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New York City Ballet: Traditions

- Onstage with the Dancers

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New York City Ballet
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Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Fayçal Karoui
Managing Director, Communications, Robert Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns
Manager, Press Relations, Joe Guttridge
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 18 and January 27, 2008

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).
Conductor on Both Dates: Fayçal Karoui

Square Dance (1957): Music by Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley. 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).

January 18, 2008 Cast:
Performed by Megan Fairchild, Andrew Veyette, and the Company.

January 27, 2008 Cast:
Performed by Megan Fairchild, Nikolaj Hübbe, and the Company.

Square Dance reveals new inventions and new shapes on each viewing, even though Mr. Balanchine choreographed this work over a half century ago. Due to an injury or such, Abi Stafford was replaced on both dates by Megan Fairchild, who was partnered first by Andrew Veyette and next by Nikolaj Hübbe. The two pairings had diverse chemistry and imagery, as Mr. Veyette struck a sharper, more propulsive tone, and Mr. Hübbe struck a more magical, muscular tone. I preferred the second partnering, which was all the more sentimental with Mr. Hübbe’s imminent retirement on February 10. He cradled and spun Ms. Fairchild with masterful chivalry. His presence is always princely and proud, flawlessly shaped. I miss him already. Ms. Fairchild, on both dates, had a bit too much smile, a bit too much bounce. She is a fanciful, bright dancer with sharp footwork, expertly timed. This inherent style fit perfectly with Mr. Veyette’s equally powerful positioning. Yet, Mr. Hübbe’s interpretation could have used a partner with a bit more “velvet”, a bit more texture.

Mr. Veyette’s solos were well balanced and eloquent. Mr. Hübbe’s solos were replete with gesture and regality. The corps ensemble of twelve was delightful in its structures and hints of the square dance genre. Dancers crossed and met and turned and walked in crisp, colorful timing. There were dances in fours, with lines and pairs. Maestro Karoui kept the orchestra richly resonant, but, for me, the memory lingers of Nikolaj Hübbe’s palpably poignant performance. He lifted Ms. Fairchild to his shoulder like a feather at the finale.

Prodigal Son (1950) Ballet in Three Scenes: Libretto by Boris Kochno, Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Choreography be George Balanchine, Décor by Georges Rouault, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley. Balanchine, then 24 years old and Diaghilev's last Ballet Master, choreographed this work three months prior to Diaghilev's death in 1929. Rouault created the décor, and this ballet was premiered in 1950 for NYC Ballet. (NYCB Notes).

January 18, 2008 Cast:
Performed by Damian Woetzel as The Prodigal Son, Maria Kowroski as The Siren, Jonathan Stafford as Father, Kyle Froman and Sean Suozzi as Servants to The Prodigal Son, Dena Abergel and Pauline Golbin as The Sisters, and the Company as Drinking Companions.

January 27, 2008 Cast:
Performed by Daniel Ulbricht as The Prodigal Son, Teresa Reichlen as The Siren, Jonathan Stafford as Father, Antonio Carmena and Adam Hendrickson as Servants to The Prodigal Son, Dena Abergel and Pauline Golbin as The Sisters, and the Company as Drinking Companions.

Damian Woetzel is the penultimate Prodigal Son, and even the hormonal young principal, Daniel Ulbricht, cannot replicate the nuanced theatricality and tightly defined interpretation that Mr. Woetzel has developed. Prokofiev’s percussive score lends itself perfectly to Balanchine’s gripping choreography, with a larger than life, bearded father, who barely moves (Jonathan Stafford on both dates), a leggy, sexy Siren, who seduces and tortures the Prodigal Son, nine bald drinking companions, who march to the drums, two sisters, and two servants, all creating the dark dramatic core of this biblical parable.

