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New York City Ballet
(NYC Ballet Website)

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
February 8, 2008

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).
Guest Conductor: Paul Mann

Divertimento from "Le Baiser de la Fée" (1972): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Megan Fairchild, Benjamin Millepied, Faye Arthurs, Alina Dronova, and the Company. Stravinsky's theme for this ballet was "The Ice Maiden", and the music is a tribute to Tschaikovsky. The original ballet was choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska. (NYCB Notes.)

Two ensembles danced in ethereal but structured elegance, with peasant styled costumes and wide black waistbands, led by Megan Fairchild and Benjamin Millepied. Ms. Fairchild exuded abundant liveliness and pep, in this rapturous and sprightly work, yet she relaxed into the romantic pas de deux of near kisses and full embraces with ease. One memorable passage, so elegantly Balanchine, found Ms. Fairchild and Mr. Millepied embracing and opening arms to allow the corps to dance between them in a shift of staging. Mr. Millepied, in pastel blue, was the consummate cavalier, attentive, smiling, and smooth. Mr. Millepied’s leaps and lunges added the ethereal ambiance to this pure tale of a fairy’s kiss.

Faye Arthurs and Alina Dronova were both featured nicely, and they carried the “inspiration” with fervor and fluency. The ensembles danced eloquently in accented fashion to the sensuous Stravinsky score, but all eyes were on the Principals. In the Corps, Georgina Pazcoguin and Amanda Hankes caught my eye. Stravinsky’s slow, lyrical passages were given texture by the City Ballet orchestra.

The Chairman Dances (1988): Music by John Adams, Choreography by Peter Martins, Scenery and Costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Abi Stafford and the Company. Tonight was my introduction to this 1988 Martins work, and it should be mounted more often. The choreography is uncluttered, with Chinese gestures and costumes. The John Adams score is evocative of Philip Glass, and Abi Stafford, as the lead dancer, was enchanting and enticing. Her silk pants costume of gold and teal with red pointe shoes sharply contrasted to the purple and red silk pants costumes and black-white slippers of the female ensemble of sixteen. Large swaths of red silk material draped the sides of the stage in dramatic décor. Kudos immediately to Rouben Ter-Arutunian, who had conceived this visual impression.

Abi Stafford, a new Principal, has been widely showcased this Season, and she shone with luster in this performance. The Chairman Dances is a sensual ballet, yet stark and uncluttered. In fact, it was just this visual simplicity and orderliness that allowed the iconic choreography to shine. In the Corps, Kathryn Morgan, Erica Pereira, and Kaitlyn Gilliland caught my eye.

Rococo Variations (2008): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Cellist: Fred Zlotkin, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Giovanni Villalobos, Sara Mearns, and Adrian Danchig-Waring. Christopher Wheeldon will leave City Ballet after the Spring Season to choreograph internationally and for his own Company, Morphoses. Rococo Variations is one of his final works for this Company. He created it for just four dancers, and Sterling Hyltin and Sara Mearns, in crisp, brown-gold short dresses, seemed to play off each other’s phrasings and lines. Their respective partners, Giovanni Villalobos and Adrian Danchig-Waring, both in the Corps, are artists to watch. In fact, Mr. Danchig-Waring has been often featured this Season, to great success, with his muscular back and distinctive face, a princely presentation.

Fred Zlotkin played solo cello in the Tschaikovsky score (Variations on a Rococo Theme), and Variation after Variation brought the dancers into different shapes, especially partnered shapes of intimate intertwining, lying on the male partner’s back and walking offstage, arms spread back, one couple walking off as one dancer re-appears. I noticed the Wheeldon style of split-timed stage shifts, the rapturous inventions, the erotic moments. Yet, Rococo Variations is not After the Rain or Liturgy, both surreal and breathless. And, it is not Carousel (A Dance) or An American in Paris, both Broadway-expansive and lyrically luscious. In contrast, Rococo Variations is a mix of classical and contemporary dance genres, at times traditionally structured, and at times inventively improvisational. Most memorable were Ms. Mearns’ fluid, velvety interpretations. She is certainly a ballerina with persuasive appeal.

Stars and Stripes (1958): Music adapted and orchestrated by Hershy Kay after music by John Philip Sousa, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by David Hays, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Jennifer Tinsley-Williams, Savannah Lowery, Daniel Ulbricht, Ashley Bouder, Stephen Hanna, and the Company. Balanchine created five "campaigns" with changing Sousa themes. This ballet was performed for the opening ceremonies for the New York State Theater. (NYCB Notes).

Stars and Stripes is a must-see-often ballet, with a powerfully American optimism, as Hershy Kay’s arrangements of John Philip Sousa’s marches pulsate endlessly for five Campaigns of performers. Jennifer Tinsley-Williams catches and twirls the baton for the Corcoran Cadets in pink and black before Savannah Lowery confidently leads her syncopated Rifle Regiment in blue and red. Then Daniel Ulbricht, the virtuosic and athletic dynamo, leads Thunder and Gladiator in black soldier costumes, and his feet barely touch the stage. Mr. Ulbricht is growing into a Premier Danseur, and, with some seasoning and maturity, will capture the renown that his performances are generating. Ashley Bouder and Stephen Hanna were Liberty Bell and El Capitan, and Ms. Bouder was in her glory, giving her fans that extra pizzazz and aerobic elevation. Stars and Stripes has patriotic flair, thanks to George Balanchine, who came to America to create a Company and great ballets.

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