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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 bourrees.

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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