed particularly derivative of Philip Glass, and the choreography an attempt to outdo Twyla Tharp). But this was Mr. Schumacher’s company debut as a choreographer, and even if it lacked a sense of importance, it displayed underlying competence and promise.

The evening opened with Mr. Martins’s “Morgen,” a revival of his 2001 ballet for three women and three men (Sterling Hyltin, Maria Kowroski, Sara Mearns, Ask la Cour, Amar Ramasar, and Mr. Peck). The dancers are paired off, but there are nine segments of waltzes by Richard Strauss, and the dancers change partners, never dancing a segment with the same partner twice, until the coda. To me this is of no significance – the couples are not pairs, just representative of couples, each dancing intricately, and wickedly choreographed duets. I had not previously seen “Morgen,” and to me it’s one of Mr. Martins’s finer pieces, displaying not only his underappreciated choreographic skill, but also showing his dancers off to advantage. And the costumes, by Carolina Herrera, were the most successful of the night – each appropriately evocative of the passionate romanticism of the Strauss music and the equally romantic moonlit pillared portico designed by Alain Vaes. To me, the super partnering by the men was the glue that held this piece together, but the ballerinas got to show off. Ms. Kowroski still has an extension that goes on for miles, and a delivery that maintains its intensity despite facial emotional vacancy. Ms. Mearns was vibrant and lovely, with a smoldering passion that could light fires. And Ms Hyltin is lighter than air, with a spine made of a rubber band rather than vertebrae, and she doesn't so much dance as flies. Her performance added that quality of controlled bravado and breathtaking excitement to her usual impressive expressionism, executing leaps that defy gravity and anatomy, and which make her consistently appear to be dancing larger than life.

The program included a repeat performance of Christopher Wheeldon’s “This Bitter Earth,” an excerpt from a larger ballet: “Five Movements, Three Repeats.” I thought it was a brilliant, gripping piece when I first saw it (at the ‘Valentino Gala’ several seasons ago), and still do, and it is one of those rare pas de deux that looks better on its own than it does within the larger piece. But I suspect it wasn’t added to the program just because it’s another excellent example of contemporary choreography. It was again performed exquisitely by Wendy Whelan and Tyler Angle, - and this is Ms. Whelan’s final season with NYCB. Not including Ms. Whelan on the program would have been unthinkable, and this piece is a fine vehicle for her. The thunderous applause for her at the piece’s conclusion is just the first of many that will follow her performances this season.

edited 9/29 to eliminate a couple of egregious typos

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Sep 24, 2014 4:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

In the Financial Times, Apollinaire Scherr reviews the Tuesday, September 23, 2014 gala performance, including three premieres by Troy Schumacher, Justin Peck and Liam Scarlett.

Financial Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Sep 25, 2014 11:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

Alastair Macaulay reviews the Tuesday, September 23, 2014 opening night gala for the New York Times.

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Sep 26, 2014 11:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

In the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay reviews the all Balanchine/Tchaikovsky mixed bill on Wednesday, September 24, 2014: "Serenade," "Mozartiana," "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" and "Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3."

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Sep 27, 2014 11:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

In the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay reviews the Thursday, September 25, 2014 performance of Balanchine/Stravinsky works: "Apollo," "Movements for Piano and Orchestra," "Monumentum pro Gesualdo," "Agon" and "Duo Concertant."

NY Times

Author:  balletomaniac [ Sun Sep 28, 2014 1:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

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

September 24, 25, 2014
“Serenade;” “Mozartiana;” “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux;” “Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3”
“Apollo;” “Monumentum Pro Gesualdo;” “Movements for Piano and Orchestra;”
“Duo Concertant;” “Agon”

-- by Jerry Hochman

New York City Ballet began its regular Fall 2014 season with two programs that were, for those who attend ballet performances religiously, about as close to heaven as it gets: an evening devoted to Balanchine and Stravinsky, and another to Balanchine and Tchaikovsky. Milk and honey. This is the beginning of NYCB’s second fifty years at Lincoln Center, and although the formal anniversary performance took place last spring, these performances represented the fifty-year commemoration and celebration of NYCB’s artistic heritage.

