'The Four Temperaments,' 'Fancy Free'
October 8-12, 2003
-- Merriam Theater, Philadelphia, PA
Pennsylvania Ballet, poised for
the company's meaty 40th anniversary season, shot out of the gate with
their starting bill of George Balanchine works that show what this troupe
is made of and what they aspire to. And, for this program, artistic director
Roy Kaiser threw in Jerome Robbins' "Fancy Free" for breezy
The curtain rises on the eight women in the tight geometric patterns of
"Concerto Barocco," scored to the "Concerto in D
minor for Two Violins" by Johann Sebastian Bach. Both music
and movement snapped our minds into Mr. B's stoic modern artistry-- these
tight configurations during the opening vivace can jangle the nerves of
even seasoned dancers after a summer off, with its razor-sharp unison
work and counterpoints under Bach's persistent strings. It's one of Balanchine's
naked statements of "pure movement" that will reveal any technical
Indeed, there were slight errors in unison by this ensemble, instantly
made up because the group hit the inner pulse of this choreography right
away. Pennsylvania Ballet is noted for its strong corps de ballet, and
the controlled attack here is notable. The Largo movement brings principals
Dede Barfield and Martha Chamberlain holding as studied command as the
violins that moved them together gorgeously. The playfulness was brought
out by both dancers without sacrifice to Balanchine's crisp patterns.
The crucial male role in the allegro segment is danced with technical
flair and quiet physicality by soloist James Ihde.
Bach speaks to the polite, logical mind, but Paul Hindemith's "Theme
with Four Variations for String Orchestra and Piano" score to Balanchine's
"The Four Temperaments" speaks to the psyche. Martha Koeneman's
sinewy piano as well as Balanchine's choreography brought together dramatic,
even thrilling moments.
The lunging first movement brought a luminous Valerie Amiss (who had a
baby just three months ago) partnered with husband Edward Cieslak, opening
the "themes" with sumptuous clarity of movement and arresting
"freezes." Following that, the choreography opens up more with
the equally dynamic pairing of Heidi Cruz and Ihde. Cruz's turns were
breathtaking in their speed and accuracy, and Ihde continued to dazzle
with his lithe technical skill. James Ady, returning after a year with
another company, paired with Chamberlain, ably finished off this pairs
Those "Four Temperaments" were then realized by some of Pennsylvania
Ballet's strongest dancers. David Krensing essayed "Melancholic"
with the doomed irony of Hamlet. Whether he is crumbled on the floor,
releasing bent knee torso twists, or in a hyper-extended back bend, his
precision is so second nature that his interpretation of the part is wholly
memorable. Not to be outdone, Arantxa Ochoa and Meredith Rainey ushered
"Sanguinic" like lightning bolts-- the pair's eyes locked at
every moment they were facing each other, and otherwise showing themselves
always as accomplished Balanchine dancers, even allowing for sass. "Phlegmatic"
is choreographically the weakest section and its flatness is valiantly
rescued by Alexei Borovik, flanked by four women, who put sincerity into
the repetitiveness. "Choleric" brought a completely electric
Amy Aldridge to glittering arabesques, air lacerating turns, and fiery
pirouette runs. The choreography brought Aldridge, like Krensing, to transcendent
As Hindemith's interior symphonic tonals lurch and crescendo, the finale
brings the full company onstage a little heavily, but the high kicking
unison work by the corps, with Mr. B's now dated firework lifts over the
waves of arms by the principal four couples, was first rate.
"Fancy Free" brought Philip Colucci, Johnathan Stiles, and Ady
on furlough from the navy, taking a bite out of the Big Apple during WWII.
If this sounds familiar, it's the dance tableaux that Jerome Robbins devised
onstage that was turned into the great movie musical "On the Town"
with Frank Sinatra.
The male trio is smart enough to know that this is character dancing,
and their personalities are more important than the steps as they try
to impress their femme fatales, Aldrige and Christine Cox. Colucci's double-tours
that he landed in a clean split left us all panting, if not their pick-ups.
Edited by Lori Ibay
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