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New York City Ballet: Passages

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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 23, 2008

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

An American in Paris (2005): Music by George Gershwin, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Scenery by Adrianne Lobel, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Natasha Katz, performed by Tiler Peck, Damian Woetzel, Sara Mearns, and the Company.

This rapturous Gershwin score spun through my mind for days. Damian Woetzel never ceases to amaze, and, as the American artist looking for love in all the right places, Right Bank and Left, Mr. Woetzel is truly in his prime: theatrical, virtuosic, athletic, and charismatic. Tiler Peck was the ingénue in a pink hat and dress, and Sara Mearns was the coquette in a red beret and black sleek outfit. Both female leads drove right through these roles with inspirational ingenuity, seducing Mr. Woetzel with contrasting charms.

Mr. Woetzel and Ms. Peck’s pas de deux, by Adrianne Lobel’s avant garde sets along the Seine, drew the audience into their warmth and joy. Corps and soloists danced in the Boulevard scenes with Holly Hynes’ colorful and stylish costumes, including Madeline hats and dresses, and Adam Hendrickson even strolled by on a breezy bicycle. Christopher Wheeldon created a mood of fantasy and frill in striking contrast to his exotic, ethereal works, like After the Rain.

Valse Triste (1985): Music by Jean Sibelius, Choreography by Peter Martins, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Darci Kistler and Jared Angle. This Martins ballet is not often mounted, and Darci Kistler and Jared Angle introduced it with fervor and elegance. Mr. Angle seems to partner Ms. Kistler quite often these days, and his attention to his partner, as well as her obvious trust in his strength and timing, are quite visible and impressive. This is a quiet and visually dreamy ballet, with Ms. Kistler in a black silky costume and black arm décor and Mr. Angle in simple white. A film of light moves on the rear screen in pinks, blues, and lavender.

At times Ms. Kistler leaped into Mr. Angle’s arms, just as he tipped her upside down, sweeping her along in floating choreography. There’s a brooding quality to the Sibelius score, but the lighting is a featured concept that works to showcase Ms. Kistler’s style, as she reaches her prime.

Oltremare (World Premiere): Music by Bruno Moretti (commissioned by NYC Ballet), Choreography by Mauro Bigonzetti, Costumes by Mauro Bigonzetti and Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Maria Kowroski, Tyler Angle, Tiler Peck, Amar Ramasar, Teresa Reichlen, Ana Sophia Scheller, Maya Collins, Megan LeCrone, Georgina Pazcoguin, Jonathan Stafford, Andrew Veyette, Jason Fowler, Vincent Paradiso, and Sean Suozzi. Oltremare is the third ballet choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti for NYC Ballet and also the third that is set to a score by Bruno Moretti. This score is for 21 musicians and features the accordion. “Oltremare” means “beyond the sea” and relates to the sadness of leaving one’s homeland for new journeys, as well as the joy of discovering happiness in the new country. (NYCB Notes).

World Premieres are truly exciting, and tonight was no exception. The stillness in State Theater as the Conductor lifts his baton is palpable. With black stockings, old-world dresses and pants, and one suitcase per dancer, the leads walk across the stage in a syncopated pattern, shifting a bit, with each suitcase just in front. Ellis Island came to mind, and its photos of immigrants with painful, but hope-filled countenances. Mr. Bigonzetti conceived of persuasive male ensemble dance that exuded tension and torment, yet he also conceived a pas de deux for Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle that seared the stage with the acoustic bass enhancement. Bruno Moretti’s score was at times melodious and mesmerizing, and at times textured and atonal. The accordion passages added ambiance and angst.

Tiler Peck (almost fresh from the opening ballet lead) and Amar Ramasar caught my eye and inspired my imagination with authenticity and energy. Vincent Paradiso, Georgina Pazcoguin, Teresa Reichlen, and Ana Sophia Scheller also caught my eye, as they physically and psychically became absorbed in this drama. Oltremare is surely a ballet to re-visit, with its multi-layered imagery and fascinating choreographic features. Kudos to Mauro Bigonzetti and Bruno Moretti.

Russian Seasons (2006): Music by Leonid Desyatnikov, Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Costumes by Galina Solovyeva, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Violin Soloist: Kurt Nikkanen, Mezzo-Soprano: Irina Rindzuner, Performed by Rachel Rutherford, Wendy Whelan, Alina Dronova, Georgina Pazcoguin, Abi Stafford, Albert Evans, Antonio Carmena, Adam Hendrickson, Amar Ramasar, Jonathan Stafford, and Sean Suozzi. Leonid Desyatnikov takes recordings and text from "Traditional Music from the Russian Lake District" and creates four concertos, each having three movements. He uses string orchestra, solo violin, and female voice, while exploring life experiences in this composition. (NYCB Notes).

I found it unfortunate that Russian Seasons, another esoteric and abstractly folk-inspired ballet, set to Leonid Desyatnikov’s contemporary score, immediately followed Oltremare. This was the time for lively, upbeat, and brief, such as Martins’ Friandises. Perhaps adding Russian Seasons here was a gesture toward Alexei Ratmansky, who has been courted as the new Choreographer in Residence at City Ballet to replace Christopher Wheeldon at the end of the Spring Season. However, the Company, as always, made this work captivating and lyrical. As a note, I am consistently amazed that dancers can switch motifs and extend physical endurance in one work after another during a long evening such as this. (Georgina Pazcoguin and Amar Ramasar, as an example, appeared in three of the four ballets).

Each pair of dancers appears in Galina Solovyeva’s same colored costumes: burgundy, gold, green, and purple. Irina Rindzuner’s flowing mezzo-soprano vocalizations sprung them forth in stark and sometimes humorous motion. Rachel Rutherford at one point walked on her knees, and a solo, atonal violin seared the action as arms flailed, legs stretched, and dancers enacted twelve lyrical segments of war, romance, and perhaps a wedding or the afterlife (Wendy Whelan and Albert Evans at the end in chiffonny white). There was poignancy and humor, but, again, this is not a work that can be easily absorbed, following a lengthy and complex program. Kudos to the Company.

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