New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a
list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews
Journal, 6-5: Hen; Hens' Teeth
From Filles to Hermans: 200 years in Ballet, One Weekend at Lincoln Center
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2002 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- At Lincoln Center last
weekend, you could practically hear ballet being stretched limb-from-limb. Stretched
thin in the case of the operetta-like "La Fille Mal Gardee," choreographed by
Frederick Ashton, and performed Saturday by American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan
Opera House. And across the plaza, Sunday at the New York State Theater, New York
City Ballet was giving contemporary (outside of its own pantheon of choreographers)
a whirl with William Forsythe's "Herman Schmerman," on an oddly mixed program
which included Balanchine's one-act "Swan Lake."
As dance insiders know, Forsythe's
cozy incubator of a nest -- Ballett Frankfurt -- is in peril, although as of this
writing negotiations are underway with the town of Frankfurt to extend Forsythe's
contract. Meanwhile, here in New York, performances of Forsythe's ballets are
rarer than hens' teeth. Besides the company's visits to the Brookyn Academy of
Music spaced by multiple years, we get an occasional very short work performed
by a company entrusted by Forsythe not to butcher his distinctive style.
In the case of "Herman Schmerman,"
a Diamond Project commission in 1992, great faith has been shown City Ballet to
bring this duet to the stage in fighting condition. It is not in the more traditional
ballet vocabulary which can be seen in "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude."
Indeed, it is full Forsythe idiom, which is nearly impossible to embody for dancers
not working with Forsythe on a daily basis. Wendy Whelan, as one might expect
of all City Ballet-rinas, was able to capture the essence of his style: she is
agile, athletic, open-minded and generous of modern spirit. Still, her epaulement
tended toward traditional jazz use of opposition; perhaps Forsythe's intention,
but it felt apart idiomatically. Whelan did capture essential Forsythe in her
hip-first chassees, echappes going deep into plie in second, and hyper-attenuated,
floaty developpes, as well as her deadpan, are-you-joking demeanor.
One look at her partner, Albert
Evans, and it is clear he is an athlete. After seeing his recent Diamond Project
contribution, "Haiku," it is obvious that Evans has higher aspirations for ballet
than the standard vocabulary. But he looked ill at ease with Forsythe's rubbery
style, his limbs too thick, his joints inflexible, the articulation of his feet
inadequate. In other dances, I've wanted Evans to give of himself more to the
audience (well, if not give it, at least sell it) and this was so in "Herman,"
although Whelan coaxed him to the edge in her visual, stage-exiting game of chicken.
He fared better in technical feats such as turns with the leg in second attitude,
and in the final moment, when he and Whelan finally succumb to the assisted pirouette,
back home to the coop of City Ballet's repertory. In addition to "Swan Lake,"
the program was rounded out by "Kammermusik" and "Mercurial Manoeuvres."
On the opposite end of ballet's
spectrum is "Fille." One of the oldest ballets still being performed -- Jean Dauberval's
first version being created in 1786, Ashton's in 1960 -- it tells the story of
young country lovers who are united despite hurdles of all kinds. The ABT cast
I watched featured Nina Ananiashvili (Lise) and Carlos Acosta (Colas), with Brian
Reeder and Guillaume Graffin in supporting roles. With so much buzz about Acosta's
first ABT season, I expected great things from him. He has a sharply cut musculature,
is well-proportioned for leading man roles, and has a incredibly solid releve
with absolutely no bounce to it. (Doesn't sound very impressive, but it is neat
to see.) However, it was actually his reticence, his hewing to a somewhat conservative
restrained line, which was notable.
The big surprise was Nina Ananiashvili,
whose elegant, truly classical line was a pleasure to watch. In an age when ballerinas
are becoming more and more athletic, Ananiashvili is effortlessly good at everything,
which may not make headline news, but over the course of an evening-length ballet,
was a relief. (A case in opposite point is City Ballet's Maria Kowroski, who is
one of the most fascinating ballerinas in New York now, and yet whose past-vertical
penche became a freaky side-show in Eliot Feld's "Organon," and appeared, ill-advisedly,
in "Swan Lake" on Sunday.) Ananiashvili's physique is still girlish, and her natural
lightness and sweet demeanor suited her well for the coquettish part of Lise.
And she has a picture-perfect grand jete.
"Fille" is filled with fussy asides
-- many involving ribbons, such as a maypole ritual which creates a woven tube
surprisingly quickly, and a cat's cradle duet by the lovers that I thought would
result in someone's asphyxiation. It is also rife with scenes that, to the contemporary
sensibility, moved at a glacial pace. And yet Ashton created some wonderfully
knit large ensemble movements, including the maypole dance and a post-harvest
celebration. He did not feature the two leads so much that they would bore us,
and tossed in some truly difficult feats for them to prove their mettle, such
as Lise's slow promenade in attitude holding only ribbon ends pinwheeling around
her, and some dead lifts by Colas, including a dreaded one-handed fanny press.
The supporting roles are caricatures,
and only the role of reluctant suitor Alain, performed by Carlos Lopez, had any
substantial dancing to it. Lopez made the most of his pathetic assignment, gamely
running across the stage with his hands flapping and chewing through a tough petit
allegro section; most of the time he clutched a red bumbershoot. Graffin performed
the role of the mother of Lise, clogging away with some corps women outfitted
with pointe clogs. Special mention should be made of the charming cockerel and
chickens, who hopped sweetly from their coop to begin the ballet.
Go back to Flash Reviews