New York City
June 20, 2003 --
New York State Theater, New York
On Friday night,
the New York City Ballet continued a run of excellent Spring Season performances
with a program that spanned the breadth of the company’s large repertory.
Included were Peter Martins’ Thou Swell, one of the newest additions
to the repertory, George Balanchine’s classic Ballade and his
salute to the American West, Western Symphony. Each ballet was
given a wonderful performance by corps and solo dancers alike.
Wendy Whelan and Robert Tewsley led a polished corps through Balanchine’s
flowing choreography in Ballade. Exquisitely supple and fluid,
Whelan drew out every nuance in the dreamy choreography, matching the
detail of the steps beautifully to the details in Faure’s music. Each
position was held for just the right period of time, so that individual
steps melded into a flowing performance without being blurred or rushed.
Whelan’s performance was complemented by Robert Tewsley’s equally elegant
dancing and deeply attentive partnering. It was a delight to see Tewsley
on stage, as he has been waylaid by injuries for much of his tenure at
the New York City Ballet. His performance revealed a wonderfully flexible
back and nicely finished quality in his dancing, though his landings remain
rather heavy. Swirling in Ben Benson’s pink and lavender dresses, the
corps was appropriately delicate.
Thou Swell, an energetic combination of ballroom dancing and
ballet set to Richard Rodgers show tunes, was a dramatic change of pace.
With an offstage orchestra, and an onstage trio, two live singers, Debbie
Gravitte and Jonathan Dokuchitz, and sixteen dancers, the ballet is a
whirlwind of dance and musical action. Dancing to “Isn’t it Romantic,”
Darci Kistler and Jock Soto were elegant and moving, demonstrating the
fluid partnership that has developed over two decades of experience together.
With their long legs kicking high, Charles Askegard and Maria Kowroski
added a cool air of sophistication to their duos while still appearing
to enjoy every moment onstage. Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette, were
more youthful, with a spunkiness and verve in their high-spirited dancing.
However, it was Janie Taylor who gave the most sensational performance,
sizzling in her duets with a seemingly reinvigorated Nilas Martins. A
devilish smile on her face, she swooped and soared, reveling in the energetic,
zesty choreography. The waitresses and waiters were delightfully precise
in their brief sections. Robin Wagner’s set, with a mirrored ceiling and
tiled floor, and Jules Lumsden’s stylish dresses and tuxes gave a realistic
1930s feel to the ballet. Paul Gemignani conducted the off stage orchestra.
Continuing the high spirited feeling was an outstanding performance of
Balanchine’s Western Symphony. With John Boyt’s faux western
town stretched out behind them, Jennie Somogyi and Nilas Martins were
a good natured couple, Martins refreshing as the awshucks cowboy trying
to impress the girl. Somogyi exuded a brash confidence, blazing though
the choreography without forgetting the details of the characterization.
In the Adagio, Alexandra Ansanelli and Albert Evans were a match made
in ballet comedy heaven. Dressed in Karinska’s black, sequined cowboy
outfit, Evans was sentimentally comic as the flashy but gentle cowboy.
As the object of his affections, Ansanelli was utterly delightful and
droll, making the most out of each step in Balanchine’s tongue in cheek
choreography. She soared confidently though the “tunnel” of corps ladies
into Evans arms in the challenging “leaps of faith.” Maria Kowroski and
Charles Askegard brought the ballet to an end with a Rondo full of dizzyingly
fast spins and high kicks. Askegard’s long legs seemed to get in his way
on the bent kneed spins, but otherwise his pirouettes were excellent,
matching Kowroski in speed and tightness. The corps, stellar in all three
movements, combined with all the soloists (and the “phantom” lead couple
from the defunct third movement) for a fantastic solo, the curtain dropping
on a series of impressive, synchronized fouettes.
All three ballets were lit by Mark Stanley, with Richard Moredock and
Maurice Kaplow conducting Ballade and Western Symphony,
Another perspective by
Mary Ellen Hunt
Midway through Peter
Martins’s "Thou Swell," which the New York City Ballet performed on their
rep program last Friday night at the New York State Theatre, you realize
that, unfortunately, you are only midway through.
Created last fall for the opening gala and set to sixteen songs by Richard
Rodgers (arranged by Glen Kelly with the effect of an awards show medley),
Martins’s loosely linked sketches of four couples romancing at a swanky
nightclub fills the eye, but meanders dramatically and choreographically.
Although the dancers execute the steps precisely, attacking even difficult
lifts without hesitation, the phrases come in fits and starts, often lapsing
into posed coyness, vamping, or plain old high kicks, rather than developing
into full-blown statements. Nevertheless, Martins cleverly provides swishing
long dresses designed by Julius Lumsden and elaborate sets and mirrors
created by Robin Wagner, all of which distract the viewer from the thinness
of his choreography.
Indeed, there’s a lot onstage -- almost too much -- what with the classy
set, two jazz singers (Debbie Gravitte and Jonathan Dokuchitz), sixteen
dancers and a jazz combo, complete with upright bass, drums and baby grand.
In "This Can’t Be Love" Janie Taylor and Nilas Martins managed to cover
the abbreviated space with abandon, as did Darci Kistler and Jock Soto
in a beautifully phrased "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered." Even so,
the dancers brought themselves up short in a step or narrowly missed hitting
the set more than once, leaving the impression that there was so much
stuff onstage, there was no room left for the dancing.
To judge from the applause, though, "Thou Swell" is already crowd-pleaser.
Also on the program was George Balanchine’s "Ballade," led by Wendy Whelan
and Robert Tewsley, as well as a crisply rendered "Western Symphony,"
which featured particularly witty performances by Alexandra Ansanelli
and Albert Evans in the Adagio movement.
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