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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Sun Oct 07, 2012 8:10 pm 
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Brian Seibert reviews the Friday, October 5, 2012 premiere of Justin Peck's "Year of the Rabbit" for the New York Times.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Sun Oct 07, 2012 8:19 pm 
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New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

October 2, 6M, 2012
“Rubies,” “The Cage,” “Andantino,” “Symphony in C”
“Two Hearts,” “Year of the Rabbit,” “Les Carillons”

-- by Jerry Hochman

In a prior review (ok; I just posted it), I wrote that by its repertoire and its dancers, New York City Ballet has a firm hold on its future. But there was one essential element missing: masterful performances of masterpieces are nice, and may keep the company going for a very long time, but without quality new choreography, the company’s future is uncertain.

To date, the weakest link in NYCB’s future outlook has been its new ballets. With a few exceptions, new pieces are, at best, not bad. But this is the year of “Year of the Rabbit,” and things are looking up.

Justin Peck is a member of NYCB’s corps, having joined the company in June, 2007, after less than a year as an apprentice. He is also a promising choreographer, who has impressed both with his confidence and his sense of style. Although I did not have an opportunity to review the performance, I was pleasantly surprised with his piece, “Furiant,” which was given its world premiere at the Youth America Grant Prix Gala (“Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow”) on April 27, 2012. The short piece was not only lyrical and balletic, I recall it demonstrating intelligence and novelty in its integration of a live string quartet and piano (music by Dvorak). But as impressed as I was, I was not prepared for his “Year of the Rabbit.”

I saw “Year of the Rabbit” the day following its world premiere. I’ve been advised that the normally sedate NYCB audience appreciated the piece – to the point of 6 curtain calls and a rare standing ovation. I don’t know if that’s true, but I don’t doubt it – and I also don’t doubt that it wasn’t just prompted by the entourages that usually attend premieres. It’s very good.

"Year of the Rabbit" is choreographed to music by Sufjan Stevens (“Enjoy Your Rabbit”), which the program notes indicate is an electronic album and song cycle based on the Chinese zodiac. The piece was orchestrated specifically for the ballet by Michael P. Atkinson, who also conducted.

I’m not familiar with Mr. Stevens’s work. According to the information provided by NYCB, his music mixes autobiography, religious fantasy, and regional history to create folk songs ‘of grand proportions.’ Based on the score for this piece, the description isn’t far off the mark. In broad terms, it’s melodic and lyrical, with the ‘grand proportions’ described. Their music is not at all similar, but, except for the occasional ‘scratchy’ sounds that seem de rigueur, it brought to mind Aaron Copeland, albeit with a different ‘folk’ reference point.

“Year of the Rabbit” is subtitled ‘Selections from the Chinese Zodiac.’ While the actual Chinese zodiac contains twelve ‘years’, Mr. Peck's piece is divided into seven selected parts: Year of the Dog, Year of the Rabbit, Year of the Tiger, Year of the Dragon, Year of the Rooster, Year of our Lord, and Year of the Boar. If the titles of these sections have a particular significance in choreographic terms, I didn’t see it. But that doesn't matter. To this viewer, each section is an individual scene related to the others, with no particular meaning other than to reflect a common unifying folk spirit.

Mr. Peck had the audience won over from the moment the curtain opened: the piece looked good on first sight. The blue (with white contrasts) costumes on the women were both strikingly simple and strikingly pretty, filling the stage with bright but uncluttered color. The audience broke into pleased (and perhaps relieved) applause as soon as they saw the way the piece ‘looked’. The costumes were designed by Mr. Peck.

First (and only) viewings of a piece permit general impressions, but in many cases do not enable a viewer to provide detailed descriptions of the choreography. “Year of the Rabbit” is such a piece. In a very loose sense, the piece features leads in each section, occupying one portion of the stage, and a corps occupying another section of the stage, almost like a chorus. The separations aren’t fixed – at times there’s one ‘lead’, at times two or three, at times the corps appears in varying density, and at times not at all. It’s a very fluid piece. More importantly, the movement pattern is never dull. And although I saw some Ratmansky and some Wheeldon in his choreography, the piece does not appear indebted to any particular stylistic source. Mr. Peck has woven a kaleidoscope (of movement, if not of color), with a broad and interestingly utilized movement vocabulary (including slides) that is constantly changing, inventive, unpredictable, apparently random (though of course not at all random), and thoroughly enjoyable to watch.

