featured photo
The Kitchen
Brought to you by
Body Wrappers;
New York Flash Review Sponsor
the 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
Go Home

Flash 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 mix.

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 the work.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home