New York City Ballet

'Kammermusik No. 2,' 'Ballade,' 'Haiku,' 'Symphony in C'

by Kate Snedeker

February 1, 2003 -- New York State Theater

On the first of February, New Yorkers woke up to gloomy weather and gloomy news, and the grim feelingwas continued with a very flat afternoon of dancing by the New York City Ballet. The afternoon included three Balanchine ballets and a ballet by NYCB principal, Albert Evans.

The matinee opened with an uneven performance of Balanchine's "Kammermusik No. 2," a ballet set to music by Hindemith. In a solid debut, Sofiane Sylve showed off her beautifully centered pirouettes and crisp attack of the steps in Balanchine's angular choreography.

Maria Kowroski was appealing as the other soloist, and was well-matched with the tall Charles Askegard. Though solid in the rest of the ballet, Askegard and Philip Neal became jarringly out of synch with each other and with the music in their duet, so much so that it looked in sequence instead of in synch. The corps men also had their problems, with one dancer obviously missing a jete step. It was a performance that looked under-rehearsed and uncharacteristically sloppy for such an experienced cast.

Balanchine's "Ballade" followed, with both Robert Tewsley and Wendy Whelan making their debuts in this tender ballet to Opus 19 of Faure's "Ballade." This performance demonstrated yet again why Whelan has become one of the most accomplished ballerinas at NYCB. She flowed from one step to another, mixing delicacy with technical power. Robert Tewsley was a classically elegant Cavalier, but did not seem comfortable with the speed that is characteristic of Balanchine's choreography.

Slipping slightly at one point, Tewsley lacked ballon in his jumps, but still had elegant epaulment. Unfortunately, despite the quality of the individual dancing, as an emotional pas deux, the ballet fell flat. The lack of emotional connection drained the ballet of the power that Balanchine's steps should have. Hopefully, with more rehearsal, Whelan and Tewsley will be able to bring their individual talents together in a more emotionally involved performance.

Albert Evan's "Haiku" was the highlight of the afternoon, standing out with its percussive score by John Cage, played by Essential Music and Alan Moverman, and Carole Divet's simple red costumes. The ballet's strengths seem to lie in its plain red costumes, simply lit stage (lighting by Mark Stanley) and spare music.

Choreographing both to music and silence, Evans makes the most of the varied talents of his dancers. The choreography is angular, with the men stretching their partners into splits, and cartwheeling them slowly over, and a frequent motif of the women being lifted, their bent legs around their partners' necks. Each pas de deux ended in silence, focusing the attention on the slow, pointed movements of the dancers, making it that much more intense. Seth Orza stood out, both in his high flying solo and his mesmerizing pas de deux with Carla Korbes. Aesha Ash and a slightly stiff Sebastian Marcovici, and Faye Arthurs and Stephen Hanna were also equally powerful.

The afternoon concluded with a generally solid performance of "Symphony in C." In the first movement, Jennie Somogyi was excellent, and though Nilas Martins was competent in his partnering, his individual dancing lacked involvement and power.

Neal and Whelan, in the second movement, were the strongest of the lead dancers, their partnering confident and expressive. Antonio Carmena was a late replacement for Benjamin Millepied in the third movement, but unfortunately his enthusiastic performance was not matched by Janie Taylor. Carmena has a smooth, loose limbed elegance to his dancing that is still tinged with a bit of youthful exuberance. Taylor, who often has a wonderful attack to her dancing, seemed to be distracted (perhaps by injury, illness or the tragic events of the day) and dancing in her own world. At times the two were scarily close, and her dancing constrained in comparison. They did come together in the end of the movement, but in the finale Taylor was slightly, but obviously off from the other three lead ballerinas.

Abi Stafford also was a last minute substitution, dancing elegantly with a wonderful Arch Higgins.

The conclusion, with the complete cast on stage, is always impressive, and the corps, clad in Karinska’s classic white tutus, was in good form, providing a triumphant end to the afternoon.

Edited by Mary Ellen Hunt.

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