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Flash Review 2, 1-11: New Gathering
Cast Changes in Robbins's 'Dances,' but Regulars Borree and Ringer Provide the Dazzle

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2002 Susan Yung

NEW YORK -- On Wednesday, New York City Ballet presented Jerome Robbins's "Dances at a Gathering" (1969) and Balanchine's "Symphony in C" (1947), a program guaranteed to sate the most devoted City Ballet fan for at least a week.Three women made role debuts in "Dances," and while it was difficult to find fault with them, when grouped with tenured "Dances" soloists Yvonne Borree and Jenifer Ringer, it was clear they have much room to develop in the inseparable areas of technique, confidence, and personality.

A role in "Dances at a Gathering" is a plum. With only ten dancers total and a full hour long, there is plenty of quality stage time working in Robbins's charming house blend of the technical and the thespian. To fourteen short works for piano by Chopin, played wonderfully Wednesday by Cameron Grant, it is not until the finale that all of the dancers are onstage at once, mostly working solo, in pairs, or in small groups. The title actually conveys as much of a context as what takes place onstage.

Helene Alexopoulos, Eva Natanya, and Rachel Rutherford made role debuts in "Dances." Alexopoulos was charming and flirtatious, impatiently tapping her toe back and forth. In a segment full of miniaturized grand allegro movements, she eventually displayed such energetic independence that she scared away all interested suitors. Some of the steps she was required to do showed some awkward balkiness, but that most likely was caused by working on or through her pointe shoes' wooden shanks. The willowy Natanya made special efforts to engage and interact with the others. Her confident epaulement created an particularly elegant line. Rutherford displayed a clean classicism, although she lacks a certain fluidity in her torso and arms, apparent during the simplest of moves (like running).

This was especially obvious when dancing next to Borree, who at times seemed to possess no bones at all. She has a weightless delicacy that was set off well in "Dances," at times more hologram than human. Her hands finished and extended movement phrases, and she paced simple but slow chaines with arms in a 'v' so that the movement was seamless and pulseless. Jenifer Ringer, evolving into the complete NYCB ballerina, looked to be enjoying a folk-influenced segment with Nikolaj Hubbe as much as rapid foot-changing (echappes and passes) with Benjamin Millepied. Her dancing possesses a rich fullness, and she often finishes -- polishes -- a phrase with a little extra something.

Hubbe and Millepied had the meatiest male parts, if quite different in nature. The all-purpose Hubbe went smoothly from Scottish jigs, through strong partnering, to a slow outside turn in coupe that was so velvety he appeared to be revolving on a slow turntable. He 'dueled' with Damian Woetzel, who opened "Dances" by casually toying with some dance moves. He surely enlisted more fan club members by acquitting himself well in the virtuoso stuff, including an remarkably controlled front developpe ending to a multiple-turn sequence.

Millepied drew the petite and grand allegro sections, with good reason. Not only is it the precision with which he scribed rapid passages, it is his intelligence, evident in the way his head's angle anticipated a movement, never trailing it. It is also his flagrant disregard for gravity, the way he exploded off the ground. (He substituted as well in "Symphony in C.") With a few more years and an equal amount of confidence, Sebastien Marcovici may be indispensable as leading-man material as well as a gifted soloist. He is already a welcome presence in a company in need of leading men. James Fayette may be damned by his competence, capable of doing everything well but unable to truly distinguish himself in any regard. The onstage movement in the finale was almost shockingly serene when paired with the violent arpeggios of Chopin's Nocturne Op. 15, No. 1.

Balanchine's "Symphony in C" is a highly structured technical tour-de-force to Georges Bizet's music. It comprises four musical movements in four sections for four couples, supported by a large corps. Jeroen Hofmans made his debut in the work, albeit in the briefest section. Hofmans has a bright demeanor and exceptionally well-formed feet to end his slender legs, despite a tendency toward some stiffness in his shoulder carriage. Notable were the ethereal Darci Kistler, whose arabesque line is textbook; Alexandra Ansanelli, whose hyperextended knees and pliant feet abetted the boldness of her extra-wide echappes; and the buoyant Millepied. The lively score was conducted by George Cleve.

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