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New York City Ballet: For The Love of Duke, Prodigal Son, Glass Pieces
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New York City Ballet: For The Love of Duke, Prodigal Son, Glass Pieces

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

For The Love of Duke
Prodigal Son
Glass Pieces

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
February 5, 2011 Matinee

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

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 third viewing in a little over a week, I still found this piece entertaining, but it began to wear with the same cast. It was time to refresh the leads, for a new take, a serendipitous gesture, something different, as this new Stroman work has two brief dances, and to see the same few leads again and again is akin to watching the first half of Ellington’s “Sophisticated Ladies” three times in about a week. However, the cast is now warmed up and heated in these roles. I noticed photo finish dance endings, especially with Amar Ramasar and Sara Mearns, as Johnny and Frankie. For these three leads, their dance had a natural lightness, and the repeated performances gave them increased daring with feigned impudence. For Robert Fairchild and Savannah Lowery, their skit was more theatrical, more burlesque-infused, and “swept off her feet” took on new meanings.

Prodigal Son (1950) Ballet in Three Scenes: Libretto by Boris Kochno, Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Choreography be George Balanchine, Décor by Georges Rouault, original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Joaquin De Luz as The Prodigal Son, Maria Kowroski as The Siren, Ask la Cour as Father, Giovanni Villalobos and Sean Suozzi as Servants to The Prodigal Son, Marika Anderson and Likolani Brown as The Sisters, and the Company as Drinking Companions. Balanchine, the 24 years old and Diaghilev's last Ballet Master, choreographed this work three months prior to Diaghilev's death. Rouault created the décor, and this ballet was premiered in 1950 for NYC Ballet. (NYCB Notes).

With the original scenery of Georges Rouault and Prokofiev's haunting score, at times reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, Joaquin De Luz and Maria Kowroski gave the City Ballet audience a performance to remember. The unbalanced, but convincing partnering, with Ms. Kowroski, as The Siren, gliding down, across, and through the limbs of Mr. De Luz, as The Prodigal Son, the stark and forgiving Father, performed by the dauntless Ask la Cour, the athletic and engaging duo of Giovanni Villalobos and Sean Suozzi, all combined to grab the audience, throughout this pulsating work.

The pure physicality and muscularity, effortlessly on view by Mr. De Luz and Ms. Kowroski, enhanced the dark dramatic effects of Prokofiev, Rouault, and Mark Stanley's low lighting. Mr. de Luz added extra fouettés, spinning with gesticulating fervor. The entire Company performed this modern, percussive piece with perfection. The leads expanded on Prokofiev’s explosive, percussive score, and in the lead Servants, Sean Suozzi was driven, carrying the urns, setting the tone for the Drinking Companions as they plunder and rob the Prodigal Son. Kudos to Joaquin De Luz.

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, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Rebecca Krohn, Chase Finlay, Amanda Hankes, Joshua Thew, Savannah Lowery, Christian Tworzyanski, Wendy Whelan, Craig Hall, and the Company.

Jerome Robbins took his music from Philip Glass’ Glassworks, using “Rubric” and “Façades”, plus an excerpt from Glass’ opera, Akhnaten. There is something about Glass’ music that lingers in the mind, with Robbins’ choreography endlessly fascinating and ebullient. It begins with a backdrop of a “grid” of geometric, small boxes, that becomes darker as the dancers become more spotlighted. All the while, the music builds in intensity and volume, as the female corps cross the rear stage in “frieze-like” sideways imagery (somewhat like Robbins’ Antique Epigraphs). Later, the male dancers move with urban body language, as in Robbins’ West Side Story, fists clenched and knees bent. New faces were featured in “Rubric”, including Joshua Thew, and, of the six leads, Rebecca Krohn and Christian Tworzyanski were the most mesmerizing and intent.

In “Façades”, Wendy Whelan was attentively partnered by Craig Hall, who remains one of the most interesting dancers in the Company, with music that’s slow and entrancing. Ms. Whelan is perfectly suited to the angularity of this piece. It was at this point that the females walked in silhouetted highlights at stage rear. Akhnaten, with its percussive propulsion, brought out the full Corps, and the music lingers in my mind.

Tiler Peck, Sara Mearns, Amar Ramasar
in "Frankie and Johnny...and Rose"
from "For the Love of Duke"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Maria Kowroski and Joaquin De Luz
in "Prodigal Son"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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