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Morphoses / The Wheeldon Company Débuts in New York: Program One

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Morphoses / The Wheeldon Company
Program One
(Morphoses Website)
Christopher Wheeldon, Artistic Director
Lourdes Lopez, Executive Director
John Pickford Richards, Musical Director
Cameron Grant, Principal Pianist
Ballet Masters:
Kathleen Tracey, Olga Kostritzky, Edwaard Liang
Penny Jacobus, Lighting Designer / Manager
Loreen Domijan, Production / Stage Manager
Victoria Epstein, Company Manager
Orchestra of St. Luke’s
Rob Fisher, Conductor
(St. Luke’s Website)

At City Center
(City Center Website)
Press: Helene Davis Public Relations

Dancers: Tyler Angle, Aesha Ash, Ashley Bouder, Darcey Bussell,
Alina Cojocaru, Jonathan Cope, Adrian Danchig-Waring,
Gonzalo Garcia, Craig Hall, Sterling Hyltin, Nehemiah Kish,
Maria Kowroski, Ashley Laracey, Edwaard Liang, Michael Nunn, Oxana Panchenko, Tina Pereira, Teresa Reichlen, William Trevitt, Wendy Whelan, Anastasia Yatsenko

Dancers Courtesy of Ballet Boyz, Bolshoi Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, New York City Ballet, Royal Ballet

Films Courtesy of Ballet Boyz: Michael Nunn and William Trevitt
Film Music by Ezio Bosso

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
Opening Night, October 17, 2007

(See an Interview, Christopher Wheeldon and Bright Sheng.)

The bios listed in the Morphoses / The Wheeldon Company Playbill begin with one and one-half pages on Christopher Wheeldon, and his first sentence presents him anonymously as “today’s most innovative contemporary ballet choreographer”. This listing is miss-conceived, as there are many fine and renowned ballet choreographers today, including those in NYC Ballet’s Diamond Project, a ballet company in which Mr. Wheeldon found fame and creative opportunities; in fact, as Resident Choreographer, he was so well showcased that his own Company evolved from such attention. One of the “innovative contemporary ballet choreographers” he should be praising is Peter Martins, Ballet Master in Chief of NYC Ballet, who offered Mr. Wheeldon such showcasing.

Other “innovative” choreographers that come to mind are Alexei Ratmansky, Jorma Elo, Mauro Bigonzetti, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Benjamin Millepied, Edwaard Liang, and more, in addition to Mr. Martins. Mr. Wheeldon’s fine and ethereal choreography has been very favorably reviewed in this magazine. However, it is stretching the imagination to say “today’s most innovative…”. In future Morphoses Playbills, Mr. Wheeldon would be better served to pay tribute to Mr. Martins and his choreographer colleagues. He did thank the companies from whom he “borrowed” performers, see above. Mr. Wheeldon also told the audience that the long October City Center weekend was a debut “season” (another “season” is presented annually at Sadler’s Wells Theater in London, as well as performances in Vail, Colorado). There are numerous ballet and modern dance companies that present long weekends and even several weeks of programs at City Center annually. Five days or nights of City Center performances are hardly monumental.

There Where She Loved (NY Premiere): Music by Frédéric Chopin and Kurt Weill, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Pianist: Cameron Grant, Soprano: Kate Vetter Cain, Mezzo: Shelley Waite, Staged by Ashley Wheater, Performed by the Company. This elegant ballet is inspired by the solo arias of Weill and Chopin, with a soprano and mezzo-soprano at either side of the stage, singing with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, conducted by Rob Fisher. Mr. Wheeldon has placed City Ballet corps dancers with principals and soloists on equal footing, in such a way to celebrate youthful freshness of spirit and style. The Russian guest artist, Anastasia Yatsenko, appeared with the new City Ballet principal, Gonzalo Garcia, formerly of San Francisco Ballet, plus numerous performers from City Ballet, such as Ashley Bouder and Craig Hall.

