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Review 1, 6-26: Dancing Fairies
A Dream 'Dream' from City Ballet
By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2003 Gus Solomons jr
NEW YORK -- "A Midsummer
Night's Dream" is a Balanchine story ballet, told as only Mr. B
would tell it: he gets all the narrative out of the way in Act I,
so he can devote Act II to just dancing. Sets by David Hays and
Karinska's costumes are lavish and colorful in tastefully sophisticated
hues -- umber, rust, mossy green, burgundy, old gold -- washed by
Mark Stanley's lighting, after Ronald Bates's original design. At
Tuesday's New York City Ballet performance, Andrea Quinn conducted
Mendelssohn's familiar music at lightning speed, setting the dancing
The New York State Theater
stage sparkled with committed dancing by a first-rate cast, led
by Darci Kistler as Titania and Peter Boal as Oberon, surrounded
by children from the City Ballet's school skittering on tiny feet
and fluttering their little arms with verve as butterflies and fairies.
Kistler, who has been with the company since 1980, danced with technical
patina, gained from years of wrapping her delicate frame around
Balanchine's fast-paced choreography. Coolly regal, warm, convincingly
attracted to Bottom (James Fayette) when he's turned into an ass,
Kistler clearly relished the role. Charles Askegard was her gallant,
smiling cavalier in a pas de deux.
Boal, another City Ballet
veteran, who joined the company in 1983, radiated avuncular affection,
as he marshaled his miniature entourage, and studly charm, as he
kibitzed with Titania over her small page (Sarah Oberman). In his
variation Boal displayed blistering technique: brilliantly crisp
petite allegro footwork, jetes that flew across space, and a serenity
that sent the audience wild with enthusiasm.
As Boal matures and
expands his immersion into the postmodern repertoire, his stage
presence grows increasingly more gracious and his acting range broader.
Combining youthful vitality with mature control, he is a treasure.
Albert Evans's Puck
was as broadly acted as it was fully danced. He mischievously wagged
a magical flower in the lovers' faces that made them fall in love
with the first person they saw. Even Titania was his victim, falling
for Bottom in an ass's head. Evans's prankish cavorting was the
glue that kept the confusion comprehensible to us. His Puckish personality
was so ebullient that at the finale, when he flew aloft, one could
almost believe that no wire was necessary. Amanda Edge was a fluidly
athletic Butterfly. She kept pace with the brisk music without losing
amplitude in her extensions or getting tangled up in the crowd of
nymphs-in-waiting and baby butterflies that constantly swarmed around
The pairs of lovers
that suffered Puck's practical jokes were Alexandra Ansanelli (newly
promoted to principal) and Sebastien Marcovici as Helena and Demetrius,
and Rachel Rutherford and Jared Angle as Hermia and Lysander. Ansanelli's
limber legs flew with appealing flourish in her tempestuous duets
with the intense Marcovici. Angle's Lysander was gaga over Rutherford,
even though she tends to impel chaine turns with her elbows; their
love affair is more pacific.
A swashbuckling duel
between the apparently jilted Demetrius and Lysander -- with Puck
interloping -- on a mist-covered stage adds slapstick fun. Hyppolyta
came leaping through the fog in the person of Jennie Somogyi. I'm
not sure why she appeared in the forest, except that she got to
show off her perfectly split jetes and rock-solid fouette, which
electrified. In the second act she married Theseus, Duke of Athens
The highlight of Act
II -- after lots of traipsing in beautifully choreographed canons
and counterpoint wedded to the music, Balanchine's passion, which
depicts the weddings of all the mortal couples -- was the Divertissement,
a ravishing adagio duet by Wendy Whelan and her redoubtable partner
Jock Soto. Whelan floated through the air on Soto's strong arms
with astonishing lightness, and in the intricate promenade turns
that lace the dance, arms twined like macrame, legs delicately,
fluently sliced the air. Whelan and Soto's mutual trust was palpable.
The finish of their duet, when he let her free-fall from one of
his arms to catch her in the other in a swoon, was breathtaking.
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