Georges Rouault’s black-outlined backdrops enhance the nuanced theme of sin and redemption. This is a psychological and abstract ballet that calls for seriousness with a bit of camp. Mr. Ulbricht is a dancer with explosive talent and a tendency for camp, which, in this case, was over the top. When The Prodigal Son opens, the main figure dances with tormented conflict, and Mr. Woetzel carries this mood and physicality with riveting, fiery rage. In contrast, Mr. Ulbricht, new to the role, set the audience laughing, as he fitfully pounded his chest in stormy mime. Mr. Ulbricht was entertaining, but the role grows deep and dark, and Mr. Woetzel draws us in. As the action progressed, Mr. Ulbricht found his mood, during his near naked torture by the Siren (Maria Kowroski) and her Companions. Ms. Kowroski was sizzling and stylized, while Teresa Reichlen, the Siren who seduces Mr. Ulbricht, was more sensual and spontaneous.

I found The Prodigal Son much more fascinating this season, as it’s a ballet that grows with familiarity and anticipation. Kudos to Maestro Karoui for keeping the music so spellbinding on both dates. Kudos to George Balanchine.

The Four Seasons (1979): Music by Giuseppe Verdi, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery and Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton. Verdi was known as a prolific composer of opera and was active in Italian politics. The Four Seasons draws upon Verdi's operas, I Vespri Siciliani, I Lombardi, and Il Trovatore. (Program Notes).

January 18, 2008 Cast:
Performed by Jason Fowler as Janus, Justin Peck as Winter, Kaitlyn Gilliland as Spring, Briana Shepherd as Summer, Henry Seth as Fall, Antonio Carmena, Sterling Hyltin, Adam Hendrickson, Sara Mearns, Philip Neal, Rachel Rutherford, Stephen Hanna, Ashley Bouder, Benjamin Millepied, Daniel Ulbricht, and the Company.

January 27, 2008 Cast:
Performed by Jason Fowler as Janus, Justin Peck as Winter, Kaitlyn Gilliland as Spring, Briana Shepherd as Summer, Henry Seth as Fall, Sean Suozzi, Sterling Hyltin, Christian Tworzianski, Sara Mearns, Jared Angle, Rebecca Krohn, Amar Ramasar, Ashley Bouder, Benjamin Millepied, Antonio Carmena, and the Company.

With the unexpected score by Verdi (audience members mumbled about “why not Vivaldi?”), Jerome Robbins’ The Four Seasons is replete with exceptional dance, melodramatic entrances and exits as each season changes, some media effects (like a backdrop of falling snow), and even a Faun, who captivates the stage and viewers in the final “Fall” segment. Both dates were memorable for Sterling Hyltin’s humorous and rapturous Winter dance, as she fluttered about a shivering corps in snowy white tutus and adorable attitudes, as well as Sara Mearns’ “Spring”, in smooth, soft swirling loveliness. Ms. Hyltin’s first set of partners, Antonio Carmena and Adam Hendrickson, seemed a bit more sure than the second set of partners, and Ms. Mearns’ second partner, Jared Angle, seemed all the more polished and steady than did Philip Neal.

In “Summer”, both casts were stunning, with Rachel Rutherford and Stephen Hanna expansive and radiant. The second cast of Rebecca Krohn and Amar Ramasar was riveting and vivacious. “Fall” brought us Ashley Bouder and Benjamin Millepied on both dates, and Ms. Bouder added sexiness and that “feline” quality that makes her dance so impressionable. Her timing was quick, and her mood quirky. Ms. Bouder is a dancer extraordinaire, versatile and compelling. Mr. Millepied has verve and vivacity. As the Faun, Daniel Ulbricht, in the first cast, was in true form, wowing his fans with fantastic motion. Antonio Carmena was frisky and spirited. The Company was outstanding on both dates, creating each seasonal and scenic shift with ease.

Kudos to Jerome Robbins.

George Balanchine’s Square Dance
Megan Fairchild & Andrew Veyette in Square Dance
Photo Courtesy of Paul Kolnik


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