The first section opens with Ashley Bouder downstage right, with the corps left center. Ms. Bouder and the corps move independently (and the dancers in the corps move somewhat independently of each other). Section two features Joaquin De Luz and the company. To this viewer, Mr. De Luz connects better in a solo capacity than as a partner, and in this piece he was superb. The third section features Robert Fairchild, first in a solo, then together with Teresa Reichlen, Ms. Bouder, Janie Taylor, and Craig Hall anchor the fourth section. The fifth and sixth sections feature respective pas de deux with Ms. Reichlen and Mr. Fairchild, and Ms. Taylor and Mr. Hall, and the piece concludes with Ms. Bouder, Ms. Reichlen, Mr. De Luz, and Mr. Fairchild, and the company.

But this bare description doesn’t convey the delightful complexity of this piece. Mr. Peck has crafted wonderful – and different – featured dances for the leads (pas de deux, solos, odd-man-out trios), and the pas de deux are particularly appealing But he has given equal attention to the corps.

In “Year of the Rabbit,” the corps is not just another pretty frame. They form an integral part of the flow of the piece, and their varied patterning and movement quality is exciting to watch unfold in each of the sections. At one point – I don’t recall if it was section six or seven – the company is positioned around the left and right borders of the stage, with only parts of their bodies visible. Mr. Peck plays with this, moving the dancers in and out from behind the curtain, with a variety of patterns and timing, all while the leads are engaged in the ‘main’ action of the section. The end result is not at all busy or intrusive or distracting – on the contrary, the various patterning elements in each section of the piece are complementary, interesting, and visually effective.

Mention should also be made of the lighting by Brandon Stirling Baker. The piece seems to progress, visually, from sunrise to sunset based on the play of light. This is another example of the care and craft that are a hallmark of this ballet. I understand that Mr. Peck spent two years putting this piece together. The effort paid off.

I enjoyed the other two pieces on the same program – Benjamin Millepied’s “Two Hearts” and Christopher Wheeldon’s “Les Carillons” somewhat more than I did on initial viewing, but my general impression of each is the same. Mr. Millepied’s piece is interesting, and more audience-friendly than many of his other pieces, but despite superlative performances from Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle, it doesn’t look right. And while ending with a pas de deux following what would appear to be the natural conclusion to the piece is an interesting concept, the idea is undone by the almost incomprehensible and repetitive sounding folk song to which the choreography seems bound.

The problem with Mr. Wheeldon’s piece is that the component parts (‘folk’ elements – the piece is choreographed to Bizet’s “L’Arlesiennes” Suites Nos. 1 and 2) do not leave distinct impressions (or necessarily ‘folk’ impressions), and the piece is (or seems) far too long. That having been said, and even though the whole still appears to this viewer to be less than the sum of its parts, individual performances were so uniformly good, and the costumes so striking (by Mark Zappone), that it doesn’t matter. Although there are a few overlaps, the lead cast yesterday (Ana Sophia Scheller and Amar Ramasar, Sterling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild, Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle, Lauren Lovette and Daniel Ulbricht, and Tiler Peck and Gonzalo Garcia seemed more cohesive and balanced than the original. [And yes, for anyone who read my review of NYCB’s 2012 Fall Gala, that’s nine principals and Ms. Lovette - a member of the corps.]

The October 2nd performance featured “Rubies,” “The Cage,” “Andantino,” and the return of “Symphony in C.”

To this viewer, “Rubies” was disappointing – particularly after the wonderfully invigorating multi-part performances at the Fall Gala. Although there was nothing wrong with the performances by Megan Fairchild and Mr. De Luz, they danced as if they were independent entities, and the performance, to this viewer, suffered as a result.

“Thc Cage,” which Jerome Robbins choreographed to Stravinsky’s “Concerto in D,” is a piece that can be seen once every few years and then forgotten. On the music, Robbins imposed the idea of female insects (sort of spiders, sort of mosquitos, sort of Amazons) who devour males who cross their paths. Although the piece is brilliantly choreographed (the idea does fit the music), it is not a piece to make a viewer feel warm and fuzzy. That being said, the October 2nd lead performances were almost alone worth the price of admission. Rebecca Krohn as the Queen Bee (or Queen Spider, Queen Amazon – or Queen of a particularly virulent strain of Willis) looked like an escapee from a Tim Burton film. Cast against type, she was deliciously creepy and in control. But it was Janie Taylor’s show. Ms. Taylor, who danced the insect-in-training, was brilliant. With a hood of artificial black hair and her natural pale skin, she looked like a cross between Louise Brooks, Winona Ryder and the Bride of Frankenstein. She was fantastic. Hopefully the performance has been memorialized (perhaps captured and uploaded to YouTube). It’s classic (and high class) camp.

