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Flash Review 2, 1-7: Dancers Wobble
& a Good Ballet Falls Down
NYCB Dancers Fail Martins in Premiere
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2002 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- "Quartet for Strings,"
choreographed by Peter Martins to Verdi's String Quartet in E minor, was given
its New York premiere this week by City Ballet at the State Theater. It was situated
in Saturday afternoon's program between a segment of two Balanchine shorts and
a Sean Lavery duet, and Jerome Robbins's entertaining dance, "The Four Seasons."
Based on recent years' work by Martins, I had anticipated that any weakness in
"Quartet" would lie within the choreography or an overambitious scope; to my surprise,
it was poor execution on the part of the company that ultimately failed the piece.
"Quartet" began with what emerged
as a strong suit for Martins -- a lyrical stage-crossing phrase full of quick
changes of direction and movement. It reminded me of something a teacher might
give students toward the end of class to loosen things up, to demonstrate that
ballet can indeed be fun. This passage showed Martins's tendency to illustrate
the music, but in a pleasing, loosely-sketched way, rather than a factual, tedious
reading. (A case in point of the latter: a dry passage comprising two duets executing
coupes and hops, repeated.) Martins created some memorable motifs, including percussive
port de bras from high to low fifth, and lifts in which the women would wag their
bent legs to and fro.
Yvonne Borree was in the midst of
giving a particularly focused, crisp, and lively performance with her partner,
Sebastien Marcovici, until they came to a lengthy passage in which he carried
her in various positions and was unable to secure both of her shoulders to lower
her down, dropping her awkwardly. Sadly, Marcovici never seemed to regain the
bold confidence he'd had theretofore, but it was wonderful to see Borree finally
take charge of the stage. Margaret Tracey and Nikolaj Hubbe paired off well, at
times in a hypnotically dreamy mood. Tracey performed airy split lifts, but also
seemed to have her own technical glitches, and I wanted her to be a stronger presence.
Hubbe -- who could pass for a young Peter Martins from afar -- offered handsome,
solid grounding. Jennie Somogyi seems to attract vibrant roles in which she is
free to be aggressive and solitary, and flourishes as such. The ending, though,
was particularly weak technically, with the five soloists disagreeing musically,
and the three women -- in standing backbends over the men's linked arms -- wobbling
like mad as the curtain descended.
Balanchine's contributions to the
program were "Monumentum Pro Gesualdo" (1960) and "Movements for Piano and Orchestra"
(1963) both very short works to Stravinsky. The first's score was stately and
regal, reflected perfectly by Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard. Kowroski's
wonderful line is helped out by well-shaped, long feet; Askegard provides a worthy
partner, but seems to hold tension in his shoulders onstage. In "Movements" he
was paired with Helene Alexopoulos, who wound vertically around his body in gymnastic
partnering. She matched the jazzier, more abstract tone of the music, opening
and closing her bent leg like a gate.
The other short work was the balcony
scene from "Romeo & Juliet" (to Prokofiev) choreographed by Lavery in 1991, and
danced Satirdau by Peter Boal and Borree. Boal offered lovely, quiet arabesque
finishes to triple pirouettes, and an impeccable deep lunge landing from a big
scissor-legged tour. Borree was a charming Juliet; in a partnered promenade in
which she changed positions several times, she looked for all the world to be
on a marvelous, magical journey.
"The Four Seasons" (1979, to Verdi's
music) showed Robbins's unique success in walking a tightrope between opera and
musical theater. It was full of humorous touches out of the ballet idiom, yet
perfectly comfortable with technical "tests." In "Winter," the corps rubbed their
hands together and shivered; Ashley Bouder exuded bright confidence, full of ripe
potential. Her male mates, Antonio Carmena and Sean Suozzi, were serviceable,
but both demonstrated the need for the company to develop its men's feet as more
refined tools. Jennifer Ringer was luminous in "Spring," paired with a substituting
Philip Neal, whose charming stage presence matched hers, somewhat uncharacteristicly
for a male. Ringer was regal and luxuriant in her timing, never rushing unnecessarily;
her solid pique attitudes and her ability to actually look at the audience while
turning in circles away from us radiated a deep confidence. James Fayette and
Monique Meunier partnered in the pulsing "Summer" section, which had a more bluesy
undercurrent, on a sultry pace for the long, hot months. "Fall," the boffo ending,
featured Alexandra Ansanelli, Damian Woetzel, and the explosive Daniel Ulbricht.
Ansanelli was impressive not just from a technical standpoint, but as a captivating,
dramatic presence. Woetzel looked slightly weary, or indifferent, but his physical
ability rose to the occasion, manifested at one point in six turns which finished
in a slow developpe in second. It was Ulbricht, though, who stole this segment;
dressed as a faun, he hit big splits in tours and demanded to be watched.
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