New York City Ballet

Concerto in Five Movements, In the Mi(d)st, Who Cares?

New York State Theater, New York, NY

June 21, 2002
By Kate Snedeker

Concerto in Five Movements (choreography: Robert LaFosse; music: Prokofiev) This ballet looked much better than it had earlier in the week. The female corps de ballet was tighter, with far fewer obvious errors of placement and synchronization. This ballet has grown on me; it is well structured and set to danceable music. Judging from what I've seen, LaFosse has produced some of the best new ballets for NYCB. He has a good ear for music, selects dancers whose strengths are suited to the choreography and doesn't stray too far into the modern dance realm.

My focus was drawn to Jock Soto's dancing. Earlier in the year, he seemed to be slowing down, but recently his dancing has been stellar. Soto wasn't blessed with an ideal ballet body type, but nonetheless has developed into one of NYCB's best partners. With his considerable partnering talents, he is well suited for many of the newer Diamond Project ballets, as they include a lot of tricky, stylized partnering.

LaFosse's ballet shows off Soto's considerable talent as a partner without putting him in choreography that reveals the limitations of his solo dancing. Soto is a dancer whose domain is limited to the stage. He has a solidity and presence on stage, but suffers when asked to spend too much time leaping or jumping above it.

Unfortunately, with the debut of Miriam Mahdaviani's In the Mi(d)st, NYCB appeared to have hit its ballet limit. It was obvious that neither the dancers nor the orchestra had had enough time or energy to adequately prepare for the debut, and as a result the performance was flat and had very little impact.

Mahdaviani's choreography is interesting, but 49 ballets later, the dancers just had nothing left to give. She also selected a score patch worked together from modern pieces by Oliver Knussen and Aaron Jay Kernis, that lacked a cohesive theme and appeared to have been too much for the orchestra to tackle in an already crowded season. This is not a criticism of the orchestra, which with few exceptions has been great this year. However, they too, can only tackle so much in a season, especially so much new and unusual music. As a result, the music and the dance never quite clicked, leaving a feeling of disharmony.

The ballet begins with a darkened stage, lit only by beams of light emanating from one back corner - the ‘mist’ in the title. In the first half of the ballet, on a darkened stage, all the couples are dancing together; one couple ‘amidst’ the others. As I had a hard time telling the dancers apart in the dim lighting, I wasn't sure exactly what was supposed to be happening and often was confused as to which couple was in front. The second half of the ballet was in brighter lighting with a nice solo for Sébastien Marcovici. Henry Seth, Seth Orza and Faye Arthurs (who did dance, despite not being listed in the program) had a brief solo. He's developing into a solid partner. There appeared to be hesitations in some of the pas de deux, as if the dancers weren't always sure of the timing, and it seemed like there was a lack of cohesion in the group sections.

Holly Hynes designed the costumes, with the women in attractive blue or purple dresses and darker lengthwise accents on the bodices. Unfortunately, the men’s costumes were somewhat distracting. They were outfitted in gray-blue, short-sleeved one-piece outfits; skin tight on top, but strangely baggy below the waist and rather wide legged. The looseness was not flattering, especially on the solid-torsoed principal dancers James Fayette and Marcovici and not very attractive in general.

It's too bad that Mahdaviani was put into such an unfortunate situation. In hindsight, it was obviously not a good idea to debut a new ballet seven weeks into a crowded season. Perhaps Artistic Direction Peter Martins would have been wiser either to commission fewer new Diamond Ballets or revive fewer old ones, so that the dancers would have more energy to focus on the new choreography. .

Who Cares? was a pleasant way to round out the evening. The female corps was VERY young - all but one apprentices or 2000 SAB graduates, and though the dancing was energetic, it lacked a little finesse. The female demi-soloists were better, though the effect of so busy a season is clearly showing in the under-rehearsal of many ballets. The men, however, were wonderful. Henry Seth, Stuart Capps, and Kurt and Kyle Froman (twins) are all from the standout SAB, class of 95, Stephen Hanna of '97. They demonstrated their depth of experience in solid partnering, great synchronization and fabulous multiple rotation tours and pirouettes during the male corps solos. The five men represented a combined 33 years of NYCB experience, the 10 corps women a mere 8-9 years.

Jenifer Ringer and Philip Neal were the highlight of the night in the Man I Love section. Ringer is perfect in this energetic, elegant and emotional role, and Neal with his beautiful long lines complements her nicely. Having not focused on his dancing lately, I was reminded of what an elegant dancer Neal has become. Gracefully tall and long limbed, he seems to feel the music with every inch of his body, paying attention to every detail down to his toes and fingertips. This elegance and style is well suited to Gershwin, and an excellent match for Ringer. He also was a wonderfully attentive and emotional partner, never losing his focus on Ringer. Thought not a natural turner, Neal did very well in the multiple pirouettes and tours.

Jennie Somogyi appeared a bit tired, but had nice pizzazz and zip in her turns and in her pas de deux with Neal. Abi Stafford, as the ‘Girl in Red,’ on the other hand, did not seem comfortable in her role. I'm not sure if she was under-rehearsed, feeling off, or whether she's just not ready for the role. She seemed tentative, and therefore never quite caught up to the flow of the music. The I'll Build A Stairway to Heaven solo has big music, which requires authoritative dancing, and Stafford looked overwhelmed in the part.


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Edited by Basheva.

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