But the evening’s highlight was “Symphony in C.” Although the ballet – choreographed by Balanchine to the Bizet score by the same name – has been a staple of NYCB since it was first performed with the company in 1948, and is a mainstay of other companies as well, the cast at this performance was full of interesting lead ballerina debuts: Ms. Scheller in the opening movement, Ms. Reichlen in the second, Erica Pereira in the third, and Lauren King in the final movement. One expects Ms. Scheller and Ms. Reichlen to be terrific, and they were. But Ms. Pereira and Ms. King were equally good.

Since being cast as an age-appropriate Juliet in Mr. Martins’s “Romeo + Juliet” before she even joined the company, Ms. Pereira has been notable for injecting youthful effervescence and enthusiasm into anything she dances. But she’s firmly in command of her technique. The result, in “Symphony in C,” was a delightful performance – enough to make me forgive the lipstick that looked like it was applied with a trowel. And Lauren King, a member of the corps, is yet another of the next generation of NYCB dancers who grows in confidence and audience familiarity with each performance. Hers was a super debut as well.

These two performances further demonstrate where NYCB is as a company, and where it can go. A new ballet that gives hope of stellar choreographic efforts to come. A classic ballet, danced superbly with new legs and faces And dancers being given opportunities to grow, and audiences given opportunities to watch them live up to, and exceed, expectations. For this viewer, it’s what ballet in New York is all about.


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 11:25 am 
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Apollinaire Scherr reviews Justin Peck's "Year of the Rabbit" for the Financial Times.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 8:29 pm 
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Robert Greskovic reviews Justin Peck's "Year of the Rabbit" along with commentary about the fall season's programming for the Wall Street Journal.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:00 pm 
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Tobi Tobias reviews Justin Peck's "Year of the Rabbit" for Arts Journal.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:15 pm 
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In the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay reviews the Fall Season, with particular emphasis on the 13 Balanchine/Stravinsky works programmed.

NY Times


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:51 pm 
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Good news! Instead of another new ballet by Peter Martins, NYCB will be getting an additional new ballet by Justin Peck!

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/ ... ty-ballet/


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 12:00 pm 
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Location: New Jersey
New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

November 23, 2012
George Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker’

-- by Jerry Hochman


Every once in awhile I’m reminded why George Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker’ is the classic it is.

I have to admit that I prefer versions of The Nutcracker that are more true to the somewhat darker story created by E.T.A. Hoffmann, which includes character development and a ‘coming of age’ underlying theme: the no-longer-performed-live-but-available-on-DVD version created by Mikhail Baryshnikov for American Ballet Theatre, for example, or ABT’s current production created by Alexei Ratmansky. But that may be because I’m an adult – or at least I’m supposed to be, and I’d rather get involved in the story than simply watch a spectacle. Be that as it may, and whether it was because it was opening night of the 2012 season, or because the audience was as alive and responsive as the dancers on stage, or perhaps because I was more in touch with my inner child than I’ve been in recent memory – New York City Ballet’s performance was two hours of soup-to-nuts magnificence.

Amidst the production-wide stellar performances (on and off stage) by both company members and apprentices, as well as the young dancers from the School of American Ballet, there were two that were truly memorable – Tiler Peck’s star turn as ‘Dewdrop’; and the thrilling orchestral leadership provided by NYCB’s outstanding conductor, Clotilde Otranto. I’ll address the performances later in this review.

Hoffmann’s original 1816 story, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, was adapted by Alexandre Dumas pere in 1844, and it was this version that formed the libretto for the ballet created by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov to a commissioned score by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky. The ballet, which premiered at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Peterburg in December, 1892, was not an immediate success (although Tchaikovsky’s music was). Although there were subsequent productions in Europe and the United States (one by the San Francisco Ballet premiered in 1944), it was George Balanchine’s version, which debuted in 1954, that rescued the ballet from relative obscurity and turned it into a money machine. Reportedly, Balanchine selected The Nutcracker to be the first full length NYCB production, at least in part, because by populating the cast with children played by real children rather than adults in the children’s roles, ticket sales to family and friends were guaranteed. He was right, of course -- the ballet has been a money-maker ever since [By my unofficial count, the current production includes 64 young dancers, give or take (some dance two roles). Do the math.]

