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New York City Ballet: Divertimento No. 15, Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Tarantella
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New York City Ballet: Divertimento No. 15, Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Tarantella

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New York City Ballet

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief: Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress: Rosemary Dunleavy
Assistant to the Ballet Master in Chief: Sean Lavery
Children’s Ballet Master: Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director: Fayçal Karoui
Chairman of the Board: John L. Vogelstein
Managing Dir. Communications and Special Projects: 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
May 12, 2009

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Clotilde Otranto

Divertimento No. 15 (1956): Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Yvonne Borree, Megan Fairchild, Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck, Ana Sophia Scheller, Robert Fairchild, Jason Fowler, Andrew Veyette, and the Company. A Divertimento does not have a fixed structure, and this particular one is choreographed for eight dancers and adds a cadenza for violin and viola. (NYCB Notes).

What a bravura work to open my City Ballet Spring Season, with this scintillating Mozart Divertimento. Mozart wrote playfully and classically, and Balanchine matched that structure with eye-catching choreographic phrasing. In the “Allegro” movement, Yvonne Borree, Tiler Peck, Robert Fairchild, and Andrew Veyette all caught my eye for rapidly whirling en air spins and leg thrusts, plus fouettés finishes and staccato jumps. Megan Fairchild also mastered some detailed and challenging steps, but it was Yvonne Borree that exemplified the appealing qualities of Balanchine’s balletic shape and sharp motif. In the “Theme and Variations” movement, Ms. Borree’s Third Variation was extraordinarily fluid, while Andrew Veyette was entertaining and persuasive in the “Fifth Variation”. The “Minuet” movement had eight female corps dancers in rhythmic elegance, and, in the “Andante”, Ms. Peck and Ms. Borree avoided angularity, finding a sensual tone in this delicious Divertimento. In the Finale, the entire ensemble danced with shifting directions and dizzying dervish.

Monumentum Pro Gesualdo (1960): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Maria Kowroski, Ask la Cour, and the Company. Stravinsky's homage to Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa re-composes the madrigals into instrumental voices. (NYCB Notes). On second viewing of this somber, but elegant ballet, I was drawn to the partnership of Maria Kowroski and Ask la Cour, so physically suited to each other and not partnered often enough. They’re both serious, sophisticated dancers, and as a duo, they were mesmerizing, with Mr. la Cour’s elongated neck and torso, and Ms. Kowroski’s elongated legs. Their slow, deliberate gestures drove the imagery. This is a brief ballet, half of a pair of Balanchine ballets, both set to Stravinsky.

Movements for Piano and Orchestra (1958-59): Music by Igor Stravinsky (Movements for Piano and Orchestra), Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano Solo: Richard Moredock, Performed by Maria Kowroski, Sébastien Marcovici, and the Company. This piece is divided into five sections, and Balanchine paired this work with the previous one for performances. (NYCB Notes). After a pause, the curtain rose to this second half of the Balanchine duo, and now Ms. Kowroski was partnered by the more rugged Sébastien Marcovici. The mood changed with Richard Moredock’s piano solo, and angularity of motion was key. Balanchine’s signature blue backdrop and white-black leotard costumes gave the work a sense of familiarity and comfort. There is stark isolation prevalent in the design, and Stravinsky’s atonality enhanced the edge.

Tarantella (1964): Music by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Reconstructed and Orchestrated by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano Solo: Alan Moverman, Performed by Erica Pereira and Daniel Ulbricht. This music is from Gottschalk's "Grande Tarantelle for Piano and Orchestra". Gottschalk was well known in the Nineteenth Century as a pianist and composer from Louisiana. He was praised by Chopin and toured Europe. Hershy Kay was an orchestrator and composer of Musicals and Ballets. The Tarantella is a classical dance with instantaneous spins and directional changes.(NYCB Notes).

I particularly chose tonight’s date to see Erica Pereira and Daniel Ulbricht in Tarantella, for a fresh take on this rapid, propulsive, and witty ballet. I was not disappointed. In contrast to the Megan Fairchild-Joaquin De Luz partnering, which has often been reviewed, Ms. Pereira and Mr. Ulbricht were less seasoned, more spontaneous, glowing all the while. The Fairchild-De Luz partnership is always bountiful with glittering chemistry and pizzazz, but Mr. Ulbricht was more mischievous, taking a pause here or there, a leap beyond gravity, and a sense of wonder pervaded throughout. It was also a wonder that a tambourine survived.

Firebird (1949): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, Scenery and costumes designed by Marc Chagall (1945), Scenery executed by Volodia Odinokov, Costumes executed by Karinska, Firebird costume supervised by Dain Marcus, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Teresa Reichlen as Firebird, Justin Peck as Prince Ivan, Henry Seth as Kastchei the Wizard, Rebecca Krohn as Prince's Bride, and the Company as Maidens, Youths, and Subjects.

Balanchine's Firebird was one of his earliest creations for NYC Ballet that used such elaborate costumes and sets. Russian folklore is integrated in this ballet. Balanchine used Stravinsky's orchestral suite instead of the three-act score. In 1970, Chagall came to NYC to supervise the new costumes and sets for a new production, and Robbins contributed some new choreography. This new production was staged in 1985.

The plot centers on Prince Ivan, who captures a Firebird in the woods. When she begs for freedom, and her wish is granted, he receives a magic plume. Kastchei, the wizard, has enchanted a Princess and the maidens, but Prince Ivan rescues them all and marries the Princess. (NYCB Notes).

Again, I chose tonight for the newness of the casting, including Teresa Reichlen as the Firebird. Unlike past Firebirds, who have become acclimated in this role, Ms. Reichlen exuded exoticism, a sensuality, an air of cunning and gripping persona. Justin Peck’s Prince Ivan was youthful and impetuous, as a young Prince would have been. Rebecca Krohn, somewhat acclimated herself, in the role of Bride, was less magical in this fairy tale production. She danced with interpretive appeal, but did not sparkle. As always, the Corps plays a large role, and there are even a few students of School of American Ballet in the Wedding Scene. Henry Seth, as Kastchei the Wizard, was iconically menacing, within the animal creature kingdom, filled with charming dance-theatre characters. But, tonight was all about Ms. Reichlen, and I never tire of watching this uncommon dancer. Chagall’s set and costume design, including the fiery red-orange Firebird and the painted curtains that reveal illuminated creatures within, deserves multiple kudos.

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