That the first of these two programs opened with NYCB’s signature “Serenade” and the other with NYCB’s signature “Apollo” was icing on the cake. Beginning each Fall/Spring performance year with these two beloved classics seems so emotionally appropriate that perhaps the powers that be will decree that it be a NYCB season-beginning tradition from this point forward.

I must confess, however, that I found the performances of these two ballets, each of which I would see nightly in a heartbeat, to be a bit disappointing – not with respect to any performing deficiency, but solely because the leads in each didn’t fit my image of perfection.

“Serenade,” the first original ballet that Balanchine created in America, is one of those miracles for which one should give thanks daily. The corps is a dominant ingredient in “Serenade,” but even when the execution by the corps is ever so slightly off, as it was on Tuesday (and which is not unusual for a first performance of the season, probably without sufficient rehearsal time), it’s still the stuff that makes one’s soul sing. What made the piece somewhat less than heaven-sent for me was Sara Mearns as the ‘lead’ among leads, the one who is hoisted aloft at the ballet’s conclusion. She did nothing wrong – her execution was immaculate. And her melancholy air is fitting in this context. But to me, this character needs a quality of emotional and physical frailty that makes her loss, whatever that loss is, more gripping, and her redemption/apotheosis more of an ethereal experience. Ms. Mearns’s solid stage presence didn’t work for me.

The ‘supporting leads’ in “Serenade” danced flawlessly, and their stage presence reinforced the choreographic current. Teresa Reichlen was a dominant but sympathetic ‘angel of death’ presence, and Sterling Hyltin’s welcome natural lightness and speed provided all the fresh air and freedom of spirit that the stage needed. Jared Angle and Adrian Danchig-Waring were the stalwart partners.

The performance of “Apollo” on Thursday night was notable for its formal debut of two of Apollo’s muses: Tiler Peck as Terpsichore, and Lauren Lovette as Calliope. But listing these performances as debuts is misleading: each danced these roles at a Dancers’ Choice performance on June 12, 2011. At the time, I had assumed that Ms. Peck had assayed the role previously, and in a subsequent review credited her with a ‘routinely’ brilliant performance, and left it at that. Though more measured than her usual vivacious performances in other roles, that’s the choreography, and she danced equally brilliantly in her formal debut as Terpsichore as she did in her informal one.

But Lauren Lovette, then still new to the company, was shockingly good at that Dancers’ Choice performance, and still is. (Apparently, NYCB has since abandoned these ‘Dancers’ Choice’ programs. That’s unfortunate.) As I wrote then, Ms. Lovette made Calliope important. In Thursday’s cast, with Ashley Bouder impeccably (if a bit stoically) dancing Polyhymnia, Ms. Lovette’s performance is more balanced in context. But she still stands out. Her Calliope is now a muse with character, and the one of the three with the most personality. Like the other muses, she makes every effort to impress Apollo, but unlike the others, she doesn’t take Apollo’s apparent indifference lightly. Her Calliope is intelligent and calculating; she demands to be noticed – and it’s impossible not to. Part of that is the role, being a somewhat coquettish muse goes with the territory – but part of it is also Ms. Lovette, who injects her radiant and mercurial personality, where appropriate, into everything she dances. Some time ago, I advised that interested readers should see Ms. Lovette before she realizes that she’s ‘got it’. She realizes it now, but her stage personality hasn’t changed, and her performances are still magical.

I’ve written previously that Robert Fairchild is one of the best dancers performing today – anywhere. But he’s an ‘everyman’. If any male audience member could envision himself as a world class dancer, he might likely see himself as Mr. Fairchild. He’s one of us. He’s human. And though there was nothing in his execution of Apollo that was wrong – on the contrary, every move he made was right and every nuance that needed to be there was there – something youthful and majestic and godlike was missing. Mr. Fairchild's humanity makes his Apollo just a bit too human.

The concluding ballets on each program, “Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3” and “Agon,” are different kinds of masterpieces, and perhaps better than any other dances, illustrate the relationship between Balanchine and Tchaikovsky, and Balanchine and Stravinsky, and the impact of each on an audience.

