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New York City Ballet: Russian Roots

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New York City Ballet
Russian Roots
(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 14, 2008

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

Andantino (1981): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky (from 1st Piano Concerto, Second Movement), Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Ben Benson, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Piano Solo: Alan Moverman, Performed by Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz. The high point of Andantino is a set of tiny, mirrored steps that Joaquin De Luz, in white, and Megan Fairchild, in pale lavender, create in very synchronized, focused partnering. Alan Moverman’s interpretation of Tschaikovsky’s sumptuous Concerto inspires very luscious lifts, and the sheer joy of it all enhances the program.

Opus 19/The Dreamer (1979): Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Violin Solo: Erin Keefe, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Ben Benson, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Gonzalo Garcia, and the Company. I had never seen this ballet, and the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major is a second riveting score. Erin Keefe, on violin, was a new musician on this scene, and her performance was quite memorable. Wendy Whelan’s intense solo passages generate a flowing ensemble, as if they are driven by wind. Gonzalo Garcia’s regal presence and affect evoke poetry in his muscular jumps. In the corps, Allen Peiffer, Adrian Danchig-Waring, and Giovanni Villalobos caught my eye.

Piano Pieces (1965): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Ben Benson, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Piano: Susan Walters, Performed by Antonio Carmena, Sara Mearns, Jared Angle, Abi Stafford, Amar Ramasar, Kaitlyn Gilliland, Stephen Hanna, and the Company.

This Spring City Ballet Season honors Jerome Robbins, and tonight’s all-Robbins program included two Tschaikovsky works, of which Piano Pieces was the second. In white-red Russian dresses, plus pale pastels, the tableau was festive and replete with flourish. Sara Mearns and Jared Angle, in pale pink, danced a “Reverie” that captivated the viewer and expanded the mood from delicious to dramatic. Both dancers are smooth and have the capacity to relate to their partners with physical nuance. Abi Stafford and Amar Ramasar, in pale blue, were well matched in momentum, and Kaitlyn Gilliland and Stephen Hanna, in pale green, danced the “Chant d‘Automme”. Ms. Gilliland steals the eye from most of her partners with her mesmerizing and slender image, and she eventually is carried offstage, upside down.

Les Noces (1998): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Set by Oliver Smith, Scenic Supervision by Rosaria Sinisi, Costumes by Patricia Zipprodt, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Chorus Master and Vocal Coach: Judith Clurman, Singers: Sari Gruber (Soprano), Elizabeth DeShong ((Mezzo-Soprano), Bryan Griffin (Tenor), Jason Hardy (Bass), Pianists: Cameron Grant, Nancy McDill, Richard Moredock, Susan Walters, Performed by Kathryn Morgan as The Bride, Rachel Rutherford and Stephen Hanna as Her Parents, Allen Peiffer as The Groom, Rebecca Krohn and Jonathan Stafford as His Parents, Ana Sophia Scheller and Andrew Veyette as Matchmakers, and the Company as Friends and Guests.

Tonight’s was a very full program, and Les Noces was a heavy work for fourth of the evening. With a full chorus, four opera artists, all four City Ballet pianists, six percussionists, solo and Company dancers, and the full orchestra, Les Noces might better be served as an opening event. Stravinsky’s iconic score, with endless drums and a Russian folk quality, drives the details of an arranged wedding for a country couple. There is much visual fascination, especially the stage-long braids that are placed on and off the bride and which figure in the choreography. Kathryn Morgan and Allen Peiffer, Bride and Groom, (intentionally) exhibit little chemistry but much theatricality. They are serious and age before our eyes, in an almost fearful, yet courageous ceremonial rite. The blustering chorus, soloists, pianos, and percussion bring fury and flirtation together for high drama. Rachel Rutherford, Stephen Hanna, Rebecca Krohn, and Andrew Veyette are gripping in the “Lamentation of Mothers” and the “Wedding Feast”.

Kudos to Jerome Robbins.

Jerome Robbins' "Les Noces"
Kathryn Morgan and NYC Ballet
CREDIT: Paul Kolnik.

Jerome Robbins' "Les Noces"
Kathryn Morgan and Allen Peiffer
CREDIT: Paul Kolnik.

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