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
Review 1, 1-21: Making Sad Eyes at 'David'
Nichols Speaks Softly and Delivers a Big Wallop
By Nancy Dalva
Copyright 2003 Nancy Dalva
Editor's note: With
this Flash Review, the Dance Insider begins a year of unique, international
coverage of the legacy of George Balanchine, leading up to Balanchine's
centennial January 22, 2004.
NEW YORK -- Near the
end of Alexandra Tomalonis's magisterial and subtle biography, "Henning
Kronstam: Portrait of a Danish Dancer" (newly released by the University
Press of Florida) there is a wonderful passage in which Thomas Lund
recalls being coached by Kronstam: "Henning said that Ashton didn't
like smiling. He would prefer to have a polite face, and a mild
face. He said, 'Look at the mirror and try to make happy eyes.'"
I thought of this directive last Saturday night at New York City
Ballet during the Balanchine ballet informally known as "Davidsbundlertanze."
This isn't, to be sure,
an odd association, Henning Kronstam and George Balanchine, for
Balanchine had a long history of working with Denmark's danseurs
nobles, Kronstam included. Not only had Balanchine worked at the
Royal Danish Ballet before ever coming to America, but he also set
Apollo on Kronstam, as Tomalonis relates, when stranded in Copenhagen
after his wife (his fourth, or fifth, depending on how you count
them) Tanaquil LeClerq was striken with polio.
There were, in fact,
three Danish imports in the 1980 premiere of "Davidsbundlertanze":
Adam Luders, Ib Andersen, and Peter Martins, who is now, of course,
the head of City Ballet. (The lone American was Jacques d'Amboise.)
This all seemed germane to me in seeing the dance again -- the Danes,
the wives, the awful prognosis. (Although now the doom accrued to
Balanchine, whose remaining useful days were in short number.) But
what seemed more germane, oddly, was that little Ashton anecdote.
What the January 18 performance at the State Theater of "Davidsbundlertanze"
could have used, I thought, was "sad eyes."
Premiered three years
before the choreographer's death in 1983, the ballet's proper title
is "Robert Schumann's 'Davidsbundlertanze,'" and it is set to Schumann's
Op. 6, an eighteen-part piano suite composed in 1837. The music's
title translates as "Dances of the League of David," with the latter
being an imaginary group Schumann concocted to express different
aspects of his personality.
The pianist is on stage
during the ballet. Thus does Balanchine clearly plunk down the maker
right down in the middle of the thing made -- in this case, an elegiac
and sorrowful ballet that can be read as a long goodbye, among other
things. Ostensibly the dance celebrates the melancholic Schumann's
relationship with his sweetheart (and later wife) Clara Wieck, seen
through the prism of four different couples. (The original women
were Karin Von Aroldingen, partnered by Luders; Suzanne Farrell,
with d'Amboise; Kay Mazzo, with Andersen; and Heather Watts, with
Nonetheless, one might
just as easily view the ballet's cast as the choreographer (as pianist)
set down among his company, propelling the work. One might even
want to think of the ballet as being about a virtual League of George
-- he being at once all four danseurs, with the clutch of lovely
ballerinas representing various women in his life, or just representing
themselves. Perhaps, though, one might want to consider those couples
as artists and muses. However it strikes you, the ballet is always
the same in this: it is beautiful. And like any great work of art,
it unfolds before you with all the possibilities you can invest
in it. The dance is the patient, and the audience is the psychiatrist.
In that vein, I'd venture
that there is currently some acting out going on in "Davidsbundlertanze,"
and that the ballet would be more mysterious, and more suggestive,
without it. The ballet is not a competition, as when couples compete
in ballroom events. Nor is it necessary to deliver Balanchine to
his audience The audience, instead, should make the imaginative
leap towards the stage, which at this performance was occupied by
Kyra Nichols and Charles Askegard; Maria Kowroski and Philip Neal;
Alexandra Ansanelli and Sebastian Marcovici; and Miranda Weese and
To see how quiet mastery
works, one only had to watch Boal, whose restraint spoke volumes,
and who used his eyes (downcast, so you can't tell if they are happy,
or sad) to direct yours. His attentiveness to his partner only shifted
to call attention to their steps. A more overt, melodramatic approach
was taken by Charles Askegard, who threw his head back every time
he headed, in despair, for the wings. His is a role first inhabited
by Adam Luders, who was a veritable black hole of a performer, as
inward as they come. Askegard fills the bill for height, for technique,
and for partnering skill, but he's showing, where telling would
be better. He could do less, and convey more.
As could Kowroski, whose
charming embellishments make her seem superficial. As could Ansanelli,
whose enchanting vivacity borders, in this setting, on parody. As
for the others, Neal had his hands full with Kowroski, whom he partnered
with great elegance, and Marcovici was pretty much ruled by Ansanelli.
Weese was shown to perfection by Boal, but strikes no romantic sparks
This leads me to Kyra
Nichols, whose romance in this role derives from the music, itself
an apotheosis of romanticism. But if Nichols takes her tone from
the notes, it is the steps which are her language. She speaks ballet
to us. These days, her voice is softer and more low that it used
to be, but no less beautiful, and more poignant. You lean in, a
little, watching her. Perhaps you hold your breath, as if that might
make you see more loudly. If you can bear to deconstruct what you
are seeing, you will note the lyrical phrasing, and the same control
of our gaze that Boal has. (This is an auteur-like power, and it
doesn't wane with age.) Twice in "Davidsbundlertanze," she enacts
a signature gesture, securing the hand of her partner, which rests
on her hip. (The hand, of course, is Askegard's.) She directs our
attention to this by watching what she is doing. Your gaze follows
hers, and your eyes sting with tears. She's making sad eyes.
Kyra Nichols performs Balanchine's "Robert Schumann's 'Davidsbundlertanze'"
again Friday at the New York State Theater. Nancy Dalva is the senior
writer for 2wice.
Go back to Flash Reviews