New York City
'Le Tombeau de
'Tarantella,' 'Liturgy,' 'In the Night'
and 'Symphonic Dances'
May 31, 2003 -- New
York State Theater, New York
At the halfway point of the 2003 Spring Season, New York City Ballet offered
up an inspired night of dancing that included the premiere of Christopher
Wheeldon’s Liturgy, sparkling young talent in Balanchine’s Tarantella
and moving performances by NYCB veterans in Robbin’s evocative In
George Balanchine’s Le Tombeau de Couperin ,an exploration
of Maurice Ravel’s music, with dances to the Prelude, Forlane, Menuet
and Rigaudon, highlights the corps de ballet. There are
no principals or soloists, just two eight-dancer quadrilles who mirror
and echo each other’s movements. With no solos, the focus is on the patterns
formed by the groups and the intricate steps. The ballet was well danced,
especially in the final Rigaudon , with proper attention placed
on the spacing between and within the quadrilles and the details of the
steps. Of special note was the nuanced dancing of Kyle Froman, Henry Seth,
Jonathan Stafford and Dana Hanson.
A sharp contrast after the fairly sedate opening, Tarantella,
with rousing music by Louis Gottschalk, showcased the bravura talents
of Daniel Ulbricht and Megan Fairchild. Ulbricht and Fairchild, who replaced
Alexandra Ansanelli and Benjamin Millepied, possess a youthful impishness
and energy just perfect for Tarantella’s playful antics. A bit
restrained in her debut during the winter season, Fairchild appeared much
more comfortable in the quick, precise choreography, moving with more
assured speed and incorporating the tricky tambourine taps seamlessly
into her dancing. Simply sensational, Ulbricht soared high into the air
in the jumps, his feet scissoring crisply in the beats and his facial
expressions catching the mood of the ballet perfectly. His ménage of grand
jetes en circle was blazingly fast, finished with an ultra-cheeky swagger
off stage. Already outstanding in the ballet, it will be even more fun
to see Ulbricht and Fairchild as they continue to explore all the facets
of Tarantella . Karinska’s brightly colored costumes completed
The centerpiece of the evening was the premiere of Liturgy,
the latest ballet by resident choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. A pas
de deux for Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto, Liturgy is set to “Fratres”,
a work for violin, strings and percussion by Estonian composer Arvo Part.
“Fratres”, with Colin Jacobsen as the violin soloist, is delicate, with
a hymn-like quality and sometimes purposely disharmonic. A perfect score
for Wheeldon’s contemplative pas de deux, “Fratres” provided emotion without
overwhelming the simple setting.
Mark Stanley’s dim lighting provided the only set for the ballet, performed
with a plain backdrop and simple costumes by Holly Hynes. Attired in a
dark red unitard (Soto) and grey leotard with deeply curved side cutouts
(Whelan) appeared out of darkness. Mostly comprised of partnering, with
little solo work or jumps, the ballet was an intriguing exploration of
movement, as the name implies, a rite of some kind. In a choreographic
sequence seen several times, both dancers lifted their arms up into a
graceful high fifth position, then without pausing dropped their arms
down as their hands moved up as if to cup their chins. It was unusual
and gave the impression of prayer or meditation.
a pas de deux filled with innovative and tricky partnering, Wheeldon chose
wisely in selecting Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. Soto, a solid and strong
partner, and Whelan, a highly musical and flexible dancer were stunning
in the deliberate and striking choreography. In a particularly moving
lift, Whelan, one leg between Soto’s knees, was supported in a horizontal
position, both their arms stretching freely out. Other lifts also capitalized
on the wonderfully assured partnering, Whelan often stretched out in unique
positions. Both dancers were powerfully committed in their dancing, adding
to the overall impact of the ballet.
piece ended with the dancers standing, repeating the previously mentioned
port de bras sequence in silence as darkness slowly enveloped them. Unique
in choreography and the use of a composer new to the New York City Ballet
repertory, Liturgy is a fascinating and moving piece that demands
to be seen again to explore all its facets.
Jerome Robbin’s In the Night returned to the repertory, also
marking the return of Jenifer Ringer from a recent injury. In Anthony
Dowell’s deeply colored, frothy dresses and elegant jackets, three couples,
representing three different glimpses into love, dance against a backdrop
of twinkling stars (by Jennifer Tipton). As the slow dancing first couple,
perhaps representing the delicacy of young love, Rachel Rutherford and
Arch Higgins perfectly matched the ebb and flow of the music with their
slow, arching, curving lifts, . Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard were
cool and elegant in the middle section, using their longs limbs to accent
the sweeping choreography. A more distant couple, they represented a more
mature, perhaps even fading love. The highlight of the ballet was Jenifer
Ringer and James Fayette in the turbulent final pas deux. A couple off
the stage, Ringer and Fayette have a wonderful, electric chemistry together,
which added poignancy and passion to the fiery relationship of the third
couple. There was an electric tension in the air and powerful connection
between Fayette and Ringer that seemed to bring them together in the end.
This was real love, with all its ups and downs, and peace in the end.
Peter Martin’s Symphonic Dances, powered by Sergei Rachmaninoff’s
triumphant score and Santo Loquasto’s vividly colored costumes, provided
an upbeat ending to the evening. With Janie Taylor and Sebastian Marcovici
as the lead couple, the ballet was given a newly powerful and energetic
feel. Taylor’s central woman was cool and driven, with long sweeping moves
and a dancing full controlled abandon. It was clear why Marcovici’s man
was so infatuated, but yet unable to control this woman. Marcovici led
a quartet of impressive men, including Ask la Cour, Jonathan Stafford,
Seth Orza and Sean Suozzi, in Martin’s high flying choreography.
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