To those accustomed to Balanchine/Stravinsky black-and-white collaborations, the grandly romantic Tchaikovsky music may seem antithetical to Balanchine’s vision of neo-classical ballet. To this viewer, however, the Balanchine/Tchaikovsky collaborations (in spirit, if not in person) show not only that there is no incompatibility between the Balanchine aesthetic and Tchaikovsky’s grand romanticism, but also that the impact of Balanchine style on Tchaikovsky’s music was an even more stunning accomplishment. The masterpieces that Balanchine choreographed to later Stravinsky scores were independently groundbreaking, but ‘looking different’ was a natural consequence of the score ‘sounding different’. The Balanchine/Tchaikovsky collaboration allowed the audience to see music with which they were already familiar and comfortable in a more contemporary visual way. Balanchine’s collaboration with Stravinsky (particularly later Stravinsky) appeals to an audience’s heads. Balanchine’s collaboration with Tchaikovsky appeals to an audience’s hearts.

“Agon” is molded upon certain mid-17th Century French dances with exotic-sounding names (eg., Sarabande; Gailliard) that are of little significance to the average balletgoer. It’s also plotless, with little hint of any emotional relationship between the dancers. Consequently, there’s an inherent distance to it that must be bridged if the piece is to be meaningful to an audience. The genius of “Agon” is that even though there’s no emotional interaction in the usual sense, and even though the movement quality looks as different as the music might have sounded to 1957 audiences, when the ballet premiered, the dancers are not moving merely as bodies in space – there’s a relationship of some sort between them that tells a ‘story’ without any semblance of plot – just by the structure and balance of the ballet, and the tension created by the physical interaction of the dancers’ bodies.

Thursday’s performance, led by Maria Kowroski and Amar Ramasar, Rebecca Krohn and Andrew Veyette, Lauren King and Devin Alberda, and Ashley Laracey and Daniel Applebaum, was up to NYCB’s usual high standards. They were strong performances all around, particularly by Ms. King (another one of NYCB’s magnificent young soloist ballerinas) in her role debut, and by Ms. Kowroski and Mr. Amasar, for whom electrifying performances are a routine day at the stage office.

For all its magnificence, “Agon” is a cerebral ballet, one to think about and appreciate, but not necessarily to love. “Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3” is a different matter.

Many consider “Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3” too saccharine. I’m not one of them. The piece is more than just good visual company that one might want to wrap up and take home. It’s a representative synthesis of the grandeur of the Balanchine/Tchaikovsky collaboration, and a progression of sorts applying neoclassicism to classic themes. That it’s accessible to an audience and easy to love is a bonus.

In one sense, stylistically, “Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3” brings two prongs of the collaboration together. The opening section, ‘Elegie,’ is a direct descendant of “Serenade.” The movement quality is the same; the style is the same, and the hands-outstretched, palms out posture stopping the dreamer from approaching, look like out-takes from “Serenade.” The ‘Theme and Variations’ movement is a direct descendant of “Ballet Imperial.”

But ‘Suite No. 3’ also displays a ‘progression’ in more profound ways. For example, the first movement, ‘Elegie,’ in which the poet/daydreamer searches for his idealized woman much as Prince Siegfried searches for Odette, has perhaps the most emotional content, and is representative of dream sequences common to Romantic ballets. ‘Valse Melancolique’, danced by the girls in ballet slippers (after having been barefoot in ‘Elegie’) is a more intricate, moody, and varied section choreographically (and musically): a little dream, a little drama. And ‘Scherzo’, while still danced by the girls with long hair and gossamer skirts, is danced in toe shoes and at top speed and with virtually no emotional gloss. Though it stands on its own (and looks different from the other three sections), ‘Tema con Variazioni’ is the ‘final‘ progression – no more emotional content than is provided naturally in the pas de deux, yet fully classical in appearance, from tutus to toe shoes, and neoclassical in style. And the ballet is neatly tied together as a collective tribute to ‘Tchaikovskian’ Russian grandeur, and Balanchine’s artistic heritage, by the majestic, illuminated chandeliers (nearly hidden in the Romantic cloud-haze of the first three movements; clear as a bell in ‘Theme’) that watch over the entire piece like inanimate imperial fairy godmothers.

