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Flash Review, 4-26: Fire
Singed by Divas at Lincoln Center

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2000 The Dance Insider

Okay, so after Tuesday's rather scathing Flash of New York City Ballet -- when it wasn't even performing, f'r'eaven's sake -- I was determined to try not to be such a crank in considering the opening night of the company's Spring season at the New York State Theater. I swore an oath to take a holiday from reminding you about what concerns me about NYCB -- yes, I'm aware I've become rather a shrew about this -- and just accentuate the positive. No perfidy in this; there are singular performers in the company for whom I heartfully cheer, and of course there's that golden Balanchine and Robbins repertoire! The performers I'd applauded yesterday -- see Flash Diary 4-25, An Insider Fan's Notes for details -- included Wendy Whelan, Helene Alexopoulos, Pascale van Kipnis, Monique Meunier, Eva Natanya, Deanna McBrearty, Damian Woetzel, Jock Soto, and Nikolaj Hubbe. Well, add Samantha Allen, who on Tuesday night exhibited exactly the type of unrestrained and unbridled heat I've been calling for. And speaking of heat, stick around 'til the end of this Flash, and I'll tell you about the modern dance diva concert to end all modern dance diva concerts, coming up next week.

If you can't place Allen, it's because she's pretty much been used strictly in racing soloist roles; for instance, the archer who acts as Puck's foil in George Balanchine's "Midsummer Night's Dream." And in demi-soloist roles that require short spurts of energy and for which she is not around long enough to forge a firm impression on your eyes. Blink and she's gone. She's that fast.

That energy was there last night, as Allen danced opposite Tom Gold in Balanchine's "Symphony in Three Movements." She bounced, she charged, she ricocheted, she vibrated and tingled, she bolted like a colt; Allen was electric. But to this was added an augmented confidence and maturity that seemed new to me. Towards the end, Gold grabs Allen's hand and she leans the other way; I got the sense that if he weren't holding her, she'd have blasted off. It takes a sense of confident freedom for a ballerina to convey this. Did I say ballerina? Yes. At the curtain call, Allen took charge and led the principals forward, with a winning smile -- not haughty, but elated; she knew that she was on.

Of course, there was at least one other ballerina on stage. Here at The Dance Insider, we're on record as swearing by Wendy Whelan. Wendy Perron explained why much better than I could, in Flash Review, 1-8: Seeing Balanchine, Watching Whelan. I have three favorite moments from last night, when Whelan danced opposite Jock Soto, he of the eloquent limbs. There was a passage where Soto stood behind her, and the two made planes with their arms, at various planes. Then one -- I don't quite know the term for it, but basically he lifts her behind him, and she widens her legs as she cascades over his back, holding each of his hands in each of hers; they are essentially back-to-back. Her leg span here became longer than I'd ever have guessed just seeing her standing. And speaking of leg span, I noticed something new (every time I see her, Whelan reveals something new about herself, usually teaching me something new about dance as well): Whelan can do a six o'clock with the best of them, but she doesn't PRESENT it. That is to say, her manner of doing it is not boastful; there's no sense that she is framing the position with exclamation marks. It's almost an after-thought -- by which I don't mean that it's careless, but that this most musical of ballerinas almost makes it seem natural. As if it's second nature. At one point when she went into penche, she paid more attention to her head, rolling it around lyrically and liltingly to the music.

Now, ahem: You'll recall from yesterday's that I referred to taking a spill diving for a press invitation and doing something to my ribs. That was not an allegory. It really happened, and the throbbing was with me still after last night's first ballet. It was painful for me to sit, and I could envision myself getting sore and cranky. Not trusting that this wouldn't cloud my view of the rest of the concert (making me impossibly impatient, for instance), I took off. The only reason I'm mentioning this is the dancers on the staff have made me aware that sometimes a non-mention by a critic can be perceived as a slam. So I wanted to anticipate this concern about the omissions of comment on the rest of the evening. And apologize for such.

However, I do have a, er, prequel to last night's City Ballet concert for you. Or, rather, a Flash mini-preview to tack on here, which I'm hoping the webmistress will allow as it does relate to the theme of Fire!

Shortly before the curtain rose at the State on that famous row of women in 'Symphony,' I found myself across the Lincoln Center way in a studio at the Julliard School. Just about 20 feet away from me, and coming on strong, moved a line of women that included -- check this out! -- Terese Capucilli and Christine Dakin, longtime reigning veterans with the Martha Graham company; Miki Orihara and Rika Okamoto, who recently came into their own at that company; my friend Elizabeth Roxas, longtime star at the Alvin Ailey company; Nancy Turano, for more than a decade diva supreme at Ballet Hispanico; and about half a dozen other strong women. They were there rehearsing Jacqulyn Buglisi's "Suspended Women," one of three premieres on the program for Buglisi/Foreman's season at the John Jay Theater, May 4-7. Much of the music for this concert will be live, with Gil Morgenstern from our own Dance Insider list on the violin. The score for "Suspended Women" is by Ravel, as arranged by Daniel Romain.

It wouldn't be fair to review the rehearsal I caught -- it was, after all, a rehearsal. But hey, if you are in New York, take a gander! What have you got to lose? We're talking the Diva dance concert of the decade here. Okay, of the last two decades! The only risk is that all that firepower will singe you; let's hope that the John Jay has taken out an insurance policy to cover the unprecedented presence of all these incendiary devices. Oh, and the ticket price can't be beat -- $15 & $22, with $10 student and senior tickets. For more information, go to http://www.buglisi-foreman.org/. For more information on NYCB's season, go to http://www.nycballet.com/.

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