Letter from New York, 9-17: Curtain Calls
A ballerina bids farewell, a corps takes a Royal bow, and more tales from busy Springs at ABT & City Ballet
By Harris Green
Copyright 2009 Harris Green
NEW YORK -- American Ballet Theatre offered only two rarities during the final five weeks (June 8-July 11) of its Lincoln Center season at the Metropolitan Opera House, when Paul Taylor's "Airs" was paired with Bournonville's 1836 Danish classic "La Sylphide." Initially, "Airs," first done by ABT in 1981 almost three years after it was premiered by Taylor's troupe, looked lost on the Met's vast stage, but it soon proved a ballet-friendly work that welcomed ballon from its three men and line from its four women. Simone Messmer and Kristi Boone presided over the proceedings with presence and dignity. Arron Scott, Roddy Doble, Isaac Stapas and Michael Ilyin made the most of their lifts and leaps. The noble score assembled from Handel concerto grossi and operas would have benefitted from a larger chamber orchestra in the pit. The audience would have, too, since these days New York only sees Taylor danced to live music at ABT.
After the Spartan bliss of the plotless "Airs," "La Sylphide" seemed crammed with tragedy. When a highland dryad reveals her love for a young laird on the morning of his wedding day, there plainly is no future in such a relationship. Leave it to ABT's oversupply of buoyant, scrupulous dancers to transform endearing naivete into a truly moving dance spectacle. The present production, designed by Desmond Heeley, was gratifyingly sumptuous as well, with a great hall dominated by an immense stone fireplace in Act I and a forest smothered in foliage in Act II. It is unfortunate, however, that Heeley positioned the fireplace so that much of the audience in the seats and boxes on the left side of the Met could not see the ballet's signature incident in which our heroine makes her first exit by abruptly disappearing up the chimney. There is no way to measure the effect of such deprivation on spectators at "La Sylphide."
|Natalia Osipova in American Ballet Theatre's production of Bournonville's "La Sylphide." Photo by and ©Rosalie O'Connor and courtesy American Ballet Theatre.
Fortunately, anyone who saw guest artist Natalia Osipova in the title role was fully aware of our doomed heroine's utter weightlessness. Yes, Osipova is a Bolshoi product, and during curtain calls, she shamelessly milked every decibel of applause by going back and forth along the footlights, bowing to this side, then to that side of the house with her more modest but equally gifted partner Herman Cornejo in tow. Such heavy-handedness is her only leaden trait. Otherwise, she is as light as any ballerina I've ever seen, and her fleet, floating leaps are matched with adorable dramatic gifts that go straight to the heart. Osipova is well aware she is performing the most exquisitely vulnerable heroine in all ballet.
Some reviewers thought corps member See Heo presented a more idiomatic upper body in her performance with the ever-noble David Hallberg. Her tilted head, fluttery wrists and flashing feet were purest Bournonville. But then came that crucial moment at the peak of the Act I wedding celebration, when she must cross from stage left to stage right along the footlights in three grand jétés. Osipova made each darting leap a 180-degree phenomenon that seemed to defy such corporeal limitations as gravity. Seo, while lovely, was decidedly of mortal lineage.
Another demonstration of Bournonville's intricate demands in Act I being met with astonishing attention to form and footwork occurred when the solo for Gurn (Daniil Simkin) led immediately into one for James (Hallberg or Cornejo). It was a pleasure to set aside dramatic logic and watch dancers who had been playing rivals stand with one arm on the other's shoulder to share a well-deserved ovation.
Less tolerable illogic involved that fireplace. In ABT's previous productions, two stalwart lads would set some logs ablaze there after the sylph had used it for her exit, thus serving two dramatic ends: The roaring fire attracts Madge, the local witch, who hobbles in to warm herself beside its merrily flapping strips of red, gold and orange fabric before turning to poison the atmosphere of the wedding; and it prevents our sylph, who keeps coming and going throughout the act, from ever again using the chimney as an emergency exit. (James is forced to hide her in an armchair at one point.) This season, however, no fire is built because someone -- not the late Erik Bruhn, who is still credited with this staging -- wanted the sylph to make her final return by coming back down the chimney instead of emerging from the wings where she had last exited. The other stage action remains unchanged, however. She still hides in the chair (instead of fleeing via the now unobstructed hearth). Madge still warms herself at a fireplace that is obviously giving off no "heat." Fortunately, ABT's associate artistic director Victor Barbee and ballet master Nancy Raffa were fully up to miming this feat.
