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New York City Ballet: Apollo, Afternoon of a Faun, Antique Epigraphs, La Sonnambula
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New York City Ballet: Apollo, Afternoon of a Faun, Antique Epigraphs, La Sonnambula

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Afternoon of a Faun
Antique Epigraphs
La Sonnambula

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
May 18, 2011

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Apollo (1951): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Fayçal Karoui, Performed by Chase Finlay, Maria Kowroski, Sara Mearns, Teresa Reichlen. Balanchine looked upon Apollo as the turning point of his life, "in its sustained oneness of tone and feeling". (NYC Ballet Notes).

Tonight, more than ever, I missed Nikolaj Hübbe in the role of Apollo, which he reprised at his Farewell performance a few years back. When he was onstage, all eyes were on him. Chase Finlay, a rising star in City Ballet, has developed confidence and stage presence in recent seasons, but he does not yet exude mesmerizing emotions or, as they say, passion from within. Yet, with Maria Kowroski, Sara Mearns, and Teresa Reichlen all onstage tonight, as Terpsichore, Polyhymnia, and Calliope, Mr. Finlay was surrounded and supported by a first-rate cast.

Mr. Finlay’s solos were eloquent, and his physique is unparalleled for classicism, and, as he is yet quite young, he will mature into the role. The angular choreography, which takes on fluid, seamless lines, is among Balanchine’s finest, danced to Stravinsky’s searing score. The three muses danced with gestures of wonder, humor, intellect, and rapture. They are truly the crème de la crème of City Ballet’s female principals, and this performance of Apollo was a scintillating start to the evening.

Afternoon of a Faun (1953): Music by Claude Debussy, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery and Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Conductor: Fayçal Karoui, Performed by Janie Taylor and Craig Hall. Debussy is known for "musical impressionism" and wrote a large repertoire of works for piano and for orchestra, including "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune", 1892-94. (NYCB Notes).

No matter how many times I see Janie Taylor and Craig Hall in Faun, the performance generates delightful anticipation. Mr. Hall (a soloist, who should really be promoted ASAP) is magnetic and undulating as the self-absorbed faun, while Ms. Taylor, with her ethereal tiny steps and equally internalized demeanor, is enchanting. Both dancers seem weightless, maximizing every moment. Their precious few minutes in pas de deux, with bodies connected and souls apart, are among the most charismatic minutes that City Ballet stages each season. Each is an exceptional dancer, Mr. Hall with taut muscularity and Ms. Taylor with stylish long limbs and hair that falls down a mile. Their “room with a mirror” could just as easily be the cliff in the forest that Nijinsky’s faun immortalized.

Antique Epigraphs (1984): Music by Claude Debussy, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Florence Klotz, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Fayçal Karoui, Flute Solo: Laura Conwesser, Performed by Rachel Rutherford, Sara Mearns, Savannah Lowery, Teresa Reichlen, Marika Anderson, Gwyneth Muller, Amanda Hankes, Gretchen Smith. Choreographed in seven sections, the first six are danced to an orchestrated version of "Six Epigraphes Antiques" and the seventh to "Syrinx", with unaccompanied flute. (NYCB Notes).

The four ballets by Balanchine or Robbins in tonight’s classical repertoire seemed to mesh in mood and vision. Florence Klotz’ long, chiffony gowns were especially fascinating as the female ensemble gathers in groups and gazes like the characters in Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering. The casual elegance is so refined and refreshing. Laura Conwesser’s flute solo wafted through Koch Theater with graceful Debussy tones. In fact, following the previous Debussy score in Faun, Antique Epitaphs was like Part II of an eloquent Debussy duo. It was wonderful to see Rachel Rutherford again, and her Greek frieze profile stood out within the ensemble. In fact, Mr. Robbins wove a classical Greek theme through the choreography and figures, with Sara Mearns, Teresa Reichlen, and Gwyneth Muller most noteworthy. The image of arms touching shoulders was so evocative of Greek statues at The Met, as well as angular full-body profiles that freeze in the moment. Kudos to Fayçal Karoui, who turned the conductor’s podium over to Andrews Sill for the final piece.

La Sonnambula (1960): Music by Vittorio Rieti (after themes of Bellini), Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Alain Vaes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrews Sill, Performed by Jenifer Ringer as The Coquette, Amar Ramasar as The Baron, Sébastien Marcovici as The Poet, Wendy Whelan as The Sleepwalker, Daniel Ulbricht as Harlequin, and the Company, led by Likolani Brown, Lauren King, Austin Laurent, Troy Schumacher, Ana Sophia Scheller, and Antonio Carmena.

Rieti's music is based on themes from Bellini's operas, including "La Sonnambula". The Coquette's encircling movements, the Moorish dance, and the Harlequin dance all help to create a sinister effect to this ballet. Rieti was born in Egypt and composed for Ballets Russes. In the US, Rieti collaborated with Balanchine on ballets for several companies, including Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo and NYC Ballet. (NYCB Notes).

I had originally chosen tonight’s program especially for La Sonnambula, but it was, instead, the icing on the cake of a full program of choreographic beauty. Other than After the Rain, La Sonnambula is Wendy Whelan’s pièce de résistance. Her tiny forward, sideways, and backward steps, as the sleepwalking woman from the rear stage mansion, always draw audience gasps. You can hear the tiny toe shoes tapping the floor so lightly and rapidly. Sébastien Marcovici has toned his physique this season and was in rare form. As always, he is the impassioned suitor, even in abstract ballets, but, here, as The Poet, in another role branded by Nikolaj Hübbe years ago, Mr. Marcovici was riveting. At first he pursues Jenifer Ringer, the stunning Coquette, then Ms. Whelan, in an about face of focused, intense desire.

As the coquette, Ms. Ringer was all curves, as she whispered vengefully to The Baron (Amar Ramasar), who chases down The Poet to his instant death. Mr. Ramasar exudes a powerful persona as The Baron, a character to contend with. This ballet has urgency, poignancy, and drama. Vittorio Rieti’s score, based on Bellini, was well led by Maestro Sill, on the podium, and Alain Vaes’ scenery and costumes have a life of their own. You just want to see them more, for the ballet to continue. Maybe there exists a choreographer who could create a sequel to this compelling ballet. Mark Stanley’s lighting is essential to The Sleepwalker’s candle, as she supposedly moves behind the rear stage windows.

In minor roles, Daniel Ulbricht is a Harlequin, as The Guests dance at the ball, and, as always, his joking gestures and jumping jack buoyancy drew audience accolades. Among the Corps, Daniel Applebaum, Taylor Stanley, Troy Schumacher, and Lauren King caught my eye. Ana Sophia Scheller and Antonio Carmena, soloists, danced their own pas de deux, with lively rhythms. Kudos to George Balanchine.

Chase Finlay in Balanchine's"Apollo"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Wendy Whelan in "La Sonnambula"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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