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

- Onstage with the Dancers

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Morphoses / The Wheeldon Company
Program Two
(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
October 21, 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 Theatre 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.

Morphoses (2002): (See January 10, 2003 Review). Music by György Ligeti, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Music Performed by FLUX Quartet, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Craig Hall, Sterling Hyltin, and Edwaard Liang. With the FLUX Quartet enhancing Ligeti’s magnetic score, principals and soloists from City Ballet danced in front of computerized colored lines that appear and disappear on the black backdrop. The music offers pregnant pauses, as dancers start and stop in staccato movement, in angular imagery and multi-leveled choreography.

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. This repeat work from Program One brought Ms. Kowroski and Mr. Angle back onstage with intense chemistry to Schubert’s eerie score. Mr. Liang is certainly a choreographer to watch.

Propeller (NY Premiere): Music by Antonio Vivaldi and Ezio Bosso, Choreography by Liv Lorent, Costumes by Paul Shriek, Technical Director: Michael Lindsay, Performed by Oxana Panchenko and Michael Nunn. Liv Lorent’s unique choreography to Vivaldi and Bosso found Oxana Panchenko and Michael Nunn, of Ballet Boyz and its guests, in spinning, searing motion, cutting through space and specter. This work premiered in London in 2006, a Sadler’s Wells Theatre production. It would be interesting to have Sadler’s Wells Theatre itself mount a New York “season”, with its own commissioned works.

Satie Stud (NY Premiere): Music by Erik Satie, Choreography by Michael Clark, Costumes by Hussein Chalayan, Lighting by Penny Jacobus, Pianist: Cameron Grant, Performed by William Trevitt. Satie is one of my favorite composers, and this solo piano work, danced by another of the Ballet Boyz team, was a minimalist but mesmerizing piece. Cameron Grant, on piano, fielded the score and tempo with rhythmic buoyancy, as Mr. Trevitt commanded the stage in a brief, white costume.

Slingerland Pas de Deux (NY Premiere): Music by Gavin Bryars, Choreography by William Forsythe, Costumes by William Forsythe, Lighting by William Forsythe, Performed by Aesha Ash and Gonzalo Garcia. I was thrilled to see more of Aesha Ash, an artist to watch, here effectively partnered by Gonzalo Garcia, a new principal at City Ballet. Ms. Ash turns her entire body into cutting edge silhouettes, a figure who freezes the moment. Ms. Ash commands a muscular partner, and Mr. Garcia achieved such a level of strength and sensation.

Mesmerics (2003): Music by Philip Glass, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Angela Kostritzky, Lighting by Penny Jacobus, Technical Director: Michael Lindsay, Conductor: Rob Fisher, Music Performed by Flux Quartet with and Octet of Cellists, Performed by the Company.

Aesha Ash returned in an ensemble of six, dancing before eight onstage cellists. The FLUX Quartet performed as well, and I found this work one of the Company’s highlights. With the cellists appearing and disappearing in dim outlines, Philip Glass’ score shimmers with scintillating allure. The male dancers propel themselves about as the swirling score builds to mesmerizing momentum. Ms. Ash, Oxana Panchenko, and Anastasia Yatsenko, all independent artists, are partnered by Adrian Danchig-Waring (City Ballet), and Ballet Boyz, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt. This is one new work I would like to re-visit soon.

Kudos to Rob Fisher and Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and kudos to all the artists and choreographers in this two-program Morphoses / The Wheeldon Company “season”.

Morphoses / The Wheeldon Company
Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall
Photo Courtesy of Erin Baiano

Morphoses / The Wheeldon Company
Photo Courtesy of Erin Baiano

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