Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn
Review by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
November 26, 2002
The New York City Ballet celebrated its Winter Season, 2002, Opening with a Gala Benefit performance at the New York State Theatre on Tuesday night, which was a sold-out, elegant event, with opening remarks by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and special choreography, costumes, and sets that illustrated the powerful potential of this Lincoln Center venue. The grand scale in which Thou Swell (a Preview, prior to a one-night, January 22 performance) was staged, as well as the magical ambiance of all three World Premiere pieces, including Land of Nod and Carousel (A Dance), enabled the tuxedoed crowd to extend bravura accolades to the three choreographers, Robert La Fosse, Christopher Wheeldon, and Peter Martins, and to the entire cast, musicians and singers. In fact, the second surprise of the evening was an enchanting, but broken-hearted rendition, by Bernadette Peters, of Rodgers' What's the Use of Wond'rin?, from Carousel, in a sassy, svelte purple gown. Ms. Peters completed the bewitching benefit with this soulful interpretation of a song inspired by sorrowful, but steadfast love. The NYC Ballet audience obviously has steadfast love for this superbly trained and talented Company. I look forward tremendously to covering the complete Winter Repertory Season of New York City Ballet, including The Nutcracker, which extends this week's magical ballet moment.
Yvonne Borree and Nilas Martins perform "Thou Swell"
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik
Megan Fairchild performs "Land of Nod"
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik
Land of Nod (World Premiere): Libretto and Choreography by Robert La Fosse, Music by Richard Rodgers, Arranged and Orchestrated by Mark Schlefer, Costumes by Greg Poplyk, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor, Andrea Quinn, Performed by Sébastien Marcovici, Robert La Fosse, Megan Fairchild, and the Company. Mr. La Fosse, who is retiring this season as a Principal with New York City Ballet, created and performed in a dream-like sequence, replete with a flying carpet, carried by male dancers in full-body, sequined, black leotards, and a demure Megan Fairchild, as Natalie, sometimes asleep and sometimes leaping into the arms of Sébastien Marcovici, as Marco, the alter ego of Robert La Fosse, as Uh-Oh, the Clown, who performed cartwheels and fell over his own feet, Charlie Chaplin style. His pantomime antics were offset with the ecstasy of Ms. Fairchild's innocent character, who came alive as Marco leaped out of a dust bin, in a pink leotard with striped, rainbow legs, a colorful macho character, who literally swept her off her feet and pranced her across the stage amidst the Pinheads, dancers in puffy, pastel tutus. The stage became suddenly dark at the final notes, to imply an abrupt end to a magical dream.
Carousel (A Dance) (World Premiere): Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Music by Richard Rodgers, Arranged and Orchestrated by William David Brohn, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor, Andrea Quinn, Performed by Alexandra Ansanelli, Damien Woetzel, and the Company. Kudos to Mr. Wheeldon for again utilizing the entire stage in a tour de force presentation of this most talented and very New York Company. With striped leotards and a carousel-like, staged dance creation, I was drawn in by the heavenly orchestrated arrangements and inspired, innovative choreography so generously crafted by Mr. Wheeldon. The Principals, Mr. Woetzel and Ms. Ansanelli, were superb in their partnering and perfectly performed duos. Mr. Woetzel has developed an amazing capacity for elevation and elongation of legs and leaps. He has magnificent presence, and I look forward to seeing his future performances this season.
Thou Swell (Preview): Choreography by Peter Martins, Music by Richard Rodgers, Music Arranged by Gene Kelly, Orchestrations by Don Sebesky, Scenery by Robin Wagner, Costumes by Julius Lumsden, Costumes Supervised by Julie Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor Paul Gemignani, Guest Singer, Debbie Gravitte and Jonathan Dokuchitz, Guest Trio, Nick Archer on Piano, John Beal on Bass, Paul Pizzuti on Drums, Performed by Yvonne Borree, Nilas Martins, Darci Kistler, Jock Soto, Maria Kowroski, Charles Askegard, Jenifer Ringer, James Fayette, and the Company. The most elegant and ballroom dance-inspired, in the tradition of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers, all in very New York black and white, mirrors and live singer and trio, bistro tables and white grand piano, with a male dancer who plays the piano as part of the presentation, will again be performed as a Premiere on January 22, to be again reviewed. For this Preview, I will note for the record that I am in awe of Mr. Martins and his extraordinary assemblage of all that New York has to offer, not only as Choreographer of Thou Swell, but also as Ballet Master in Chief of New York City Ballet. With songs like Where or When, Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered, Manhattan, and You Took Advantage of Me, the audience, many of whom were dressed in the same black tie and long gown attire as the dancers, was energized and elevated to the core of this classy city, to the style of mixed ballet and ballroom, to black and white designer gowns, slit to the waist, to leggy lifts and duo lunges, to the mix of live songs, recorded standards, a New York City Ballet nightclub! The mirrored backdrop enabled the audience to see every step in angular, double perspective. A brilliant addition! Top hats are off to Peter Martins!