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New York City Ballet: Dancers' Choice 2009

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New York City Ballet

Dancers’ Choice 2009
A Benefit Performance for the Dancers’ Emergency Fund

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 14, 2009

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Fayçal Karoui

Serenade (Excerpt) (1948): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Maria Kowroski, Megan LeCrone, Teresa Reichlen, Jason Fowler, Alina Dronova, Lauren King, Ashley Laracey, Gretchen Smith, and the Company.

This second annual Dancers’ Choice production, organized and hosted by New York City Ballet Principal dancer, Jenifer Ringer, was again planned to benefit the Dancers’ Emergency Fund for Company dancers in need, due to injury or hardship. Ten different ballet excerpts and a film were presented to a packed Koch Theater, and the energy was palpable. The dancers, themselves, choose the pieces to present and the cast for each work. This event is by and for the Company dancers. Each audience guest also received a packet of New York City Ballet behind-the-scenes photo postcards, photographed by Gwyneth Muller, especially for this occasion.

The evening opened with an excerpt of Balanchine’s sublime Serenade, and Maria Kowroski, Principal, and Teresa Reichlen, Soloist, were joined by Megan LeCrone, Corps, as the three leads, with Jason Fowler in the solo male role. An ensemble of 17 female Corps presented the eloquent echoing gestures, all facing front stage, or side stage, in iconic pale blue tulle tutus, arms outstretched. Ms. Reichlen literally glowed from within, prominently featured along with Ms. Kowroski. There were playful jumps, elegant leaps, flowing circles, lines of dancers, soft lifts, dreamy falls, and spiritual otherworldliness. It’s hard to believe this ballet debuted 74 years ago.

The Waltz Project (Excerpt) (1988): Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Alan Vaes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Pianist: Cameron Grant, Red Garnet Waltz (Composed by Joan Tower), Modern Love Waltz (Composed by Philip Glass), Valse Perpetuelle, The 45 RPM (Composed by Ivan Tchereprin), Titles Waltz: After Max Steiner (Composed by Joseph Fennimore), Rag Waltz (Composed by Morton Gould), Performed by Savannah Lowery, Russell Janzen, Faye Arthurs, Jonathan Stafford, Georgina Pazcoguin, Andrew Scordato, Abi Stafford, and Justin Peck.

This 1988 Peter Martins choreography is not often seen, and, for tonight’s eclectic production, it was well chosen. Five different Waltzes by five different composers, including Philip Glass and Morton Gould, were performed by a different duo in each of the first four, and the entire ensemble together for the final Rag Waltz. Cameron Grant accompanied on piano. It was a festive production, some atonal, some melodic, and the inclusion of corps dancers allowed the audience to see fresh faces and fresh energy, such as Russell Janzen and Andrew Scordato. Of the five Waltzes, Modern Love Waltz, with Faye Arthurs and Jonathan Stafford dancing to Philip Glass’ score, was my favorite.

In G Major (Excerpt) (1975): Music by Maurice Ravel, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery and Costumes by Erté, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Pianist: Cameron Grant, Performed by Rebecca Krohn and Adrian Danchig-Waring. When a ballet is excerpted, with just a duo onstage, the viewer has an opportunity to examine its qualities close-up. In this case, I was struck by the similarities of Jerome Robbins’ In G Major, presented here, and his Afternoon of a Faun, set in a dance studio. Here Rebecca Krohn and Adrian Danchig-Waring had sculpted figures, pronounced, static torsos, and muscular ripples. Ms. Krohn also walked en pointe in just the same fashion as Robbins’ contemporary nymph in Faun. When Mr. Danchig-Waring lifted her, she raised a pointed leg. These two Soloists should be partnered more often.

Valse-Fantasie (1967): Music by Mikhail Glinka, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Tiler Peck, Christian Tworzyanski, Maya Collins, Dara Johnson, Glenn Keenan, and Mary Elizabeth Sell. Tiler Peck and Christian Tworzyanski partnered in this rarely seen Balanchine work, performed in its entirety, backed by a five-female, Corps ensemble. Mr. Tworzyanski and Ms. Peck danced with lively brio, surrounded by the ensemble of five. Leaps and tiny kicks abound, and the waltz motif prevails in this buoyant Glinka score. Each phrase seemed to be a variation of the phrase before or after, giving this short ballet a sense of cohesion, an interwoven design

Episodes & Sarcasms (Excerpt) (1994): Music by Sergei Prokofiev (Opus 12, Opus 17 for Piano), Choreography by Richard Tanner, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Pianist: Susan Walters, Performed by Daniel Applebaum, Gwyneth Muller, Ask la Cour, Troy Schumacher, and the Company. This Richard Tanner work was, for this viewer, the surprise of the evening. I’m a Prokofiev fan, and his Opus’ 12 and 17 for Piano were eloquent and witty. This is a dark contemporary work, with a black-blue backdrop, and a lead cast of three Corps dancers plus Ask la Cour, Soloist. Daniel Applebaum led “Sarcasm No. 1” with a female ensemble of six. There are swinging legs, acrobatic motifs, images of internalized conflict, and more. Gwyneth Muller and Ask la Cour partnered for “Sarcasm No. 4”, and Troy Schumacher led “Scherzo”, with a male ensemble of nine. I saw virtuosic dance here, and I’d like to see this Tanner work performed in its entirety led by the same cast.

