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New York City Ballet: 2 & 3 Part Inventions, In Memory of…, The Jerome Robbins Award, West Side Story Suite

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All Robbins: Presentation - Jerome Robbins Awards
2 & 3 Part Inventions
In Memory of…
The Jerome Robbins Award
West Side Story Suite

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
September 30, 2011

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

2 & 3 Part Inventions (1995): Music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Pianist: Susan Walters, Performed by Lauren Lovette, Erica Pereira, Ashley Laracey, Brittany Pollack, Anthony Huxley, Allen Peiffer, Daniel Applebaum, Joshua Thew.

Bach composed the piano studies that serve as the solo score for this youthful work for Corps and Soloists, and it’s delightfully filled with energy and pulse. Susan Walters, at the keyboard, captured the bounce and ingénue inherent in Robbins’ choreography. However, on stage, half of the dancers were captivating and spirited, while the other half seemed to just count the beat. My eye was drawn immediately to Lauren Lovette, a rising star, who danced with elegance and serenity. Her solo was nuanced and impassioned. Yet, Anthony Huxley, her partner, who also had solo turns, danced with a mechanical affect, expressionless, with a lack of fullness and robust enthusiasm. Those who did exude such enthusiasm were, besides Ms. Lovette, Erica Pereira, Brittany Pollack, and Daniel Applebaum, who at this point seems underutilized. Mr. Applebaum deserves a spotlight on occasion, as his personality was glowing. He was coy and athletic. Ms. Pollack is a fascinating performer, with sparkling gestures and style. Ms. Pereira, a Soloist, like Mr. Huxley, has been an endearing presence onstage, ever since her early showcase in Romeo + Juliet, years ago. Her partner, in that past casting, was Allen Peiffer, who seemed so much more assured and charged at that time. Joshua Thew and Ashley Laracey have been expanding their stage personas, and I look forward to seeing them next season. The partnered lifts and upward arms were Oh, so Robbins.

In Memory of...(1985): Music by Alban Berg, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery by David Mitchell, Costumes by Dain Marcus, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Fayçal Karoui, Solo Violinist: Kurt Nikkanen, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Charles Askegard, Jared Angle, and the Company. Berg's violin concerto was written in tribute to the late daughter of a friend, "dedicated to an angel". The music is divided into three sections, depicting her life, her illness, her death, and her "transfiguration". (NYCB Notes).

Alban Berg’s searing, sorrowful composition needs strong dancers to focus the imagination, and we had that strength in all three Principals. It also requires a riveting solo violinist, and Kurt Nikkanen rose to the occasion. His strings pierced the air, as Wendy Whelan transformed herself from innocent to tragically ill to heavenly angel. In her pink dress, among the youthful ensemble, Ms. Whelan was inspired and ethereal. She literally floated en air, and Jared Angle, as her youthful lover, was attentive and charismatic. Mr. Angle has developed into a purposeful, animated solo dancer, one who now seizes his spotlight with determination.

Charles Askegard was the death character, who spins and drags Ms. Whelan, as she falls lifeless to the stage. He was menacing, a Rotbart character (as in Swan Lake) without the monster attire. From the moment he arrived, his eyes were fixed on Ms. Whelan, a great role for an about to retire Principal (in about one week). Ms. Whelan returns in white, the angel held aloft, carried through a triangle of male Corps, and the entire performance was truly transporting. Ms. Whelan is a master of the Robbins genre, and her anguished lyricism was hypnotic. Maestro Karoui was on hand for this one work, a tribute to City Ballet’s generosity of bringing in multiple conductors almost nightly. Jerome Robbins’ inspirational work never looked better.

The Jerome Robbins Award: Presented by Chita Rivera. For me, this Award Ceremony was serendipitous, a complete surprise. As it happened, the 26 former and current Principal ballerinas with City Ballet, who received the Jerome Robbins Awards, were seated in my row, and having them close by was such a thrill. Chita Rivera, who played Anita in song and dance on Broadway, was the Host of this segment, featuring the Jerome Robbins Awards, from his own Jerome Robbins Foundation, founded in 1970. The backdrop featured giant photos of Mr. Robbins, as well as the ballerinas, dancing the Robbins ballets, many on this very stage. Most of the Award recipients had long ago retired from City Ballet, but Ms. Whelan, Jenifer Ringer (who would dance Anita in the following Robbins ballet), and Maria Kowroski are still Principals in the Company. Darci Kistler, Miranda Weese, Yvonne Borree, Kyra Nichols, and Alexandra Ansanelli either left or retired in recent years, while Yvonne Mounsey had joined the Company in 1949 and Allegra Kent in 1953. Some of the star power included Violette Verdy, Patricia McBride, Suzanne Farrell, Gelsey Kirkland, and Lourdes Lopez. The audience was squealing and screaming, as some of these names were announced, with still refined and lovely figures walking onto the stage. Four Awards were announced posthumously: Melissa Hayden, Nora Kaye, Tanaquil Le Clercq, and Janet Reed, all generating the same vocal accolades. A night for quintessential balletomanes.

West Side Story Suite (1995): Music by Leonard Bernstein, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Original Book by Arthur Laurents, Co-Choreographer: Peter Gennaro, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Guest Singers: Rob Lorey, Lara Marie Hirner, Jane Brockman, Julie Price, Whitney Webster, Performed by Chase Finlay as Tony, Robert Fairchild as Riff, Amar Ramasar as Bernardo, Jenifer Ringer as Anita, Lauren Lovette as Maria, Gretchen Smith as Rosalia, and the Company as The Jets, Their Girls, and The Sharks, Their Girls. Jerome Robbins updated Romeo and Juliet to a New York time and venue, and brought in Bernstein, Laurents, and Sondheim as collaborators. (NYCB Notes).

To top off the Robbins regalia tonight, his West Side Story Suite was performed, with one of the best Riff’s ever, who must not only dance, but also sing, Robert Fairchild. Ever since his star turn in Call Me Ben, a misguided talking-singing ballet, the ballet community knew Mr. Fairchild had “it”. His style is so Broadway, his figure so balletic, his persona so persuasive, his technique so astounding. He led the Jets in “Cool” with intoxicating results. His knife fights and tussles were gripping, and his stage presence seething. As Bernardo, Amar Ramasar is a pro, a toss of the head, and his Sharks follow like cats. The “Dance at the Gym” was punctuated with synchronized arm lifts and Mambo rhythms, while “Rumble” had the whole cast in street gang costumes and attitude, especially Mr. Fairchild and Mr. Ramasar.

As Tony, Chase Finlay seemed imported from Westchester rather than West Side, below the bridge streets. His ingénue hair, physique, and mannerisms didn’t seem suited to the role. He did, however, dance with high energy spins and speed. Lauren Lovette, as Maria, is a natural, a youthful Corps dancer that’s creating buzz. She dances with seamless refinement, beyond her years. Jenifer Ringer returned onstage in Anita’s purple dress, and her “America”, with Gretchen Smith as her friend, Rosalia, was ever so entertaining. It was sexy, sassy, and seductive. She put on quite a show. The Guest Singers this time were especially poignant, adding to the memorable quality of this Award night, with Rob Lorey and Lara Marie Hirner particularly enchanting. Clotilde Otranto conducted this ballet with her signature aplomb. Kudos to Jerome Robbins.

Lauren Lovette and Chase Finlay
in Robbins' "West Side Story Suite"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Retired and Current City Ballet Principals
Receive the Jerome Robbins Award
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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