But George Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker’ is more than just Black Friday for ballet companies. While the choreography (particularly in Act I) is relatively non-existent, and some of the Act II choreography is pedestrian (e.g., ‘Hot Chocolate’ -- the Spanish dance), a lot of it is wonderful (Marzipan; Dew Drop; Candy Cane; Chinese (Tea)), and the choreography for the Sugarplum Fairy’s pas de deux is wickedly difficult. And the staging (particularly in the often overlooked detail in Act I) is incomparable.

As good as Balanchine’s choreography is, however, it is matched by Rouben Ter-Arutunian’s brillianatly magical sets, the costumes by Karinska, and the original lighting by Ronald Bates (updated and executed by Mark Stanley). And of course there’s the Tchaikovsky score. It’s nice when everything comes together. It’s also invaluable that this NYCB production reflects that rarest of qualities – sufficient rehearsal time. Every step, every gesture, seems to have been hard-wired from infancy – or at least since the dancers took their first steps at SAB. [This season, the production segues seamlessly into NYCB’s winter 2013 season’s Tchaikovsky Celebration.]

The story is no doubt familiar to everyone. Marie (Balanchine restored the name of the child in the Hoffmann original – it had been changed to Clara in the Petipa/Ivanov version and it is that name that has been used most subsequent ballets) and her brother Fritz await the arrival of friends and relatives to the Stahlbaum’s Christmas Eve open house. Marie’s darkly eccentric godfather, Herr Drosselmeier, entertains the children with magical tricks, and, accompanied by his Nephew, presents Marie with a toy Nutcracker, which her brother subsequently breaks. [Boys will be boys and girls will be ballerinas.] Drosselmeier tends to the Nutcracker’s wounds, returns the toy to Marie, and then he and the guests leave the Stahlbaum home. Instead of going to bed, however, Marie slips away to return to her wounded Nutcracker. She falls asleep holding him, and then begins to dream.

The rest – the growing Christmas Tree, the Mice and Mouse King, the Nutcracker morphing into the life-size Nutcracker, the battle, the shoe and the sword and the severed crown, the Nutcracker’s transformation into Drosselmeier’s nephew after being freed from the curse that had imprisoned him in wood, and the fantasyland visit to the Land of the Sweets – needs no elaboration. And the structure of the ballet is broadly similar to other Petipa/Ivanov ballets of the period. In Act I, the ‘reality’ exposition, instead of a birthday celebration, we have a Christmas Eve celebration, and instead of peasants and nobles dancing, we have children and adults. Act I segues to a ‘dream’ scene, but instead of Solor’s hallucinogenic-induced reverie or Don Quixote’s post-traumatic vision, we have the Marie/Clara dream/nightmare. And in Act II, instead of a fairy tale palace celebration/wedding filled with various divertissement, we have the Land of the Sweets filled with various divertissement. And in the end, instead of the apotheosis of Odette and Siegfried or Nikia and Solor, we have Marie and the Nutcracker/Nephew/nascent boyfriend transported out of fantasyland to wherever Marie’s dream will next take them – or to when she awakes, whichever comes first.

This production is usually what I would consider an entertaining spectacle. Glorious to watch, but not much more than that for anyone over the age of 14 or not related to a dancer on stage. Friday's opening night performance was a dream/reality check.

I have written previously that Tiler Peck is at the top of her game. But that phrase doesn’t say enough: at Friday’s performance, Ms. Peck turned Dewdrop into a work of performance art. Whether you get to see her dance on the small screen (on TV last week – on Dancing With the Stars) (an aside – go Melissa!) or in a theater, she dances with a combination of warmth and vibrancy that makes you not just appreciate, but smile (and want to see her performance again and again).