At Thursday’s performance, the lead couples in each of the sections are experienced, and delivered superlative performances. Rebecca Krohn and Ask La Cour were the dreamy dream love and dreamer; Abi Stafford and Justin Peck led the more dramatic ‘Valse Melancolique’, and Erica Pereira and Antonio Carmena reprised their rapid-fire ‘Scherzo’. But the performances of Ms. Peck and Joaquin De Luz in ‘Theme and Variations’ was particularly stellar, with Ms. Peck delivering an extraordinary performance, one that impossibly blended speed with phrasing, and that somehow stayed a millisecond ahead of the rapturous NYCB-style fiery orchestral pace of conductor Clotilde Otranto.

In between the opening and closing pieces, Wednesday’s program included two more Tchaikovsky masterworks, “Mozartiana” and “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.”

“Mozartiana,” is somewhat problematic for me. When I first saw it (Balanchine initially choreographed to this music in 1933, but created the current ballet in 1981), I found it too reverential, and too mournful. Despite the presence of children (from the School of American Ballet), I couldn’t get excited about it. Then last year I saw Ms. Hyltin in the role, and her different interpretation, almost celebratory, opened my eyes, and made me see the piece differently. I’ve seen Maria Kowroski dance the lead previously, and although her technique remains ridiculously astonishing, her performances have left me cold. Perhaps I missed something that was always there, or perhaps Ms. Hyltin’s reevaluation has taken root, but Ms. Kowroski’s performance on Wednesday was marvelous in every respect, and particularly in the ‘Theme and Variations’ movement, attentively partnered by Tyler Angle. She seemed to be thoroughly enjoying herself, and the enjoyment was contagious.

In this same performance, Daniel Ulbricht danced his usual spirited ‘Gigue’, and the ‘Menuet’ was led by Marika Anderson, Emily Kikta, Gwyneth Muller, and a particularly vibrant Megan Johnson.

Ms. Bouder and Gonzalo Garcia followed with a fine performance of the ”Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.” Each performed this justifiably thrilling pas de deux with appropriate flourish, and Mr. Garcia, who threatened to lose it at various points, somehow consistently managed to pull his form and his strength back together.

The middle pieces of the Stravinsky evening on Thursday were ‘Monumentum/Movments’ and “Duo Concertant.” After initially disliking it as too academic, I’ve grown to appreciate ‘Monumentum/Movements’ more in the ensuing years. And Teresa Reichlin, whom I’ve never before seen in these paired ballets, gave the central ballerina roles a welcome softer edge than I’ve seen previously. Mr. La Cour was her able partner in both pieces. Alan Moverman was ‘Movements’ piano soloist.

I’ve saved “Duo Concertant” for last because it is the exception to the rule – it’s one of the Balanchine/Stravinsky collaborations that audiences emotionally love. Although it wears its heart on its sleeve, “Duo Concertant” is far more than a simple romantic pas de deux. The dancers both reflect, and are independent of, the piano and violin (capably played by Nancy McDill and Arturo Delmoni) that inspire them to dance, and in some respects they’re visual metaphors that personify the sounds and the image of the two instruments as they’re being played. Seeing the female lead raise her arm up toward her partner at the conclusion of the piece’s brilliantly-staged closing moment, reaching out in love but also as if she were grasping the violin’s neck, is one of those rare epiphanous moments that is so perfect it takes your breath away.

And perfect as well were the performances by Ms. Hyltin and Chase Finlay. Each of the dancers I’ve seen in these roles with NYCB performs it well, but Thursday’s performance was particularly special. After only three days, Ms. Hyltin can already be seen as having a fabulous season, and the intelligence she brings to any role is particularly evident here. Mr. Finlay is still growing artistically, but his progress is evident. That he can be a believable, youthful, and majestic Apollo (a role he’s scheduled to reprise later this season) is not a surprise. But that he can also, at this early point in his career, display the engaging human warmth that resonates throughout his performance in “Duo Concertant” (drawn out, to be sure, by Ms. Hyltin’s incandescence) is quite a pleasant surprise.

