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Flash Review 2, 1-29:
I Got the Music All Over Me
Mixed Musical Marathon at NYCB
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2001 Susan Yung
New York City Ballet's
January 27 program was an homage to the relatively contented marriage
of dance and music at the State Theater. It was, to say the least,
a mixed bag.
Jerome Robbins's "Fanfare"
(1953), to a score by Benjamin Britten incorporating a repeated
theme by Henry Purcell, literally cast the dancers as instruments.
Their costumes, by Irene Sharaff, bore embroidered pictures of the
instruments they represented. The performance included a number
of players who had just bowed in the roles at Saturday's matinee.
Most prominent was the non-dancing role of Major Domo by David Lowenstein,
who served capably as jovial narrator and ringmaster. The clarinets,
Janie Taylor and Edward Liang, made a handsome pairing, though she
was at a disadvantage -- and the timing was thrown off -- in parallel
sections where she was called upon to match Liang's powerful jumps.
Aesha Ash, Rebecca Krohn, and Eva Natanya need more rehearsals as
a cello section; they were frequently not in sync.
Rachel Rutherford and
Jared Angle moved smoothly through their partnering with savvy beyond
their years. Amanda Hankes was elegant as the harp, if a bit serious
in demeanor, and Antonio Carmena was an excellent, game match for
Kurt Froman as a firecracker trumpet. The scene stealers were the
three percussion instruments, which included a fine role debut by
Benjamin Millepied; their characters (and the brass) were permitted
human feelings such as boredom and fear. As a music lesson, "Fanfare"
succeeds as a visual demonstration of the power of an orchestra,
particularly in the finale performed to two separate, simultaneously
played tempi, to which the women danced allegro and the men andante
on separate halves of the stage. However, as theater, it felt didactic,
overly perky, and a tad stale.
In contrast, Balanchine's
1972 "Duo Concertant" came across as timeless and relevant. It was
danced beautifully by Yvonne Borree and Peter Boal to Stravinsky
performed onstage by Guillermo Figueroa (violin) and Cameron Grant
(piano). The dancers stood and watched the musicians for the first
few minutes (and then periodically during breaks), and performed
sometimes literal semaphoric renditions of the music, including
some devilishly difficult (presumably for the musicians as well)
passages of petite allegro. Borree and Boal were rewarding to watch,
with a technical precision, delineation, and rich maturity that
also by Balanchine, featured Jenifer Ringer and Kathleen Tracey
as the female leads. To Hindemith, played by Cameron Grant on piano,
the cast included Nilas Martins and Albert Evans, plus nine corps
men. Ringer, new to the role this week, established herself as intelligent,
quick, and vivacious, even when partnered by the solid but lackluster
The evening's newest
work, Eliot Feld's "Organon" (2001) to Bach organ music (a synth
version, anyway), left me despondent. It was overblown, overproduced,
overwrought, overpopulated, and underchoreographed. (It also evoked
a number of other productions I've seen in the last few years, none
by Feld or City Ballet.) The positives: Damian Woetzel turned in
a passionate and courageous performance as the Christ-like protagonist,
amazingly dexterous in shedding a unitard while hanging from a few
rods of metal far above the stage. And a corps of 60+ has never
looked as chic, dressed in black turtleneck/tank unitards and black
socks and shoes, while the keyboardists, Elaine Chelton and Alan
Moverman, played commendably.
Otherwise, this monstrous
parable of -- ironically -- redemption gaudily showed every one
of its many allotted pennies in tangibles: more props, more dancers,
more speakers, whatever, with little or no spiritual or intellectual
reward. By the end, I felt like I had been locked inside an organ
during a marathon Mass. My senses were deadened, and the reassuring
familiarity of dance's enriching, life-affirming virtues had all
For additional thoughts
on "Organon," see my colleague Alicia Mosier's
Flash Review 3, 1-24: Back to Diapers with Damian.
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