But every dancer at this opening night was ‘on’: as I’ve previously written, Rebecca Krohn has the ability to transmit extraordinary sensuality, but also the stage persona that makes it seem that she has no idea she knows she’s doing it. Coffee requires understated but obvious sensuality, but is easy to dance ‘over the top.’ I’ve seen Ms. Krohn’s Coffee previously and thought she was perfect. Last night she was, somehow, better than perfect. Erica Pereira was delightfully engaging, as she always is, in the Marzipan divertissement, as was Daniel Ulbricht as the lead Candy Cane. The effort needed to execute Balanchine’s choreography for the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier showed in the performances of Maria Kowroski and Jonathan Stafford, but they succeeded splendidly. The apparent effort will diminish as the season progresses. And it was good to welcome back Robert LaFosse and his accomplished Drosselmeier.

Other cast members all rose to the occasion: they include Devin Alberta’s Soldier and Antonio Carmena’s Tea, which were executed superbly, as were Lauren Lovette’s Columbine (echoes of Coppelia), and Sara Adams’s Harlequin (both of whom also ‘led’ the Snowflakes), and Lauren King and Ashley Laracey gathered the Flowers with verve. Georgina Pazcoguin and Chase Finley were the vibrant leads in Hot Chocolate, and Andrew Scordato provided an entertaining Mother Ginger. The usually overlooked roles of Dr. Stahlbaum and his wife were performed with panache, enthusiasm and sensitivity by Ask la Cour and Gwyneth Muller.

All the children in various roles (Angels, Flowers, Candy Canes, Polichinelles, Soldiers, Mice, Children at the Stahlbaum’s) were delightfully competent. It is not possible to identify them all without using more space than is available on the internet, or to identify all those I particularly noticed, but, after Act I, it was a kick and a half to see several of these talented young dancers (friends of Marie) joining their parents in the audience and acting like your ordinary extraordinary kid next door. As the Nephew/Nutcracker Prince, Lleyton Ho gave an accomplished performance. But Claire Abraham's Marie was more than accomplished. It seems that every girl that NYCB casts as Marie is an extrarodinarily talented young performer. But Ms. Abraham provided one of the finest Marie’s I can recall.

One final observation. I have, at times, commented on the conducting at certain ballet performances. More often than not, as with ABT, to complain about it. But I’ve recognized previously that Clotilde Otranto is a superb conductor. Superb is an understatement. At ballet performances, the conductor is the almost unrecognized director of the performance, who can alter the pace and sharpness of a production as much as anyone on stage. Time after time, Ms. Otranto makes the NYCB orchestra more than the extraordinary collection of musicians it already is. She has a dancer’s sensitivity – essential for any ballet conductor. Whenever she conducts she makes the orchestra come alive, and her contribution to a performance is as an equal partner with the choreographer and the dancers. At this performance, as wonderful as the dancers and sets and staging and the Tchaikovsky music already is, Ms. Otranto’s conducting made the entire production sound, and look, even better.

This viewer has seen George Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker’ more times than I can recall. But I’ve never liked it or enjoyed it more than after Friday’s performance. For this balletomaniac, as well as the sold out multi-generational audience, it is the stuff that dreams are made of.


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:33 pm 
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For Playbill, Robert Sandla previews the ballet works of Tchaikovsky, a feature of the 2013 NYCB Winter Season.

Playbill


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:54 am 
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NEW YORK CITY BALLET LAUNCHES ART SERIES
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Les Ballets de Faile. Photo NYCB.jpg [ 52.32 KiB | Viewed 4029 times ]

New York City Ballet are launching a new initiative called the New York City Ballet Art Series featuring annual collaborations with contemporary visual artists who will create original works inspired by NYCB that will be exhibited at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.

To kick off the new initiative, NYCB has commissioned FAILE, the Brooklyn-based artist team of Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller. Best known as early pioneers of the contemporary Urban Art movement, their pop-culture aesthetics consist of resampled visual imagery applied to various media through painting and printmaking.

For the inaugural series, FAILE has created an exhibition titled Les Ballets de Faile, which will feature a 40-foot tower installed on the Promenade of the David H. Koch Theater for the duration of NYCB’s 2013 winter season, January 15 through February 24. The tower has been created in FAILE’s signature style, using iconography inspired by several months of research at New York City Ballet and its archives, along with FAILE’s signature library of images. The exhibition will also feature a new suite of FAILE paintings displayed in the theater’s lobbies.

