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Flash Review 2, 3-3: More New Jewels
At City Ballet, a Debut 'Beauty'

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2004 Susan Yung

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NEW YORK -- Peter Martins's New York City Ballet production of "The Sleeping Beauty," after Marius Petipa to Tchaikovsky's score, offers many gifts. David Mitchell's scenery, for one, is lavish and dimensional, nearly cinematographic. The costumes, by Patricia Zipprodt, match the sets' sumptuousness. This production is of the open house variety, where seemingly every warm body in the company and at the School of American Ballet performs, so the little sprouts trot with their stick-legged gait alongside the stars. On February 24 at the New York State Theater, the freshly appointed soloist Ashley Bouder stepped into the role of Aurora, on the marquee with Maria Kowroski (Lilac Fairy) and Damian Woetzel (Prince Desire); Kyra Nichols's savory Carabosse entered on a Giacometti-inspired chariot.

Plenty of dance mixed in with the pageantry and charades, but phrases often consisted of steps repeated several times in one phrase, or of spectacles of endurance. Standing in an attitude on point, as Bouder did in the rose adagio when she is slowly balanced by four men, may be one of the traditional tests a great ballerina can undergo, but that doesn't make it any less painful to perform (nor to watch).

Bouder dealt well with this test, in any case, and on the whole danced with confidence and poise. Under the tutu and rhinestones, she has an every-woman quality which is already serving her well. Of medium build, neither thin nor thick-limbed, she is a solid dancer with good balance and pronounced facial features which aid her expressiveness. Her projection is excellent, and she is relaxed enough to loosely move her mouth while she's dancing. Having Damian Woetzel as a prince was also a boon, as his partners only benefit from his skill. A convincingly chivalrous prince, Woetzel focused his considerable aura so that Bouder could bask in it and reflect it.

Kowroski is well-suited for the role of Lilac Fairy, who possesses unearthly gifts and mostly dances alone. Kowroski has outgrown all men in the company, if not in physical proportion then artistically, so at the moment I best appreciate her dancing unpartnered. Rachel Rutherford replaced Faye Arthur in what was to be Arthur's debut as the Fairy of Generosity. Rutherford handled the role well, but distinguished herself more in the role of Emerald, a quick petit allegro section with trick rhythms. (Martins likes to toy with the musicality, offsetting canonical lines or juxtaposing three counts against four.)

Other "jewel" roles included Charles Askegard (Gold), who gave a mellow, uninspiring performance; Pascale van Kipnis (Diamond), whose charm still eludes me in part due to her sodden leaps; and Megan Fairchild (Ruby), who exudes a snappy lightning bug spark in her performances. The White Cat and Puss in Boots were danced by Jessica Flynn and Seth Orza and included convincing paw-licking and cat boxing. Also charming were Henry Seth as the Wolf and tiny Isabella Devivo as Little Red Riding Hood, whose knobby knees knocked together in mock fear. Amanda Edge and Tom Gold (Princess Florine and the Bluebird) performed endless entre chats quatres and cabrioles. Gold is a small partner to begin with, but his skinny legs were so prominent in this costume that I found them distracting. The students looked fine in the Garland Dance, the one section by Balanchine, who never choreographed a full-length "Sleeping Beauty," but created the Garland Dance for the 1981 Tchaikovsky Festival.

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