These were two superb evenings of ballet. I could be hyper critical (and heretical) and complain that having evenings devoted exclusively to superficially similar Tchaikovsky pieces on one night and superficially similar Stravinsky pieces on another is too much of a good thing. But I won’t. If its opening night gala and these two evenings are an indication, it’s going to be a particularly sweet NYCB year.

Author:  balletomaniac [ Wed Oct 01, 2014 8:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

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

September 30, 2014
The Great NYCB Fire
Balanchine/Tchaikovsky Program; cast changes

-- by Jerry Hochman

New York City ballet gave a particularly fiery performance of its “Balanchine/Tchaikovsky” program last night – particularly fiery because there was a fire that caused the evacuation of the theater, including the rehearsal/dressing areas, prior to the performance.

At around 6:45 p.m., fire alarms began going off in the theater. They were ignored, but they kept going. Eventually, at around 7:05 (the performance was scheduled to begin at 7:30), those audience members who had already entered the theater were ushered out, joining the throng of balletgoers waiting to get in. As I exited, I heard fire trucks approaching the theater, turning onto 62nd street, by the side (stage) entrance. The dancers had already exited – many in make up for the performance – and waited en masse outside the stage door area, inadvertently providing a relatively festive show before the show, with at least one dancer doing a barre on a stairway railing, and others just trying to keep warm (Peter Martins somewhat giddily wrapped a jacket around one of the ballerina’s shoulders).

By 7:30 the dancers, and attendees, were allowed back into the theater. I was told by various sources that the alarm may have been caused by smoke coming from and electrical source, but no formal cause was announced.

The performance itself began at 8 p.m., and the program, previously reviewed, was marked by several cast changes and debuts. In “Serenade,” Sterling Hyltin assumed the central role, the ‘lead among leads’ as I described it previously, and the one minor criticism I had of her performance in her debut in the role last year has disappeared. She gave the role life – and in the ‘Elegy’, a memorable ‘death and apotheosis’ with the ethereality that prompts an audience’s sighs. As the ‘angel of death’, Rebecca Krohn gave a deeply emotional performance (rather than the somewhat stoic portrayal I’ve seen), marred only by being hidden, at times, behind her partner, Ask la Cour. In a role debut, Savannah Lowery executed the third ‘lead’ ballerina role with appropriate vibrancy and technical skill, but I kept thinking, given her height and more solid appearance, she and Ms. Krohn should have switched roles.

“Mozartiana” was led by Sara Mearns, in a role debut, and Chase Finlay. Ms. Mearns’s performance overall lacked the polish, awesome extensions, and vivacity of Maria Kowroski's portrayal last week, but in other respects was a strong debut. Mr. Finlay did a fine job, but to me seemed somewhat disengaged from Ms. Mearns. Anthony Huxley excelled in the 'Gigue', as he usually does dancing solo. The four young dancers in the cast, from the School of American Ballet, repeated their flawless performances and should be credited. They were Esme Cosgrove, Natalie Glassie, Shelby Mann, and Rommie Tomasini. Tiler Peck and Joaquin De Luz followed with yet another scintillating performance of the “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.”

The concluding piece, “Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3,” received very strong performances in the first, three-part section, as if the dancers, bottled up backstage a little longer than usual because of the fire delay, performed with added fire in their steps to compensate. In the opening ‘Elegie,’ Russell Janzen, in a role debut, joined Teresa Reichlen, and both gave memorable, sensuous portrayals. Mr. Janzen was top notch, and Ms. Reichlen, energized, delivered a particularly moving, emotion-filled execution. Ashley Laracey and Taylor Stanley, both in role debuts, led the ‘Valse Melancolique’ movement. Ms. Laracey, who has exploded since her promotion to soloist last year, delivered a thrilling performance, filled with appropriate expression and dynamism. It was a brilliant debut. Mr. Stanley executed with finesse, but was considerably more careful than Ms. Laracey, and had some problems keeping her centered during partnered turns – in part, I think, because Ms. Laracey danced with such abandon. And in the final, ‘Scherzo’, Erica Pereira and Daniel Ulbricht led with flourish. This is one of Ms. Pereira’s finest roles, and last night she was particularly blazing, looking each time she blasted onto the stage as if she’d been fired out of cannon.