In addition to the theater exhibition, the series features two special performances on Friday, February 1 at 8pm, and on Wednesday, May 29 at 7.30pm. These evenings are designed to those New Yorkers in their 20s and 30s who may not have previously attended City Ballet’s performances, with tickets priced at just $29 for every seat in the house. To further engage audiences, NYCB has commissioned FAILE to create limited edition hand-painted works that will be given to audience members who attend these performances to commemorate the evening.

Single tickets for these performances are on sale now.

In addition, the David H. Koch Theater will have open hours from Sunday, February 10 through Sunday, February 17 so that the general public can view the FAILE exhibition. Hours will be as follows: Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Tuesday, through Friday from noon to 5 p.m. (The theater exhibition will be closed on Monday, February 11.)


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:56 pm 
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Alastair Macaulay reviews the Tuesday, January 15, 2012 performance of "Serenade," "Mozartiana" and "Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2" for the New York Times.

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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2013 6:24 pm 
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New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
New York, New York

January 15, 16, 2013
Serenade: Mozartiana; Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 (Ballet Imperial)

-- by Jerry Hochman

Last February, in the context of reviewing three New York City Ballet performances, each of which included presentations of Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3, I opined that the collaboration of sorts between Balanchine and Tchaikovsky, even though not concurrent in time, was every bit as memorable as the more celebrated collaboration between Balanchine and Stravinsky, and that the Balanchine/Tchaikovsky ‘collaboration’ can be seen as an even more stunning accomplishment. At the time, I had no idea that NYCB would devote its Fall 2012 season to a celebration of Balanchine/Stravinsky, succeeded in the Winter 2013 season by a celebration of Balanchine/Tchaikovsky.

The ‘Tchaikovsky Celebration,’ which commenced Tuesday evening (and which includes two pieces to Tchaikovsky created by Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins), consists of three repertory programs spread over the first two weeks of the 2013 Winter season, and thirteen performances of The Sleeping Beauty at the end of the season. [Two weeks of additional repertory performances that include works choreographed to Tchaikovsky, but not exclusively, are sandwiched in between.]

How Balanchine ‘collaborated’ with Tchaikovsky to make his ballets true to Tchaikovsky’s music, but with a contemporary attitude that frees the music, visually, from Petipa-induced preconceptions, is particularly evident to this viewer in Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2, the concluding piece in Tuesday night’s program, which was repeated Wednesday night with different principals. Reportedly intended as a tribute to the Petipa style (as well as to Tchaikovsky, Petipa’s greatest composer) and to the imperial grandeur of St. Petersburg, to this viewer Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 can be seen as much as a repudiation as an homage. [The ballet was originally titled Ballet Imperial before Balanchine stripped it of its imperial Russian visual connections in 1973 and changed its name to match the title of the Tchaikovsky composition.]

To this viewer, in Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 Balanchine is not so much paying tribute to Petipa as he is showing that his (Balanchine’s) style is not only different, but an improvement. How else to interpret the ‘Swan Lake’ allusion, where the lead male dancer, acting like Siegfried, moves from one corps line to the other, looking for his partner much as Siegfried searches for Odette, with the corps dancers signaling that he/Siegfried cannot go there. It’s as if Balanchine is saying that Petipa’s choreography was glorious then, but now is now, and the viewer must move on to the Balanchine style – which ignites the stage like a lightning bolt thereafter.

But regardless of Balanchine’s intent, jettisoning what may be seen as Petipa’s limitations allows the Tchaikovsky music to breathe fresh air. And that, to me, is the genius of the piece. No more stylized romanticism, no obvious and isolated pyrotechnics, no dead spots. But the grandeur inherent in the Tchaikovsky score remains – in the rapid-fire, non-stop movement, and the characteristic Balanchine choreographic trademarks (intricate patterning, instant transitions and unforgiving timing requirements, a male dancer leading a chain of women, lines of dancers passing through other lines of dancers, pyrotechnical displays seamlessly woven through the fabric of the piece). It is a stunning, revolutionary transformation.

