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Journal, 6-10: Mostly Modern Dances, Up & Downtown
City Ballet Revives a Real Diamond; Sampling Dance at Symphony Space
By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2002 Maura Nguyen Donohue
NEW YORK -- Thursday evening at
the State Theater New York City Ballet opened an uneven program with one of its
best arguments for the highly contested Diamond Project. Angelin Preljocaj's stunning
"La Stravaganza" was created for City Ballet through the new ballet choreography
initiative named for philanthropist Irene Diamond. For the Diamond Project's 10th
anniversary, the company is premiering eight ballets and resurrecting another
15 from previous Diamond Project festivals. Preljocaj premiered "La Stravaganza"
in 1997, and last week, Craig Hall, Carla Korbes, Rebecca Krohn, Abi Stafford,
Seth Orza and Elizabeth Walker made debuts alongside previous cast members Aesha
Ash, Tom Gold, Benjamin Millepied, Rachel Rutherford, Sebastien Marcovici and
Alexander Ritter for a thoroughly fresh performance.
Though the matron next to us couldn't
be bothered to applaud the dancers during their bows and commented to her companion
on how "weird" the ballet was and stated her unwillingness to "ever see that again,"
I was grateful for the unsettling electricity that Preljocaj's ballet sent rippling
through the house. His is a ferocious world, though he slyly opens with a lyrical
sextet to Vivaldi. The six dancers, perfect specimens of waspy whiteness, are
confronted by a tribe of primitive Pilgrim-type dancers amidst a sonic assault
that blasts the overwhelming normalcy of the opening dance. The following sextet
for the foreign intruders is charged with grounded power and intimations of violence.
A sophisticated exercise in obvious dramatic contrast, "La Stravaganza" enjoyed
a particularly razor-sharp performance from an enthralling Millepied.
Unfortunately, I can't say the same
for Nikolaj Hubbe's performance in Jerome Robbins's 1994 "A Suite of Dances."
Robbins created this dance for White Oak on Baryshnikov and though Hubbe handles
the dancing, he doesn't pull off the panache so integral to this playful solo.
The lighthearted relationship with cellist Ann Kim, seated on stage, comes across
as forced and Hubbe appears blockish and unfamiliar with the casual style of some
of the choreography. He's happier in his proficient grande pirouettes a'la seconde
than in a few forward rolls.
Carla Korbes, Monique Meunier, Maria
Kowroski and Jenifer Ringer led Robbins's "Antique Epigraphs" with noticeable
skill and grace but were outperformed as a group by their eager and fearless seconds
Faye Arthurs, Dana Hanson, Deanna McBrearty and Eva Natanya. Without the highlight
of solo variations, the younger corps dancers used every moment of stage time
to dance with delight.
Unfortunately the youthful corps
de ballet couldn't save Balanchine's painful "Cortege Hongrois." Thankfully, Damian
Woetzel could. The corps looks more like a School of American Ballet workshop,
though that's unfair to SAB, as I don't think they'd trip over one another in
the finale. Woetzel managed to cleanse the palette with an easy round of exquisite
leaps and veteran grace.
Veteran poise proved a saving grace
at Symphony Space Saturday night, when Stuart Hodes and Alice Teirstein closed
the first hour of the four-hour Dance Sampler. Hodes and Teirstein performed their
witty and clever duet, "I thought you were dead" with brilliance. They radiated
life and laughter as they passionately tossed away their plastic champagne glasses
before blowing bubbles at the audience. Melissa Briggs opened the program with
a beautifully evocative image of four petticoated woman facing upstage on a diagonal
in "Epilogue." Briggs's dance moves like film, with churning, twisting tableaus
of loss ending in a powerful ascent to five chairs on a raised platform.
Gail Gilbert's "Suite Isolation"
suffered from the melodrama of a few repeated gestures. Clenched shaking fists
and desperate embraces spotted the landscape of this dance and overshadowed most
of the brave, albeit sometimes over-dramatic, dancing from Stacey Carlson, James
Dorfer, Ryan Jackson, Kelly Krucher, Rebecca Serrell, Curtis Uhlemann and Seth
Eun Me Ahn's "Boxing Queen" begins
with an oddly horrifying image of Tricia Brouk's bare inverted shoulder blades.
Brouk stands bent forward at the waist in front of a formally clad panel seated
upstage center. She shifts her shoulder blades while Woody Pak's disturbing score
and Mandy Ringger's eerie lighting enhance the sense that we're watching an alien
birth rather than part of human anatomy.
Maura Nguyen Donohue is a New York City-based choreographer and writer. Please
visit her web site
for more info.
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