The ‘Tema Con Variazonei’ movement, led by Ashley Bouder and Gonzalo Garcia, while very capably done, was not quite as successful. Ms. Bouder delivered her usual energetic and technically accomplished performance, but until the closing section she added a sense of angst that to me was inappropriate. I appreciate Ms. Bouder’s attempt to interpret the more subdued music in this manner, but it didn’t look right here – she looked mournful and in pain until the piece had nearly concluded. Mr. Garcia is the little engine that could. He tries so hard that one wants to overlook the lack of polish. But last night, at the end of the piece, Mr. Garcia seemed to run out of gas, and appeared somewhat wobbly and disoriented. That he was nevertheless able to lift Ms. Bouder onto his shoulders seemed a small miracle, and is a tribute to his pluck.

The orchestra throughout was led again by Clotilde Otranto, at her usual blistering NYCB pace – perhaps even more fiery than usual. During the final curtain calls, Ms. Otranto and the orchestra were saluted with applause that seemed to me to be even more exuberant than what greeted the dancers. It was well-deserved.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Oct 02, 2014 12:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

In the New York Observer, Robert Gottlieb reviews the Fall Gala performance, the Balanchine/Stravinsky program and the Balanchine/Tchaikovsky program.

NY Observer

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Oct 03, 2014 11:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

In the New York Times, Roslyn Sulcas interviews Wendy Whelan.

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Oct 04, 2014 11:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

In the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay reviews the Thursday, October 2, 2014 premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's "Pictures at an Exhibition."

NY Times

Author:  balletomaniac [ Sat Oct 04, 2014 1:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

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

October 2, 2014
“Morgen,” “This Bitter Earth,” “Clearing Dawn,” “Funerailles,” “Belles-Lettres,”
“Pictures at an Exhibition” (Ratmansky world premiere)

-- by Jerry Hochman

Last night, New York City Ballet repeated its ‘Gala’ program, which I previously reviewed, and since there was no gala dinner to race off to, had time to add yet another new ballet to the three on the gala program – the world premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Another view reinforced my initial opinions of each of the three previously-seen new pieces, and, as I’ll describe later, Mr. Ratmansky’s new ballet is a very fine and intriguing work.

In the first instance, however, credit should be given to NYCB and its Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins for the audacity of presenting four world premiere ballets in a span of nine days (the company will add a New York premiere piece, choreographed by former principal Jean-Pierre Frohlich, now one of its ballet masters, on October 15). It’s been a mini-New Combinations Festival. That three out of four of these world premieres are successes (the exception being Troy Schumacher’s “Clearing Dawn,” but even that shows the promise of a nascent choreographer), is all the more remarkable. To be sure, these are not all full evening works, or even full ‘third-of-an-evening’ works, but that’s not the point.

With rare exception, new ballets – unless they’re acquisitions that have already passed muster elsewhere – are a form of Russian roulette. Sometimes they work well, but more often they don’t. And NYCB has had more than its share of disappointing new pieces in recent years (though that doesn’t distinguish it from other companies). But new ballets are the lifeblood of any company, and notwithstanding its remarkable heritage and active legacy repertoire, new ballets are essential to keep NYCB, or any company from ossifying. And NYCB is particularly emphatic about adding new ballets to its programs, for better or worse. In the course of filmed comments prior to last week’s Gala, Mr. Martins stated that NYCB is “a company that takes chances," and these four world premieres in one brief period within one relatively brief season is evidence of that. The company, and Mr. Martins, deserves to be recognized and saluted for its continuing effort to ‘take chances’, even though audiences may not always appreciate the results.

Mr. Ratmansky is nothing if not unpredictable, and it frequently takes awhile to see where he’s going. “Pictures at an Exhibition” is no different.

For its first minute or two, I disliked it intensely because it bore no resemblance to what I’d expected, and looked downright silly. But then it clicked. It’s not a ‘perfect’ ballet – whatever that is; and, unfortunately, its weakest point is its concluding movement. The rest of it, however, is inspired, and illustrates Mr. Ratmansky’s characteristic cerebral qualities and irreverent sense of humor. And as I’ll mention below, it’s also a piece of considerable artistic significance.

