New York City Ballet

at Saratoga Performing Arts Center

by Kate Snedeker

July 23 - 24, 2003 -- Saratoga Springs, New York

7/23/03 -- ‘Chaconne,’ ‘Carnival of the Animals,’ ‘Symphony in Three Movements’

I seem to have brought the rain to Saratoga with me. My last and only previous trip in 2000   coincided with a massive day-long downpour that "swamped" the gala performance and the earlier matinee.   The rain held off during the actual performance last night (7/23), but it's damp and looks like rain is coming this morning (7/24).

“Chaconne” was well done though it was not the best performance of the ballet I've ever seen.   Some of the dancing appeared a bit loose, not surprising since the SPAC [Saratoga Performing Arts Center] stage is notoriously slippery and the very damp weather was probably making it even worse.   Amanda Edge and Antonio Carmena stood out in their brief pas de deux – he has such exuberance in his dancing and she was very precise.

The corps in “Symphony in Three Movements” was a bit ragged, but the three main pairs were excellent. Jennifer Tinsley capably replaced Alexandra Ansanelli, though she seemed to be a bit big to be paired with Tom Gold.   Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto were fabulous in the main pas de deux and it was a joy to see Jared Angle back on stage.

The audience seemed to love "Carnival of the Animals," but I thought it lost some of its punch at SPAC.   First of all, Andrea Quinn is apparently not here at SPAC, at least this week, and it didn't seem like Richard Moredock was entirely comfortable with the score (which was at least partially arranged by Andrea Quinn).   In several sections, the dancers and the music ended at different times, and the music didn't seem to have enough energy & volume to fill the amphitheatre.   Also, the production seemed a bit overwhelmed by the SPAC stage, which appears to be wider and deeper than the New York State Theater’s.   There is very little of a set in the ballet and, so, the stage needs to have a very cozy feeling.   Some of the sections seemed to lose effectiveness because there was so much empty stage, and the music seemed distant and diffused in the large amphitheatre.

Jennifer Ringer made her debut as the mother, a role which was originally set on her before she was injured early in the spring season.   Aaron Severini also debuted as one of the mice, a role which I suspect was also set on him (since the mice are the shortest corps men).   Overall, though not the best I've seen the ballet performed, it was delightful and the dancers seemed to be having fun with their roles.

‘Coppelia’ -- 7/24/03 matinee

Megan Fairchild was delightful this afternoon.   She looked a bit tired by the end of the final pas de deux, and I hope she has enough energy to get safely through the ballet again this evening.  She managed all the tricky steps, though with experience there will be more flow.   However, for a corps member in the company less than two years, Fairchild did a tremendous job.   She is really tiny, and that may be an issue if she dances with Woetzel again tonight.   Even on pointe, she was shorter than Millepied and he had to lean way over to set her back on pointe or lift her up from the waist.   However, her small figure made the leaps into Millepied's arms very dramatic and the lifts were extra easy (at least they appeared that way).

Millepied, for his own part, was also in fine form. The stage was probably quite slippery, as thunderstorms have been passing through all day, which made his performance all the more impressive.   I got the feeling that like many of the dancers the strange stage set up was making him a bit unsure of the placement of certain steps. The seats at SPAC stretch very far to the sides, and, to allow the people in those side seats to see the production the set is placed farther back on the stage.   And, the front three wings are undecorated and narrower as you go towards the front of the stage -- the result being that the ballet seems rather distant and the dancers seem not as sure how far forward to dance.   They have to dance farther forward than the set extends, and some exits are into the forward wings.   It must be very strange to dance way in front of the set that normally is right next to you.

‘Coppelia' -- 7/24/03 evening.

Major kudos due to Megan Fairchild for TWO wonderful performances in “Coppelia.”   There were a few minor bobbles in the evening performance, but otherwise a fine performance.   Woetzel was in top form with stunning pirouettes and double tours during his first and third act solos.   It's amazing how fast he rotates.   At one point in the series of double tours that snap to second position on the landings, he did a double tour-double tour-second position, right into a perfectly balanced multiple pirouette. He also made the most of the acting parts providing a different and intriguing interpretation of the character of Franz.   I did feel that there was as much chemistry between Woetzel and Fairchild (he is nearly twice as old as she) as there was with Fairchild and Millepied, but it didn't affect the enjoyment of the ballet.

LaFosse was also excellent as Coppelius, showing more tenderness than in previous performances this year. There was one fairly unnerving moment in the second act when Austin Laurent, who was dancing the acrobat doll, slipped very awkwardly going up into one of his high splits during his solo. Something was clearly wrong and LaFosse spent a while talking to him while "straightening" him out (after Swanilda's friends had turned all the dolls on). Kudos to him for managing to sit through the entire rest of the act, a good 15-20 minutes, as if nothing had happened. Laurent did not reappear in the third act, and I hope it is not a serious injury.

The third act solos were all well performed with Carrie Lee Riggins as the Spinner, Aesha Ash and Seth Orza in Discord and War (Orza was ON in the evening performance!), and Lindy Mandradjieff in the Dance of the Hours. The final pas de deux had a few less than completely smooth moments in the end, but Woetzel was a gracious and accommodating partner and Fairchild danced with aplomb.


Edited by Jeff

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