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New York City Ballet: Apollo, Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Agon, Symphony in Three Movements
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New York City Ballet: Apollo, Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Agon, Symphony in Three Movements

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Monumentum Pro Gesualdo
Movements for Piano and Orchestra
Symphony in Three Movements

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
June 12, 2011 Matinee

(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: Andrews Sill, Performed by Sébastien Marcovici, Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck, Ana Sophia Scheller. Balanchine looked upon Apollo as the turning point of his life, "in its sustained oneness of tone and feeling". (NYC Ballet Notes).

There must have been many male principals and more, in City Ballet, who wanted the poignant spotlight that Balanchine’s Apollo affords, because this ballet seemed to appear over and over in so many programs. I’ve already reviewed the up and coming Corps dancer, Chase Finlay, in this lead role, and tonight expect to see it again in the “Dancer’s Choice” event. For this matinee, Sébastien Marcovici took the lead, a much more seasoned dancer than Mr. Finlay, with a more introspective approach to the posed physicality. Mr. Marcovici exuded maturity, thoughtfulness, depth, compared to Mr. Finlay’s youthful, ethereal vision. Mr. Marcovici also exuded spirituality, melancholy, yearning, and a fullness to the role.

In contrast, where Mr. Finlay performed with the seasoned trio of Maria Kowroski, Sara Mearns, and Teresa Reichlen, Mr. Marcovici performed with a last minute shift to the cast, that included Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck, and Ana Sophia Scheller. So Mr. Marcovici was surrounded by youthful, brisk, sprightly women, a good choice of contrast and casting. I have noted many times that Ms. Hyltin wears a permanent smile that at most times, especially here, is inappropriate. She’s a superb dancer, poised, balanced, and dynamic. But her theatrical presence is shallow, generic, one-dimensional. This is a trait that could improve with dramatic training. Tiler Peck, who throws herself into the moment, was percussive in motion and powerful in presence. But, today it was Ms. Scheller who intrigued the imagination, with fluidity, elegance, and determined focus. She is increasingly alluring.

Monumentum Pro Gesualdo (1960): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrews Sill, Performed by Rebecca Krohn, Charles Askegard, and the Company. Stravinsky's homage to Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa re-composes the madrigals into instrumental voices. (NYCB Notes)

This reverent and regal Balanchine ballet, that’s always partnered with the piece that follows, has grown on me over the years. Rebecca Krohn was stunning and surreal, partnered by the attentive Charles Askegard. Ms. Krohn has the long-limbed physicality of Teresa Reichlen and Maria Kowroski, yet she’s imbued with a serenity and serious demeanor that’s striking in the spotlight. Andrews Sill had the Conductor’s podium for this ballet duo, and Stravinsky’s score was searing. Charles Askegard, who will retire next season, danced in his prime, with sharpness and polish. A Corps ensemble of twelve accompanied the duo, with Brittany Pollack catching my eye.

Movements for Piano and Orchestra (1958-59): Music by Igor Stravinsky (Movements for Piano and Orchestra), Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano Solo: Alan Moverman, Performed by Rebecca Krohn, Ask la Cour, and the Company. This piece is divided into five sections, and Balanchine paired this work with the previous one for performances. (NYCB Notes)

This second piece of this two-ballet presentation, included in today’s four Balanchine-Stravinsky ballets, has also grown on me, with a frequent shift in one lead dancer. Today, Mr. Krohn remained and Ask la Cour arrived as her new partner. Mr. la Cour is the male mirror-image of Ms. Krohn, tall, lanky, long necked, classical, refined, intense. Compared to Mr. Askegard, Mr. la Cour was more compelling, more charismatic, more inspired. He’s less seasoned, which is a good thing. His performances are always fresh, unique, surprising. Alan Moverman played the piano solo, and a smaller ensemble, just six Corps females, brought mystical motion to this third Stravinsky score for the afternoon. Gwyneth Muller, an exceptional dancer within many motifs and personas, was particularly persuasive. Ms. Krohn, once again, in solo and with Mr. la Cour, created riveting imagery with intertwined legs and deep gazes.

