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New York City Ballet: American Songs and Dances

- Onstage with the Dancers

Studio 57 Fine Arts

Museum Quality Framing
211 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019

Mon. - Sat. 10 AM - 8 PM
Sun. 12 Noon - 6 PM
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New York City Ballet
American Songs and Dances
(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 9, 2008

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

Thou Swell (2003): Music by Richard Rodgers, Music Arranged by Gene Kelly, Orchestrations by Don Sebesky, Choreography by Peter Martins, Scenery by Robin Wagner, Costumes by Julius Lumsden, Costumes Supervised by Julie Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Singers, Betsy Wolfe and Mike McGowan, Guest Trio, Alan Moverman on Piano, Ron Wasserman on Bass, James Saporito on Drums, Performed by Yvonne Borree, Nilas Martins, Darci Kistler, Jared Angle, Faye Arthurs, Charles Askegard, Sara Mearns, Tyler Angle, and the Company.

Thou Swell is one of my favorite ballets and one of Peter Martins’ finest. The backdrop mirrors, the impassioned, rapturous lovers, the Richard Rodgers songs, sung tonight by Betsy Wolfe and Mike McGowan, a real jazz trio, multi-leveled staging, a white grand piano, elegant evening wear costumes, and the very New York ambiance all illustrate Mr. Martins’ inventive choreography. It was good to see Nilas Martins again, and he clearly seized the moment with enthusiasm, as he chivalrously partnered the ruffled ingénue, Yvonne Borree. Darci Kistler danced with Jared Angle (who also played a bit of piano, which was always Nilas Martins’ moment). Mr. Angle kept his attention tightly fixed on his partner, and they spun about, at various intervals, with ease.

Faye Arthurs and Charles Askegard were less charismatic in presence, but they glided and danced with inspiring romanticism. The most riveting couple was Sara Mearns and Tyler Angle, youthfully persuasive, improvisational, spontaneous, and oh, so smooth. The Rodgers songs, sung by Broadway actors, could not have been more scintillating, especially in the expert vocalizations of Betsy Wolfe, who recently appeared in 110 in the Shade. Glen Kelly’s arrangements of the Rodgers tunes allowed the showcasing of the very jovial jazz trio, and Don Sebesky’s orchestrations were imbued with extra bounce. Robin Wagner deserves kudos for the onstage mirrored nightclub, and Julius Lumsden’s gowns and tuxedoes are evocative of early 20th century pizzazz. Thou Swell should be seen more often.

Ives, Songs (1988): Music by Charles Ives, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Sets by David Mitchell, Costumes by Florence Klotz, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Singer: Philip Cutlip, Pianist: Cameron Grant, Performed by Robert La Fosse, Sara Mearns, Jared Angle, Wendy Whelan, Charles Askegard, Kathryn Morgan, Justin Peck, Rachel Piskin, Adam Hendrickson, Stephanie Zungre, Troy Schumacher, Dena Abergel, Jason Fowler, Glenn Keenan, Savannah Lowery, Gwyneth Muller, Allen Peiffer, Christian Tworzyanski, and the Company.

There could not have been a starker contrast in mood or music, between this work and the previous ballet. I have never been a fan of Charles Ives’ music, and the relentless dissonance begins to wear on the experience. Philip Cutlip and Cameron Grant were superbly prepared for the solo vocal and piano songs, and their participation was flawless. Also in fine form was the expansive ensemble of principals and soloists, in visual odes to the innocence of childhood, with Jason Fowler as the quintessential father, dancing little, but providing some kind of paternal purpose. Robert La Fosse, as guest artist, strolled in a dark suit, as if in the attic of his mind, remembering days gone by.

Sara Mearns was back, fresh from the previous work, as was Jared Angle, her partner. Here the mood was darker, melancholy, unsettling. This duo captured the essence of Robbins’ theme, in the midst of songs, such as “Torn Sails Away”, “Waltz”, and “Like a Sick Eagle”. There was much dancing backward into the wings, en pointe, and female dancers in ruffles and bows. Wendy Whelan was partnered by Charles Askegard, and whenever Ms. Whelan dances the stage is enriched. This is a ballet that should appear first in any program.

West Side Story Suite (1995): Music by Leonard Bernstein, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Original Book by Arthur Laurents, Co-Choreographer: Peter Gennaro, Guest Singers: Rob Lorey, Lara Marie Hirner, Leslie Becker, Julie Price, Whitney Webster, Performed by Benjamin Millepied as Tony, Damian Woetzel as Riff, Amar Ramasar as Bernardo, Georgina Pazcoguin as Anita, Faye Arthurs as Maria, Gretchen Smith as Rosalia, and the Company as The Jets, Their Girls, and The Sharks, Their Girls. Mr. Sondheim began his career as a lyricist with West Side Story in 1957 and then with Gypsy in 1959. His theatrical mentor was Oscar Hammerstein. (NYCB Notes).

Certainly, tonight’s cast of West Side Story Suite was well worth waiting for, and such a treat in the same program as Thou Swell. In fact, I was so magnetized, I did not take notes, nor did I need to. A rising star, Georgina Pazcoguin, had a debut role as Anita, and her hilarious hips and vivacious voice captured the audience’s accolades. Another star rising is Amar Ramasar, in his debut as Bernardo. His slight tilt of the head to command his Sharks was authentic, and his muscular Broadway-styled dancing was his finest. Damian Woetzel, as Riff, revealed his Boston accent in “Cool”, and he danced with fervor and focus. Benjamin Millepied, as Tony, and Faye Arthurs, as Maria, re-enacted their duo dance with the colors of nature as a backdrop.

This is a versatile Company, and they can sing as well as dance, especially in unison, and “Somewhere” could not have been more beautifully presented. The street fights and percussive rhythms, thanks to Maestro Karoui and City Ballet Orchestra, were split-timed to startling perfection. Oliver Smith’s sets and Irene Sharaff’s costumes brought us right into the jungle of the streets, and Jerome Robbins dynamic interpretation of the Broadway hit has soul and virtuosity. Kudos to Jerome Robbins, and kudos to Leonard Bernstein.

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