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New York City Ballet: After the Rain, Orpheus, Who Cares?
-Onstage with the Dancers

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New York City Ballet
George Balanchine's
(NYC Ballet Website)

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
Marketing, Managing Director, Rob Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 30, 2005

Originally Published on ExploreDance.com

After the Rain (Premiere): Music by Arvo Pärt (Tabula Rasa (1977), for two violins, string orchestra, and prepared piano, and Spiegel im Spiegel (1978), for violin and piano), Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Violins: Arturo Delmoni, Kurt Nikkanen, Jean Ingraham, Pianos: Alan Moverman and Richard Moredock, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Jock Soto, Sofiane Sylve, Edwaard Liang, Maria Kowroski, and Ask la Cour. Christopher Wheeldon is a former NYC Ballet soloist and is NYC Ballet's first Resident Choreographer. "After the Rain" is Mr. Wheeldon's eleventh ballet created for NYC Ballet. (Program Notes).

On second viewing, I realized that I made an error in my first review, from a different vantage point. Wendy Whelan was wearing a pink leotard, not a dress, and the second half of this work was even more exquisite and existential than I remembered. After the Rain is a work with contrasting moods and soulful sensuality. Jock Soto's impending retirement is almost too much to bear, as he dances with such superb partnering, poise, balance, power, and charisma. He appears to be a dancer who could continue forever, unlike so many who retire after their prime.

The ensemble of principals was enthusiastic and buoyant in the first half of the program, and the extended and uplifted leg motif, at the onset of this work, was dramatic and daring. Kudos to Christopher Wheeldon.


Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto in New York City Ballet's After The Rain
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik



Orpheus (1948): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Isamu Noguchi, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Performed by Nilas Martins as Orpheus, Charles Askegard as Dark Angel, Darci Kistler as Eurydice, Jonathan Stafford as Apollo, Henry Seth as Pluto, Adam Hendrickson as Satyr, Ellen Bar as lead Bacchante, and the Company as Nature Spirits, Furies, Lost Souls, Bacchantes, and Friends of Orpheus, including Saskia Beskow (Danskin spokesperson). Stravinsky worked closely with Balanchine in the composition of this score. The musician-poet, Orpheus, struggles to rescue his wife, Eurydice, from Hades. (NYCB Notes).

The classic and close collaboration of Balanchine and Stravinsky was exemplified in Orpheus, with the score and the movement so intertwined. Costumes and scenery by Isamu Noguchi, Martha Graham's set designer, were surreal and mythological in form, and colors and globular shapes merged to enhance this wrenching myth. The costumes of Furies and Lost Souls with spiked tentacles and head coverings were brilliant. Nilas Martins, as Orpheus, was well cast for his statuesque presence and youthful characterization. Darci Kistler, as his deceased wife, Eurydice, exuded pain and passion, and their duets were mesmerizing.

Orpheus has persuaded Pluto (Henry Seth) into returning Eurydice to him from the Underground, but he must remain blindfolded until they arrive at the upper air. The uninformed Eurydice, however, persuades Orpheus to look at her, and she dies. Orpheus returns alone to be destroyed by the Bacchantes. Charles Askegard, as Dark Angel, is the figure that leads the forlorn Orpheus to the Underground, and his demeanor and dance were particularly theatrical. Jonathan Stafford, as Apollo, and Adam Hendrickson, as Satyr, completed the lead cast in an entertaining and energetic style.

Who Cares? (1970): Music by George Gershwin, Adapted and Orchestrated by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Jo Mielziner, Costumes by Ben Benson, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Pianist: Nancy McDill, Performed by Sofiane Sylve, Jenifer Ringer, Ashley Bouder, Philip Neal, Dena Abergel, Saskia Beskow, Amanda Edge, Pauline Golbin, Sarah Ricard, Kyle Froman, Henry Seth, Jonathan Stafford, Sean Suozzi, Andrew Veyette, and the Company. "Who Cares?" is an old song written by George and Ira Gershwin in 1931 for Of Thee I Sing. Balanchine used a small part of the Gershwin repertoire for classic dances. (Program Notes).

In today's cast, Jenifer Ringer (Danskin spokesperson) and Ashley Bouder were sensational in their solos and duets. Fascinatin' Rhythm, Ms. Ringer's solo, had pizzazz, class, high kicks, and complicated turns. I'll Build a Staircase to Paradise, Ms. Bouder's solo, brought out her exceptional stage presence and upbeat energy, while Philip Neal's Liza allowed him to exhibit his signature self-assured campiness and over-acted body language to his delight. Amanda Edge, Saskia Beskow, and Henry Seth gave noteworthy performances in their respective turns.
 

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