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New York City Ballet: Danses Concertantes, Estancia, Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Danses Concertantes
Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet

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
Manager, Media Relations: Katharina Plumb
Assoc., Communications and Special Projects, Caitlin Gillette
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 29, 2010

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Clotilde Otranto

Danses Concertantes (1972): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Eugene Berman, Scenery Recreation Supervised by David Mitchell, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Gonzalo Garcia, and the Company.

Adding tutus reminiscent of his chorus girls in Western Symphony, Balanchine color-codes four trios of dancers, appearing (one male and two female) before Eugene Berman’s mythological motifs in chalk-like lines on a black screen. The dancing is at times clownish or charming, and Stravinsky’s score adds exhilarating gaiety, as dancers bend at the knees, turn in gravity-defying, odd positions, and exude romantic flair in vaudevillian chases. Arms roll like wheels and dancers run in comical abandon. Gonzalo Garcia and Sterling Hyltin lead the trios with exuberant energy and wry capers. Balanchine provides clever, detailed footwork and multi-level partnering to this colorful, festive work. In the finale, the ensemble evoked imagery from his Mozartiana, arms held in fixed position.

Estancia (World Premiere): Music by Alberto Ginastera, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Scenic Design by Santiago Calatrava, Costumes by Carlos Campos, Costumes Supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Singer: Philip Cutlip, Performed by Tiler Peck as Country Girl, Tyler Angle as City Boy, Andrew Veyette as Wild Horse, and the Company as Wild Horses, Estancia Workers, and City Folk. Tonight’s World Premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Estancia showed a new dimension to Santiago Calatrava’s set designs. Instead of steel spokes we had painted Pampas.

An estancia is a ranch on the Argentine Pampas, and a city boy is there for urban escape. When he’s drawn to a country girl, she rejects him at first, as his dress and manner is strange, and she’s busy taming horses. He immediately wants in – to this new way of life, even when city “folk” pass by and try to bring him home. The country girl remains distant and urges him to follow the city tourists. When wild horses gallop through the Pampas, the city boy tries to tame one and actually succeeds. That’s the winning deal for the girl, and she’s finally impressed and seduced. The new couple enjoys the night stars, and at dawn they are together, forever in the Pampas. (Program Notes)

There was no amorphous plot here, like Ratmansky’s and Millepied’s two new works. And, unlike those other Premieres, the audience jumped to its feet when the lights flashed off. First, there was the driven, percussive score by the Argentine composer, Ginastera, that was originally commissioned by Lincoln Kirstein in 1941 for Ballet Caravan. Balanchine was the intended choreographer. Ballet Caravan soon disbanded, and now, almost 70 years later, the music is here with a new ballet. The original story on which Ginastera based his “Estancia” is an 1873 narrative poem, written by José Hernández, a tribute to the wild gauchos in the Pampas. It’s hard to imagine this incredible score hiding for so long in South America. No Conductor could be better suited to tonight’s festive introduction of Estancia than Clotilde Otranto. She seemed thrilled, and the music was even more thrilling.

The scenery paints lush Pampas landscape, rolling hills, and shifting light, as day becomes twilight, then dawn again. Four “fillies” are portrayed by Amy Barker, Ashley Laracey, Gwyneth Muller, and Georgina Pazcoguin, all en pointe, and they couldn’t be more frisky and authentic. Ms. Pazcoguin is the horse that the City Boy ultimately tames. Andrew Veyette, however, brings the house down with his Wild Horse, a stallion extraordinaire. He’s a tall, brown, wild one, and Carlos Campos’ horse costumes include bristling tails and manes. Mr. Veyette pranced and leaped and was the horse that almost got away. Harnesses and wooden rods for fence imagery were prominent props. Tyler Angle, as the City Boy, pursues Tiler Peck with youthful fervor and persuasive determination. I would have liked more chemistry, but these roles will develop, as Estancia will surely become familiar in City Ballet repertory.

The choreography is varied, with a raucous rambunctious corps leaping, jumping, and tossing bandanas, and with luscious, rapturous lifts in the partnered, starry-skied, pas de deux. In fact, it was in Ms. Peck’s and Mr. Angle’s pas de deux that Mr. Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance) was echoed. Philip Cutlip powerfully sings in Gaucho costume, narrating the story in Spanish, a superb decision. His vocal performance was transporting. Kudos to Christopher Wheeldon, tonight’s cast, Maestra Clotilde Otranto, Ginastera, Carlos Campos and Marc Happel, Mark Stanley, and especially to Mr. Calatrava.

Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet (1966): Music by Johannes Brahms (First Piano Quartet in G Minor, Op. 25), Orchestrated by Arnold Schoenberg, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by David Mitchell, Costumes by Karinska, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Jennie Somogyi, Sébastien Marcovici, Savannah Lowery, Jenifer Ringer, Jared Angle, Yvonne Borree, Benjamin Millepied, Maria Kowroski, Charles Askegard, and the Company. This was Balanchine's first abstract work for New York State Theater. Schoenberg orchestrated Brahms' "Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor", and Balanchine used this work, as he did not like chamber music for ballet. (NYCB Notes).

With four movements and color-coded costumes by Karinska, this 1966 Balanchine ballet, scored to Brahms’ Piano Quartet, orchestrated by Schoenberg, is a confectionary delight, tonight danced superbly in the third movement Andante by the soon-to-retire, and too-soon-to retire, Yvonne Borree, partnered by Benjamin Millepied. Their segment was soothing, refined, and abandoned, with Ms. Borree in her prime, a thrilling performance. Mr. Millepied was an attentive, eloquent partner. Other superb duos were presented by Jennie Somogyi and Sébastien Marcovici, accompanied by Savannah Lowery in the first movement Allegro. Their pink-purple costumes brightened Ms. Lowery’s solo, followed by the duo leads and corps. Jenifer Ringer and Jared Angle, in the second movement Intermezzo, led an excellent ensemble of three: Kaitlyn Gilliland, Dara Johnson, and Gwyneth Muller.

But, it was the fourth movement Rondo alla Zingarese, led by Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard, with Ms. Kowroski kicking her long limbs back and touching her pointe shoe, and Mr. Askegard in dervish spins, ribbons and billowing shirt filling with air, that gave the audience something exciting at the end of quite an exciting night at the ballet. The corps, many of whom had just wowed the crowd in Estancia, once again danced with ravishing elation.

Kudos to Maestra Clotilde Otranto.

Tyler Angle and Tiler Peck
in Wheeldon's "Estancia"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Tyler Angle and New York City Ballet Cast
in Wheeldon's "Estancia"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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