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New York City Ballet: Serenade, Interplay, Who Cares?

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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
September 18, 2010 Matinee

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

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

My practically seven year-old niece was in New York for her birthday today, a budding ballerina, and we arrived at Serenade right from City Ballet’s Children’s Workshop, across the Plaza, where the children were prepped for Who Cares?”, the third work in today’s matinee. Balanchine’s 1935 (Premiere date) Serenade always struck me as a very adult ballet, serene and symbolic, effusively painted in pale blue. But my niece was enchanted and later told me this was her favorite on the program. The sumptuously synchronized choreography to Tschaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings was tightly timed today, with the female corps in flowing tulle tutus. Megan Fairchild is dancing with newly found abandon and passion, and she was a delight, springing and collapsing with effusive musicality. Sara Mearns, as always, was lit from within, while Janie Taylor danced with ethereal eloquence. Charles Askegard and Ask la Cour brought nobility and strength to the Company’s refined, poetic bearing.

In the corps, I was most drawn to Gwyneth Muller and Stephanie Zungre. Four male corps provide the power to lift and carry the ballerina in upward-arms theatricality, and they were compellingly in the moment. I would love a seminar on Karinska’s design process, for this ballet, as her iconic costumes are still as mesmerizing as they were over seventy years ago. Kudos to the five lead dancers, and kudos especially to the corps.

Interplay (1952): Music by Morton Gould, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Piano Solo: Elaine Chelton, Conductor: Andrews Sill, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Ashley Laracey, Ana Sophia Scheller, Stephanie Zungre, Chase Finlay, Troy Schumacher, Sean Suozzi, and Daniel Ulbricht. The original title for this music was “American Concertette” (1945). Gould's Ballet works generally drew on American subject matter. Gould received a Grammy in 1965 for his recording of music by Charles Ives. Gould was a composer, arranger, and conductor and wrote in many genres. He conducted for New York City Ballet at the 1988 American Music Festival. He orchestrated “Fall River Legend” (Choreographed by the great Agnes de Mille) and “Interplay”. He also composed for Broadway, television and film. (NYCB Notes).

Today’s performance of Interplay was accompanied by Elaine Chelton on solo piano. She had also been accompanist to today’s Children’s Workshop, and she has a vibrant rhythm and tone in her interpretations of the Gould score. Once again Sean Suozzi led “Free Play”, with Daniel Ulbricht as soloist for “Horseplay”, a role filled earlier this week by Joaquin De Luz. Mr. Ulbricht handled it with youthful verve and some comic wit, going for audience approval, which was, as always, forthcoming. Both principals have outsized charisma. In “Byplay”, today’s duo was Sterling Hyltin and Chase Finlay. Ms. Hyltin is pert, coy, but too self-conscious, as she seems to fix a smile that’s unchangeable throughout, unlike Tiler Peck, who was naturally entertaining on the 16th. Mr. Finlay should grow into the lead. He also seems to be a dancer in need of depth and dimension, unlike Amar Ramasar who danced the role on the 16th. “Team Play” is always an audience pleaser, with the sliding choreography that brings dancers onto their torsos, heads and arms facing the audience in exhilaration.

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: Susan Walters, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck, Ana Sophia Scheller, Amar Ramasar, and the Company.

At this point, my little niece regained enthusiasm, as Who Cares? had been the focus of today’s Children’s Workshop. Highpoints in the 16-song Balanchine ballet, set to Gershwin’s tunes, were Rebecca Krohn, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Savannah Lowery (a Guest Speaker at the Workshop), and Cameron Dieck in “That Certain Feeling”, Ashley Laracey and Sean Suozzi in “Do Do Do”, Faye Arthurs and Devin Alberda in “Oh, Lady Be Good”, and Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar in “The Man I Love”. In fact, Ms. Peck and Mr. Ramasar were featured in duos and solos in the latter half of the ballet to tremendous applause. In “The Man I Love”, there was sexy, savvy partnering with swaying, swinging, strutting motifs. Ms. Peck danced “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” with dizzying full-body spins and entertaining gestures, while Mr. Ramasar danced “Liza” with natural, macho joyfulness. Ana Sophia Scheller’s “My One and Only” glittered with bedazzlement. Kudos to Clotilde Otranto, Conductor, and Susan Walters, Pianist.

Janie Taylor in "Serenade"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Tiler Peck in "Who Cares?"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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