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New York City Ballet: Polyphonia, Herman Schmerman Pas de Deux, Variations Pour Une Porte et Un Soupir, The Waltz Project
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New York City Ballet: Polyphonia, Herman Schmerman Pas de Deux, Variations Pour Une Porte et Un Soupir, The Waltz Project

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Herman Schmerman Pas de Deux
Variations Pour Une Porte et Un Soupir
The Waltz Project

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, Dena Abergel
Orchestra, Interim Music Director, Andrews Sill
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
February 1, 2013

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Polyphonia (2001): Music by Gyorgy Ligeti, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano: Nancy McDill and Alan Moverman, Performed by Maria Kowroski, Ask la Cour, Brittany Pollack, Daniel Applebaum, Sara Mearns, Zachary Catazaro, Gretchen Smith, and Taylor Stanley. Set to ten varied piano pieces by Ligeti, Wheeldon has created unusual lifts, rolls, and pushes to contrast with classical ballet. (NYCB Notes).

Polyphonia, one of Christopher Wheeldon’s edgiest ballets, is imbued with quietude. It incorporates ten dances to Ligeti’s piano scores, creating “micropolyphony”, “…musical texture involving the use of sustained dissonant chords that shift slowly over time”.(NYCB Notes) Nancy McDill and Alan Moverman were on duo pianos. A cast of eight appears and re-appears in solos, duos, trios, etc., and the effect is uncluttered and elegant. There’s a stark, barren quality, with the music at times dervish, angst-driven, surreal, or sinuous. The dancers take extra moments, turn heads to the audience, and stretch, all in Mark Stanley’s evocative, shifting lighting.

The featured lead dancers, in the ten segments, were Tiler Peck (replacing Maria Kowroski) with Ask la Cour, Brittany Pollack with Daniel Applebaum, Sara Mearns with Zachary Catazaro, and Gretchen Smith with Taylor Stanley. Lauren Lovette, in the Corps, danced a courageous solo, with fluttering feet and incandescent poise. Mr. Catazaro, in the sixth segment, accompanied Ms. Lovette, in a sequence Mr. Ligeti calls “Three Wedding Dances”. Ms. Peck and Mr. la Cour, in the second segment, created breathless lifts and exotic extensions. Ms. Pollack and Mr. Applebaum, in the third segment, danced to a waltz tempo. Gretchen Smith and Taylor Stanley danced a spirited allegro in the eighth segment. This piece is dark, shadowy, and electric. It ends with the entire cast, in Holly Hynes’ purple costumes against a grey background, in a robust allegro.

Herman Schmerman Pas de Deux (1992): Music by Thom Willems (Commissioned for the Diamond Project), Choreography by William Forsythe, Production design by William Forsythe, Costumes by Gianni Versace, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Teresa Reichlen and Robert Fairchild.

This William Forsythe ballet, to music by Thom Williams, danced in Gianni Versace’s costumes, features two Principals, Teresa Reichlen and Robert Fairchild. This rare work was vibrant and appealing. In the first segment, Mr. Fairchild and Ms. Reichlen appear in diagonal corners of the stage. He wears black pants, and she wears a white skirt. This campy, contemporary, and charming ballet soon brings Mr. Fairchild back in a look-alike white skirt, and the audience was delighted. That’s the surprise advantage of a “rare” work. The recorded Thom Willems score is propulsive and percussive, and this duo moved in vivacious gravitational spins and lunges, relating in close, wound-up physicality. However, this ballet is best kept on ice.

Variations Pour Une Porte et Un Soupir (1974): Sonority by Pierre Henry, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Maria Kowroski and Daniel Ulbricht.

Having just seen this ballet last night, I was curious if the grating effect would cancel itself or expand the nerves. Unfortunately, it was mostly the latter. The ballet, itself, is magnetic, with a giant costume that becomes its own set, thanks to Rouben Ter-Arutunian, but the Pierre Henry sound effects are not for thin skin. Mr. Ulbricht sometimes played it for laughs, although this is an avante garde piece, but, in silver body paint and jittery momentum, he came across like a character in Cirque du Soleil. Ms. Kowroski has a tense demeanor, here, in her massive chiaroscuro costume. There is no dancer quite like Ms. Kowroski, who can pull of the female leads of Bugaku, Prodigal Son, Diamonds, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, and The Blue Necklace, to name a few of her iconic roles. Variations Pour Une Porte et Un Soupir is yet one more of her unique, monumental roles. However, with this particular ballet, a rare viewing is best.

The Waltz Project (1988): Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Alan Vaes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Pianist: Cameron Grant, Red Garnet Waltz (Composed by Joan Tower), Modern Love Waltz (Composed by Philip Glass), Valse Perpetuelle, The 45 RPM (Composed by Ivan Tchereprin), Titles Waltz: After Max Steiner (Composed by Joseph Fennimore), Minute Waltz (or 3/4 + 1/8)) (Composed by Milton Babbitt), Waltz – “In Memoriam – Maurice Ravel” (Composed by Robert Moran), Dejavalse (Composed by Tom Constanten), Waltz (Composed by Roger Sessions), Rag Waltz (Composed by Morton Gould), Performed by Savannah Lowery, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Teresa Reichlen, Amar Ramasar, Tiler Peck, Robert Fairchild, Megan Fairchild, and Andrew Veyette.

Nine separate waltzes, scored to nine American compositions, arranged by composer, Robert Moran, in 1976, make up The Waltz Project. For tonight’s cast, Peter Martins featured mostly Principals, with one Soloist. The work premiered in 1988, as a celebration of this music and motif. I happen to be very fond of most of Mr. Martins’ choreographies, and I even liked the new Bal de Couture, but his Waltz Project will not be a favorite. It’s hyperactive, men and women climbing onto one another with very atonal waltz fragments, nothing close to Balanchine’s Vienna Waltzes. The costumes are street-casual, and the choreography is tough, sassy, and not even intriguing. The crème de la crème of the Principals lineup were strutting, winding about each other, flailing, imagine the rest. This ballet made me long for Thou Swell, one of Mr. Martins’ masterpieces.

The Cast of Wheeldon's "Polyphonia"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Maria Kowroski and Daniel Ulbricht in
Balanchine's "Variations Pour Une Porte et Un Soupir"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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