Each set of leads in the two performances I saw – Ashley Bouder, Savannah Lowery, and Jonathan Stafford on Tuesday, and Teresa Reichlen, Ana Sophia Scheller, and Tyler Angle on Wednesday – provided superlative performances. Ms. Bouder was particularly crisp and vibrant after quickly recovering from an early fall. However, overall this viewer preferred Wednesday’s cast. Ms. Scheller’s work appeared cleaner and Mr. Angle more sure-footed, but Ms. Reichlen’s performance was particularly noteworthy. While not as fast or as clear as Ms. Bouder (few are), Ms. Reichlen added a degree of warmth and … romanticism… to the role without sacrificing technique. Amanda Hankes, Ashley Laracey, Sean Suozzi, and Christian Tworzyanski on Tuesday, and Lauren King, Brittany Pollack, Allen Peiffer, and Mr. Tworzyanski on Wednesday, in the ‘supporting’ roles, all acquitted themselves well, and the corps, which was the same at both performances, was magnificent.

But then, perhaps I preferred Wednesday’s cast because the Wednesday performances in each piece on the program appeared superior to Tuesday, which was not only opening night for the Tchaikovsky Celebration, but the first post-Nutcracker performance of NYCB’s second winter season following a two week hiatus.

For a company that lives in large part on its heritage of landmark ballets, it’s difficult to denominate one classic as more representative of the company than another. But if NYCB has one signature ballet, it is Serenade. The first original ballet that Balanchine choreographed in America, it was, appropriately, the first piece performed in this Tchaikovsky Celebration.

Though plotless, Serenade carries the emotional punch of a story that one can see is there and that one can viscerally feel, but which cannot be translated into mere words. From the opening striking tableau of ballerinas with right arms uplifted as if both saluting the past and heralding the future (a visual motif that Balanchine repeats several times), through to the closing ‘apotheosis’ as the lead ballerina is carried away as if she were an emerging angel, the piece is a miracle of cohesive and coherent choreography and stagecraft despite its fortuitous genesis as an outgrowth of a ballet class and unanticipated rehearsal events. The various choreographic ingredients, whether borrowed from earlier works (nods to ‘Orpheus’ and ‘Apollo’) or nascent Balanchine choreographic trademarks, are fresh and new, still. And the piece is so visually dominating that once seen, one cannot hear the Tchaikovsky composition ("Serenade for Strings in C") without seeing the ballet, and the images that Balanchine created endure long after the music ends.

I must confess that I did not expect to like Sara Mearns in the role of the ‘lead’ ballerina. As wonderful a dancer as she is, I see that particular role as requiring sylph-like vulnerability rather than stage dominance or over-the-top emotionalism, both of which qualities Ms. Mearns injects into many of her portrayals. But although, in my mind’s eye, I still see this role performed by a dancer less physically imposing, Ms. Mearns’s debut in the role on Wednesday was an unqualified success. A truly remarkable stage presence, Ms. Mearns did not become the wounded soul of the piece as much as she transformed herself into appearing sympathetic and vulnerable, but with an added sense of sorrowful nobility that, to me, changed the emotional focus of the role such that it appeared as if it had been choreographed on her. Her extraordinary portrayal was complemented with strong performances by Ashley Bouder, Jared Angle, and Adrian Danchig-Waring, and most significantly by Megal LeCrone, who to this viewer was nothing short of fabulous as the ‘angel of death’ ballerina.

Tuesday’s performance was not up to that standard. While I consider Janie Taylor to be the epitome of the vulnerable ‘lead’ ballerina, when partnered by Sebastien Marcovici, in his debut, she seemed to this viewer to be more careful, and more solicitous (as did he). As a result, the performance appeared a little off. The accompanying cast (Megan Fairchild, Rebecca Krohn, and Ask la Cour) were wonderful, however, with Ms. Fairchild delivering a particularly superlative performance.

The final piece on the program, Mozartiana, was also the final work that Balanchine choreographed to Tchaikovsky. [Balanchine initially choreographed a piece to Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 4 (‘Mozartiana’) early in his career – reportedly, in 1933. Created in 1981, Mozartiana represents a completely new ballet to the same music.]

Mozartiana opens with a ‘Preghiera’ (Prayer) movement, which, despite the presence of four engaging and accomplished young student dancers to accompany the lead ballerina, sets the elegiac pace for the piece. The next movement, an ebullient ’Gigue’ danced by one male dancer, seems, in the context of the piece as a whole, to be somewhat of an aberration. The segue from the Gigue into the next movement, ‘Menuet,’ is seamless, as four corps dancers (members of the company, not students) join the male dancer on stage; he then exits, leaving the four women alone for the minuet. These four dancers are then succeeded by the ballerina and lead male dancer who alternatingly perform a lengthy series of short choreographic variations to match the theme and variations in the music. All the dancers then gather in the ‘Finale’.