Agon (1957): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Sébastien Marcovici, Teresa Reichlen, Sean Suozzi, Savannah Lowery, Craig Hall, Ashley Laracey, Amar Ramasar, and members of the Corps.

Sean Suozzi and Teresa Reichlen were among the most mesmerizing in an ensemble of eight. Mr. Suozzi has depth, dynamism, elevation, and dizzying speed. Ms. Reichlen is a consistent sophisticate, en pointe, focused as Mr. Suozzi circles her. They present similar motion of the arms, in adjoining space. Wendy Whelan, like Ms. Reichlen, has mastered the challenging choreography with seeming effortlessness. This Balanchine work’s scissors splits showcase drama during the dissonant strings, and atonal, symmetrical moments merge for gripping imagery. Sébastien Marcovici partnered Wendy Whelan, and their mature approach to Balanchine’s oeuvre was impressive, although Mr. Marcovici seemed forced in motion.

Another mesmerizing dancer, as always, Amar Ramasar partnered Ashley Laracey, and they were both compelling, as were Craig Hall and Savannah Lowery, although Mr. Hall put much more drama into the moment. In fact, Mr. Hall is perhaps the most mesmerizing dancer in the Company these days, with sinewy muscularity and a depth of persona. Agon, with its surreal, atonal intensity, is a perfect work to showcase Mr. Hall’s exceptional talent. The orchestral score contained jazzy and dissonant chords on the harp, with full percussion, such as, perhaps, castanets, wooden blocks, and bells, and also wild violins and horns. At times, one duo danced to dissonant horns, and, at other times, one duo danced to soft, dissonant strings. The score was occasionally reminiscent of Bernstein or Gershwin. The syncopated rhythms generated amazing choreography, ending with a daring leap into waiting arms. Agon is definitely worth repeating in seasonal repertory.

Symphony in Three Movements (1972): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Adam Hendrickson, Megan LeCrone, Andrew Scordato, Abi Stafford, Jared Angle, and the Company.

Symphony in Three… is the fourth of the Balanchine-Stravinsky collaborations in this final Season matinee. Maestro Clotilde Otranto was in the orchestra pit again, as she was for Agon. Two Corps dancers, Andrew Scordato and Megan LeCrone, had lead spotlights for this monumental, atonal ballet. The other leads were Principal, Sterling Hyltin with Soloist, Adam Hendrickson, and two Principals, Abi Stafford and Jared Angle. In this particular performance, I found that the Corps superseded the leads. Arms swept up and down like sharp rotor blades, legs were angular and strong, and ponytails swung from the female Corps’ swiveling heads with whirling pulsation. An ensemble of ten Corps dancers led the second ensemble, and it was apparent that the entire Corps had an opportunity for stage presence in this final seasonal presentation. Tonight’s event, later on, would showcase a selected few in a fund-raiser for the Dancers’ Emergency Fund.

This magnificent choreography by George Balanchine and the brilliantly appropriate leotards and tights create the vision of assemblages of dancers in stark white, in white/black, and in all black, with Soloists in shades of pink. The opening bars of Stravinsky's percussive, dissonant score are heard against the image of a diagonal formation of female soloists in white. Kudos to Mark Stanley for the fluorescent-like feeling that he generates for this scene. The male solo, in Section I, managed to leap sideways, legs in perfect formation, bent upwards, as if they had no connection to the hips. All dancers performed with superb timing and agility, ecstatic elevation, lightning leaps, and seasoned technicality. Section II, with solos by Abi Stafford and Jared Angle, was brilliantly fashioned, and Mr. Angle’s dexterity was impressive. Stravinsky’s surreal tones drove the momentum. Section III combined all the colors, all the dancers, and all the brilliant force of Balanchine's work. There are many visual and auditory layers upon which to focus. Maestro Otranto was exceptional in her conducting of this most difficult score. Kudos to Balanchine, and kudos to Stravinsky.

Teresa Reichlen, Amar Ramasar,
Craig Hall in Balanchine's "Agon"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Megan LeCrone and Andrew Scordato
in Balanchine's "Symphony in Three Movements"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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