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New York City Ballet: Mercurial Manoeuvres, Lifecasting, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue

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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
June 10, 2009

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Fayçal Karoui

Mercurial Manoeuvres (2000): Music by Dmitri Shostakovich (Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Opus 35), Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Carole Divet, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano: Cameron Grant, Trumpet: Ray Mase, Performed by Abi Stafford, Tyler Angle, Gonzalo Garcia, Kathryn Morgan, Erica Pereira, and the Company. Gonzalo Garcia found his moment tonight, in his lead opening of Wheeldon’s Mercurial Manoeuvres. He was possessed, amidst the expansive red-blue wall hangings, and Shostakovich’s First Concerto for Piano, Trumpet, and Strings enhanced the mood. Cameron Grant, on piano, Ray Mase, on featured trumpet, and a string ensemble filled Koch Theater with jazzy classicism. The dancers matched this rhythmic resonance with geometric lines of dance that intersect and move.

Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle danced the second “Lento” movement with spark and sensuality. Mr. Garcia was on balance, focused on the audience, and quite entertaining. Kathryn Morgan and Erica Pereira, also in lead roles, danced solos and duos with Mr. Garcia. Both dancers are among the brightest and most beguiling of City Ballet’s Corps, and I try to catch them whenever they are listed. Ms. Morgan, who has been showcased often in one-act ballets, is superbly skilled, in poised technique, in dramatic emotionality, and in partnered chemistry. Ms. Pereira, who was Juliet in Romeo + Juliet a couple of years ago, has been captivating since her first solo role. Both dancers added a vision of freshness to this 2000 work. Among the Corps, Kaitlyn Gilliland and Christian Tworzyanski caught my eye.

Lifecasting (2009): Music by Ryoji Ikeda and Steve Reich, Choreography by Douglas Lee, Costumes by Ines Alda, 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. In a combination of atonal, mixed music by Ryoji Ikeda (Opus 1 for 9 Strings) and Steve Reich (Triple Quartet), eleven dancers (combined principals, soloists, and corps) dance beneath a chandelier of harsh stage lights. Ines Alda’s yellow leotards glow in Mark Stanley’s dramatic light design.

This work was recently premiered, and, on first viewing, I did not find it as satisfying as I did tonight. In fact, with tonight’s cast, and with some familiarity to the compulsive choreography, I was quite riveted, partially due to Amar Ramasar’s intense stage presence and undulating figures. On each viewing, I suspect appreciation of the multi-level, spasmodic work will expand. In fact, as the repetitive chords deepened, I leaned forward to gaze on the ensemble, some of whom were lying on the stage. Additional spellbinding dancers were Kaitlyn Gilliland, Craig Hall, Robert Fairchild, Adrian Danchig-Waring, and Ashley Bouder. Ms. Bouder was in a severe mode, hair up, in a blue unitard, and she seemed to present herself in an entirely new motif. Robert Fairchild has a magnetizing lead as he fills his body with spasmodic rhythms, matching the staccato strings. Mr. Fairchild takes on each role with thorough absorption, and he’s becoming a very exciting performer. Maria Kowroski, as well, exuded internalized muscularity, but her moment arrived later, in the final work. Sterling Hyltin could have presented herself better with more gravitas.

Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1968): Music by Richard Rodgers (from On Your Toes, 1936), Re-Orchestrated by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Jo Mielziner, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Philip Neal, Maria Kowroski, Ask la Cour, Adam Hendrickson, and the Company. It was during this one-act dramatic comedy ballet, that the audience came truly alive and energized. Maria Kowroski, fresh from the previous work, gave one of her finest performances ever. (She is equally superb in Double Feature.) Balanchine choreographed this ballet within a musical for On Your Toes (Rodgers and Hart, 1936). He had also choreographed ballets for Rodgers and Hart’s Babes in Arms, I Married an Angel, and The Boys from Syracuse. Hershy Kay’s score and the Rodgers and Hart book make this one of the most entertaining and stunning ballets in City Ballet’s repertoire.

Adam Hendrickson opens this murder-mystery-comedy in front of the curtains, to set up the audience on the stage secrets about to unfold. Mr. Hendrickson is a “premier danseur noble” who has a hired thug come in to bump off a rival, during a ballet, same name as this actual ballet. There are jokes within jokes, a Gangster (Vincent Paradiso), a Thug (Ralph Ippolito), three Policemen (Matthew Renko, Troy Schumacher, Aaron Severini), two Bartenders (Zachary Catazaro, Andrew Scordato, Ralph Ippolito), the Big Boss (Ask la Cour), the Hoofer (Philip Neal), and the Striptease Girl (Maria Kowroski). There are also “Ladies” and “Gentlemen” of the Ballet. In the comic scenario, the Girl is shot (part of the faux ballet) and the Hoofer is supposed to be shot (in the unscripted “real” ballet), by the Gangster in the Parterre Box, a Mob-like Vincent Paradiso, who slicks his hair and hides his gun beneath his hat. In the faux ballet, corpses come and go, hidden in onstage props, and Ask la Cour could not be a more iconic, jealous Big Boss, who’s in love with the Striptease Girl, with his powerful charisma and strong neck and shoulders.

However, Maria Kowroski and Philip Neal steal the show. This was also Philip Neal’s finest performance, as the Hoofer also in love with the Striptease Girl, who must tap dance endlessly to save his life, lest the Gangster pull his gun, when the Hoofer stops. The Hoofer later partners the Girl, after the police drag away the Gangster, and she repeatedly kicks up to her head, in time to jazzy, sexy orchestrations. Mr. Neal holds Ms. Kowroski’s foot, like a human step to the floor, and this oft-partnered duo exudes more chemistry and connection than I’ve seen from them ever before. Bluntly, this is a wild moment at the ballet. The audience accolades went on and on. It was unbelievable that this ballet was first seen 73 years ago, and it seems as fresh and fun as it must have been then. I can’t wait to see this again, with the same cast. Here is a case where “seasoned” is best. Jo Mielziner’s sets and Irene Sharaff’s costumes are stars on their own. Kudos to George Balanchine.

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