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Flash Review, 6-4: Heart & Soloists
Star Turns on a Holiday Weekend at City Ballet

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2004 Susan Yung

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NEW YORK -- The New York State Theater didn't exactly hang up a shingle on Sunday reading "gone fishin'," but it sure felt like a holiday weekend at the ballet, with just a couple of New York City Ballet's principal dancers in sight. Otherwise, the program featured several guest artists and multiple appearances by company soloists, and due to injury one work was replaced. But one dancer's day off is another's opportunity....

"Interplay," choreographed by Jerome Robbins in 1945, is custom-built to feature younger company members. In Robbins's loose, jazzy ballet mode, eight dancers in gem-colored tee-shirts and short dresses cavort and compete in ad hoc games. Daniel Ulbricht, who radiates infectious enthusiasm and charisma, used his muscular legs to add punch to each jump; sharp double spots in aerial tours added rhythm. Carla Korbes, frequently seen in key roles this season, polished her developpes with clean lines created by her feet and legs. Her partner Stephen Hanna has the stature for lead male roles, which he should grow into with added self-confidence.

Balanchine's 1977 "Ivesiana" replaced the scheduled "Calcium Light Night." A ghostly cluster of faces slowly emerged in Ronald Bates's eerie lighting; 22 women spread out evenly on the stage like a fog bank. Jennifer Tinsley wandered among them, an extended hand leading and probing, as if blind or in pitch dark. James Fayette, always reassuringly solid, and Tinsley, appropriately vulnerable, united after skipping over the zombie-like women's linked hands. Four men held Janie Taylor aloft, stock straight as if she were riding a chariot, and dropped her backwards in a loop-de-loop, and through a split, all the while suspending her. An earthbound Tom Gold reached up to an aloof Taylor, yearning with all his might. Sofiane Sylve and Albert Evans stuck out their hips and slapped each other five in a bright, Western-infused segment. Sylve has a full complement of strengths -- the twinkle of her direct gaze challenges the audience, and she grounds her athletic ability with a firmly rooted emotional maturity.

Amy Aldridge, a principal with the Pennsylvania Ballet, paired in Balanchine's 1964 "Tarantella" with Joaquin de Luz, a Penn Ballet alum. De Luz, a riveting dancer who is no longer overshadowed by ridiculously talented, small men at American Ballet Theatre, where he was a soloist until last year, looked elated to turn it loose in this showcase piece, channelling his adrenaline into top-like spins and lofty leaps. Aldridge carried herself with an appropriately lively aura, tossing off laughs and cheeky glances, though she seemed hesitant in pique arabesque turns, as if the floor were slippery.

Balanchine's 1958 "Stars and Stripes" recalls the common, fascistic appeal behind large cast, big ballets and demonstrations of military might, from the benign (color guard) to the volatile (troops). Soloist Tinsley, by the program's end a familiar face having danced in "Interplay" as well as "Ivesiana," brightly led the first campaign twirling a baton and hopping on pointe with her other leg extended, heel in hand. Ellen Bar seemed resigned to be heading up the second campaign, dropping her gaze downward -- more coy than inspirational. Nevertheless, she precisely carved a filigreed pattern of piques in which she circled around other pique-ing women. The fourth campaign featured Tai Jimenez and Duncan Cooper from Dance Theatre of Harlem. Both exuded a good deal of charm, despite some nervousness on Jimenez's part, and a bobble by Cooper out of a routine series of pirouettes with the leg in second. Never mind, as he went on to partner Jimenez through a tricky promenade sequence of revolutions requiring him to make room for her extended leg repeatedly.

Tom Gold, another soloist with increasing visibility, led the third campaign of twelve men, full of jingoistic salutes and aerobatic leaps. At times, Gold drives his dancing forward more with a big heart than with technique. Perhaps it is because his performances feel like work that he endears himself to the audience. By the finale, in an unexpected twist, he had slowly but surely become the emotional center of the piece.

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