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New York City Ballet: See the Music, Why am I not where you are, Estancia, Luce Nascosta

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

See the Music…
Why am I not where you are
Luce Nascosta

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 26 Matinee

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

See the Music… A musical exploration of Thierry Escaich’s score for Why am I not where you are. With Peter Martins, Fayçal Karoui, and New York City Ballet Orchestra. My guest today, not a ballet aficionado, but an adventurous soul, loved the entire program, even with its modernity of style and complexity of scores. The matinee began with an exploration of the music of today’s three recent works. Peter Martins, Ballet Master in Chief, and Fayçal Karoui, Music Director, addressed the audience and introduced the Orchestra, that rose up on the new movable orchestra pit. It was a dramatic touch, and we got to see the music we usually just hear. Maestro Karoui was extremely effusive in his humor and warmth, and the audience responded well to his presentation. The Thierry Escaich score, about to be heard in the first ballet, was analyzed, played in part, then commented upon again. Santiago Calatrava, Architect-Set Designer for all three of today’s recent works, was in attendance and took a bow. I hope “See the Music…” is a regular addition to each season’s programming.

Why am I not where you are (2010): Music by Thierry Escaich (commissioned by New York City Ballet), Choreography by Benjamin Millepied, Scenic Design by Santiago Calatrava, Costumes by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Fayçal Karoui, Performed by Janie Taylor, Sara Mearns, Sean Suozzi, Amar Ramasar, and the Company.

Benjamin Millepied’s Why Am I Not Where You Are is a work that slowly grows on the viewer on each performance. Mr. Calatrava’s exquisite steel set, that shimmers and moves, was even more mesmerizing, providing a backdrop, bridge, and entry for solos and ensembles. Janie Taylor danced today in the role that Kathryn Morgan had assumed in the Premiere performances, due to Ms. Taylor’s injury. She dances with airiness and elegance, with a quasi-plot that has Sean Suozzi seeking Ms. Taylor through and around the imposing steel structure. Amar Ramasar and Sara Mearns seem to be part of Mr. Suozzi’s nightmare, or that was my impression at this matinee performance, with Ms. Mearns being powerfully partnered by an aggressive Mr. Ramasar. They should dance together more often.

The score is fully orchestral and could be heard in concert or recording on its own. Sweeping harmonies merge with atonalities, as the ballet is infused with startling contrasts in music and mood. A full corps ensemble joins the mayhem, with Mr. Suozzi literally losing his shirt. Much is made of the layers of costuming, but, for the most part, this Millepied ballet is unsettling, not just in theatrics, but also in concept. If it’s truly a story ballet, I’d suggest a plot outline for the viewer. If it’s truly an abstract ballet, then the drama is overdone. Marc Happel’s costumes are colorful and appropriate to the surreal motif. Mark Stanley’s lighting adds an existential quality with sparkling, starry effects. The corps dances as one, mostly rear stage, or so it seemed.

Estancia (2010): 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: Thomas Meglioranza, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Ana Sophia Scheller as Country Girl, Adrian Danchig-Waring as City Boy, Andrew Veyette as Wild Horse, and the Company as Wild Horses, Estancia Workers, and City Folk.

Estancia is one recent ballet that has fully grown on every viewing. Today’s Country Girl was Ana Sophia Scheller, with today’s City Boy Adrian Danchig-Waring. As it happens, I prefer Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle, the original leads, in these roles, as their chemistry and dramatization seems more natural and together. However, Ms. Scheller and Mr. Danchig-Waring were hugely entertaining, with their starry night pas de deux drawing gasps from my guest. Andrew Veyette is the quintessential Wild Horse, and I can’t imagine anyone else in this role. He’s tall, lanky, and utterly abandoned in gesture. When he kicks his heels and swirls his head, one could imagine him easily roaming the Argentine Pampas. The Ginastera score inhabits my mind for weeks, after each viewing, with its exciting refrains. Thomas Meglioranza spoke and sang the earthy lyrics with gusto. It should be noted that Clotilde Otranto is also the quintessential Conductor for this South American score. Georgina Pazcoguin, as the tamed horse, has also become immersed in the gestural details.

The Corps, as Estancia Workers and City Folk, really deserves kudos for its high energy dance, in the finale, as the musical refrains require repetition of choreography that’s explosive and percussive. When the colorful scarves are thrown to the wind, the audience goes just as wild. Kudos to Christopher Wheeldon for this enormously successful and thrilling ballet, and kudos to Mr. Calatrava for the painted Pampas.

Luce Nascosta ‘Unseen Light’ (2010): Music by Bruno Moretti (Commissioned by New York City Ballet), Choreography by Mauro Bigonzetti, Scenic Design by Santiago Calatrava, Costumes by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Fayçal Karoui, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Maria Kowroski, Tiler Peck, Teresa Reichlen, Tyler Angle, Gonzalo Garcia, Amar Ramasar, Jonathan Stafford, and the Company.

On second viewing within a week’s time, I found myself mesmerized by Mr. Calatrava’s spherical discs. Mr. Karoui returned to the podium, and the seasoned cast returned as well. As I mentioned on the 24th, each viewing of Luce Nascosta reflects fascinating new dance gestures. The angular stretching of the fingers, insect-like, heads pushed backward, with partially revealed female torsos and bare-chested males, are design elements that enhance the surreal nature of this stunning work. Viewing Luce Nascosta can be like a midnight walk in a thick forest, with fireflies and bats and night creatures aflutter. Santiago Calatrava’s golden discs once again shift ever so slowly, in coordination with Bruno Moretti’s bewitching score. Mauro Bigonzetti’s celebration of human muscularity, enhanced by the bare glowing torsos, merges with the music in hypnotic fascination. The viewer can truly be transported. Kudos to Santiago Calatrava for the sets and backdrops for today’s three works, and kudos to Mark Stanley and Marc Happel for lighting and costumes (Carlos Campos is original costume designer for Estancia) of today’s three works, as well.

The Cast of New York City Ballet
in Millepied's
"Why am I not where you are"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

The Cast of New York City Ballet
in Wheeldon's "Estancia"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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