New York City
'Le Tombeau de
'The Steadfast Tin Soldier,' 'Ballade' and
June 7, 2003 -- New
York State Theater, New York
Saturday evening, New York City Ballet celebrated the choreography of
George Balanchine, presenting a program of four ballets from the last
decade of his life. Le Tombeau de Couperin, The Steadfast
Tin Soldier, Ballade and Vienna Waltzes were
all choreographed in the five years between 1975 to 1980, yet are fascinating
in their stunning variety, which include everything from the abstract
to the children’s story.
In Le Tombeau de Couperin , one of Balanchine’s “black and white
ballets”, the dancers are arranged in two eight-person quadrilles, each
mirroring the steps of the other. The choreography walks a delicate line
between energy and dignity, with the restraint slipping away as the Ravel’s
music progresses from the proper Prelude to the joyous Rigaudon. While
the choreography is based on older dances, its seems also to hint at the
steps and rhythms of the square dance. When the dancers face each other
in two long lines, one couple dancing in the middle, it is eerily reminiscent
of the Virginia Reel, a traditional square dance. The experienced cast,
especially Dena Abergel, Aesha Ash, Dana Hanson and Stephen Hanna, proceeded
through the tricky steps with aplomb, exuding energy without blurring
the choreography and finding a perfect balance between being too eager
and being too somber. The frequent smiles conveyed a sense of confidence
and joy in a job well done without becoming cloying or giddy.
In her first performance of The Steadfast Tin Soldier , Alexandra
Ansanelli demonstrated yet again the impressive talents that earned her
a recent promotion to principal dancer. Ansanelli and Woetzel, stunning
together in Christopher Wheeldon’s Carousel , were technically
and emotionally breathtaking in the poignant story of doomed love between
a paper doll and a tin soldier. Woetzel, who seems re-energized since
his return from a long injury layoff, gave one of the best performances
of the role in many years. Every movement was perfectly in character,
every jump fully rotated with effortless height and spot on landings-a
near flawless performance. At thirty-six, Woetzel seems to be entering
one of the best periods in his dancing career so far. Her face alive with
_expression, and her dancing precise and giddily energetic, Ansanelli
was an ideal choice for the role of the paper doll. Delightfully shy in
the beginning, she was joyfully love-struck before her exuberance led
to tragedy. Ansanelli’s technique was excellent, one especially memorable
moment being the rock solid promenade with her flex-footed leg in second.
Woetzel was a supportive and emotionally connected partner, his solitary
salute in the end made more poignant by the electric performance that
proceeded it. Georges Bizet's music and David Mitchell’s set and costumes
completed the performance.
One of Balanchine’s last ballets , Ballade is a dreamy interlude
with dancers in Ben Benson’s frothy pink and lavender costumes floating
across the stage to the strains Gabriel Faure’s Ballade for piano and
orchestra. This dream-like atmosphere was a perfect setting for Wendy
Whelan’s delicate and musical performance. Exploring every nuance of Faure’s
music, Whelan placed every step, every bend of the wrist, every turn of
her head placed perfectly in the context of the muisc. It wasn’t just
dancing to the music, it was feeling and dancing totally with the music.
Balanchine’s choreography doesn’t provide much for the male dancer, but
Philip Neal made the best of the role. Never overwhelming, he provided
just the right touch in his partnering of Whelan, supporting and adding
to her performance. The corps looked elegant and orderly, with neat footwork
and delicate port de bras.
Concluding the tour of Balanchine’s later works was a repeat performance
of Vienna Waltzes . Replacing Miranda Weese in the Fruhlingsstimmen
waltz, Alexandra Ansanelli was again in top form. Appearing slightly tired
in the beginning, she seemed re-energized by Peter Boal’s high-leaping
and gracious performance. In particular, Ansanelli’s final sequence of
sparkling pique turns was wonderfully precise and speedy. In the saucy
Explosions Polka, Amanda Edge and Tom Gold could have been more precise
in the footwork. However, their dancing was giddy and energetic, the outrageous
choreography seeming to be as fun to perform as it was to watch. The grand
finale was again breathtaking, a reminder of the enormous impact that
Balanchine’s ballets continue to have, even twenty years after his death.
Maurice Kaplow and Richard Moredock conducted, and Mark Stanley provided
the lighting (after the original lighting by Ronald Bates in all but Ballade).
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