back to Flash Reviews
Flash Review 1, 5-1:
So Why Don't They Clap?
Technical Excellence, Audience Apathy at NYCB
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2000 Susan Yung
Friday's program at the
New York State Theater showed City Ballet's characteristic American
sangfroid and clarity of movement, even in large numbers, in a new
work and two reliable older ones. "Mercurial Manoeuvres," a premiere
by Christopher Wheeldon to Shostakovich as part of the Diamond Project,
demonstrated how the company continues to produce handsome, well-danced
works that shimmer and click and nestle within the canon of NYCB,
yet its impact dissipates the moment the curtain comes down. It's
oddly bereft emotionally, but that is part and parcel of the City
Wheeldon, blessed with
a deep, technically matched corps, leagues of red gossamer scrimmery,
and Esther Williams-inspired tunics, assembled a satisfying work
featuring Miranda Weese and Jock Soto but stolen by the radiant
Edward Liang, whose clean footwork and confident presence commanded
the eye. The corps passages were pleasing in a sort of marching
band way, with lines stitching patterns to and fro, and a chain
of fourth position quarter turns on pointe that were simple yet
freshly inventive. The reduced male corps was oddly modern dance
in feeling, and appeared overmatched in partnering sequences both
in quantity and quality. Virtually an eminence grise, Soto -- with
his seamless, reassuringly solid support for the wispy Weese in
their quiet duet and partnering section -- made his case for continued
star billing in this young man's sport.
Dance" opened the program, both setting the evening's standard and
reminding us why the standard exists. The simplicity of his choreography
is jarring -- passages lifted right out of a class, the essence
of basic ballet vocabulary stripped clean and presented to us --
and his ability to let us feel more deeply the music by illustrating
it with dance is a small, periodic epiphany. What is also striking
is the perpetual presence of stillness dotting the work, allowing
phrases to resonate and hang in the mind's eye, giving it a moment's
rest before asking it to absorb the next passage. Peter Boal's heartachingly
measured port de bras was another reminder of the theatrical value
of very basic elements executed perfectly.
Jerome Robbins's "West
Side Story Suite" evoked mixed feelings. There's no getting around
the power of the music and the hot-button songs -- close your eyes
and you will likely be content to recall your own memories of the
film or show. There are thrilling moments when the athlete takes
over the dancer, particularly at the beginning, but the walks give
it away -- those definitely are ballet dancers walking in that funny
way and not gang members. It's when the unhinged fan kicks and multiple
pirouettes come up that it's obvious we're watching a ballet company.
Still, it feels a bit like fakery. Not to detract from Robbins's
brilliantly snappy, jazz-blown choreography, incarnated in those
Gap ads (you knew that was coming), but I might as well have been
watching one of a number of serviceable dance companies performing.
Notably, Helene Alexopoulos showed great Broadway charisma.
There's no question there
were some true ballet-lovers in the audience, but they weren't expressive
enough to rouse the lazy house, which couldn't find it in its heart
to clap between curtain calls. Certainly, if you subscribe to NYCB
and make it your dance habit, you may become immune to the technical
excellence and come to expect it. But it's chilling to feel a perceptible
groan when the curtain is pulled aside for the second soloist bow.
The company is deserving of quite a bit more respect than that.
What would it take for the house to reconsider its traditional bow
policy in acknowledgement of the fussy audience it has carefully
back to Flash Reviews