Her essential lightness also made Osipova ideal for "Giselle": delicate and doomed throughout Act I; very much present but not of this world in Act II; convincingly fragile yet a technical dynamo throughout. Her supporting cast was exceptionally strong. Like all the great Albrechts, Hallberg was too patently noble to be anything but a prince slumming among grape-growing rustics, yet no ballet-goer would have wished him to look otherwise. Veronika Part proved a Myrta whose every pose expressed power; raising her myrtle bough was a mighty gesture that stretched her torso taut with authority. When she returned to the stage with a killer grand jété after the corps of Wilis had finished its maneuvers, there was no doubt who was in charge. The "Giselle" with Paloma Herrera, Roberto Bolle and Michelle Wiles was on a somewhat lower level of excellence, yet eminently worthy of a major ballet company.
A disappointment both performances shared was the substitution of a spate of ever-higher entrechats six for the thrilling brises Albrecht traditionally performs late in Act II. I was told this boring feat originated in a hissy fit acted out onstage by Rudolf Nureyev but no one knew who or what had annoyed him. While he danced through his outrage instead of stopping the performance, the entrechats he spitefully interpolated have become a challenge taken up by the current generation. At one ABT "Giselle" years ago, I saw Julio Bocca substitute another step for those brises to protest the conductor's tempo, but that was a Bocca snit. The ire of an icon like Nureyev is required to junk an exhilarating, space-consuming feat like the brises for this monotonous stunt.
Russian ballerinas Diana Vishneva and Nina Ananiashvili were very much in evidence during the Met season's final weeks. Despite conflicting New York City Ballet performances, I saw Vishneva sweep through Frederick Ashton's "Sylvia," Kenneth MacMillan's "Romeo and Juliet" and the Petipa-Ivanov-McKenzie "Swan Lake," leaving behind vivid memories of a sharp but undulant line, glamorous authority and an unfailingly musical technique. Splendid as she was, however, she had no monopoly on excellence. Gillian Murphy, for example, was equally convincing as Ashton's Amazon huntress.
"Sylvia" was a further example of ABT's current affinity for Ashton's essentially delicate repertory, especially when presented in borrowed Royal Ballet sets and costumes. This official "realization" of the 1952 production looked as musty as "Le Corsaire," but who could doubt it was English to the core? Among the four designers credited, two were named Christopher and one was named Robin.
Ashton's admirers would blanch at my delight in what I affectionately call the delightful ditsiness of "Sylvia," as well as "La Fille Mal Gardée" (another past ABT triumph). When our huntress bears down on the footlights to Delibes's glorious brass fanfares, triumphantly realized under Ormsby Wilkins's baton, her sister Amazons bounce back and forth, waggling their bows to the jaunty secondary theme. Equally eccentric steps are required from forest sprites, concubines, slave boys and, yes, blue and pink goats. (Now I ask you, what are more ditsy than blue and pink goats?) Arron Scott was particularly successful at delivering the requisite fey quirks while avoiding every yawning pitfall of precious cuteness.
The most endearing footwork is given to the mysterious cloaked figure who appears during moments of stress, and damned if it isn't Eros (Craig Salstein or Carlos Lopez), come down from the niche he had occupied as a marble statue to raise the dead, rescue Sylvia from Orion, "the evil hunter" (a vivid personal best for Gennadi Saveliev) and set everything aright. That's how crises are resolved in "Sylvia," and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I almost forgot Aminta, the shepherd lad, quite possibly the least challenging major male role in all ballet. Ashton made it on Michael Soames, whose chiselled good looks were enough to guarantee him a career at the Royal in parts created around his modest gifts. Aminta gave Ethan Stiefel and Maxim Beloserkovsky no trouble at all.
For those who treasure English ballet at its most ponderous, there's always Kenneth MacMillan and Nicholas Georgiadis's production of "Romeo and Juliet." I dutifully attended three ABT performances to see what as many different principal couples could do for it. Not surprisingly, each danced superbly while going its own way. Marcelo Gomes and Vishneva were the most sophisticated of Shakespeare's teenagers while diminutive Cornejo and Xiomara Reyes looked the most convincing, as if they had been handpicked by Central Casting. Hallberg and Murphy were the most astonishing; their youthful ardor, while quite at odds with their usual cool perfection, was wholly in keeping with the two most heartbreaking young lovers in all world literature.
