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Flash Review 1, 1-28: Bloodless at
Martins Mines Balanchine, Dancers Deliver
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2001 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- On Thursday night, the
audience at the New York State Theater was presented with "Viva Verdi," another
Peter Martins New York premiere for City Ballet, a Verdi Festival commission which
premiered in Parma last September. Martins seems lately to be plumbing the technical
Balanchinean wellspring more than the dramatic boundaries of his dancers, in the
process challenging his dancers to ever-bigger physical feats. To "Variations
on Verdi's La Traviata" by Verdi and Marc-Olivier Dupin, the ballet was severe,
emotionally sparing, and academic, if at times downright merciless in technique.
The adept dancers handled Martins's terpsichorean trickery with elan, but the
lingering impression of "Viva" was still somewhat bloodless.
Maria Kowroski replaced Darci Kistler
that night in the lead role, partnered by Charles Askegard. The two towered over
the three supporting dancers in yellow tutus, Ashley Bouder, Lindy Mandradjieff,
and Abi Stafford, who were purposely identical in physique from the audience's
distance, down to hair color and height. Each of these three women are accomplished
in their own right, albeit in the petit allegro ideal of a tightly coiled, quicksilver
fireball. And yet they often looked like children, in one scene even resembling
a small pack of dogs being walked by Askegard, who held their hands like leashes
as they twined around him. The women were, however, given meaty sections of allegro
movement to show off their substantial technique, adding hummingbird-quick battus
to their passes and jumping through second position in the air from pointe, back
to pointe, which ranks up there in degree of difficulty.
In an opening sequence, Bouder, Mandradjieff,
and Stafford joined hands to help Kowroski promenade at a regal pace. Kowroski's
long legs, exceptional feet, and hyperextended knees add up to a remarkable line,
and she demonstrated perfect pace in outside coupe turns. Her height makes it
a challenge to match her with a physically suitable partner. Except for one passage
in which he seemed to struggle as he lowered her from a lift to her feet, Askegard
was a good fit. He possesses a stately air, displayed in an adagio section which
incorporated arabesque promenades executed with two rhythmic hops, and in arm-swapping
port de bras through high and low fifth positions. Askegard and Kowroski swapped
solos back and forth for a bit, giving way to the group of three, who showed how
Martins can be musically playful with movement in piques in which the trailing
leg circled from second to the front, slurring the phrase visually.
Also on the program was "Stravinsky
Violin Concerto," one of a remarkable eight Balanchine premieres presented as
part of the NYCB Stravinsky Festival in 1972. Bristling with edges, full of quirks,
jokes, and question marks, the choreography shows how suited Stravinsky and Balanchine
were for one another. Featured were guest artist Gitte Lindstrom, who performed
with a poised sparkle, and Wendy Whelan, a scientist in the labororatory of ballet,
finding ways to pull new shapes out of old moves. Nilas Martins and Jock Soto
provided solid partnering, each showing a bit of the flare that got them there:
Martins in surprisingly buoyant entrechats six, and Soto in an aggressive chain
of grand allegro movements directly downstage. Jerome Robbins's "Dances at a Gathering"
led off the evening. Peter Boal showed his quiet charm and elegant technique in
the leading solo scene, and later in a series of big turns, which he finished
with his signature plush confidence. Pascale van Kipnis (dancing in place of Kowroski)
performed the green dress role of demonstrative flirt with snap and youthful energy.
Both the choreography and Chopin piano music of "Dances" suits Yvonne Borree to
a tee, allowing her to show her strong cards of delicacy, fluidity, and a keen
awareness of her entire body's attitude when being lifted, particularly when paired
with Nikolaj Hubbe. (See also my review of this ballet
at its January 11 performance.)
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