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New York City Ballet: Polyphonia, Opus 19/The Dreamer, Thou Swell
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New York City Ballet: Polyphonia, Opus 19/The Dreamer, Thou Swell

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Opus 19/The Dreamer
Thou Swell

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 26, 2011

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Polyphonia (2001): Music by Gyorgy Ligeti, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano: Cameron Grant and Alan Moverman, Performed by Maria Kowroski, Jared Angle, Jennie Somogyi, Andrew Veyette, Brittany Pollack, Taylor Stanley, Lauren Lovette, Christian Tworzyanski. Set to ten varied piano pieces by Ligeti, Wheeldon has created unusual lifts, rolls, and pushes to contrast with classical ballet. (NYCB Notes).

This is one of my newest favorites of the Wheeldon ballets, with its quietude and its ten dances to Ligeti’s piano scores, that create “micropolyphony”, “…musical texture involving the use of sustained dissonant chords that shift slowly over time”. Cameron Grant and Alan Moverman were on duo pianos. A cast of eight appears and re-appears in solos, duos, trios, etc., and the effect is uncluttered and elegant. There’s a stark, barren quality, with the music at times dervish, angst-driven, surreal, or sinuous. The dancers take extra moments, turn heads to the audience, and stretch, all in Mark Stanley’s evocative, shifting lighting.

Lauren Lovette, in the Corps, danced a courageous solo, with fluttering feet and incandescent poise. She was accompanied by Christian Tworzyanski in the sixth segment. Maria Kowroski and Jared Angle, in the second segment, created breathless lifts and exotic extensions. Jennie Somogyi and Andrew Veyette, in the third segment, danced to a waltz tempo. Brittany Pollack and Taylor Stanley, one of the most mesmerizing of the duos, danced a spirited allegro in the eighth segment. This piece is dark, shadowy, and electric. It ends with the entire cast, in their purple costumes against a grey background, in a robust allegro. I hope to see this work again next season. Kudos to Mr. Grant and Mr. Moverman.

Opus 19/The Dreamer (1979): Music by Serge Prokofiev (Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major), Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Ben Benson, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Guest Conductor: Martin West, Violin Solo: Kurt Nikkanen, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Gonzalo Garcia, and members of the Corps.

Guest Conductor, Martin West, took the baton for Robbins’ Opus 19/The Dreamer, featuring once more Wendy Whelan and Gonzalo Garcia. Although both dancers have mastered this piece with its searing dynamism to Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto, a fresh change of casting would expand on its eloquent possibilities. However, both dancers have expanded their roles with fuller depth of presentation and more audience engagement. The blueness of the lighting, against Mr. Garcia in a white unitard and Ms. Whelan in a blue costume, magnifies Robbins’ sensual choreography. Mr. Garcia wanders and dances in deliberate slowness, with ethereal grace. When he is engaged by Ms. Whelan, with her lowly positioned deep gaze, he is absorbed by the moment. I did notice that Mr. Garcia seems to dance with more presence and confidence, this season. His leaps and spins are expansive and precise, and his landings firm and silent. He dances with more bounce, a lighter effect.

Kurt Nikkanen, violin soloist, kept the theme transporting and intense. Maestro West drew out of the Orchestra the romance of the score. In the Corps, I was drawn to Christian Tworzyanski, David Prottas, and Gretchen Smith.

Thou Swell (2003): Music by Richard Rodgers, Music Arranged by Glen Kelly, Orchestrations by Don Sebesky, Choreography by Peter Martins, Scenery by Robin Wagner, Costumes by Julius Lumsden, Costumes Supervised by Julie Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Fayçal Karoui, Guest Singers: Chloe and Joe Paparella, Guest Trio: Alan Moverman on Piano, Ron Wasserman on Bass, James Saporito on Drums, Performed by Sara Mearns, Justin Peck, Teresa Reichlen, Charles Askegard, Jenifer Ringer, Amar Ramasar, Janie Taylor, Robert Fairchild, and the Company.

I have always felt that Thou Swell, choreographed to songs by Richard Rodgers, is Peter Martins’ finest ballet. I always look forward to seeing it. Songs like “This Can’t Be Love”, “Getting To Know You”, “With a Song In My Heart”, and “Thou Swell” are naturals for the ballroom dance motif, in elegant, sparkling costumes by Julius Lumsden, and a mirrored set, with stairs and bistro tables, by Robin Wagner. Mr. Martins’ brings out the romantic elements of his nature, taking us back to the 30’s, when women wore capes and gowns and long white or black gloves, when men graciously attended to their arrival and chivalrously took their coats and hands. I’ve always wished I could jump right into this event as a guest at this sumptuous party.

Chloe and Joe Paparella were once again Guest Singers (a change is in order), and a jazz trio accompanied the orchestra onstage, with Alan Moverman, Ron Wasserman, and James Saporito on piano, bass, and drums. Four duos sit together on high, as they would at a retro nightclub, taking turns walking to the dance floor with sensual slowness. A few times the ensemble dances together, but mostly one couple or another is featured in exceptional style. Sara Mearns and Justin Peck, Teresa Reichlen and Charles Askegard, Jenifer Ringer and Amar Ramasar, and Janie Taylor and Robert Fairchild were all engaging and effervescent. Ms. Mearns combines demureness with sparkling flirtation, Ms. Reichlen let herself go here, with seductive postural gestures, Ms. Ringer was the dark-eyed charismatic dynamo, and Ms. Taylor was wispy, willowy, and translucent. The couples were all focused on each other, rarely looking at anyone but their partners, a commendable trait in itself, if this nightclub were real. Of the male partners, Mr. Ramasar and Mr. Fairchild were most powerful in this ballroom dance genre.

Kudos to Peter Martins, kudos to Maestro Karoui, and kudos to the band.

Taylor Stanley and Brittany Pollack
in Wheeldon's "Polyphonia"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik.

Wendy Whelan and Gonzalo Garcia
in Robbins' "Opus 19/The Dreamer"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik.

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