My understanding of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” is as a casual listener, not an expert. To me, the composition, completed in 1874, is a monumental work – not ponderous, but certainly imposing. But I’ve only heard the orchestral arrangement. For his accompanying score, Mr. Ratmansky has used the piano concerto version – which I now understand was Mussorgsky’s original format. To the ear, this form makes the composition sound light and relatively inconsequential – at least compared to what I’d anticipated. And then there were the costumes. The multicolored outfits worn by the men, which appeared to be unitards, were ok, but the women were costumed in irregularly colored, flimsy, tent-like garments loosely covering underlying off-white leotards and tights – but only down to their hips. These outer coverings looked like diaphanous mini muumuus, or rejected negligee from a Victoria’s Secret catalogue, and made the women appear like oversized children in a playground.

Then the genius of this piece became evident. First, the ‘pictures’ at this exhibition are not the ‘heavy’ classical hangings one might see in museum galleries, but examples of modern art that generally appear ‘lighter’, though not necessarily without substance. The lighter musical format of Mussorgsky’s composition fits such images (and, without the orchestral starch, fit the paintings of Viktor Hartman, who Mussorgsky was honoring with this composition a year following Hartmann’s death). The background projection, designed by Wendall K. Karrington, shows various take-offs on such ‘modern art’. Not heavy expressionistic works, but lighter-looking abstract expressionist pieces. I saw images projected on the screen that brought to mind – in their emphasis on points and lines and circles that look like amorphous cheerios – those by Wassily Kandinsky in particular (a Russian-born abstract artist whose life somewhat overlapped that of Mussorgsky, but they were not contemporaries), and also Paul Klee. (The projected images may have been reproductions of ‘real’ paintings by these artists, but I couldn’t tell for sure). But the images conveyed were not limited to early 20th century European abstract expressionism. I also saw what looked like representations in the style of Franz Kline, and Joan Miro, among others. At one point, as the images seemed to become elevated and reduced in size almost to celestial points of light, I sensed Mark Tobey. Then I came to see the costumes, by Adeline Andre, as visualizations of the pastel ‘floating color blocks’ that characterize certain pieces by Mark Rothko. And the women’s bodies were blank canvasses, on which the color in the flimsy fabric floated and danced.

The pictures at this exhibition were not only communicated by the musical format, the projected images, and the costumes, but by Mr. Ratmansky’s choreographed steps that brought the music to life, and also embodied the spirit of the paintings on exhibition (the projection changed from movement to movement, and at times morphed within a movement). The dancers were the music. And the dancers were the pictures on exhibition. And they were also dancers giving remarkably vibrant performances.

As in the composition, each movement, each ‘picture’, is bracketed by the ‘Promenade’ theme that also opens and concludes the piece (at times a separate-sounding movement; at other times a short ‘introduction’ to another picture – as if the next picture was in the same museum gallery, or only a brief walk away). Each ‘Promenade’ is different, with a different composition of dancers. And each dance segment, each picture, has its own personality. The first ‘picture’, “The Gnome’, was a solo performed by Sara Mearns. After the initially perplexing ‘Promenade’ (before I figured out what was happening – as I’ve said many times, I’m a little slow), Ms. Mearns’s solo was a brilliant visualization of the music. She was part elf spirit, part mercurial gust of wind; a whirl of stops, starts, and unpredictable movement. Ms. Mearns handled the dynamic choreography flawlessly, and with no emotional gloss. Her performance was uncharacteristically exhilarating.

An overall sense of airiness and good humor was pervasive – although it was punctuated by the more ‘serious’ segments like ‘The Old Castle’, a pas de deux for Wendy Whelan and Tyler Angle in which the two personified a towering emotional – as well as physical – presence, a paeon to past glory; and ‘Baba Yaga’, the penultimate movement, led initially by Amar Ramasar dancing solo in front of a more dynamically colored abstract projection, who is then joined by Ms. Mearns, Gretchen Smith, and Abi Stafford.