All these marvelous dancers were ground down under MacMillan's assemblage of reiterated difficulties and burdensome clutter. Passages abound where steps -- some simple, some a cobbling together of simple or needlessly difficult steps -- are repeated two or even three times, regardless of how awkwardly these may match Prokofiev's score. All too often choreography and music lumber on like a rheumatic hippo. When the plot is advanced, it's generally done so by mime.
There are also lacks in "Romeo + Juliet," Peter Martins's shorter, fat-free version for City Ballet, but I do not miss one of the many notes that company pianist Richard Moredock cut out of the score. The music is often scene-changing filler anyway, like the clangor that accompanies the departure of MacMillan's guests from the Capulet fete, who sashay off in the same mannered way to the same music they had sashayed on to. I also welcomed a respite from the incessant merriment in the city square involving the trio of trollops in those beguiling Brillo-style wigs of uniformly virulent orange. MacMillan hit rock bottom in Act II when he sets scores of dancers to slowly circling the stage, two by two. After I had expressed contempt for this numbing spectacle to a fellow reviewer, I was haughtily informed that the promenade represented the Renaissance concept of Fate as the Great Wheel of Fortune! As Jake Barnes, impotent hero of Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" says, "Isn't it pretty to think so?"
ABT probably cannot change very much in 'Romeo' even if it wanted to, but it should seriously consider restaging the sword fights. Viewing a Ti-Vo recording made of PBS's May 21 telecast of NYCB's 'Romeo,' I was appalled all over again by the relentless ugliness of Per Kirkeby's production and impressed even more by the genuine excitement of the fencing, staged by Rick Washburn and Nigel Poulton. The slashing duel between Mercutio (Daniel Ulbricht) and Tybalt (Joaquin De Luz) could have been directed by Warner Bros.'s great hack, Michael Curtiz, maker of three Errol Flynn swashbucklers. Both City Ballet's and ABT's corps of fencers worked with counts, of course, but ABT's looked like they were fighting by numbers ("with car-radio aerials," a City Ballet informant sneered). Wherever the PBS cameras looked, there was genuine excitement on-screen at City Ballet.
Otherwise, the telecast was a torment for anyone who was familiar with the staging or who had ever seen a good movie. Of the reported 900 camera set-ups promised, fewer than 50 would have passed muster with a good film editor. Visual continuity was impossible when the point of view shifted from viewing excellent dancers in close-up to looking down on them from the Second Ring (great shots of the stage floorboards!). Kirkeby's dismal unit set looked like a child's sand castle from up there. Only an MTV addict with attention deficit disorder could savor such jerky editing. But there was one treasurable moment: TV journalista Lesley Stahl, innocently picking her way through an intermission interview with Martins, referred to "Joan Fontaine" when she meant "Margot Fonteyn."
Trust "Swan Lake" to supply the emotional climax of ABT's season when Ananiashvili, partnered most lovingly by Angel Corella, gave her farewell performance on June 26. Vishneva and Part had triumphed in it earlier that week, partnered respectively by Gomes and Bolle. (I must add that good as each ballerina was, no swan queen is as firmly embedded in my memory as that of Natalia Makarova.)
Ananiashvili's farewell performance, however, was undeniably a very special occasion and never more so than when the conclusion of the Black Swan Pas de Deux bore down upon us. Gomes, now cast as the oiliest of Rothbarts, strode across the stage, laid his evil hands upon Odile and tossed her up in a breathtaking arc to land, already posed in a fish dive, in Siegfried's waiting arms. Artistic director-choreographer Kevin McKenzie has encountered considerable flak for expanding the role of Rothbart, casting one dancer as a horned fiend, bursting with muscle, and another as a sophisticated seducer who mesmerizes the court with a seductive solo just before the Black Swan Pas de deux. (I'm pained far more by the dry-as-dust national dances that serve as divertissements in Act II, a.k.a. Act III.) As a full-fledged character in his own right, Rothbart can participate in a pas de deux if he wants to. This Swan Toss is logical, as interpolations go, and God knows it's exciting. McKenzie should copyright the move to secure it exclusively for ABT.
