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New York City Ballet: New Combinations
A Tribute to Nureyev
(NYC Ballet Website)

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Fayçal Karoui
Honorary Chairmen: Julia and David Koch
Managing Director, Communications, Robert Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Joe Guttridge
Assoc., Communications and Special Projects, Caitlin Gillette
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 3, 2009

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Fayçal Karoui

Bell Telephone Hour Film Segments of Rudolf Nureyev: Flower Festival in Genzano, 1962; Le Corsaire, 1962. Edited by Girish Bhargava. These film segments, presented as a tribute to Rudolf Nureyev, brought back many memories, as I was fortunate to see Nureyev dance, on many occasions, through his prime to the end of his career. His primal technique astounded the audience and brought ballet to an aesthetic sport. Even now, premier danseurs are compared to Nureyev, for seething charisma, rapturous partnering, and virtuosity of speed, elevation, and balance. No male principal has matched Nureyev’s iconic confidence and power. (However, it occurred to me during reflections of After the Rain that Jock Soto, now retired from City Ballet, came very close to achieving Nureyev’s virtuosic stature).

Flower Festival in Genzano Pas de Deux (1977): Music by Edvard Helsted, Choreography by August Bournonville, Costumes by Ben Benson, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Richard Moredock, Performed by Abi Stafford and Gonzalo Garcia. To present Nureyev and then to present Gonzalo Garcia may have been misconceived, as Mr. Garcia, in the same ballet as the previous film sequence, is still growing in lightness of jumps and leaps, and his radiant charm is much more transparent than the deep gaze and introspective smile of Mr. Nureyev. Abi Stafford, as well, was juxtaposed with Maria Tallchief, perhaps an unfair comparison, with her perky, petite figure (Ms. Tallchief was lanky and womanly) and equally transparent charm. However, on their own, they mastered the Bournonville choreography with propulsive effort and some winning turns.

La Stravaganza (1997): Music by Antonio Vivaldi (Concerto No. 8, RV 249, excerpts from Dixit Dominus, Laudáte puéri Dóminum), Evelyn Ficcara (Sources of Uncertainty), Serge Morand (Naïves), Robert Normandeau (Éclats De Voix), Ake Parmerud (Laureats), Choreography by Angelin Preljoca, Scenery by Maya Schweizer, Scenery Supervised by Mark Stanley, Costumes by Herve-Pierre, Costumes Supervised by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Asst. to Mr. Preljoca, Naomie Perlov, Performed by Brittany Pollack, Rachel Rutherford, Gretchen Smith, Tyler Angle, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Amar Ramasar, Kaitlyn Gilliland, Amanda Hankes, Sarah-Rose Williams, Robert Fairchild, Craig Hall, and Sean Suozzi.

In a future tribute to Mr. Nureyev, I would long to see presentations of his iconic works, like the Diaghilev ballets, and of pas de deux from the classics, like Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, or Nureyev’s own Cinderella. In tonight’s tribute, New York City Ballet introduced the Rudolf Nureyev Fund for Emerging Choreographers (See Lifecasting), and three of tonight’s recent works reflected designs of emerging choreographers, like Angelin Preljoca. La Stravaganza was choreographed in 1997 for the Diamond Project.

Against Maya Schweizer’s background painting, that looks like a home falling onto burning brush, three contemporary couples happen onto three “Vermeer-like” couples in Herve-Pierre’s traditional Dutch white collars and formal costumes. This is a ballet with excerpts from music by five composers and with surreal meanings and innuendos. Passages include women biting or sniffing men’s arms from hand to shoulder, electronic bursts in the midst of Vivaldi, and confused characters meeting society from another world, as centuries collide. A high point for me was the sound of twittering birds, as recorded nature introduced and closed the score of this fragmented work. Among the brave performers, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Amar Ramasar, Rachel Rutherford (contemporary cast), Kaitlyn Gilliland, Craig Hall, and Sean Suozzi (Vermeer cast) caught my eye.

After the Rain (2005): Music by Arvo Pärt (Spiegel im Spiegel, 1978, for violin and piano), Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Violin: Jean Ingraham, Piano: Alan Moverman, Performed by Wendy Whelan and Sébastien Marcovici. Christopher Wheeldon was a former NYC Ballet soloist and was NYC Ballet's first Resident Choreographer. "After the Rain" was Mr. Wheeldon's eleventh ballet created for NYC Ballet. (Program Notes).