While without doubt a choreographic masterwork, Mozartiana has previously appeared to me to be flat and somewhat depressing (to this viewer it is similar in mood to Robert Schumann’s ‘Davidsbundlertanze’, which Balanchine created the previous year, and which I recall being interpreted following its premiere as indicative of Balanchine’s preoccupation with and anticipation of his own death). Indeed, in prior viewings Mozartiana seemed less an homage to Tchaikovsky and via Tchaikovsky to Mozart, then a requiem, with an air of resignation and melancholy; a piece that could be appreciated for its technical fluency, but not much more. The black costumes (not ‘solid’ black, as in Balanchine’s ‘black and white’ ballets, but a lacey, almost funereal black) reinforced the mood.

Tuesday’s performance did not change my opinion. While Maria Kowroski was impeccable, as she always is, she appeared to this viewer to be perfect in a detached, mechanical way, without ‘drawing me in’ to the piece at all (which, as I recall, was my reaction to the original cast). And the central ‘Theme and Variations’ pas de deux, brilliantly executed as it was, seemed to go on forever, and to grow increasingly tedious to watch.

All that changed at Wednesday’s performance. Ms. Kowroski’s performance may have been what Balanchine envisioned (since to my recollection it closely resembled that of the original cast), but stoic delivery leaves this audience member cold. But Sterling Hyltin brought the piece to life.

I’ve previously observed that Ms. Hyltin dances larger than life. To me, this remains a hallmark of her performances, particularly when she’s comfortable in a role. And perhaps that ability to project rather than just to ‘be’ carried Ms. Hyltin’s performance in Mozartiana to another level. Without, to my eye, sacrificing any of technical execution that Ms. Kowroski had performed so brilliantly the night before, Ms. Hyltin illuminated the role by not appearing chained to the choreography. She danced the same steps, but without the heaviness I’d previously seen, changing her facial expression, even smiling at times (not so much showing emotion – heaven forbid – but by revealing the humanity in her stage persona), and in so doing, for this viewer, illuminating Tchaikovsky’s homage to Mozart and Balanchine’s homage to both of them. Instead of being an ascetic visual experience, it was joyful one, and I found myself not just watching great dancing, but being transported; and for the first time I looked forward to each ‘theme and variation’ as if each were one in an abundant series of buried treasures waiting to be discovered. Ms. Hyltin’s performance was a revelation, and has forever changed my opinion of the piece; and her performance was all the more remarkable because it was her debut in the role.

Ms. Kowroski and Ms. Hyltin were ably complemented by, respectively, Tyler Angle and Chase Finlay (in his role debut), and the ‘Gigue’ was performed with vigor by both Daniel Ulbricht (on Tuesday) and Anthony Huxley (on Wednesday), with Mr. Huxley’s jig a light and refreshing Beaujolais in contrast to Mr. Ulbricht’s more complex and robust Cabernet. The four company dancers supporting the leads were the same at both performances (Marika Anderson, Amanda Hankes, Gwyneth Muller, and Gretchen Smith), as were the four remarkable student dancers (Fiona Brennan, Claire Layton Fishman, Isabelle Fonte, and Anna Greenberg), and all performed admirably.

According to supplemental program notes prepared by NYCB, Balanchine told an interviewer that ‘In everything that I did to Tchaikovsky’s music, I sensed his help. It wasn’t real conversation. But when I was working and saw that something was coming of it, I felt that it was Tchaikovsky who had helped me.’ This connection, this ‘special affinity’ as the NYCB notes put it, shows in the Balanchine/Tchaikovsky collaborations, and this special relationship – evidenced by this first program of the Tchaikovsky Celebration, produced ballets that warm the heart as they stimulate the mind.


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:10 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
Alastair Macaulay reviews the Thursday, January 17, 2013 performance of Balanchine's "Swan Lake," "Allegro Brillante" and "Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3" for the New York Times.

NY Times


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2013 12:27 am 
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Tobi Tobias reviews "Serenade," "Mozartiana" and "Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2" for Arts Journal.

Arts Journal


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 Post subject: Re: New York City Ballet 2012-2013 Season
PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 11:03 pm 
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Robert Gottlieb reviews two performances of "Nutcracker" and Balanchine/Tchaikovsky repertoire from the first two weeks of Winter Season for the New York Observer.

NY Observer


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