New York City Ballet

'Le Tombeau de Couperin,' 'Tarantella,' 'Symphonic Dances,' 'Fancy Free'

by Kate Snedeker

January 18, 2003 -- New York State Theater, NY

The matinee performance of the New York City Ballet on January 18th, provided a delightful opportunity to see both new and experienced dancers in a wide variety of choreography.

Starting off the afternoon was a elegant performance of Balanchine's "Le Tombeau de Couperin." Set to music by Maurice Ravel, "Le Tombeau de Couperin" is Balanchine's exploration of, and variation on, the geometric patterns in traditional eighteenth-century court dances. The dancers, clothed in practice clothes -- white dresses for the women and black tights and white shirts for the men -- are organized into two eight-person quadrilles, which then mirror each other's patterns.

This particular performance was notable for the highly seasoned cast, all of whom are members of the corps de ballet. The sixteen dancers in the cast together represented 143 years of New York City Ballet experience, an average of eight years per dancer. The experience was obvious in the generally crisp and tidy performance, and the attention to the details, from toe point to hand position. In particular, it was enjoyable to see Andrew Robertson and Christopher Boehmer, two of the most senior corps dancers, have the opportunity to show off their classical skills.

After "Le Tombeau de Couperin," came a highly energetic and delightfully tongue-in-cheek performance of Balanchine's bravura pas de deux, "Tarantella" danced by Benjamin Millepied and Alexandra Ansanelli. Set to Louis Moreau Gottschalk's music and costumed by Karinska, the ballet is full of tricky steps emphasizing quick shifts of balance. Well-matched in appearance and talent, Ansanelli and Millepied had no trouble with these steps, and clearly enjoyed the chance to show off their bravura skills. Both handled the challenge of combining dance steps and tambourine playing with aplomb. The choreography also allowed Millepied to show off his wonderfully fast, neat pirouettes and his crisp, effortlessly airy jumps.

In the end, with a very cheeky grin, Millepied planted stolen kiss on the equally grinning Ansanelli's cheek. This is definitely a partnership to watch, and one hopes it will be allowed to develop.

Next was a pleasant, but unremarkable performance of Peter Martin's "Symphonic Dances." With costumes by Santo Loquasto, the ballet suffers from the beginning from Martin's choice of Rachmaninoff's beautiful, but unsuited "Symphonic Dances." The music is certainly lovely, but simply is not meant to carry a ballet.

Yvonne Borree and the newly arrived Robert Tewsley danced well as the lead couple, but at times she seemed to be overwhelmed by him. Borree is petite, with a fragility to her dancing that was often ill-suited to his elegant and classical, but solid dancing. Perhaps a dancer like Jenifer Ringer or Miranda Weese would be a better match for the power and the classical lines of his dancing. The four demi-soloist couples were solid in the high-flying choreography, with the men especially solid in the double tours. Of note was the appearance of former Royal Danish Ballet dancer, and half-brother of Nilas Martins, Ask laCour. LaCour, a tall, long limbed dancer, displayed nice ballon and elegant extension, and seems to be a talented addition to the company.

The evening concluded with another energetic performance, this time by Daniel Ulbricht, Arch Higgins and Millepied in Jerome Robbins' "Fancy Free". This youthful trio was clearly well-rehearsed and a delight to watch, both in the dancing and the little details. As the athletic sailor, Ulbricht never ceased to amaze with the sheer power of his dancing. Arch Higgins is good fit for the romantic sailor role with his fluid dancing and curly haired, dark-eyed good looks, but needs to wear his hat a bit farther up on his head. Like Damian Woetzel earlier in the season, Millepied appeared to be intentionally de-latinizing his rumba, and it was effective.

As a whole this cast was very energetic, with much pizzazz in the dancing and plenty of rough and tumble. As the first passer-by, Amanda Edge was excellent, with the right verve in her mime, as were Rachel Rutherford and Rebecca Krohn. The only weak spot was in the three-man lean, where the three men needed to lean farther over to get the right effect, although it may be difficult for the very short Ulbricht to support the other two dancers.

Edited by Mary Ellen Hunt.

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