New York City
May 24, 2003 -- New
York State Theater, New York
on Charles Nuitter’s happier version of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s dark tale, “Der
Sandmann”, Coppelia is the lighthearted story of two young lovers,
Swanilda and Frantz, whose courtship is briefly interrupted by a doll
and a misunderstanding. George Balanchine’s production, drawn partly from
Petipa’s original, is set in a Middle European country village, brought
to life in pastel colors by Rouben Ter Arutunian. The equally colorful,
detailed costumes were designed by Ter Arutunian and Karinska.
On Saturday afternoon, Coppelia was given a newly youthful and
vibrant feel with the debut of Alexandra Ansanelli as Swanilda. This was
a special occasion for Ansanelli, as it was not only a major debut, but
also her first performance as a principal dancer.
The youngest couple to take on the lead roles in recent years, Ansanelli
and Millepied were a delightfully effective Swanilda and Frantz. Since
his debut in February, Millepied has clearly worked on fleshing out the
detail in his characterization. His Frantz has a not-so-innocent mischievousness,
with intelligence lurking behind his dark eyes. Ansanelli, too, gave her
character an unusual bit of intelligence. Dancing with her usual élan,
Ansanelli was a cheeky, free-spirited Swanilda, her emotions playing,
unrushed, across her expressive face. Together Millepied and Ansanelli
seemed to have an easy rapport, their dark-haired good looks and shorter,
slender physiques an excellent match. Frequently paired in other ballets,
they appeared to be comfortable in even the trickier pas de deux sections.
The first act dances by Coppelia’s friends appeared under-rehearsed, with
several obvious timing problems during the brief duos. However, despite
the slightly rough beginning, the large group sections were danced with
well-timed zest. Megan Fairchild stood out as the youngest of the friends,
notable for her precise dancing and delightful mime. The character dances
were energetic, with proper attention paid to the details of the complicated
steps. It was a shame however, that many of the men’s boots still seem
to be very poorly fitted. It’s a small detail, but the boots stand out
in an otherwise well-costumed ballet.
Robert LaFosse’s Coppelius is a eccentric toymaker, slightly stooped and
just a little bit sinister. In Act Two, he seems to truly believe that
he can bring Coppelia to life with Frantz’s “life essence”. It was in
this act that Ansanelli really shone, bold and mischievous in her actions.
Her Coppelia was suitably doll-like, but with more curve in her stiff
arms than often seen. Some timing mishaps caused her Spanish and Scottish
dances to be slightly rushed, but Ansanelli darted through the steps with
a punchy speed. More experience will allow her to slow down just a hair,
and bring out the character of these dances a bit more. Ansanelli was
a particularly delightful as she created havoc in the workshop, pausing
just a moment before each toy to plot her toy-toppling approach. This
Swanilda clearly enjoyed being naughty!
In the third act, the students from the School of American Ballet, were
as always, beautifully rehearsed and a delight to watch. Abi Stafford,
as Dawn, gave a technically solid performance, but needed to relax into
the role and invest more emotion in her dancing. Amanda Edge in the Waltz
of the Golden Hours and Pascale Van Kipnis as Spinner danced with elegance
and precision. Dana Hanson’s Prayer was especially beautiful, with Hanson
using her long limbs to accent the flowing choreography. The jingling
jesterettes were springy and cheerful. Discord and War, led by the powerful
and high flying Aesha Ash and Adam Hendrickson, was especially well danced.
In the Peace pas de deux, Ansanelli and Millepied brought a youthful innocence
to the beautiful choreography. The frolicking lovers of the first two
acts had clearly gained a new maturity as husband and wife. The adagio
section was especially touching, despite the distraction of a loudly crying
child in the audience, with careful, but nuanced and flowing dancing.
Millepied seemed at ease with Ansanelli, partnering her with care and
tenderness. Ansanelli’s balances were excellent, and she did not rush
the choreography, slipping off pointe just once. Millepied was a bit under-rotated
in the series of tours landing in second plie, but soared in his assembles
and jetes en circle, his ballon airy and his landings light. Ansanelli
was just a bit cautious in her solos, but her dancing had a wonderful
light, precise and delicate quality. It was a youthful performance, but
auspicious, hinting at wonderful performances from both Ansanelli and
27, 2003 -- New York State Theater, New York
Tuesday night, the New York City Ballet's Spring Season performances of
George Balanchine's Coppelia continued, with several changes
in the lead and divertissement casts. The most significant change was
that of Adam Hendrickson, who debuted as Dr. Coppelius in February, taking
over the role from Robert LaFosse. With Alexandra Ansanelli and Benjamin
Millepied continuing in the lead roles, the production had a joyously
youthful and energetic feel.
The first act variations for Swanilda’s friends were decidedly improved
over earlier performances, with much greater attention to timing and a
more relaxed feel to the dancing. The first act also brought unexpected
problems for both Ansanelli and Millepied, for Ansanelli, an apparent
bloody nose, and Millepied, a de-velcroed butterfly that fell to the stage
before he could catch it in his net. Both dancers handled the surprises
beautifully, demonstrating comfort in these very new roles. This comfort
was even clearer in their elegant third act pas de deux. Though excellent
in her debut, Ansanelli has clearly grown even more confident in the role.
She appeared much more assured in the choreography, adding speed to her
powerful, yet delicate and precise dancing. Millepied matched the drama
in her dancing with his own high flying variations, his astounding ballon
and panther-like landings most impressive.
The youthful feeling continued with Adam Hendrickson’s moving performance
as Dr. Coppelius. Though barely half as old as Robert LaFosse, the other
current Coppelius, Hendrickson displayed a surprising maturity in his
detailed and well though out characterization of Coppelius.
While LaFosse has settled on a humorous, slightly cantankerous approach
to the role, Hendrickson takes a much different tack. His Coppelius is
a gentle, energetic soul, full of tender affection for his creations.
The depth of Hendrickson’s characterization was apparent in his attention
to all the little details, including the very tender manner in which he
repositioned the dolls after chasing out Swanilda’s friends. He gently
lifted the acrobat back onto his cushion, stopping to pat him on the had
before moving on, and softly stroked Swanilda’s hair when he brought her
out. Bestowed with hands that are unusually full of _expression, Hendrickson
also stood out for his clear mime. His interaction with Ansanelli was
solid, despite a few glitches-this was their first performance together.
Hendrickson, does however need to keep Coppelius’ age in mind, and remember
not to dart so quickly across the stage.
In the third act divertissements, Lindy Mandradjieff, with a sparkling
smile, was was appropriately delicate in the Waltz of the Hours. Adding
extra nuance to the role, Dena Abergel shone as Prayer, and Carrie Lee
Riggins was a delightfully precise and fleet footed Spinner. Ellen Bar
and Seth Orza had the proper power in Discord and War, though occasionally
not quite in synch with eachother.
Maurice Kaplow conducted, the orchestra offering a solid performance of
Leo Delibes score.
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