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New York City Ballet: Bernstein Collaborations

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New York City Ballet
Bernstein Collaborations
(NYC Ballet Website)

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 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
May 6, 2008

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).
Guest Conductor: Clotilde Otranto (First two works)

Fancy Free (1944): Music by Leonard Bernstein, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Kermit Love, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Performed by Tyler Angle, Herman Cornejo (Special Guest), and Damian Woetzel as the Sailors, Amanda Hankes, Tiler Peck, and Briana Shepherd as the Passers-by, and Jason Fowler as the Bartender.
It was almost cognitive dissonance to see American Ballet Theatre’s Principal dancer, Herman Cornejo, appearing in Fancy Free with City Ballet. But, he could not have been more perfect, one of the three iconic sailors, who show off their dance athletics to woo female “Passers-by”. Tyler Angle, Mr. Cornejo, and the soon to retire, Damian Woetzel were a dynamic and delightful trio, tossing rolled chewing gum wrappers, cart-wheeling, leaping onto and behind the onstage bar, and, specifically, opening what was, for me, the Jerome Robbins celebration, as this was my first Spring 2008 performance.

Tonight’s program, Bernstein Collaborations, sandwiched two bright, upbeat and melodic works around the centerpiece, The Dybbuk, a darker, more mysterious piece. A brief film of Robbins teaching Damian Woetzel the “rhumba” was followed by Mr. Woetzel’s sassy, sensual rhumba, and it’s impossible to believe that this supremely talented performer is nearing the end of his onstage ballet career. Mr. Woetzel is moving into dance administration, a good role with his new degree in business administration. Of the Passers-by, Tiler Peck seemed the most engaging, as her sheer energy enhanced the coy flirtations and punctuated leg kicks. Amanda Hankes and Briana Shepherd were stylized and strong in the seduction of the sailors. Tyler Angle was joyful and athletic, while Herman Cornejo spun like a top in his easy, unassuming manner.

Dybbuk (1974): Music by Leonard Bernstein, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Costumes by Patricia Zipprodt, Costumes Supervised by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Baritone: Jeremy Kelly, Bass-Baritone: Philip Horst, Performed by Janie Taylor, Joaquin De Luz, and the Company. The "dybbuk" is a spirit that enters and stays in the body of the living. The living body speaks and acts as the dead one. S. Ansky wrote a Yiddish play, a point of departure for related dances about rituals and hallucinations. (NYCB Notes).

Clotilde Otranto conducted both this and the previous work, and her mastery of Bernstein was impressive. Bernstein never sounded better, and two male vocalists, Jeremy Kelly and Philip Horst, added more depth to the already deep score. I find this ballet somewhat mysterious and difficult to follow, with inherent drama about Angelic Messengers, a Dream, Kabbalah, and Exorcism. The music has Russian-Jewish tones, and the choreography is slow and deliberate, with angst and theatricality. It was wonderful to see Janie Taylor onstage again, after her recent absence, due to injury, and her partner, Joaquin De Luz, always exudes charisma and stage presence. Together they were magnetic and mystical, and “The Dream” and “Possession” segments were my favorites. Notable performances were also presented by Adrian Danchig-Waring, Amar Ramasar, and Allen Peiffer.

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, Conductor: Fayçal Karoui, Guest Singers: Rob Lorey, Lara Marie Hirner, Stephanie Bast, Julie Price, and 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, and 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).

Fayçal Karoui conducted the final work, and West Side Story Suite is always inspiring and sensational. Once again, Damian Woetzel reminded us why he will be so sorely missed, all too soon (He retires June 18, 2008). As Riff, he is street-wise, tough, courageous, improvisational, and a dance dynamo. Amar Ramasar, as Bernardo, used nuanced body language, like one head gesture, to command his gang, and his Latin-infused dance was authentic and rhythmically unrivaled. Georgina Pazcoguin, as Anita, once again brought down the house with “America”, with “cat-calls”, bouncy ruffles, and pulsating muscles. Benjamin Millepied and Faye Arthurs repeated their roles as Tony and Maria in the “Somewhere Ballet” with rapture and romance, and the Company, as Sharks, Jets, and Their Girls, sang, danced, and entertained the enthused audience with electrical excitement. The guest singers lent operatic qualities to the Company’s own voices. Yet, West Side Story Suite will never be the same without Mr. Woetzel. He is an artistic treasure.

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