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New York City Ballet: Tradition and Innovation
(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 10, 2009

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Maurice Kaplow

Concerto Barocco (1948): Music by Johann Sebastian Bach (Double Violin Concerto in D Minor), Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Violinists: Kurt Nikkanen and Lydia Hong, Performed by Rachel Rutherford, Wendy Whelan, Albert Evans, and the Company. Bach’s Double Concerto has strong percussive beats, and I was lucky to hear this work performed recently by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall with Pinchas Zukerman. On that review, I linked into Balanchine’s City Ballet work to the same score. There seemed to be too much counting of this beat tonight in the corps, as their arms sprung up and down in stiff, punctuated rhythm. I rarely find fault with the corps, but tonight the collective motion seemed forced.

It was good to see Albert Evans again, and he was radiant, as he elegantly lifted and carried Wendy Whelan with attention and care. Rachel Rutherford took the injured Abi Stafford’s role, and she could not have been better suited, so rounded in the arms, so fluid and musically propelled. The punctuated bounce to the decisive rhythms was not visible anywhere on Ms. Rutherford’s focused image. However, Ms. Whelan became bound to the beat, with arms thrust in syncopation, when they should have been sweeping. What was most striking in the performance was the visual brilliance of Balanchine’s lines of dancers, facing front, shifting in the moment from fluid to emphatic. Mr. Nikkanen and Ms. Hong were impressive on duo violin passages, as Bach drew us in.

Oltremare (2008): Music by Bruno Moretti (commissioned by NYC Ballet), Choreography by Mauro Bigonzetti, Costumes by Mauro Bigonzetti and Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Maria Kowroski, Tyler Angle, Ana Sophia Scheller, Amar Ramasar, Teresa Reichlen, Maya Collins, Amanda Hankes, Megan LeCrone, Georgina Pazcoguin, Christian Tworzyanski, Andrew Veyette, Jason Fowler, Vincent Paradiso, and Sean Suozzi. Oltremare is the third ballet choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti for NYC Ballet and also the third that is set to a score by Bruno Moretti. This score is for 21 musicians and features the accordion. “Oltremare” means “beyond the sea” and relates to the sadness of leaving one’s homeland for new journeys, as well as the joy of discovering happiness in the new country. (NYCB Notes).

More than previously, I was mesmerized by tonight’s cast in this Bigonzetti marvel, with its hypnotic, commissioned score by Bruno Moretti. It’s quite obvious that the visual and auditory elements were designed together, as this ballet is imbued with gestalt. I seemed to focus more on the music than last season, and the searing accordion passages were rich and refined. Speaking of refinement, tonight’s cast (almost the same as last season’s) was even more driven, theatrical, and athletic. Andrew Veyette threw himself into an intense and fraught series of acrobatic leaps and spins, and Georgina Pazcoguin seemed to climb onto Amar Ramasar’s chest. Mr. Ramasar’s performance was forceful.

Ana Sophia Scheller was in her best genre, with propulsive energy, and Teresa Reichlen (not seen enough lately) was fully absorbed in the immigrant motif. Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle were riveting in one of the final duo dances, rather dance-theatre performances. The early introduction of the cast with suitcases that move and stop was indicative of the impermanence of the immigrants’ plight. The Bigonzetti-Marc Happel costumes, seen in Mark Stanley’s dim lighting, were two additional elements that shaped this work.

Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 (1970): Music Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Nicolas Benois, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Ellen Bar, Robert Fairchild, Rachel Rutherford, Justin Peck, Ana Sophia Scheller, Antonio Carmena, 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).

I had never seen the first three movements of this work, Élégie, Valse Mélancolique, and Scherzo, but City Ballet had recently presented the fourth and final movement, Tema con Variazioni (Theme and Variations), and here it was once again, with Joaquin De Luz and Tiler Peck. Each of the first three movements was inspiring and radiant, and I had drawn a large star next to Élégie, for the manner in which Robert Fairchild enacted the beseeching quasi-prince, leaping about, with his quasi-princess, Ellen Bar, elegantly flowing in her Nicolas Benois gown. Rachel Rutherford and Justin Peck, in the second movement, were equally theatrical and sweeping, with gorgeous lines drawing the audience to this dream fantasy of royalty as nymphs. Ana Sophia Scheller and Antonio Carmena were less magnetic, as Mr. Carmena always seems to bear one tight smile, not effusive with dramatic passion toward his partner. Ms. Scheller, technically adept and daring, would be better served with a charismatic cavalier.

The final Theme and Variations movement, a stand-alone ballet, shifts the motif and mood from languorous dream to energetic formality, and the percussive, rapid momentum ensues. The short tutus are strikingly contrasted to the swirling chiffons of the previous movements, and the choreography, as well, is structures and ornate. Mr. De Luz is an artist extraordinaire in the classical genre, and his attentive partnering and bravura dancing were thrilling. Ms. Peck, although armed with virtuosic spins and jumps, especially into Mr. De Luz’ open arms, seemed overly athletic and oblivious to the impassioned connection that is requisite to most pas de deux. The corps was superb in all four movements. Kudos to Maurice Kaplow, and kudos to City Ballet Orchestra for mastering Bach, Moretti, and Tschaikovsky with such texture and musicality.

Rachel Rutherford and Wendy Whelan
in George Balanchine's "Concerto Barocco"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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