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New York City Ballet: Philip Neal Farewell: Serenade, Who Cares?, Chaconne
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New York City Ballet: Philip Neal Farewell: Serenade, Who Cares?, Chaconne

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Philip Neal Farewell
Who Cares?

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
June 13, 2010

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Serenade (1948): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky (Serenade for Strings), Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Fayçal Karoui, Performed by Megan Fairchild, Sara Mearns, Jenifer Ringer, Ask la Cour, Philip Neal, and the Company. Set to Tschaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings", this was Balanchine's first ballet choreographed in America. (NYCB Notes).

As tonight’s second of four Sunday Farewell programs began, I wished City Ballet had created a short film about each of the four dancers, maybe clips from early performances and/or rehearsals, classes as students at SAB, or just something more personal than a couple of final roles. However, the anticipation of the flowers and confetti in a few hours hence had to suffice. Philip Neal was greeted in Serenade with generous applause and adulation. He seemed reserved and regal as he walked from the wings, in the midst of this elegant, eloquent Balanchine ballet. Sara Mearns, in a lead role, danced from within, her rapture rising like ripples of music, right through to her hands. Jenifer Ringer, a dancer in her prime, exudes theatricality in persona, unique to every role. However, Megan Fairchild, as the dancer who collapses to the ground, fell and awoke, with the exact same smile, a disappointing interpretation.

Serenade is visually the most graceful and sumptuous ballet in the repertory, and the opening strings present a hypnotizing effect. It’s essential that each dancer be in the moment, somewhat like a corps of swans. Drama can’t be improvised. It must be internalized. Ask la Cour is such a dancer with internalized mood and persuasive demeanor. He arrived onstage with intense theatricality and authentic gravity. Mr. la Cour is one dancer who seems under-utilized. Maybe next season will see him in more lead roles. But, today was all about Philip Neal, and his pas de deux with Ms. Ringer was poignant and heartfelt.

Who Cares? (1970): Music by George Gershwin, Adapted and Orchestrated by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Jo Mielziner, Costumes by Ben Benson, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Pianist: Nancy McDill, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck, Ana Sophia Scheller, Robert Fairchild, and the Company.

Who Cares? has always been one of Philip Neal’s highlighted roles. However, today Robert Fairchild was cast in “The Man I Love”, “Embraceable You”, “Who Cares?”, and the solo, “Liza”. Mr. Neal was resting for the grand finale. Who Cares? was performed in abbreviated version, with nine of the seventeen Gershwin melodies. Once again, Robert Fairchild stole the show, enhancing the ballet with true Broadway style. He’s quite the ladies man, debonair, adroit, and devoted. Partnering Tiler Peck, they seized the stage as theirs. Ana Sophia Scheller now has “My One and Only” down pat, and Sterling Hyltin was coy and saucy in “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise”.

Chaconne (1976): Music by Christoph Willibald von Gluck (Ballet music from the opera “Orphée et Euridice”), Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Philip Neal, and the Company. Wendy Whelan had the honors to partner Philip Neal on his final appearance as a dancer in the Company. Balanchine’s 1976 Chaconne, set to Gluck’s rapturous score, and danced in Karinska’s frothy finery, could not have been more refined and gallant. I made note that there were no fancy athletics here. Rather, like Yvonne Borree’s Farewell one week earlier, this Farewell ended in solemnity and reverence. The women danced with long hair flowing, and the creamy white and blue costumes transported the viewer to a regal ballroom or other-worldly locale.

For his Farewell curtain calls, Mr. Neal was embraced by current and former partners, including Kyra Nichols and recently retired Yvonne Borree, and the floral presentation bouquets, long-stem roses, streamers, and confetti were all abundant. Also abundant was radiant warmth and genuine gratitude. Mr. Neal stood before the standing ovation, hand on heart. This was, as he was, a class act.

Jenifer Ringer and Philip Neal
in Balanchine's "Serenade"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Philip Neal and Wendy Whelan
in Balanchine's "Chaconne"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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