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Flash Review 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 Stewart Williams.

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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