It was at this moment, as After the Rain began to unfold, that I vividly remembered Jock Soto in the original role (with Wendy Whelan), and Mr. Soto was one of those male principals that matched, on many levels, Nureyev’s virtuosity and purity of form, rapturous partnering, and pure primal charisma. Yet, Sébastien Marcovici, in this same role, is gallant and muscular, and he partners Ms. Whelan with focus and gravitas. The Arvo Pärt score is seething and searing, and this work marks Christopher Wheeldon’s finest choreography ever. The pas de deux is the second of two segments of the ballet and the most riveting. In fact, some of City Ballet’s most riveting repertory works are designed for pas de deux. Jean Ingraham and Alan Moverman, on violin and piano, brought the music to its dramatic potential, although the violin could have taken on more edge. Ms. Whelan was mesmerizing, but I still could not help remember her affect of yearning and angst, when originally partnered by Mr. Soto.

Lifecasting (2009): Music by Ryoji Ikeda and Steve Reich, Choreography by Douglas Lee, Costumes by Ines Ades, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Violins: Nicolas Danielson, Arturo Delmoni, Lydia Hong, Conway Kuo, Kurt Nikkanen, Michael Roth, Violas: Maureen Gallagher, Lois Martin, Susan Pray, Cellos: Eugene Moye, Peter Sanders, Fred Zlotkin, Double Bass: Ron Wasserman, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Maria Kowroski, Sterling Hyltin, Kaitlyn Gilliland, Georgina Pazcoguin, Robert Fairchild, Amar Ramasar, Craig Hall, Antonio Carmena, Adrian Danchig-Waring, and Christian Tworzyanski.

This ballet, created by New York City Ballet’s Rudolf Nureyev Fund for Emerging Choreographers, brought back some of the same cast from La Stravaganza. A string ensemble of thirteen string musicians (violins, violas, celli, and double bass) performed the Ryoji Ikeda-Steve Reich score. I found this ballet so much more satisfying than La Stravaganza and was thrilled at the good use of the Nureyev Foundation funds. Douglas Lee created a visual feast of golden costumed (thanks to Ines Ades) dancers, moving on many levels, beneath an artistic design of theatrical spotlights (worked by Mark Stanley). I loved this ballet and bumped into Amar Ramasar outside Lincoln Center and told him so. His and his colleagues’ dancing was charged, split-timed, and riveting, yet fluid all at once. In a flash, they lie down flat, then they are mid-air, in spectacular dynamics.

The cast was well chosen for charismatic motion, and it was good to see (besides Mr. Ramasar) Ashley Bouder, Kaitlyn Gilliland, Georgina Pazcoguin, Adrian Danchig-Waring, and Craig Hall, all dancers I could watch over and over again. In addition, Maria Kowroski and Sterling Hyltin used percussive prowess to captivate the audience with lunges, kicks, and gazes into the crowd. Robert Fairchild was unusually wired in a sensational solo, and Mr. Lee’s concept of using dancers to “lifecast”, or “take sculptural casts from the human form”, has propelled the success of his new ballet.

Theme and Variations (1960): Music Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky (Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3), Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Nicolas Benois, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Tiler Peck, Joaquin De Luz, and the Company. In 1947, Balanchine produced "Theme and Variations" for Ballet Theater. Tschaikovsky composed Suite No. 3 in 1884, and it was premiered in 1885. Nicolas Benois, son of Diaghilev's ballet designer, created scenery and costumes for Balanchine. (NYCB Notes).

This very formal Balanchine work may have inspired the viewer to remember Nureyev’s Russian roots, but I would have preferred to see a segment of one of Nureyev’s iconic ballets. Still, Tiler Peck and Joaquin De Luz were sparkling and stunning in the pas de deux, so replete with flourish and figures. At first Ms. Peck seemed so athletic that I thought Mr. De Luz would be overwhelmed, but he’s ever the charming cavalier, classically trained and impeccable in style. Mr. De Luz is truly a dancer’s dancer, a model for the Balanchine and traditional genre. His slight stature is not to be underestimated, with superior muscularity and robust strength. The Tschaikovsky score drove the shifting solos and ensemble dance, and Nicolas Benois’ scenery and costumes were delicate and refined.

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