At the final curtain, the dam that had contained the vast, o'erflowing reservoir of absolute devotion on each side of the footlights collapsed. The sold-out house, wildly applauding, was getting to its feet before the curtain opened for bows. The swan corps massed behind Ananiashvili was soon applauding as well. She tossed the first bouquet she received, an armful of red roses, into the orchestra pit. There were more to come, of course. When he presented his flowers to her, conductor Wilkins gave the ballerina his baton as well. Co-stars Corella and Gomes returned similarly laden. The most oddly touching bouquet bearer was Isaac Stappas in his horns and foam rubber muscle suit as Rothbart the Fiend.
|Nina Ananiashvili taking a curtain call with her daughter, Helene, at her farewell performance with American Ballet Theatre. Photo by and ©Erin Baiano and courtesy American Ballet Theatre.
The corps, which had been delivering disciplined realizations of Wilis, sylphs, odalisques, swans and Veronese sluts all season, left the stage to return one by one and lay a single white rose at her feet. Murphy and Stiefel delivered their flowers together. Ballet master Irina Kolpakova, Mikhail Baryshnikov's first partner at the Kirov and a beloved ABT coach, was greeted with a révérence by Ananiashvili. I am ill-equipped to describe the stunning attire of ballerinas Part and Irina Dvorovenko, but I can report that the only bouquet bearer who succeeded in upstaging Ananiashvili was her beaming three-year-old daughter, Helene.
The most spectacular salute involved light artillery. A little skyrocket fired off in the pit exploded over the stage in a burst of petal-like confetti, to be answered by a cloudburst of confetti from the flyspace. And to think that years ago rabid ABT fans had to express their delight by ripping up programs and tossing the shreds off the Family Circle or Fourth Ring of the New York State Theater. When the adoration showed no sign of abating, there was nothing left to do but have Corella and Gomes join Ananiashvili before the curtain and repeat the Swan Toss. A demonstration of undulating arms a la Plisetskaya followed. (Rumors that she may return for a couple of performances next season could not be confirmed.)
I trust I will not sound ungrateful for the considerable satisfaction I received from ABT's evening-length narrative ballets when I say that none of its offerings quite provided the total satisfaction of Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," back at NYCB this year in its usual position as the sole work performed during the closing week of the spring season (June 16-21, in this case). "There are no mothers-in-law in ballet," Balanchine once sniffed. Then, after disparaging dance's ability to tell a complicated story, he created marvelous steps and acceptable mime for a dozen characters perfectly matched to music by Mendelssohn that was never intended for dance and, in some cases, never meant for Shakespeare, either. As proof that what a creator does matters more than what he says, this about-face ranks with Wagner's proclaiming his "Ring" Cycle a "music drama" that would render all the traditional trappings of opera obsolete, and then years later temporarily setting the "Ring" aside to compose "Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg" and filling it with glorious arias, ensembles and choruses.
|Teresa Reichlen and Henry Seth in New York City Ballet's production of George Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Photo by and ©Paul Kolnik and courtesy New York City Ballet.
City Ballet fielded three casts for 'Dream,' from which I had no trouble selecting at least two outstanding groupings. Ulbricht, the only Puck who looked like he could "put a girdle around the earth in 40 minutes," would have danced all seven performances. Maria Kowroski and Teresa Reichlen would share Titania for the majesty they leavened with wit. "Gorgeous" is a term I generally avoid, but they are welcome to it. (Reichlen would also share Hippolyta with Ana Sophia Scheller, and Erica Pereira and Brittany Pollack would alternate as Butterfly in my 'Dream' cast. (I know, I know, two different casts of excellent dancers can't be evenly apportioned among seven performances; fortunately, an excellent 'Dream' would always be the result no matter who danced.)
Antonio Carmena, who made an assured debut as Oberon two years ago, dominated the competition this season by maintaining a noble carriage while conscientiously dancing the steps big and boldly. Those three truly grand jétés along the footlights done with the face turned to the audience were not achieved half as well by De Luz, who injured a foot in the first performance, or Andrew Veyette, whose accurate but coarser style made the King of the Fairies look like a pretender to the throne.
Veyette, Jonathan Stafford and Robbie Fairchild were a delightfully goofy set of Lysanders. Amar Ramasar and Arch Higgins were equally diverting as Demetrius, as were Faye Arthurs and Rebecca Krohn as Helena. Hermia would be divided among Sterling Hyltin, Jennie Somogyi and Aby Stafford, with Hyltin earning the privilege of an extra performance for the great advance she's made in restoring the urgency to Hermia's terrified solo in the woods; that startled sidewise step that ends in a quasi-crouch hasn't been done so well in years.
