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New York City Ballet: See the Music…, Barber Violin Concerto, Fancy Free, Who Cares?

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

See the Music…
Barber Violin Concerto
Fancy Free
Who Cares?

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, Music Director: Andrew Litton
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects: Robert Daniels
Associate Dir. Communications: Katharina Plumb
Communications Associate: Kina Poon
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 31, 2016 Matinee

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Andrew Litton

See the Music… Music from the score for Barber Violin Concerto features Music Director, Andrew Litton, and the New York City Ballet Orchestra. It was wonderful to see the new Music Director, Andrew Litton, in the pit, this weekend matinee. Mr. Litton was jovial, warm, and highly communicative, as he introduced the City Ballet Orchestra with vibrancy and discussed the afternoon’s musical scores. The audience was treated to excerpts from Barber’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, chosen by Peter Martins for his choreography for Barber Violin Concerto. The contrasts in the Concerto’s tempo and tone are used for contrasts in ballet and modern dance motifs within the ballet. Mr. Litton also discussed the Bernstein score for Fancy Free and the Gershwin score for Who Cares?, while complimenting the “Gershwin Superstar”, Elaine Chelton, today’s solo pianist.

Barber Violin Concerto (1988): Music by Samuel Barber (Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 14), Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by William Ivey Long, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Solo Violinist: Arturo Delmoni, Performed by Megan Fairchild, Jared Angle, Sara Mearns, and Ask la Cour. Barber, usually considered a classicist, moved into a contemporary motif with his "Violin Concerto", with its dissonance and starkness. This work includes melodic movements as well as a rapid scherzo. (NYCB Notes).

On re-visiting Peter Martins’ Barber Violin Concerto, I was once again struck by the element of surprise. Here were two dancers in ballet form, ballet shoes, and ballet costumes (Sara Mearns and Ask la Cour) and two dancers in modern dance form, barefoot, and modern costumes (a bare-chested Jared Angle and Megan Fairchild). There were three movements and three motifs: Movement I included the two sets of partners in their own contrasting rhythms and style, as Mr. la Cour and Ms. Mearns danced slowly and eloquently, while Mr. Angle and Ms. Fairchild (in ponytail) danced seductively with extended leaps and wing-like arms.

Movement II included a change of partners, as Mr. Angle and Ms. Mearns danced a most passionate and mesmerizing, melodic duet, visually entrancing and physically challenging. Movement III contained the entertainment, as Ms. Fairchild chased and attacked Mr. la Cour, leaping onto his back, grabbing his thighs and calves, poking and falling onto him, during a rapid scherzo. As in previous viewing, I found the last movement at first adorable and finally annoying. However, Ms. Fairchild is joyful to behold, in any solo role, as she exudes spirited energy and ebullience in motion. Mr. Martins choreographed a unique work to this fascinating score, and Mr. Litton led the orchestra and soloist in brilliant fashion. Arturo Delmoni, violin soloist, was virtuosic and confident in this eclectic work.

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 Daniel Ulbricht, Joseph Gordon, and Andrew Veyette, as the Sailors, Gretchen Smith, Tiler Peck, and Laine Habony, as the Passers-by, and David Prottas as the Bartender.

After having seen many productions of Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, there is always freshness and energy upon visiting it once again. Tonight, the new combo of Daniel Ulbricht, Joseph Gordon, and Andrew Veyette brought yet another fresh take on this timeless work, first staged during World War II. All three Sailors were tornados with beer, as they guzzled and leaped from bar counter to chairs to floor in stormy bravado and bravura excitement. These Sailors change mood and style, each time a female "Passer-by" enters the scene. The first Passer-by, Gretchen Smith, woos two sailors with her sassy, red pocketbook. She gave the Sailors a run for the bag, with huge fits of pique. Tiler Peck wooed Mr. Veyette shamelessly. Her colorful dress and shoes gave Ms. Peck a more mature presence than usual. Laine Habony, in a lesser role, was sensual and created a lovely walk.

But, it was the three Sailors that drove this short story ballet. They seemed to be improvising the game of tossing of gum wrappers, the ebullient cartwheels back and forth from the bar, and, of course, the competing dances, as two ladies watch, with Mr. Veyette doing the iconic rumba routine. Mr. Ulbricht pumped his fist in the air, as he guzzled his beer, and the youthful Mr. Gordon, new in this ballet, was quite enthused. Maestro Litton even paused the Bernstein score now and then in anticipation of theatrical histrionics. There were splits, leaps off the bar, and nose dives onto the bar floor. Even David Prottas exuded an engaging persona as Bartender.

Who Cares? (1970): Music by George Gershwin, Adapted and Orchestrated by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Jo Mielziner, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Pianist: Elaine Chelton, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Savannah Lowery, Ashly Isaacs, Amar Ramasar, Sara Adams, Laine Habony, Emily Kikta, and the Company. Balanchine and George Gershwin collaborated on “Goldwyn’s Follies” in Hollywood, but before it was released (1938) Gershwin tragically died. Thirty-three years later, Balanchine choreographed “Who Cares?” to sixteen of Gershwin’s songs that had been composed between 1924 and 1931, including “Embraceable You”, “I Got Rhythm”, and “The Man I Love”. Balanchine used these songs to celebrate the energy and style of Manhattan (with assistance from NYCB Notes).

In today's performance of Balanchine’s Who Cares?, the rousing and tuneful, Embraceable You, with Ashly Isaacs and Amar Ramasar, had both physicality and sensuality. Ms. Isaacs is seen fairly often now, a Corps dancer, and she more than held her own in her solo, My One and Only. Today’s matinee evolved into high-energy and passion, through its melodic and multi-tempo program. Who Cares? offers solo piano and orchestral songs with the dancers taking turns, vaudevillian style. Savannah Lowery was sassy and hot in I'll Build a Staircase to Paradise and in the title song, Who Cares?, with the engaging and versatile Amar Ramasar. Sarah Villwock and Lars Nelson were well matched and magnetic in 'S Wonderful, and Mr. Ramasar was in top showman form in Liza. The entire cast seemed to project extra luminosity and visual touches with hand and arm extensions, silhouetted against the colorful lighting. Sterling Hyltin and Mr. Ramasar, a seasoned duo, danced a seductive, sensational The Man I Love. Kudos to George Gershwin and George Balanchine.

Kudos to all.

Sterling Hyltin in George Balanchine's "Who Cares?"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

The David H. Koch Theater
Photo Taken the Night of the 9/15 Lunar Eclipse
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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