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Review 2, 2-11: Ballads
At City Ballet, Sylve's Got the Look and Tewsley the Ballon
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2003 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- New York
City Ballet's February 1 matinee offered some pleasant surprises
to the audience at the State Theater in a program of Balanchine
("Kammermusik No. 2," "Ballade," and "Symphony in C") plus Albert
Evans's "Haiku." Most notably, new principal Robert Tewsley and
guest artist Sofiane Sylve provided a welcome charge to the company's
Sofiane Sylve, a member
of the Dutch National Ballet, has great energy and expressive, willowy
arms. Although she seemed diminutive when dancing next to Maria
Kowroski in "Kammermusik No. 2" (music by Paul Hindemith), Sylve
is quite a bit more muscular and sinewy, though hardly less flexible.
Her regard was more inquisitive than nearly all of the company's
dancers, with the exception of perhaps Wendy Whelan, featured later
in the program. It's not that Sylve necessarily demanded to be liked,
but that she was more curious to see our reaction and keep us hooked
up, and that she did. In contrast, Kowroski kept her gaze hooded
and downcast; when she looked at the audience, it was guarded, adding
a layer of remove to her already cool demeanor.
Sylve's presence also
benefited her partner, Philip Neal, a solid, handsome performer
who looks like he walked right out of a young Picasso self-portrait.
Neal made the most of the opportunity -- projecting farther into
the house with more of a sparkle in his eye, taking up the challenge
of her fine technique. Kowroski danced as usual with Charles Askegard,
and they worked together reliably. Both would benefit from working
with others more often, but her height -- striking as it is -- seriously
restricts her partner pool.
"Ballade" (1980), choreographed
to Faure late in Balanchine's career, returned to the repertory
after a decade's absence. This romantic short gem, a duet plus a
corps of ten women, possessed an air of sentimental poignancy. It
featured role debuts by Whelan and new principal Robert Tewsley
(fresh from the Royal Ballet), another bright spot in City Ballet's
recent personnel changes. Whelan entered alone, crossing in brisk
bourrees. At times Tewsley partnered her with a sweet tenderness,
but it was clear they were strong individuals. In general, Whelan
doesn't hold back, and while this is great for us, at times it has
the effect of putting unsolicited demands on her partners. But her
energy was complimented by Tewsley, who is muscular and has a powerful
presence; he will be a welcome casting option for bigger romantic
roles. He is a well-rounded dancer, and in addition to making a
fine partner for Whelan, he possesses a lofty ballon and turns with
a pleasing steady cadence, in one instance finishing a pirouette
with an attitude which he planted into a deep lunge. Whelan performed
with a typical verve, dancing as if everything had meaning, imbuing
pauses and balances with extra richness, and releasing her gaze
skyward every now and then -- an extra lilt at the apex of her arabesques.
The piece ended with Whelan walking meditatively offstage, alone.
Whelan also danced regally
in the second movement of "Symphony in C" (music by Bizet), partnered
by Neal, who seemed to have won the partnering lottery that day.
The other pairings to some extent reflected the gap between the
women and men in the company. The elegant, strong Jennie Somogyi
worked -- make that labored -- with Nilas Martins, whose perfunctory,
hesitant turns scarcely made up for his stiff back and low jumps.
Corps member Antonio Carmena, who stepped in for Benjamin Millepied,
showed a puppy-like eagerness in soaring grand jetes and a lovely
openness in his upper torso, though his adrenaline got the better
of his timing and his hands need work.
Carmena partnered Janie
Taylor, who by contrast rode the lyrical third movement music like
she was surfing a big wave, keenly on top of it and in control.
Taylor's unflinching self-confidence showed in her jazzy interpretation
of front developpes, where she dropped her shoulders back and pushed
her hips forward. When and if she manages to trust the audience
more and relax her tightly guarded outlook, this young dancer will
add a key weapon to her already considerable arsenal. The fourth
movement featured Abi Stafford (subbing for Pascale von Kipnis)
and Arch Higgins. Stafford has great balance, her turns unshakably
centered, and clean, precise technique that largely outweigh her
lack of ballon. Higgins has a bright, likeable persona which may
take him a good deal farther than his skinny legs might.
The program was rounded
out by Albert Evans's "Haiku," to John Cage's score performed live
by Essential Music. Since it premiered nearly a year ago, the piece
has ripened and seems to have been internalized nicely by the cast
(Faye Arthurs, Stephen Hanna, Aesha Ash, Sebastien Marcovici, Carla
Korbes, and Seth Orza). "Haiku" leans more toward a dramatic, visual
showcase of the dancers' great physical abilities than it does to
a sideshow of gymnastic tricks, which is a constant threat to hijack
the work. The three women in particular displayed a daunting prowess
and sense of self-possession. Evans clearly knew the potential held
by his fellow company members, and used it to maximum advantage.
Mark Stanley's lighting (he lit the entire program) contributed
immensely to the contemplative atmosphere, and Carole Divet's striking
costumes worked with the overall graphically intriguing nature of
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