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New York City Ballet: Short Stories

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New York City Ballet

Short Stories

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
Guest Teacher: Merrill Ashley
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
January 24, 2010

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Andrews Sill

Fancy Free (1944): Music by Leonard Bernstein, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Kermit Love, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Performed by Tyler Angle, Joaquin De Luz, Amar Ramasar as the Sailors, Kaitlyn Gillibrand, Amanda Hankes, and Jenifer Ringer as the Passers-by, and Justin Peck as the Bartender.

It was in Fancy Free, perhaps in my mid-orchestra seat, that I suddenly appreciated the improvements in the refurbished acoustics of the David H. Koch Theater. The Bernstein score was so sumptuous and vibrant. During the “stealing the pocketbook” scene, where the three sailors take, pass, and hide the first female Passer-by’s (Kaitlyn Gillibrand) red pocketbook, just the right drums and piano let the dance comedy speak. As for the three Sailors, Tyler Angle, Joaquin De Luz, and Amar Ramasar enjoyed superb chemistry, like three close friends. Mr. Ramasar dances such character roles with street smarts, and he was purely natural and endearing, especially in the rhumba rhythms. He’s a refreshing dancer, a new Principal, and he seemed exuberant and glowing with personality. Mr. Angle filled his role with clever dramatics, and Mr. De Luz, as always, played up the rambunctious antics. Of the Passers-by, I most enjoyed watching Ms. Gillibrand, a refreshing ingénue in the Company.

Prodigal Son (1950) Ballet in Three Scenes: Libretto by Boris Kochno, Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Choreography be George Balanchine, Décor by Georges Rouault, original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Daniel Ulbricht as The Prodigal Son, Teresa Reichlen as The Siren, Ask la Cour as Father, Antonio Carmena and Sean Suozzi as Servants to The Prodigal Son, Likolani Brown and Glenn Keenan as The Sisters, and the Company as Drinking Companions. Balanchine, the 24 years old and Diaghilev's last Ballet Master, choreographed this work three months prior to Diaghilev's death. Rouault created the décor, and this ballet was premiered in 1950 for NYC Ballet. (NYCB Notes).

Daniel Ulbricht is the quintessential exciting dancer. In every role, all eyes are fixed on him. As The Prodigal Son, he’s powerful and muscular, with mid-air leaps, his legs spread straight, with a sure attitude. He was less self-conscious and more absorbed than he was last Season. His torture, by The Siren’s Drinking Companions, was epitomized with expressiveness. In his pas de deux with Teresa Reichlen, a new Principal, who, like Mr. Ulbricht, seizes the viewer, Ms. Reichlen slid down Mr. Ulbricht’s torso, their legs intertwining, even though Ms. Reichlen towered over him, with her extra-long limbs. She was the quintessential Siren, psychically and physically overpowering her prey. She allowed her long red cape to become part of the set. From my location perspective, I could see Balanchine’s full choreography, against Georges Rouault’s iconic set, a brilliant tableau.

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 Maria Kowroski as Firebird, Charles Askegard 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. (NYCB Notes).

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).
I have seen and reviewed this same cast on a few occasions, so tonight I just put down my pen and enjoyed the moment. Marc Chagall’s curtains and backdrops, which allow the flickering shape of the Firebird to shine through, are enchanting and transporting. Ms. Kowroski, as Firebird, was extra nuanced in her dramatic caution with Prince Ivan, in her long mid-air leaps, and in her inherent magical prowess. Charles Askegard is always the chivalrous Price Ivan, but I would like to see a role debut here, someone less rehearsed in every plot shift. I happen to love debuts, even with the risk of imperfection. In tonight’s performance, Ms. Kowroski added innuendo, color, and texture to her familiar role, while Mr. Askegard and Rebecca Krohn (as Prince’s Bride) danced with little differentiation from their previous performances. Ms. Kowroski deserves more sparkle and spontaneity in her partner to balance her own.

Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard in
George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins' "Firebird"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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