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New York City Ballet - Square Dance, Reliquary, Sonatas and Interludes, Vienna Waltzes
-Onstage with the Dancers

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Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children's Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn

Conductors, Maurice Kaplow and Andrea Quinn

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center

Review by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
February 20, 2003

Special Guest, Pamela Saichann, an Argentine Tango enthusiast, who loved all of tonight's ballets and took home a pair of Lindy Mandradjieff's adorable, signed slippers.

Square Dance (1957): Performers were the same, Yvonne Borree, Peter Boal, and the Company. On second viewing, I was more in tune with the exact formations that resembled square dances. I would not like to hear a Dance Caller in the background, as the original 1957 version utilized. This, to me, was a visual piece, as is most ballet, and I'm a purist. My front orchestra seat enabled me to especially enjoy the enthusiasm and exuberance of this ensemble. This was an upbeat work, replete with silhouetted formations of dancers (very Balanchine), and one could literally observe the dancers admiring and supporting each other in their solos and duets.

Mr. Boal was superb. He exuded just the correct amount of passion and poise to carry his physically demanding role. Ms. Borree seemed to find herself in her second entrance, with a lightning solo, which included endless choreographic creations in place, en pointe. Ms. Borree has a demure and coy presence, which was perfect for this piece. This more formal work has many levels to unpeel.


Ballet: Square Dance
Choreographer: George Balanchine
Dancers: Yvonne Borre
Photo by Paul Kolnik

Reliquary (1996): Music by Charles Wuorinen (A Reliquary for Igor Stravinsky), Choreography by Peter Martins, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Performed by Alexandra Ansanelli, Seth Orza, Janie Taylor, Sébastien Marcovici, Dana Hanson, Jason Fowler, Deanna McBrearty, Stephen Hanna, Eva Natanya, Jonathan Stafford, and the Company. A reliquary is a container to hold a sacred relic. This ballet was choreographed as a tribute to George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky, longtime collaborators. Mr. Wuorinen, who has composed five pieces for NYC Ballet, imitated Stravinsky's manner, with fragments of Stravinsky's music. Mr. Martins, who admired Mr. Balanchine, used "sweeping diagonals, shifting patterns, and intricate duets" (NYCB Notes).

To dissonant, percussive, and exciting music, expertly conducted by Ms. Quinn, who was brought in for this one piece, the Company, costumed in black leotards, against a backdrop of Stravinsky's musical notations, celebrated Mr. Balanchine's successful career as Ballet Master of NYC Ballet. This commemorative piece included gravity-defying choreography, sensational partnering, a stormy score by Mr. Wuorinen, and a visual creation, with dim lighting, to emphasize the memorial aspects of the theme. It should be noted that Ms. McBrearty danced with tremendous poise and skill, along with other Corps members, in a showcased series of dramatic passages. I hope to see this work again in the Spring Season.

Sonatas and Interludes (1988): Pianist: Elaine Chelton, Performed by, as previously, Maria Kowroski and Jock Soto. On this third viewing, I was able to focus on the miraculous partnering of this virtuosic duo. Mr. Soto has performed often, during the last month, perhaps due to the various injuries of the male Principals, and perhaps due to his high performing standards. He and Ms. Kowroski have carried this particular work each night, and they have fine-tuned their presence and awareness of each other's next moves. They dance as one, in blue-black leotards and bejeweled waist decorations, with muscular form and an otherworldly transcendence of the actual stage. They seem to dance within a new space, one that belongs only to them and to Ms. Chelton, whose eyes are transfixed on these dancers, as she plays her prepared piano.

Vienna Waltzes (1977): Music Johann Strauss II, Franz Lehár, and Richard Strauss, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Costumes by Karinska, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Rachel Rutherford, James Fayette, Miranda Weese, Benjamin Millepied, Aesha Ash, Arch Higgins, Jenifer Ringer, Charles Askegard, Kyra Nichols, Philip Neal, and the Company, including Deanna McBrearty and Saskia Beskow (Danskin Spokespersons). The waltz was first popular in the late 1700's, when it was banned for immoral closeness in dancing. Balanchine explored the form of waltz in his choreographies, intensely in this work. This was Balanchine's homage to the age of imperial grandeur. The music selected is associated with the transformation of the waltz through the years and across society. These were Karinska's last costumes for NYC Ballet. (NYCB Notes).

I have always loved to waltz, and it was one of the first ballroom dances that I learned some years ago. For those of us who love to see formally costumed dancers (females in ballroom shoes), twirling in the midnight forest, resplendent with dark green leaves and shadings, or in a Grand Ballroom, with tuxedoed waiters and endless champagne, and who love to hear a waltz by anyone named Strauss or Lehár, this extremely lengthy ballet, positioned after two edgy works, and composed of five different dances, with five ensembles and five different changes of sets and costumes, was quite a sensational surprise.

I cannot wait until June, when I hope to see this work again. There were dances set to Johann Strauss II's frolicking waltzes, amongst the sumptuous trees and ivy, with the female dancers, in elegant Karinska gowns, first led by an ethereal Rachel Rutherford, and the male dancers, in military uniforms, led by a gallant James Fayette. In the second dance, some of the trees had been slowly lifted to allow for a more spacious choreography, led by a virtuosic Miranda Weese and by Benjamin Millepied, who was spinning faster than lightning. There were dances to mirrors and chandeliers, as the sets slowly transformed into the Grand Ballroom.

The final dance was totally miraculous, with, it appeared, the entire Company, led by the above Principals, plus Ms. Nichols, Mr. Neal, Ms. Ash, Mr. Higgins, Ms. Ringer, and Mr. Askegard. This was a black and white affair, with the dancers as waiters poised with bistro tables, supporting dozens of champagne bottles, and pinks, reds, and golds, as the visual décor. To be in the audience for this work is like being invited to a Gala, without the need to wear a tux. My guest and I were just enthralled and amazed at the splendor and aesthetic ambiance of Mr. Balanchine's brilliant and buoyant creation. Kudos to Karinska and to Mr. Rouben Ter-Arutunian.

 

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net