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New York City Ballet: Stars and Stripes, Outlier, For The Love of Duke

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Stars and Stripes
For The Love of Duke

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Master, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Fayçal Karoui
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects, Robert Daniels
Manager, Media Relations, Katharina Plumb
Assoc., Communications &Special Projects, Caitlin Gillette
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 30, 2011 Matinee

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

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, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Erica Pereira, Gwyneth Muller, Daniel Ulbricht, Megan Fairchild, Andrew Veyette, 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).

I love this ballet, with its rousing refrains of John Philip Sousa. Where in New York, do we ever hear this music, except maybe the July 4 fireworks. Balanchine developed this piece into five Campaigns, with five Company choreographies or duets. Karinska's costumes, like toy soldiers and dolls, military hats and feathers, large buttons and tutus, perfectly set the mood for chivalry and daring. Of special note were Daniel Ulbricht’s always vibrant performance, as leader of the Third Regiment, and Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette’s sensational duet as Liberty Bell and El Capitan. Mr. Veyette and Ms. Fairchild are a blossoming duo, who feed off each other’s energy and charisma. They presented multiple entrechats, punctuated with personality and pizzazz. Ms. Fairchild, always the extreme dancer, was a spirited sprite, with extra high extensions, a wink, and a nod. Both were confident and buoyant. Gwyneth Muller and Erica Pereira executed their leads of the Second and First Campaigns with personality and charm, even catching a baton en air. The Corps was meticulous in its signature Balanchine formations, at times reminiscent of a chorus line of Rockettes.

Outlier (2010): Music by Thomas Adès, Choreography by Wayne McGregor, Set by Wayne McGregor and Lucy Carter, Costumes by Moritz Junge, Lighting by Lucy Carter, Conductor: Andrews Sill, Solo Violinist: Kurt Nikkanen, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Sterling Hyltin, Maria Kowroski, Tiler Peck, Wendy Whelan, Devin Alberda, Joaquin De Luz, Robert Fairchild, Craig Hall, Amar Ramasar, and Christian Tworzyanski.

In shades of grey, cream, and black leotards, an ensemble of eleven Principals and Soloists performed in Wayne McGregor’s Outlier, with less of the cartoonish frenzy I remember on the initial viewing. Yet, still, dancers’ bodies quiver and flail, heads jut forth, legs snap up, as they twist, gyrate, crash to the ground, push, and shove. The backdrop is all lighting effect, red then white. Andrews Sill conducted the 2005 Thomas Adès score, with its three movements: “Rings”, “Paths”, and “Rounds”. The music sounded to me like Philip Glass gone atonal, although Kurt Nikkanen’s violin solos were surreal. Lucy Carter’s lighting design is highly focused, transporting the imagination, as we gaze on the magnetic, muscular torsos.

In the ensemble, Wendy Whelan, Tiler Peck, Craig Hall, Maria Kowroski, and Amar Ramasar were most aesthetically in the moment, as this stark, raw work calls for intense persona. The remaining cast in the ensemble was appropriately compelling, but not on the level of fascination. Perhaps on the third viewing, Mr. McGregor’s work will grow on me with more positive effect.

For The Love of Duke (World Premiere): Guest Artists, David Berger Jazz Orchestra, Original Transcriptions by David Berger.

Frankie and Johnny…and Rose: Music by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, Choreography by Susan Stroman, Costumes by William Ivey Long, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Arranged by Doug Besterman, Conducted by David Berger, Performed by Amar Ramasar, Tiler Peck, and Sara Mearns.

Blossom Got Kissed: Music by Music by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, Choreography by Susan Stroman, Costumes by William Ivey Long, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Arranged by Andy Farber, Conducted by David Berger, Performed by Savannah Lowery, Robert Fairchild, and the Company.

On second viewing, this recent Premiere seemed even more adorable and certainly a welcome respite from the dizzy, hyperactive previous work. The cast was the same, as well as David Berger’s 14-piece Jazz Orchestra. I especially appreciated the five man reed contingent tonight. In the first half, the cast was settled in and expanding the gestures for audience approval. Mr. Ramasar was bold and frisky, Ms. Peck was pouty and perky, and Ms. Mearns was the siren, all the time. In the second half, Mr. Fairchild was a veritable Prince Charming, debonair, and all Broadway pizzazz. Ms. Lowery was ingénue, then coquettish. In the Corps, I noticed Georgina Pazcoguin, Lauren King, and Daniel Applebaum as particularly persuasive. Kudos to Susan Stroman.

Erica Pereira in "Stars and Stripes"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Craig Hall and Wendy Whelan
in "Outlier"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Robert Fairchild and Savannah Lowery
in "Blossom Got Kissed"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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