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New York City Ballet, Morgen, Clearing Dawn, Funerailles, Belles-Lettres, Pictures at an Exhibition
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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Clearing Dawn
Pictures at an Exhibition

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
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 7, 2014

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Morgen (2001): Music by Richard Strauss (Songs for Soprano and Orchestra), Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Carolina Herrera, Costumes supervised by Marc Happel, Scenery by Alain Vaes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrews Sill, Soprano: Jennifer Zetlan, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Maria Kowroski, Sara Mearns, Ask la Cour, Justin Peck, Amar Ramasar. Richard Strauss was known for tone poems and operas, with the illustration of life’s constant struggles. (NYCB Notes).

The first four works of tonight’s contemporary choreographies were seen and reviewed at the opening night Gala a couple of weeks ago. They shone even more brightly tonight, with a few adjustments here and there. Peter Martins’ exhilarating, 2001 Morgen, with its new costumes by Carolina Herrera, swept me away, once again. Even with the same cast featured, there were new details to notice. As each female Principal, Sterling Hyltin in white, Maria Kowroski in peach, Sara Mearns in blue-black, florals in their hair, shift partners, the choreography becomes more and more emotionally fraught or romanticized, depending on the moment. Jennifer Zetlan, the Soprano, lusciously sang the Strauss songs with City Ballet Orchestra, ably led by Andrews Sill. As the costumes can resemble lingerie, in their sleek silkiness, and the Grecian pillars exude mystery and exoticism, a magical, mythological ambiance emerges. The most inspired dancing of the evening occurred with Ms. Hyltin partnered by Mr. Danchig-Waring, Ms. Mearns partnered by Mr. Ramasar, and Ms. Kowroski partnered by Mr. la Cour.

Clearing Dawn (2014): Music by Judd Greenstein, Choreography by Troy Schumacher, Costumes by Thom Browne, Costumes supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Flute; Paul Dunkel, Clarinets: Steven Hartman, Trumpet: Raymond Mase, Violin: Kurt Nikkanen, Viola: Maureen Gallagher, Cello: Frederick Zlotkin, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Claire Kretzschmar, Georgina Pazcoguin, David Prottas, Teresa Reichlen, Andrew Veyette.

And, once again, I found Troy Schumacher’s new Clearing Dawn to be unsettling and unsatisfying. In fact, tonight, Ashley Bouder exuded less personality and ebullience than on the premiere, and I couldn’t help to believe it had something to do with the warm, overly tailored and layered grey costumes, generically designed for men and women. I can’t imagine spinning with neckties and button vests, even if they’re fashioned in trompe l’oeil. Different levels of tempo and mood abound, with the Judd Greenstein dizzying score, but, as noted on first viewing, the imagery left me with the tight, warm, stuffy gestalt.

Funérailles (2014): Music by Franz Liszt, Choreography by Liam Scarlett, Costumes by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Costumes supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano: Elaine Chelton, Performed by Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild.

The new Scarlett piece, however, as on first viewing, was enthralling and theatrical. Tonight Ms. Chelton was positioned more front stage, and the poignant Liszt score, Funérailles, enhanced the choreography. Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild, a married duo of Principals, brought their emotionality, sheer talent, and some new ornamentations to the performance. In fact, this brief ballet could later become part of a lengthier choreography, with its inherent, unspoken drama, which could be expanded with a plot. Sarah Burton’s costumes beg for a regal storyline. The audience was extremely enthused and vocal at the finale. Of course, Ms. Chelton brought her keyboard mastery to the stage.

Belles-Lettres (2014): Music by César Franck, Choreography by Justin Peck, Costumes by Mary Katrantzou, Costumes supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Daniel Capps, Piano: Susan Walters, Performed by Lauren Lovette, Jared Angle, Ashley Laracey, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Brittany Pollack, Taylor Stanley, Rebecca Krohn, Tyler Angle, Anthony Huxley.

