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New York City Ballet

'Reliquary,' 'The Steadfast Tin Soldier,' 'Antique Epigraphs,' 'Vienna Waltzes'

by Kate Snedeker

February 14, 2003 -- New York State Theater, NY

On Friday, the New York City Ballet warmed up a chilly Valentine's Day with a program representing three of the company's most prolific choreographers -- George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and Peter Martins. The evening was marked by a flurry debuts, with dancers making their first appearances in roles in three of the four ballets ("Antique Epigraphs" being the lone exception).

First on the program was Peter Martin's "Reliquary," a ballet to fragments of an unfinished Stravinsky piece that were tied together into a full composition by Charles Wuorinen. Reliquary seems to be Martins’ version of the “leotard ballet”, with simple black and white costumes, and choreography devoid of a story. The dancing is very patterned, but with a deliberate off-centeredness: for instance, two groupings of four stage left and one grouping on the right, but all in the same formation, doing the same steps. Alexandra Ansanelli, Janie Taylor and Sebastien Marcovici debuted in three of the lead roles, with Seth Orza dancing the fourth. All four were solid, and handled the tricky, quick partnering very well, but some sections looked ragged. The corps too, seemed to be fraying around the edges-the stress of dancing three months without a break is starting to take a toll on the company. Dana Hanson had a strange and scary fall, but recovered nicely, turning in excellent performances in both "Reliquary" and "Vienna Waltzes." Despite some rough moments, the ballet did show off the exceptional depth of NYCB’s male talent. With the exception of Marcovici, a principal, the men, Orza, Jason Fowler, Stephen Hanna and Jonathan Stafford, all are corps members, and all turned in stellar performances.

Reliquary was followed by "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", Balanchine’s balletic version of Hans Christian Anderson’s story, set to music by George Bizet. With Damien Woetzel out with an injury, Tom Gold stepped in to make his debut as the tin soldier who wooes Yvonne Borree’s pink tutu-clad doll. Borree was at her best as the dainty doll, who at first rebuffs and then welcomes the tender affections of the tin solder. Her dancing was crisp and delicate-most doll-like, though occasionally a little too fluid. Gold was delightful as the high jumping tin soldier, combining bravado and tenderness in his pursuit of the doll. He still needs to work on maintaining the mechanical stiffness, but it was still a wonderful debut. In the end, as always, was heartbreak, with Borree’s doll disappearing into the fire, and Gold left with just her heart, which she had given him. Costumes and Set were designed by David Mitchell.

After a brief pause came Robbins’ "Antique Epigraphs," a short, introspective ballet that flows to Claude Debussy’s music. "Antique Epigraphs", made up of series of solos and small group pieces for eight pastel clad women (goddesses?), is not one of Robbins more interesting pieces. The choreography is smooth and flowing, but seems introspective and at times repetitive, making it hard to become drawn into the ballet. Rachel Rutherford, Maria Kowroski, Pascale van Kipnis and especially Jenifer Ringer were moving in their solos, but the very symmetrical group opening and closing poses were marred by problems with spacing and arm positions. The costumes were designed by Florence Klotz.

The evening concluded with a debut filled performance of Balanchine’s gorgeous "Vienna Waltzes." The ballet began with Rachel Rutherford and James Fayette making moving debuts as the lead couple waltzing among the trees to Strauss’ "G’Schichten Aus Dem Wienerwald." Fayette is a true cavalier, both in his dancing skills and attention to his partner, and Rutherford was an elegant partner. The experienced corps was in top form, gliding among the forest with nary as misstep.

In the "Frulingsstimmen Waltz," Robert Tewsley made a fabulous debut as the high leaping cavalier. Tewsley has shown great promise in other roles at New York City Ballet, but here he really seemed to come alive, showing off his high, airy ballon and elegant, stretched lines. He soared in the grand jetes, and was a attentive, noble partner to Miranda Weese. Weese, also in a debut, was fresh and powerful, but seemed to blur some of what should be crisp steps. The corps had some ragged moments, but recovered for solid finish.

The "Explosions Polka" is a rather jarring interlude, with its outlandish costumes and slightly bawdy choreography. In order to succeed, it requires a crisp performance of the complicated footwork, and though Aesha Ash and Arch Higgins (another debut), were good, the overall performance was rather sloppy.

Jenifer Ringer was the latest ballerina to debut in the role long danced by Helene Alexepoulos in "Gold und Silber Walzer." Ringer was intriguing as the mysterious woman who becomes the center of attention in the early twentieth century ballroom scene, arching her back way over in the swoops of her waltz with Charles Askegard. Yet, though Ringer seemed to lack the mystery and maturity that Alexepoulos brought to the role, her performance seemed to hint that she will grow into the role. One looks forward to seeing Ringer’s interpretation of the role mature over the next few years. Charles Askegard was most elegant and attentive as Ringer’s partner, but the height difference seemed to make for some difficulties and a lack of total smoothness in the partnering.

Kyra Nichols was heart-breakingly haunting as the woman who waltzes with an invisible partner, occasionally brought to life by Philip Neal. The role of the waltzing woman takes as much emotional power and maturity as it does dancing skill, and Nichols brought much of both to her memorable performance. Neal was exceptionally tender and attentive, partnering Nichols like the crown jewel she is.

The grand finale, with forty-eight dancers waltzing across the mirrored stage was as impressive as always. With almost the whole male corps onstage, it’s a great opportunity to see the men of New York City Ballet. Kyle Froman and Seth Orza were among the most elegant waltzers with Ask la Cour excellent in his first performance in "Vienna Waltzes."

Edited by Mary Ellen Hunt.

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