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Flash Review 2, 6-11: Dancing Hard, Hard Dancing
City Ballet: Just Your Typical (World-class) Regional Company
By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2003 Gus Solomons jr
NEW YORK -- Balanchine's
successor, current New York City Ballet ballet master in chief Peter
Martins makes solid, well-crafted ballets, among them "Symphonic
Dances" to the eponymous Rachmaninoff music. Martins knows how to
move dancers around the stage (though I wish he'd find more imaginative
ways to enter and exit than running into place), and he occasionally
produces a breath-stopping lift or innovative combination of steps.
It's hard to match Rachmaninoff's
big orchestral sound with movement; Martins uses a lead couple,
four featured couples, and eight corps couples. He makes good use
of close order canons to juice up the visual action without information
overload. Seen Saturday at the State Theater, Janie Taylor and Sebastien
Marcovici were an energetic lead couple, though he tilted his head
slightly to the right in pirouettes, throwing him off sooner than
he'd like. Their difficult pas de deux could have profited from
more attentive coaching of transitions and phrasing.
It's much harder to
enunciate a distinctive voice in ballet than in modern dance, because
the vocabulary is codified. Choreographers have stretched it, distorted
it to make their own statements: William Forsythe, Dwight Rhoden,
Alonzo King, among notables of the current crop, and of course,
George Balanchine, who gets credit -- and blame -- for starting
it all. NYCB's new resident choreographer Christopher Wheeldon vividly
demonstrates the ability to speak in his own strong voice, using
the ballet lexicon.
In "Carousel (A Dance)"
the "boy," Damian Woetzel, against a background of deftly rendered
merry-go-round images, pursues the "girl," Alexandra Ansanelli.
William David Brohn's fresh arrangements breathe new life into Richard
Rodgers songs from the legendary musical. The central pas de deux
misses the unique poetry of young love with its fairly conventional
partnering. But in "The Carousel Waltz" Wheeldon arranges ballroom
waltz steps, supported cartwheels by women lifted by men, cascading
couple movement, and a stunning culminating picture that draws applause:
a carousel of women riding the men's shoulders, as they revolve
Richard Tanner choreographed
"Sonatas and Interludes" to prepared piano music by John Cage. Elaine
Chelton sat stage left at the concert grand, its strings treated
to thin the sound to that of a freaked-out harpsichord. Gorgeous,
leggy Maria Kowroski swung her legs repeatedly into five-past six-o'clock
arabesques or arched into perfect back attitude promenades, ably
partnered by stalwart Jock Soto. Wearing Carole Divet's nowhere-to-hide
white leotards belted with gold embroidery, the couple twisted themselves
into Tanner's Balanchine-esque contortions. Tying the movement slavishly
to Cage's start-and-stop phrasing made it predictable, albeit attractive.
"Brahams-Schoenberg Quartet," which closed the program, is four
dances in one, each with its own cast of soloists and corps. Karinska's
lush costumes for each section depict different eras. In Part One,
"Allegro" Philip Neal partnered Jennie Somogyi, a romantic fairy-tale
couple, and corps member Ellen Bar, in a featured role, danced her
heart out, but kept drifting off her center mark. In "Intermezzo"
James Fayette in a tailcoat was a gracious courtier to Jennifer
Ringer with three nymphs -- Dena Abergel, Pauline Goldbin, and Dana
Hanson -- wafting between their duets. Benjamin Millepied's virtuoso
variation -- the most refined and technically crisp of the program
-- highlighted the "Andante" section. And Kyra Nichols and Woetzel
led a rowdy band of Russian gypsies in the faux-folk "Rondo and
Watching the Saturday
matinee, I was reminded that, in fact, NYCB is a "regional" ballet
company, as opposed to, say, American Ballet Theatre, which is international
in stature. Granted, New York's regional company is world-class.
Still, because the repertoire is so large and the principals so
overworked, performances are rarely transcendent: on Saturday, technical
bobbles abounded, and a couple of crashing spills would have upset
the emotional continuity, had the ballerinas not recovered with
such aplomb. In addition, the notorious speed and intricacy of the
core repertoire, Balanchine's ballets, don't leave space for the
dancers to embellish. An insightful colleague of mine characterized
it thus: Most ballet dancers are busy showing off their dancing,
while City Ballet dancers are too busy dancing to have time to show
Veteran dancer, choreographer, and critic Gus Solomons jr was
a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and currently co-directs
Paradigm dance company. To read more Flash Reviews by Gus Solomons
jr, please click on the search engine button on our Home page, then
enter "Gus Solomons jr" in the search engine window.
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