Roberta on the Arts
New York City Ballet: Square Dance, Liturgy, Fearful Symmetries, La Sonnambula
Contact Roberta
Jazz and Cabaret Corner
On Location with Roberta
In the Galleries: Artists and Photographers
Backstage with the Playwrights and Filmmakers
Classical and Cultural Connections
New CDs
Arts and Education
Onstage with the Dancers
Offstage with the Dancers
Upcoming Events
Special Events
Culture from Chicago
Our Sponsors

New York City Ballet: Square Dance, Liturgy, Fearful Symmetries, La Sonnambula

- Onstage with the Dancers

75 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
Mon-Sat 8-8, Sun.10-7
Fax: 212-633-9717

Unique Products from Italy!
Prosciutto, Pecorino, Pasta!
Coffees, Nuts, Marzipan!
Ask for Antonio!

New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Square Dance
Fearful Symmetries
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
October 5, 2011

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Square Dance (1957): Music by Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Megan Fairchild, Anthony Huxley, and the Company. Balanchine wrote, "The American style of classical dancing, its supple sharpness and richness of metrical invention, its superb preparation for risks, and its high spirits were some of the things I was trying to show in this ballet." (NYCB Notes).

Tonight was my chance to see the works I had missed during this Fall Season, and Square Dance by Balanchine opened the program. This is a work with much symmetry and even an actual square dance motif toward the finale. It’s one of Balanchine’s early ballets, and the two leads must sparkle to make the Vivaldi scored choreography compelling. Megan Fairchild succeeded where Anthony Huxley did not. Ms. Fairchild was lit from within like a Christmas tree, with punctuated, precise footwork and a bright, buoyant persona. Mr. Huxley was, however, dramatically restrained with little affect or joy. He’s a technical whiz, but his posture and personality are uninspiring and uninvolved. Thankfully the Corps ensemble was sensational, and when the dancers make hand-held bridges and kick up some do-si-dos, they are animated and dashing. Every time I see this ballet it opens new dimensions, new visual imageries. The structured lines and combinations of leads and Corps keep shifting, but always remain vibrantly connected. Clotilde Otranto conducted with energized pulse.

Liturgy (2003): Music by Arvo Pärt (Fratres, for Violin, Strings, and Percussion), Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Violin Soloist: Arturo Delmoni, Performed by Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall. Part’s composition is “inspired by the vision of a solemn procession of medieval monks…by candlelight…”. (NYCB Notes).

Tonight’s performance of Wheeldon’s Liturgy, which I can never see often enough, featured the growing and riveting partnership of Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall. There was a time when I thought Jock Soto’s retirement marked the end of Ms. Whelan’s intensely captivating duo ballets and pas de deux, like After the Rain and Liturgy, among others. However, Craig Hall came to the rescue soon after, and they have developed a searing chemistry that merges Mr. Hall’s muscularity and Ms. Whelan’s taut figure with mesmerizing results. In Liturgy, both dancers were possessed. They open in sheer stage darkness, before the spotlight expands to encompass the sinewy, severe arm motions and intertwining shapes that start-stop with percussive wood blocks.

Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, similar to the Pärt score Mr. Wheeldon chose for After the Rain, has atonal, stark elements. But, where After the Rain employs an ensemble and creates seamless, soaring imagery, Liturgy creates repetitive, geometric shapes for two dancers with sharp, broken motion. Both ballets are exceptionally magnetic, and the audience always shows tremendous appreciation at the curtain. Tonight was no exception. What stuck with me was the contemporary, stark imagery, with fluid arm motion, as the duo gazes into the audience. Mr. Wheeldon’s ballets have been eclectic and fascinating, but Liturgy, like After the Rain, is altogether intoxicating. Its entrancing effect grows exponentially on every viewing.

Fearful Symmetries (1990): Music by John Adams, Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Steven Rubin, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Ryan McAdams, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Chase Finlay, Tiler Peck, Taylor Stanley, Lauren King, Allen Peiffer, and the Company. Fearful Symmetries is one of Mr. Martins’ finest abstract ballets, with a long orchestral introduction, followed by rapidly expanding tempo and music. The John Adams score is evocative of Philip Glass, with magnetic, echoing phrases, but Mr. Martins’ choreography stays on an energized, dynamic pulse. The Company is in Steven Rubin’s red and orange leotards against Mark Stanley’s red-purple-black backdrop.

