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New York City Ballet: Matters of the Heart
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New York City Ballet: Matters of the Heart

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New York City Ballet
Matters of the Heart
(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 14, 2008

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).
Conductor: Maurice Kaplow

Raymonda Variations (1961): Music by Alexander Glazounov, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Horace Armistead, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Andrew Veyette, Rebecca Krohn, Savannah Lowery, Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, Teresa Reichlen, and the Company. This distilled ballet, drawn from the full-length work, is springtime, pastels, romance, and confection. Ashley Bouder, the lead ballerina, and Andrew Veyette, the sole male dancer among six females, were possessed with spirit and charm in their bravura choreography that opened this Valentine’s Day gift from City Ballet. Ms. Bouder, in a green silky costume, has quintessential balance, luscious leaps, and that knowing glance to her audience, that urges us to pay attention to the moment.

Mr. Veyette could warm and round out the performance somewhat, but his partnering has become accomplished and attentive, a difficult feat when partnering an energized Ms. Bouder to this Glazounov score. Specifically, when Ms. Bouder let go of Mr. Veyette’s arm and remained en pointe, she extended the moment with breathless rapture. When she later leaped into Mr. Veyette’s arms, they created a striking and stunning image. Rebecca Krohn managed to overcome early stiffness in her Variation and her balance and poise have developed with her confidence. Savannah Lowery, as well, another soloist, is growing into these solo roles, and her first Variation was entrancing and winsome.

Tiler Peck, Teresa Reichlen, and Sara Mearns, all soloists, as well, are seasoned and skillful, and their Variations exemplified mastery, momentum, and magic. Ms. Peck bounds onto the stage with exceptional charisma, while Ms. Reichlen has beguiling and bewitching presence, and her elegance, especially in leg extensions and lifts, is consistent. Sara Mearns, a dancer of another realm, is one of the most fascinating to watch in the Company, a rising star. Her versatility, whether the vamp in American in Paris, the callous object of desire in The Nightingale and the Rose, or the impassioned partner in Davidsbündlertänze, is amazing.

The Steadfast Tin Soldier (1975): Music by Georges Bizet, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by David Mitchell, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Megan Fairchild and Daniel Ulbricht. This all-too-brief Balanchine gem brought new principals to the roles, and they both captured the essence of the romance and innocence of the simple love story. Megan Fairchild, as the beautiful doll with red cheeks, tucked the soldier’s valentine heart right into her dress and danced about the small storybook room with sincere and unpretentious simplicity. She characterized the dance authentically, and her petite size, matched to Mr. Ulbricht’s compact stature, was helpful. Daniel Ulbricht, as the Tin Soldier, walked from side to side with metal stiffness, but his piercing eyes and bursts of energy in spins and jumps gave him a truly life-like charm. As Ms. Fairchild was swept into the windy fireplace, Mr. Ulbricht personified the pain to believable sadness, with barely a blink.

The Nightingale and the Rose (2007): Music by Bright Sheng, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Martin Pakledinaz, Animation by James Buckhouse, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor: Bright Sheng, Performed by Wendy Whelan as The Nightingale, Tyler Angle as The Student, Sara Mearns as The Professor's Daughter, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Sean Suozzi, and the Company as The Red Rose, The White Rose, and The Yellow Rose.

Bright Sheng’s searing score with Chinese percussion and ornamentations, an animated moon that smiles and cries, and a soundtrack of a warbling nightingale provide the backdrop for this piercing story of a life given for love unrequited. Wendy Whelan, as Christopher Wheeldon’s sacrificing nightingale, is tinged with feathers of brown. She seeks a red rose to offer to The Student, Tyler Angle, so he can catch the heart of The Professor’s Daughter, Sara Mearns. The Oscar Wilde short story, on which this 2007 ballet is based, tells of the nightmarish plight of the nightingale, who must press her breast against the thorn of a dying red rose bush, to make the rose for The Student. The bird’s blood seeps into the branches, and the rose is born, only to be plucked by The Student and handed to an ungrateful and rejecting Professor’s daughter, who tosses the rose to the ground. The student, rejected, steps on the rose and on the lifeless nightingale in pursuit of love lost.

Ms. Whelan is the epitome of sorrow, as the martyred nightingale, and Mr. Angle danced the role of the flawed Student with passion and urgency. Ms. Mearns, always tantalizing onstage, remains so, even in this brief and unremarkable role. The Red Rose bush is danced by sixteen males, led by Adrian Danchig-Waring and Sean Suozzi. Their costumes bleed from brown to red as the rose is born, thanks to the Nightingale’s flowing blood, such a gruesome tale. The Company as The White Rose, The Yellow Rose, and The Red Rose create petals and stems of surreal starkness and stillness. Kudos to Wendy Whelan for mastering this harrowing and haunting role.

Robert Schumann's "Davidsbündlertänze" (1980): Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano: Cameron Grant, Performed by Darci Kistler, Abi Stafford, Sara Mearns, Janie Taylor, Jared Angle, Stephen Hanna, Charles Askegard, and Nilas Martins. Schumann’s piano score is matched with his likeness, as silhouetted figures of Schumann and his ink pen appear late in the ballet. The curtains hang with filmy drama, and the colors of sun and sunset drench the stage with a rich palette. Memorable are Sara Mearns, partnered by Charles Askegard, in driven drama, Jared Angle’s partnering of Darci Kistler, attentive in nuanced gesture and timing, Janie Taylor’s return to the stage, here warmly and persuasively partnered by Nilas Martins, and Abi Stafford’s enthusiastic entrances and exits, ambitiously partnered by Stephen Hanna. This is one of my favorite Balanchine works, so saturated with sensuality and desire. Cameron Grant magnetically meshed the music to the moment.

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