The pas de deux in the Act II divertissement was to have been shared by Wendy Whelan and Philip Neal, Jenifer Ringer and Jared Angle and Yvonne Borree and Sebastian Marcovici; but an injury to Whelan left Neal and Angle alternating as Ringer's partner. This gentle, intimate pas de deux, surely the most loving Balanchine ever created, is the resolution of the theme of the play (and the ballet). Lysander states it, with a sigh: "The course of true love never did run smooth." Four frustrated mortal lovers. Two quarreling fairy consorts. Separated beloveds in the play Bottom & Company are rehearsing. A rough course, indeed. Ringer, Neal and Angle embodied trust and support. Borree and Marcovici looked like they could use marriage counselling.
A great narrative ballet was the result of the splendid all-Mendelssohn concert Balanchine arranged for us in 'Dream,' and the music he selected from sources other than the ultra-familiar incidental music always advances the plot. Oberon in his fairy court performs a splendid set piece to the Scherzo, but when the marauding Puck twice tries to kidnap the little changeling boy from Titania's leafy bower (a perfectly logical Puckish prank that Shakespeare hadn't thought to dramatize), the action is set to the overture to "Athalie." The concert overture "Die Schoene Melusine" perfectly suits the confusion Puck creates among the mismatched lovers whose pas de deux become furious, choreographically achieved struggles. The overture to the cantata "Die erst Walpurgisnacht" was well suited to the swirling confusion in the fog-enshrouded wood, where Hippolyta enters to toss off one fouette after another.
Yes, I know: The women's chorus in the orchestra pit is singing a Goethe text from the cantata instead of a Shakespeare lyric as Act I ends. In light of Balanchine's achievement, however, only a pedant would object to that glitch or to the fleeting musical patchwork that successfully bridges any gaps in the finale. Look at what he's achieved: He has needed only half of the overture to introduce virtually every character in the ballet, and he has taken little more than an hour to compress virtually the entire play into Act I. No similarly complex ballet covers so much ground so fast with such breathtaking authority and dramatically apt choreography.
It's almost a relief to find nothing demanding our attention in Act II but a grand procession where every repetition in the familiar Wedding March is matched by a different stage picture, mostly of corridors the corps keeps forming for the three newlywed couples; a gem of a court ballet for a dozen dancers plus the pas de deux, set to two movements of the String Symphony No. 9; and a finale to the overture to "Der Heimkehr aus der Fremde" that brings on the newlyweds for three fleeting pas de deux. (Hippolyta tosses off fewer fiery fouettes now that she has a loving partner in Theseus.) As the incidental music resumes, we return to the forest thronged once more with adorable School of American Ballet kiddies, whose every step qualifies as genuine choreography. Puck's ascent on barely visible wires ends the evening on a suitably magical note.
Faycal Karoui would conduct every performance for me. Maurice Kaplow soberly beat time and the orchestra played accordingly, but Karoui's grandly sweeping gestures that dwindled to the subtlest of beats drew a gosamer sheen, lambent detail and graceful impetus from the orchestra and lovely singing from the women's chorus. All that was lacking was a worthy production. Karinska's modified Elizabethean costumes remain acceptable but David Hays's drab, miscalculated settings look worse with every season. There is nothing remotely Athenian about Theseus's court -- not a column, not a pediment -- and there is little moonlight or magic in Hays's forest. If the poisonously untalented Per Kirkeby weren't certain to be Martins's first choice to design it, there would probably be pickets in line and protests online demanding a new "Midsummer Night's Dream" worthy of Balanchine, Mendelssohn and -- while we're at it -- Shakespeare.
Further vignettes of loving couples awaited us when "Liebeslieder Walzer," another rare Balanchine masterpiece that hasn't become a standard in world repertory, returned this spring. The test of a great "Liebeslieder" cast is whether the dancing in Part I's candle-lit ballroom, when the four women are in flat heels and Karinska's voluminous ball gowns, is as treasurable as that of Part II, when the ballroom has been thrown open to moonlight and they have changed to pointe shoes and tutus and become alluring ballerinas whose partners go to the knee in adoration.
Darci Kistler, despite excellent partnering by Philip Neal, prevented the first half from reaching that level. She even lacked authority when raising a leg to set her ball gown's underskirts aswirl, and after she changed into Karinska's diaphonous tutus, she didn't look like a ballerina for long either. (Kistler, who plans to retire next year, gave her last Saratoga performance on July 11, in "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.")
