York City Ballet
- Part 2
July 25 - 26, 2003
-- Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs
Friday July 25, 2003
The day was for horses, the evening for ballet. Saratoga Racetrack is
a surprisingly large and attractive facility, unlike most modern sports
arenas in this era. Ignoring the lit board with the betting odds and race
information, the track hasn’t changed much from the days when Seabiscuit
captured the hearts of the American public. In fact many scenes from the
movie were filmed at Saratoga because it has changed so little since the
1930s. Though I’ve seen many steeplechase races in person, this was my
first real experience with flat racing. What struck me was the unbelievable
speed of the racehorses, how fast they fly by, necks stretching out as
they flash over the finish line. For one brief millisecond in each galloping
stride, a horse is balanced on the tip of one delicate hoof. As powerful,
lithe and beautiful as a dancer, these are 1200 pounds ballerinas (and
danseurs) poised on one shiny black pointe shoe.
‘Concerto Barocco,’ ‘Chaconne,’
and ‘Carnival of the Animals’
The damp weather banished to far away places, the evening unfolded with
gentle breezes and crystal clear skies. Heaven on earth and on stage,
at least for a few hours. Touching off this divine evening were the music
of Johann Sebastian Bach and the choreography of George Balanchine in
“Concerto Barocco.” In the pit, Jean Ingraham and Nicolas Danielson brought
Bach’s "Double Violin Concerto in D Minor" to life, while onstage
Maria Kowroski, Rachel Rutherford and James Fayette offered up a dignified
performance of Balanchine’s choreography. Kowroski was powerful in the
crisp, sometimes jagged feeling choreography, using her stunning flexibility
to accent the steps without seeming forced. Rutherford doesn’t have the
same stretch, but had an equally cool and elegant quality to her dancing.
Providing strong support for both Rutherford and Kowroski was the always
dependable James Fayette. A steady partner, he brought a sense of cool
calm to the ballet -- his tidy, solid technique, complimenting, but never
overwhelming the power of Rutherford and Kowroski.
A repeat performance of Balanchine’s “Chaconne,” was led by Wendy Whelan
and Philip Neal, but otherwise the cast was identical to that in the performance
earlier in the week. Quick in his beats, Neal was a dignified and gracious
partner for the stunning Wendy Whelan. Flying across the stage to Christoph
Gluck’s joyful music, Whelan made Balanchine’s intricate choreography
sparkle like a diamond, every facet and step highlighted without sacrificing
the breathtaking beauty of the whole. Much of the extended solo for the
woman is danced for the her partner who watches on stage. In this section,
without neglecting the audience, Whelan made Neal the focus of her dancing,
making the long series of steps on point nearly sing with joy and confidence,
as if to express her feelings to him and to impress him.
This joyous energy was continued
by Antonio Carmena and Amanda Edge, reprising their roles in a sensational
demi-soloist pas de deux. Though quite impressive on Wednesday night,
in this performance Carmena and Edge raised the level of their pas de
deux to new heights by bringing excellent synchronization to their already
wonderful technique and exuberance. Gone were the slight breaks in timing
seen on Wednesday-this was a simply super, complete performance.
Closing yet another evening of repertory was a much improved performance
of Christopher Wheeldon’s “Carnival of the Animals.” Both orchestra and
dancers seemed more comfortable with the quirks of the SPAC amphitheater,
the dancing and music coming together for an outstanding and humorous
performance. Of note on this night was Arch Higgins, as the piano teacher
turned maniac baboon.
(for more details see entry for
Wednesday, July 23, 2003).
Guillermo Figueroa conducted the first two ballets, Richard Moredock again
taking up the baton for “Carnival of the Animals.”
Saturday, July 26, 2003
The day started early with an 8:30 am tour of the Oklahoma Training Track
and the various barns. The training track was named a number of years
ago after a trainer, commenting on the long walk from training track to
racing track, was heard to say “it’s like going from here to Oklahoma.”
The training track is refreshingly peaceful, away from the loudspeakers,
betting machines and hustle & bustle of the crowds. Small clusters
of trainers, exercise riders, owners and curious onlookers watch quietly
as horses are breezed or urged into a full gallop to be timed. Walking
around the perimeter of the barn area, one is surprised by the lack of
horsy smells, pleasant and unpleasant. Manure is removed daily, and the
barns are for the most part spotless, aisles swept and decorated with
brightly colored hanging baskets of flowers.
After a quick shower and a mostly successful attempt to jam everything
back into one suitcase, it was off to SPAC for one last New York City
Ballet performance. The ballet was again “Coppelia,” Megan Fairchild and
Benjamin Millepied leading New York City Ballet’s twelfth and final performance
of Coppelia in 2003.
Millepied was impressive, his pirouettes much improved over Thursday and
his ballon even more stunning. Fairchild appeared somewhat tired by the
end, but even over the course of a week there was great development in
her interpretation of the role of Swanilda. There was more confidence
in her dancing, as well as a greater depth and better timing in her acting.
In the second act, shaky performances in the roles of the acrobat and
the chinaman hinted at a possible change in casting (perhaps to accommodate
a possible injury to Austin Laurent). The only other cast changes came
in the third act divertissements, with Pascale Van Kipnis a powerful,
but more restrained Spinner. In the Dawn Solo, Dana Hanson brought poetry
to the stage, echoing the delicate music in the flowing motions of her
willowy body. Each step was placed with a wonderful delicacy, her slow
arabesque penchee beautifully controlled and deep.
Richard Moredock conducted the excellent NYCB orchestra.
With the lowering of the curtain, my Saratoga sojourn came to an end.
Many wonderful memories in my mind, I head soon to Scotland, where I will
be studying at the University of Edinburgh and hope to extend Critical
Dance’s scope to include the marvelous and varied dance world in Edinburgh!
Editor's note: For entries
for Wednesday and Thursday (July 23 - 24) click here.
Edited by Jeff
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