In addition to ‘Baba Yaga,’ I particularly liked the playfulness of ‘Bydlo’ (also called ‘Cattle’), in which Ms. Mearns, Ms. Smith, Ms. Stafford, and Ms. Whelan pranced around like uncontrollable bovines who can’t stay hitched to a wagon; the lightness of spirit of ‘Tuileries’, danced by Tiler Peck; and ‘Samuel Goldenberg & Schmuyle’, which Mr. Ratmansky converted from its roots in ridicule to a funny country-bumkinish interplay between Ms. Smith and Adrian Danchig-Waring. I thought the final segment, ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’, was the least focused, and, at least until I see the piece a second time, apparently purposeless. Gonzalo Garcia and Joseph Gordon completed the exuberant cast.

But Mr. Ratmansky is a cerebral choreographer, and sensing something more ‘cosmic’ beneath the surface than 'merely' amplifying another artistic genre goes with the territory. This ballet does not just paint a picture, or several of them, it has a context and an apparent purpose. And on closer examination, just as Mr. Ratmansky skewers Soviet Communist orthodoxy in many of his pieces (via the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (in “The Bright Stream” and his “Shostakovich Trilogy,” for example), so he skewers Soviet Communist orthodoxy in “Pictures at an Exhibition” through Kandinsky (many of whose works have been described not just as representative of ‘color harmony’, but also as an abstract expressionist visual art equivalent of a musical composition).

Indeed, in terms of artistic acceptance in post-Revolutionary Russia, Kandinsky’s life has certain parallels to that of Shostakovich. 'Modern art’ was severely restricted or suppressed under Communism, as were many examples of contemporary music, and while Mussorgsky's death predated the Bolshevik revolution, Kandinsky’s did not. On the contrary, after establishing himself in Germany, Kandinsky returned to Russia in 1914 at the beginning of World War I, presumably in search of greater artistic freedom than had existed under the czars. But his artwork was subsequently rejected by the Institute of Artistic Culture in Moscow, which he had helped to organize, as too individualistic and bourgeois. He returned to Germany in 1921, uncomfortable with the artistic climate (and subsequently, with the Nazi ascendance, fled to France, where he lived for the remainder of his life).

So Kandinsky’s visual art can be seen as analogous to Shostakovich’s music, and the endurance of Kandinsky's visual art despite official disfavor as parallel to the survival of Shostakovich’s music despite Soviet censorship. Consequently, although “Pictures at an Exhibition” can stand alone without any necessary thematic underpinning, it is another of a series of pieces by Mr. Ratmansky that celebrate the achievement and transcendence of independent artistic and individual thought in the face of political repression.

Finally a further comment about “Belles-Lettres.” As I observed in a prior review, Justin Peck’s new ballet is a fabulous piece of work, and his best to date. But although I highlighted Anthony Huxley, the ballet’s central spirit, I gave short shrift to the four pairs of dancers who are inspired by his character and celebrate his gifts of passion, collectively describing them simply as top-notch. ‘Top-notch’ is certainly what their performances are. But each dancer in this piece delivers a fine performance that merits further elaboration. Rebecca Krohn and Tyler Angle carry the laboring oar and are wonderfully and ethereally romantic in their duet. Brittany Pollack and Taylor Stanley handle the more rapid-fire footwork in their duet with extraordinary vivacity. And Ashley Laracey and Adrian Danchig-Waring add a sense of sweeping glamour and lyricism. But Lauren Lovette, partnered by Jared Angle, delivers the most complex display of them all. Her character’s solo and paired dances have what appears to be the most choreographic variety, but they also permit the most wide-ranging display of emotion, from fiery and furious, with extraordinary attack, to gentle and romantic, and she delivers her full to the fingertips emotional delivery with every move. And her effusive stage persona comes through even when it doesn’t appear to be programmed into the choreography – one could see a slight smile escape her face after completing the most complex and emotionally charged combinations. She can’t help it – and she shouldn’t try to suppress it: it adds a touch of engaging individuality and humanity to her performances, and is what makes them so consistently magical.

Edited to correct multiple typos and delete repetitive sentences. Further edited on 10/6 to correspondent to correct further typos and move some sentences around

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Oct 05, 2014 6:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: New York City Ballet -- 2014-2015 Schedule

Apollinaire Scherr reviews Alexei Ratmansky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" for the Financial Times.

Financial Times

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