The vocal artists took turns with Weill and Chopin, some German, some French, as the artists appeared in duo and ensembles in this 2000 work, first presented at the Royal Ballet. There was much emotion and romantic play, and Sterling Hyltin and Gonzalo Garcia were especially rapturous and enticing in Chopin’s Spring. Maria Kowroski and Michael Nunn, in Weill’s Je ne t’aime pas, were the perfected couple in conflict.

Tryst Pas de Deux (NY Premiere): Music by James MacMillan, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Jean-Marc Puissant, Original Lighting by Natasha Katz, Lighting Recreated by Penny Jacobus, Conductor: Rob Fisher, Performed by Darcey Bussell and Jonathan Cope.

Each ballet in each Program was introduced by a filmed excerpt of the dancers rehearsing, and then a black screen with small white lettering announced each work. These were classy touches. Tryst, to James MacMillan’s music, was engagingly danced by Darcey Bussell and Jonathan Cope, both formerly of the Royal Ballet. There were gravity-defying devices that spun low with dizzying dervish. This was a mesmerizing work.

Vicissitude (NY Premiere): Music by Franz Schubert, Choreography by Edwaard Liang, Costumes by Angela Kostritzky, Lighting by Penny Jacobus, Performed by Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle. Ms. Kowroski and Mr. Angle are, respectively, principal and corps, so this partnering presented a daring duo, set to Schubert’s haunting string quartet, Death and the Maiden. Edwaard Liang, dancer and choreographer, created this work for the City Ballet duo, and his work resonated with nuance.

Slingerland Pas de Deux (NY Premiere): Music by Gavin Bryars, Choreography by William Forsythe, Costumes by William Forsythe, Lighting by William Forsythe, Performed by Wendy Whelan and Edwaard Liang. With stiff, ivory surreal costumes, in dim lighting, Wendy Whelan and Edwaard Liang, of City Ballet, connected and re-connected in Forsythe’s incandescent imagery, with riveting resonance.

Prokofiev Pas de Deux (NY Premiere): Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Narciso Rodriguez, Lighting by Penny Jacobus, Conductor: Rob Fisher, Violin Soloist: Brian Lewis, Performed by Tina Pereira and Nehemiah Kish. With excerpts from Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, Tina Pereira and Nehemiah Kish, of National Ballet of Canada, were stunning in this stark, serious, and sensual choreography.

Dance of the Hours (2006): Music by Amilcare Ponchielli, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Penny Jacobus, Conductor: Rob Fisher, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Gonzalo Garcia, and the Company. This more traditional ballet, with flower petal tutus, crowns, and Ponchielli, featured City Ballet’s Ashley Bouder and its debut principal, Gonzalo Garcia. Ms. Bouder always captivates her audience with direct gaze and a seasoned performance. Tonight was no exception, and we were entertained with this operatic invention for the Met’s La Gioconda Act III, debuted in 2006. The music is entertaining and familiar, with humor and pizzazz.

Fools’ Paradise (American Premiere): Music by Joby Talbot, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Narciso Rodriguez, Lighting by Penny Jacobus, Conductor: Rob Fisher, Performed by the Company.

I was immediately drawn to Aesha Ash, a dancer who has yet to achieve the principal ballet status in a major company, that she deserves. In fact, Ms. Ash was one of the most interesting and inspiring dancers onstage tonight, for Mr. Wheeldon’s New York Company debut. Also noteworthy were Teresa Reichlen, Craig Hall, and Adrian-Danchig-Waring, with the entire cast, minus Ms. Ash (a former City Ballet corps dancer), current members of City Ballet. Joby Talbot’s music and Narciso Rodriguez’ costumes back up the nine dancers in tonight’s final debut. These are performers who add ornamentations and opulence of style to every moment, and the imagery captivated the audience, with the orchestral Dying Swan enveloping the stage.

Morphoses / The Wheeldon Company
There Where She Loved
Anastasia Yatsenko, Craig Hall, and Ballet Boyz
Photo Courtesy of Erin Baiano

Morphoses / The Wheeldon Company
Fools’ Paradise
Photo Courtesy of Erin Baiano

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at