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Flash Review, 1-22: Classic Balanchine,
Contemporary Barak at NYCB
Follow the Bouncing Boal from Downtown to Uptown as he Follows "La Sonnambula"
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2002 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- As the poet in "La Sonnambula,"
Peter Boal had the most richly dramatic role in New York City Ballet's Saturday
afternoon program. It seemed a fitting reward for him, capping a week in which
he commuted between the State and Joyce Theaters, also appearing with Molissa
Fenley in her Altogether Different run downtown. The role of poet was well-suited
for Boal as well, perhaps an ideal would-be profession for a man who exudes elegance
and emotion with remarkable physical economy. Boal is also an example of a performer
who channels his age into added dimensions onstage, rather than bearing it as
a burden. He is a pleasure to watch.
Choreographed by Balanchine in 1946,
"La Sonnambula" has a brittle, costumed-opera feel. Much of the cast is in soft
or character shoes, and a lot of the movement involves sarabanding about the stage
in pairs. The courtliness is given a good ride in performances by James Fayette
(The Baron), whose physical stolidness gave him great authority, and by Helene
Alexopoulos (The Coquette), dramatic and flirtatious. Boal garnered her attention
in short time, but she was sneakily escorted offstage by Fayette, leaving Boal
alone. Yvonne Borree (The Sleepwalker) appeared, symbolized by a perpetually present
candle, her presence cleverly seen as light through the windows. Even though she
was not present spiritually, she cast a fatal spell over Boal, who was killed
in an act of jealousy. He was carried offstage in Borree's slight arms, into her
world, and presumably to eternal happiness. Boal was charming as he tried to snap
Borree out of her spell by diving in front of her, though --n ot her fault --
her emotionally meager role didn't offer much to play against. Borree was coolly
hypnotic, well cast as an otherworldy sylph who glided over the stage in silken
The program began with Melissa Barak's
"Telemann Overture Suite in E Minor," in which the NYCB corps member demonstrated
a wisdom beyond her 22 years by choreographing to a satisfyingly structured score,
and sticking with basic, if quick, ballet fundamentals. The cast seemed to be
having a good time, sometimes allowed to add jazzy, unclassical flourishes, a
la Balanchine. Carrie Lee Riggins and Amanda Edge were sharp and buoyant in their
solos. It was wonderful to watch Barak's logical, dancy movement, especially in
light of her age.
"Cortege Hongrois" (1973) by Balanchine
to music by Alexander Glazounov, replaced "Jeu de Cartes" on the program due to
illness and injury. Aesha Ash and James Fayette projected a focused energy despite
the color guard costumes they were required to wear. Jenifer Ringer and Damian
Woetzel, less encumbered by trappings, showed their respective vivacious classicism
and effortless bravura. While such pieces should not be excised from City Ballet's
repertory simply because their colonialist aspect is somewhat unseemly, perhaps
the costumes could be updated so as not to be embarrassing.
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