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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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