Whelan, comfortably matched with Jared Angle, assumed the role identified with Patricia McBride and made it her own. Janie Taylor and Marcovici, a couple offstage as well as on, established an eloquent intimacy in public by the final performance. Somogyi, who filled out the great Verdy role almost to capacity, and Nilas Martins were cast as the troubled couple in Part I; he holds his hand up to his face in shame and kneels before her, as if to receive her forgiveness. Martins has done much to ask forgiveness for, but his partnering here was most attentive. It was a welcome 'Liebeslieder,' often a pretty good 'Liebeslieder,' but I would have settled for a great one.
As usual, the quartet of singers did Brahms less than justice. By the final performance, they had achieved something approaching an ensemble but their solos remained coarse. Pianists Susan Walters and Moredock played so well, however, that this heretical thought soon occurred to me: Balanchine never bothered to illustrate the text (translations of which have never been supplied), so why not just forget the singers and go with the pianists? For example, consider the strangely pensive, intriguingly enigmatic pas de deux in Part I when Angle, standing behind Whelan, seems to be gently pushing her forward with his fingertips. Do you need -- do you really want -- to know that it's set to a text about a little house on the Danube in which a lovely maiden resides behind a door bolted with ten iron bars that the tenor fully intends to shatter? Until some far-seeing donor endows a fund for hiring singers who are on the same artistic level as the dancers, I would be content to let Balanchine's choreography be the text of "Liebeslieder Walzer."
The only other notable event these closing weeks was the June 14 "Dancers' Choice" benefit for the Dancers' Emergency Fund, which is beginning to look like an annual affair. Principal Jenifer Ringer was in charge this year and, according to Terry Trucco's profile in Playbill, responsible for choosing the repertory. Perhaps "Dancer's Choice" would have been more apt. In last year's program under Jonathan Stafford's direction, principals, soloists and corps members performed works they had been wanting to dance. This year five forgettable excerpts from Martins's 1988 "The Waltz Project," a jaded example of his unlamented sling-your-partner apache-disco manner, were done by eight dancers who couldn't possibly have danced in or have even seen it before. I suspect similar anticipation preceded being cast in the four excerpts from Richard Tanner's 1994 "Episodes & Sarcasms," set to Prokofiev. Kowroski and Reichlen in the middle movements of "Serenade" provided no novelty, gorgeous though both proved. Excellent performances by Tiler Peck in Balanchine's "Valse-Fantaisie," Kathryn Morgan and Tyler Angle in "The Sleeping Beauty" Pas de Deux and Stephanie Zungre and David Prottas in an impassioned excerpt from Robbins's "Dances at a Gathering" were more like it.
The inevitable "movie" and the obligatory world premiere were especially evanescent this year. "Pas de Deux -- The Dancers' Perspective" was director Galen Summer's light-hearted attempt to let his camera show what Megan Fairchild and Veyette see as he partners her. A wry warning to viewers to expect disorientation from vertigo and glaring lights promised that Summer would attempt something like the experiment in first-person point-of-view camera-work that Robert Montgomery barely brought off throughout MGM's "The Lady in the Lake" (1947), a novelty rarely attempted for an entire movie. The closest Summer came to that heady goal was in an occasional wavery shot of the stage floor and a blinding glance up into a spotlight. It was amusing, however, when the dancers' thoughts became voiceovers (Veyette groused that Fairchild was ignoring his assistance despite the fact that he was "just standing here not doing anything").
Ashley Bouder's "Give Me Fever" was about what you would expect from a novice choreographer who wisely chose Robbins's "Interplay" as a model but unwisely chose a musical stew that began with Eric Satie's Gnossienne No. 1 and ended with Peggy Lee's recording of "Fever" for a score. It's just as well that her cast of four was dancing in matching sneakers. The costumes designed by colleague Janie Taylor did have a spunky charm.
The evening closed with a gallant, high-spirited performance of the Royal Navy finale to Balanchine's "Union Jack." Portions looked under-rehearsed and there was no rumbling cannonade to salute the eponymous flag but what made the finale truly grand was the decision to send out the corps for a mass curtain call that reached from one side of the proscenium to the other. When the audience realized the rarity of what they were watching, the ovation swelled by several decibels. The expressions of these indefatigable young pros, receiving what for most will be their only experience of an honor generally reserved for those above them on the roster, was irresistibly heartwarming.