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New York City Ballet: Glass Pieces, Tarantella, Plainspoken, Stars and Stripes
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New York City Ballet: Glass Pieces, Tarantella, Plainspoken, Stars and Stripes

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Glass Pieces
Stars and Stripes

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
October 10, 2010 Matinee

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Clotilde Otranto

Glass Pieces (1983): Music by Philip Glass, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Production Design by Jerome Robbins and Ronald Bates, Costumes by Ben Benson, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Performed by Ashley Laracey, Amanda Hankes, Faye Arthurs, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Chase Finlay, Christian Tworzyanski, and the Company.

Today’s matinee was the Season Finale, and what a program it was. I had requested this date specifically to see the new Millepied work, but the high points were the standards. Glass Pieces was centered on the “Facades” pas de deux of Rebecca Krohn and Craig Hall, and they were spellbinding. These two soloists are sometimes the most interesting members of the Company, with their deep gaze and dramatic postures and personas. Mr. Hall has a way of showing his profile in refined, intense bearing. The Philip Glass score lends itself to exactly such purpose. Ms. Krohn, as well, has been featured on City Ballet Playbills, with her feline, angular poses, with eyes affixed to the viewer. Here they were a mesmerizing duo.

In “Rubric”, Adrian Danchig-Waring caught my eye, another magnetic figure in this most magnetic work. I was also struck by the silhouetted female corps, holding hands, walking like moving keys on the piano. The bonding of the male corps in “Akhnaten”, followed by circling females, arms up-stretched, never ceases to transport.

Tarantella (1964): Music by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Reconstructed and Orchestrated by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano Solo: Nancy McDill, Performed by Tiler Peck and Daniel Ulbricht. This music is from Gottschalk's "Grande Tarantelle for Piano and Orchestra". Gottschalk was well known in the Nineteenth Century as a pianist and composer from Louisiana. He was praised by Chopin and toured Europe. Hershy Kay was an orchestrator and composer of Musicals and Ballets. The Tarantella is a classical dance with instantaneous spins and directional changes.(NYCB Notes).

This being a Season Finale, Tarantella was the perfect complement. Tiler Peck and Daniel Ulbricht had the honors, and they brought the house down, as well as many cymbals on their slapped tambourines. Ms. Peck did triple, maybe quintuple fouettés, while Mr. Ulbricht put swagger into his shoulders, running offstage to vocal acclaim. They pounded the tambourines into their thighs and hips, shook them in the air, and leaped about as if it were a televised dance competition. Mr. Peck filled in for Ashley Bouder, who was filling in for Sara Mearns in the final piece, as it happens in the world of ballet. So, this serendipitous extravaganza of hormonal explosion showed just the sensational stuff of which these Principals are made. My notes say “moments of sheer voluminous virtuosity”.

Plainspoken (2010): Music by David Lang (Commissioned for New York City Ballet), Choreography by Benjamin Millepied, Costumes by Karen Young, Lighting by Penny Jacobus, Musicians: Violin: Kurt Nikkanen, Lydia Hong, Viola: Susan Prey, Cello: Fred Zlotkin, Piano: Susan Walters, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Tyler Angle, Teresa Reichlen, Amar Ramasar, Jennie Somogyi, Sébastien Marcovici, Janie Taylor, and Jared Angle.

Benjamin Millepied’s new Plainspoken was supposed to be the highlight of the Season Finale, at least for this viewer, as I’d not seen it yet. It was, however, more of an art media piece, with choreographic accents. To explore the choreography is to explore body language in a dining or social event, with four couples in Karen Young’s costumes of brief shorts and pants, brightly colored in purple, green, and blue. The conflicted emotions of each couple are played out in the humorous, sometimes annoying partnering. This piece may grow on me, but probably not for its choreography. What was outstanding was Penny Jacobus’ lighting design, with a backdrop of shadows that raises and lowers with bodies in various levels of illumination or darkness.

This was a work that I could imagine at Museum of Modern Art, with one or more couples in an exhibition space, a multi-media live dance exhibit. But, for City Ballet, as choreography, it seemed inconsequential. Yet, I did enjoy the visual effect, with lights of blue, red, aqua, orange, and yellow. The relationship concept, with aggressive pushing and pulling and pouting was shallow. David Lang’s score seemed secondary in the mayhem. Yet, the musicians, on double violin, viola, cello, and piano, brought out the contemporary thematic variations. Of the four couples, Teresa Reichlen and Amar Ramasar were most riveting and not overstated. Jennie Somogyi and Sébastien Marcovici, as well, added their own blend of sophistication to the partnering. Kudos to Penny Jacobus.

Stars and Stripes (1958): Music adapted and orchestrated by Hershy Kay after music by John Philip Sousa, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by David Hays, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Erica Pereira, Gwyneth Muller, Adam Hendrickson, Ashley Bouder, Charles Askegard, and the Company. Balanchine created five "campaigns" with changing Sousa themes. This ballet was performed for the opening ceremonies for the New York State Theater. (NYCB Notes).

What better way to end the Season than with Stars and Stripes. With a slightly different cast than on the 2nd, the five Campaigns, three Regiments, leads and featured duo, were ravishing and rambunctious. Erica Pereira and her Corcoran Cadets were sexy and engaging, while Gwyneth Muller and her Rifle Regiment were proud and powerful. Adam Hendrickson led the Thunder and Gladiator Regiment, and his fast spins and dizzying leg turns were thrilling. Ashley Bouder and Charles Askegard were Liberty Bell and El Capitan, bringing the show to a blazing bravura finale. Kudos to the Company for a great Fall Season debut.

The Cast of NYC Ballet in
Millepied's "Plainspoken"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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