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Flash Review 2, 2-15: Raw, Polished,
and Rollicking at City Ballet
Woetzel owns 'Prodigal,' Ansanelli Romps in 'Concert'
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2002 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- New York City Ballet
offered an interesting program on Wednesday night, balancing Balanchine's airy
"Scotch Symphony" with the fauvist "Prodigal Son" and Robbins's comical folly,
"The Concert." It was a good opportunity to compare Balanchine's early raw stage
concept with his polished, classical period, both defining vastly different aesthetics.
Jenifer Ringer recently stepped into
the principal role of "Scotch Symphony," (1952). An ardently classical technique
and line served Ringer well in this role, which tends to emphasize noble, stately
movement. Her port de bras was liquidly beautiful, and she was relaxed enough
to make conversational expressions with her mouth. Early on, she seemed somewhat
unsure in preparations for simple outside pirouettes, turning in her supporting
foot slightly in preparations, but that seemed to pass as she warmed up. Ringer
was paired with Charles Askegard, a natural choice for the role of a cavalier
wooing not just a woman, but a clan. Askegard performed cleanly a series of difficult
double + a quarter tours en l'air, landing in arabesque developpe. Janie Taylor
had just the right economical snap to her petit allegro in the devilishly quick
opening section. The corps' arms varied in sections in which they were held at
diagonals, but in general they danced with a paced energy.
"Prodigal Son" premiered in 1929
on Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris, and was first performed by City Ballet
in 1950, with a revival in 1986. Despite that Prokofiev, the composer, was not
fond of this piece choreographed by a 24-year-old Balanchine, it was otherwise
well-received enough to survive. With Damian Woetzel in the lead role and set
designs by the artist Georges Rouault, it is a thrilling link between the present
and the company's rich history, cutting across continents and through time. Woetzel
was born to play this part, which no doubt would have been written for him if
Balanchine were alive and choreographing it today. (Eliot Feld seemed to have
similar grandiose ideas for Woetzel when he brewed up the bloated "Organon.")
The choreography is choppy and tends toward melodrama -- including big gestures
and leaps and grotesque mime sections performed by eleven men. Maria Kowroski
always lends a certain otherworldiness to things, and as the Siren she used her
long limbs to best advantage, carving dramatic, angular shapes. Woetzel is one
of the best thespian-dancers in the company, and performed the final section of
repentant son with lucid poignancy. Stuart Capps bowed in the supporting part
of servant, performing the drunken dances playfully.
Jerome Robbins choreographed "The
Concert" in 1956, creating a farce that pokes at ballet while having fun with
it, too. The premise is a piano recital of Chopin, played onstage Wednesday by
Cameron Grant, which draws an assortment of characters. Alexandra Ansanelli, in
a role debut, played a playful, romantic young woman enchanted by the music, and
in search of the perfect hat. Ansanelli was ideally suited for the part, flinging
her long hair about, and executing pratfalls and exaggerated facial expressions
with aplomb. Kipling Houston and Melissa Walter dealt admirably with the less
flattering roles of beleaguered husband and wife. The women in supporting roles
sunk their teeth into a group section in which one person was always off. The
most beautiful scene had little or no dance in it -- each person carried an umbrella,
sometimes open or not, creating a Magritte-inspired tableau.
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