New York City
June 27 & 28,
2003 -- New York State Theater, New York
To ballet fans in
New York City, the yearly re-emergence of Balanchine’s classic A Midsummer
Night’s Dream at the NY State Theatre is a sign that the New York
City Ballet spring season is coming to a close. In the last week of the
2003 Spring Season, sparkling performances by two casts, with debuts abounding,
brought the season to a poignant and delightful end.
On Thursday, Benjamin Millepied was a youthfully regal and spectacular
Oberon. Balanchine’s first act solo for Oberon is not only technically
challenging, but requires extreme precision in the bravura choreography.
The dancer must execute a slew of quick beats, jumps and leaps while carefully
threading his way through the legions of young bugs, danced with charming
enthusiasm by young dancers from the School of American Ballet. Millepied's
performance was doubly breathtaking, as not only was his dancing superb,
but he also seemed to tread the line between bugs and stage very finely.
The stage did not seem large enough to contain his sweeping grand jetes,
one sequence finished with a stunning switch split, and his beats were
high and precise. If Millepied has a weakness, it is in his tendency to
underplay the role, omitting or shortening some meaningful mime touches.
He could learn a lot from the performances of Peter Boal, who danced the
role on Friday night. Though his dancing no longer has quite the speed
it once had, Boal combined beautifully clean technique with a fully fleshed
out, poignant characterization of Oberon. Boal knew exactly how to engage
the audience and his fellow dancers, delighting with his facial expressions
and interaction with Puck. His solo was excellent, his soaring leaps and
elegant line on display as always.
Though she invested great detail in the characterization of Titania on
both evenings, Maria Kowroski had some difficulties on the technical side
Thursday night. Kowroski appeared to slip during the approach for the
grand leap into Charles Askegard's arms, but both dancers reacted quickly,
Askegard catching Kowroski at waist level and setting her down into a
beautiful arabesque. After this miscue, Kowroski seemed abit off in the
rest of her solo, her balances not held as long as usual and her flow
not as stunning as normal. The lift was flawless on Friday night, with
Kowroski impressive in her dancing.
A number of dancers made promising debuts on Thursday night, led by Daniel
Ulbricht as a hyperkinetic Puck. With his short, but solid stature, Ulbricht
was well-suited to the role, an enthusiastic powerhouse of a magical imp.
As chaos ensued, Ulbricht’s face radiated mischievous delight. A superbly
talented young dancer, he can be too forceful and enthusiastic in his
characterizations. With experience, he should settle down into the role
and make some of the humor a bit more subtle. Albert Evans’ Puck on Friday
night had just the right combination of impish energy and perfectly balanced
acting, neither too subtle nor “in your face.” Evans also ad-libbed nicely
when an unknown glitch prevented him from “flying” in the final scene.
Another notable debut came from Seth Orza as Bottom, the man turned donkey.
Endearing in both his human and animal forms, Orza handled the tricky
pas deux with Titania with aplomb. Ask LaCour was a towering new Thesius,
a perfect height mismatch for the powerful Aesha Ash. Henry Seth was a
noble Thesius the following night, partnering Jennie Somogyi, who liberally
infused her fouettes with stunningly solid triples. Debuting as Demetrius
and Lysander, Jason Fowler and Stephen Hanna were both excellent partners
and good actors. Megan Fairchild, in another debut, gave the butterfly
new charm! In the final debut of the night, Robert Tewsley partnered Jenifer
Ringer in the Divertissement pas de deux. Elegant and supple in his brief
solos, Tewsley’s outward calm was belied by his overly cautious manner.
During the otherwise notable pas de deux, he held Ringer so close that
her foot collided with his legs three times. More experience will undoubtedly
make both dancers more comfortable with the partnership and choreography.
The roles of Helena and Hermia were in good hands with both casts: Dena
Abergel and Jennifer Tinsley, and Alexandra Ansanelli and Rachel Rutherford.
Ansanelli’s solo was particularly poignant, Helena’s desperation and broken
heart beautifully illustrated in her powerful and dramatic dancing. Jared
Angle, returning after a long injury layoff, and Sebastian Marcovici were
Ansanelli's and Rutherford’s capable lovers on Friday.
The corps finished the year on a high note, showing good form and technique
on both nights. Titania’s retinue and the divertissement dancers all performed
with energy and appropriate emotion. The performances by the women were
made even more lovely by Karinska’s gorgeous costumes, especially the
dresses and tutus for Titania’s retinue, each costume totally unique but
perfectly harmonious together. Many thanks to all the dancers for a wonderful
end to a wonderful season!
Mendelssohn’s joyous music was conducted by Richard Moredock on Thursday
and Andrea Quinn on Friday. The ingenious and effective scenery came from
David Hays, with lighting by Mark Stanley.
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