Dances at a Gathering (Excerpt) (1969): Music by Frédéric Chopin, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Joe Eula, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Pianist: Susan Walters, Performed by Stephanie Zungre and David Prottas. Susan Walters remained on piano for this excerpted Robbins work. She shifted from Prokofiev to Chopin, and again, two Corps dancers were featured, Stephanie Zungre and David Prottas. I noted that they were models of youthful vibrancy - refreshing, new, and exciting. Ms. Zungre made rapid leaps into Mr. Prottas’ arms, all the while flirtatious and rambunctious. Joe Eula’s costumes added casual fancy.

The Sleeping Beauty Pas de Deux, Act III (1991): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Choreography by Peter Martins (after Marius Petipa), Scenery by David Mitchell, Costumes designed by Patricia Zipprodt, Costumes executed by Barbara Matera, Ltd., Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Kathryn Morgan and Tyler Angle. It was during this classical favorite that a star was truly born. Kathryn Morgan, from the Corps, performed with exemplary skill, balance, emotional fervor, connection to her cavalier, and absolute confidence. Tyler Angle, Soloist, partnered Ms. Morgan suitably and gallantly. Ms. Morgan blossomed with each beat of Tschaikovsky, each phrase, each turn or lift. For City Ballet’s story ballets, Ms. Morgan is primed and prepared. If this were a contest, Ms. Morgan would win it all. The audience reacted with vocal accolades.

Film: The Dancers’ Perspective: Directed by Galen Summer, Summertime Films, Produced by Jenifer Ringer and Kristin Sloan, NYC Ballet. One of the new features at City Ballet is the inclusion of a specialized film that showcases a behind-the-scenes rehearsal, costume shop, or dancer interview. In this case, Andrew Veyette and Megan Fairchild were rehearsing a Sleeping Beauty pas de deux, and each of their voice-over thoughts was played over the rehearsal film. We were drawn into their real life dance strategies, their psychic readiness for leaps and catches, and their nuanced introspection about each other. This new City Ballet feature should be replicated often in many forms.

Give Me Fever (World Premiere): Music by Eric Satie, Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson, John Davenport and Eddie Cooley, Choreography by Ashley Bouder, Costumes by Janie Taylor (with permission of United Scenic Artists), Lighting by Mark Stanley, Pianist: Nancy McDill, Performed by Kaitlyn Gilliland, Brittany Pollack, Amar Ramasar, and Sean Suozzi. Ashley Bouder, City Ballet Principal, choreographed this debut. Nancy McDill performed three musical pieces, and four dancers (Soloists and Corps) were featured. To add to this collaborative debut, Janie Taylor, another City Ballet Principal, designed the costumes. Mark Stanley, a seasoned pro, did the lighting. This was a sexy, frivolous, but fun production, with Kaitlyn Gilliland and Amar Ramasar, plus Brittany Pollack and Sean Suozzi. The music was Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1, Love Me Or Leave Me, and Fever.

Union Jack (Excerpt) (1976): Music by Hershy Kay (Adapted from Traditional British Music), Music commissioned by New York City Ballet, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Austin Laurent, Ashley Laracey, Allen Peiffer, Jared Angle, Dena Abergel, Troy Schumacher, Elizabeth Walker, Robert Fairchild, and the Company as Royal Navy, and Jennie Somogyi and the female Company as Wrens.

Jenifer Ringer announced that this work would be a tribute to the Corps.

For the finale, the entire Corps was onstage in the Royal Navy and Wrens segments of Balanchine’s Union Jack. British music, adapted by Hershy Kay, led this tribute to City Ballet’s Corps, and the only Principals featured were Jennie Somogyi, leading the Wrens (Women’s Royal Naval Service), and Jared Angle, leading the Royal Navy. To whistles, horns, flutes, and hand flags, the Company royally entertained the crowd in percussive motion. The Sailors were campy and aerobic, and the Wrens were coy and poised. Of the lead cast dancers, Austin Laurent, Troy Schumacher, and Robert Fairchild caught my eye, with Ashley Laracey adding luster to the Navy.

Kudos to Jenifer Ringer and her team, and kudos to tonight’s performers for another superb Sunday night, Dancers’ Choice event.

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