The final repeat debut was Justin Peck’s Belles-Lettres, set to music by Franck, with an impassioned, solo piano passage for Susan Walters. I wish they had shifted the cast, just for variety, but the opening night cast was exemplary, once again. This ballet, like the previous Scarlett work, could be expanded with dramatization and plot twists. Mary Katrantzou’s costumes, almost see-through, with lace and doily patterns, like authentic old letters, transport the mind toward mystery and mayhem. Among the cast, the Laracey-Danchig-Waring duo and the Pollack-Stanley duo should be seen more often in these partnerings. Anthony Huxley added frills as the lone solo, but never with pixie-ish gestures. Daniel Capps conducted with panache, and Susan Walters played the piano solos with impassioned fervor.

Pictures at an Exhibition (2014): Music by Modest Mussorgsky, Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Costumes by Adeline Andre, Projection Design by Wendall K. Harrington, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano: Cameron Grant, Performed by Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, Gretchen Smith, Abi Stafford, Wendy Whelan, Tyler Angle, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Gonzalo Garcia, Joseph Gordon, Amar Ramasar.

I have often mused, in a museum, of the desire for a ballet, made to bring a painting or an exhibit to life, with inspired music and dance. And, now Alexei Ratmansky has created Pictures at an Exhibition, music, of course by Mussorgsky, masterfully played by Cameron Grant on solo piano. Projections of Kandinsky’s “Color Study Squares with Concentric Circles”, shown close-up or distant, appear as abstract prime color, fragmentary images. Adeline Andre designed costumes like painter smocks, yet silky thin, worn over leotards, for women, with circular or square colorful shapes. The men wore tights and tank tops, also designed with bits of Kandinsky’s designs. Mr. Ratmansky draws on his Russian heritage generously here, tonally and visually, with the choreography emerging as international, an art audience that takes on the life form of the contemporary art it observes.

Mussorgsky had been inspired to compose this piano composition upon the sudden death of his friend, artist and architect, Viktor Hartmann. After exploring a tribute art exhibition of Hartmann’s works, Mussorgsky composed this 10-movement work, plus interludes (“Promenade”), as one might walk about the gallery, absorbing the ongoing thoughts and experience. Ratmansky’s ballet actually has 16 segments, named slightly differently than the names I researched, with the ballet including five Promenades. Those Promenades feature the entire ensemble, of eight Principals, including the soon to retire Wendy Whelan. In addition, Corps dancers, Gretchen Smith and Joseph Gordon complete the cast of ten, which romps about with little emotionality or passion, but, rather, youthful vivacity and casual relationships.

Highlights include the “Tuileries” solo for Tiler Peck, evoking the infamous, regally manicured, Parisian gardens, “The Old Castle” pas de deux for Ms. Whelan and Tyler Angle, with Ms. Whelan standing, one leg on Mr. Angle’s torso, reaching as high as a turret, “The Market at Limoges”, for Tiler Peck and Gonzalo Garcia, “Samuel Goldenberg & Schmuӱle”, for Gretchen Smith and Adrian Danchig-Waring, and those evolving interludes, called “Promenade”, especially one that showcases Gonzalo Garcia in solo performance. It’s thin dramatically, but thick with textured imagery and personalities. Kudos to all.

Maria Kowroski, Sara Mearns, Sterling Hyltin,
and Ask la Cour in Peter Martins' "Morgen"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Ashley Bouder, Andrew Veyette, Teresa Reichlen
and Cast of Troy Schumacher's "Clearing Dawn"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild
in Liam Scarlett's "Funérailles"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Adrian Danchig-Waring and Ashley Laracey
in Justin Peck's "Belles-Lettres"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Tyler Angle and Wendy Whelan
in Alexei Ratmansky's "Pictures at an Exhibition"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Gonzalo Garcia and the Cast of
Alexei Ratmansky's "Pictures at an Exhibition"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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