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New York City Ballet: Raymonda Variations, Afternoon of a Faun, Antique Epigraphs, Evenfall
-Onstage with the Dancers

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New York City Ballet
(NYC Ballet Website)
A Banquet of Dance

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, Fayçal Karoui
Marketing and Communications, Managing Director, Robert Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns
Manager, Press Relations, Joe Guttridge
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center
www.lincolncenter.org


Guest Conductor, Paul Mann

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 20, 2007
Orginally Published on ExploreDance.com


Raymonda Variations (1961): Music by Alexander Glazounov, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Horace Armistead, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Megan Fairchild, Joaquin De Luz, Alina Dronova, Savannah Lowery, Gwyneth Muller, Tiler Peck, Ana Sophia Scheller, and an ensemble of seven female Corps dancers. Balanchine used music from the first act of "Raymonda", which he had mounted as a full-length ballet with Alexandra Danilova in 1946 for the Ballets Russe. (NYCB Notes).

This sumptuous distillation of the full-length Raymonda is complete with pas de deux, solos, ensemble dance, and nine Variations. Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz were radiant, elegant, and scintillating. Each fed off the other's energy, and, finally, these two have developed chemistry, in addition to technical symbiosis. They whirled about each other and then alone in rapid spins and mid-air tiny kicks, each time expanding the accolades of the audience. The nine Variations were fascinating, as each had its own tempo and style, as well as musical motif, such as bells and chimes or soulful violin solo (thanks to Arturo Delmoni). The pink tutus in this frilly vision were evocative of the art of Fragonard. Karinska's costumes remain a breath of spring.


Afternoon of a Faun (1953): Music by Claude Debussy, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery and Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Guest Conductor: George Cleve, Performed by Janie Taylor and Craig Hall. Debussy is known for "musical impressionism" and wrote a large repertoire of works for piano and for orchestra, including "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune", 1892-94. (NYCB Notes).

Without doubt, this was the finest performance of Robbins' Faun that I have seen. Set in a dance studio with the front stage as the mirror (thus the dancers look into the audience to see themselves), the ballet requires total emotional focus and presence, as well as palpable chemistry between the two. Janie Taylor has been seen in this role in years past, but her recent injury had kept her offstage for too long. It was wonderful to see her again, especially in this signature role with her ever-so-long hair sweeping to the stage, leading her ever-so-long torso in curved athletics.

Craig Hall, however, was the astounding surprise. This was one riveting performance by a dancer with primal potential. His perfected muscular intensity was timed to the renowned and exotic score, and, one muscle at a time, he partnered Ms. Taylor with exceptional daring and drive. Ms. Taylor was the literal nymph, but Mr. Hall was the literal faun. They should be partnered more often.


Antique Epigraphs (1984): Music by Claude Debussy, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Florence Klotz, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Flute Solo: Paul Dunkel, Performed by Ellen Bar, Sara Mearns, Rebecca Krohn, Teresa Reichlen, Saskia Beskow, Amanda Hankes, Savannah Lowery, and Ellen Ostrom. Choreographed in seven sections, the first six are danced to an orchestrated version of "Six Epigraphes Antiques" and the seventh to "Syrinx", with unaccompanied flute. (NYCB Notes).

A rarely seen ballet, Antique Epigraphs is a well appreciated gift. The Greek, transparent costumes (designed by Florence Klotz) flow with simplicity and surrealness, as eight maidens walk arm-in-arm, dance in falling patterns into each other's arms, and create Greek friezes, with studied and serious demeanor. This second work to a Debussy score (with a pause between) worked exceptionally well, following Faun. At times this work is hypnotic, in a good sense, transporting the viewer with magic and mystery. Paul Dunkel's flute solos were reminiscent of those in Faun, another aesthetic bookend. Of the eight dancers, Teresa Reichlen, Sara Mearns, and Ellen Bar were the most noteworthy for affectively internalizing the genre.


Evenfall (2006): Music by Béla Bartók (Piano Concerto No. 3), Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Piano: Cameron Grant, Performed by Miranda Weese, Seth Orza, and the Company. Wheeldon captures the poignancy in Bartók's score, written while the composer was dying. Bartók was exposed to and inspired by traditional cultural music. (NYCB Notes).

A four-dance program is always a long evening, but Evenfall maintained the mesmerizing momentum. Wheeldon's imagery of loss and sadness were evident in more than the obvious ways, as this was one of Miranda Weese's final NYC Ballet performances, on her retirement from this Company. The dimly lit, grey stage showcases grey costumed figures with slow lifts and gravitation-defying movement. While Cameron Grant finely played the piano solos in this soulful Concerto, Ms. Weese and her muscular partner, Seth Orza, danced with impassioned persuasion. Ms. Weese will continue to dance in another Company, and Mr. Orza has a bright future at City Ballet with his newly honed persona and technique. The Corps and orchestra were both in fine shape, and kudos to Paul Mann, tonight's Guest Conductor.

Jamie Taylor and Craig Hall in NYCB's Afternoon of a Faun

Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik


Teresa Reichlen in NYCB's Antique Epigraphs

Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

 

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