Lauren King and Taylor Stanley, members of the Corps, were undoubtedly the most intriguing, leaping and landing with riveting shapes, precise timing, and nuanced focus. Both dancers perform beyond their years, with depth and dramatic expression. It was just that depth of persona that was missing in Sterling Hyltin, Chase Finlay, and Allen Peiffer. These three performers have astounding skill, but too often seem one-dimensional. In the case of Tiler Peck, she is always energized, enthused, and persona-perfect, and her outsized vigor and vitality made her the central focus of tonight’s cast. Throughout the work, Ms. King remained illuminated, but never self-conscious, a delicate balance. Ryan McAdams kept the Orchestra exhilarating, so it’s no wonder that this performance built continuous momentum. In the Corps ensemble, Troy Schumacher and Ashley Laracey were especially vivacious. Kudos to Peter Martins.

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 Jennie Somogyi as The Coquette, Justin Peck as The Baron, Robert Fairchild as The Poet, Janie Taylor as The Sleepwalker, Adam Hendrickson as Harlequin, and the Company, led by Ashly Isaacs, Sarah Villwock, Devin Alberda, David Prottas, Alina Dronova, and Vincent Paradiso.

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).

Robert Fairchild, tonight’s Poet, is a premier danseur, Broadway and Hollywood styled, with dramatic personality and charismatic style that grip the imagination and rivet the eye. Balanchine’s La Sonnambula could be reworked for film noir styled video or theatrical stage, with its sense of mystery and its fantasy seduction, betrayal, and murder. In this ambiance, Mr. Fairchild seduces the Coquette (Jennie Somogyi), and when she flees the Baron (Justin Peck), she spies the Poet in enchanted dance with the Sleepwalker. In revenge, the Coquette orders the Baron to bring his dagger through the doorway, where the Poet has followed this ethereal vision, who holds a candle and moves in fast, tiny, sideways and backward steps. The plot is clear and romanticized, and Alain Vaes’ mansion backdrop has high windows, through which the Sleepwalker’s candle moves, as well as a courtyard and archway garden.

When Mr. Fairchild is onstage, his stagecraft is spell-binding. But, in this ballet, Janie Taylor’s Sleepwalker was equally spell-binding, with her endless blond locks and vacant gaze. The Poet lies on the stage to halt the Sleepwalker’s motion, but she steps right over him, time and again. In this casting, the action was monumental, with extraordinary partnering. Ms. Taylor moved silently, swiftly, a surreal, incandescent vision. When she carries the lifeless Poet back through the doorway, in her arms, it seemed astoundingly effortless. Unfortunately, the other leads, Ms. Somogyi as Coquette and Mr. Peck as Baron, added less to the ensuing drama. Ms. Somogyi is a strong dancer, but in abstract rather than story ballets. Here she lacked the flirtation of a coquette. Mr. Peck, unlike Amar Ramasar, who’s often in this role, played it thinly, a Baron without theatrical edge.

Adam Hendrickson was a buoyant, elastic Harlequin, a comical, quasi-Greek Chorus of one. The lead Corps, in Pastorale and Pas de Deux, royally entertained at the masked ball, the event at which Poet meets Sleepwalker. The Company, as sixteen Guests, was dazzling and elegant, especially thanks to Alain Vaes’ colorful costuming. This one-act Balanchine story ballet is always remarkable for its leads, and with Ms. Taylor and Mr. Fairchild in filmy white costumes and warmly lit showcase, it was truly exciting. Andrews Sill was the third Conductor tonight, and the Orchestra was sumptuous. Kudos to Balanchine.

Megan Fairchild and Anthony Huxley
in Balanchine's "Square Dance"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Tiler Peck and Taylor Stanley
in Peter Martins' "Fearful Symmetries"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Janie Taylor and Robert Fairchild
in Balanchine's "La Sonnambula".
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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