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New York City Ballet: French Cuisine

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New York City Ballet
French Cuisine
(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 15, 2008

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

Mother Goose (Fairy Tales for Dancers, 1975): Music and Scenario by Maurice Ravel, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Stanley Simmons, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by The Company. This ballet premiered in 1912 with Ravel's score for "Ma Mère L'Oye" (Mother Goose). Ravel detailed scenes for Sleeping Beauty to dream about other fairy tales, all conceived by Perrault. (NYCB Notes).

In yet another of the Jerome Robbins repertoire of ballets, the first, Mother Goose, features the Corps in casual attire, with scenic and costume props from Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Beauty and the Beast, and more. Students from School of American Ballet join in, to toss little trails of sponge balls like confetti, in one re-enacted scene. Dorothy Cummings, a Storyteller, sits and reads to the dancers, from a large book of fairy tales, and the names of the tales are unfurled on long cloths. Tiler Peck is a splendid Princess Florine, who pricks her finger and falls asleep on the rolling white bed used for The Nutcracker. The Good Fairy (Gwyneth Muller) saves the Princess from the Bad Fairy’s (Justin Peck) spell. The Company takes on roles of a Green Serpent (Jason Fowler), Beauty (Kathryn Morgan) and the Beast (Adrian Danchig-Waring), and Hop of My Thumb (Jonathan Alexander). Ravel’s “Mother Goose” Suite is surreal and soothing.

Afternoon of a Faun (1953): Music by Claude Debussy, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery and Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Performed by Janie Taylor and Damian Woetzel. Debussy is known for "musical impressionism" and wrote a large repertoire of works for piano and for orchestra, including "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune", 1892-94. (NYCB Notes).

Jerome Robbins’ version of Afternoon of a Faun, set to Debussy’s intoxicating score, is always wondrous, and, today, more wondrous than ever, with Damian Woetzel as the Dancer-Faun and Janie Taylor as the Dancer-Nymph. Mr. Woetzel, to retire on June 18, 2008, unfolds his torso in extra-slow motion, looking into a dance studio mirror (the audience), totally self-absorbed. When Ms. Taylor walks in, en pointe, also self-absorbed, with long blond tussles of hair, the chemistry is palpable. The seamless motion against the dim scrim, opening onto a sunny interior box of a practice room, is hypnotic. Both dancers use the “mirror” in quasi-self-adulation and practiced poses. Their pas de deux was physically bound, while emotionally detached. Truly, the ballet is a masterpiece of imagination, so in contrast to the classical 1912 Nijinsky original, based on Mallarmé’s poem.

Antique Epigraphs (1984): Music by Claude Debussy, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Florence Klotz, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Flute Solo: Paul Dunkel, Performed by Rachel Rutherford, Rebecca Krohn, Sara Mearns, Teresa Reichlen, Saskia Beskow, Savannah Lowery, Gwyneth Muller, and Ellen Ostrom. Choreographed in seven sections, the first six are danced to an orchestrated version of "Six Epigraphes Antiques" and the seventh to "Syrinx", with unaccompanied flute. (NYCB Notes).

With yet again a Debussy score, Antique Epigraphs uses the eight female dancers in similar Greek tableaux that Nijinsky created for his Faun. A deep blue backdrop frames Jennifer Tipton’s illumination of eight Grecian nymphs, in Florence Klotz’ chiffony gowns, over white tights. Robbins was again inspired by French poetry that evoked the Grecian mythical genre, and this work nicely book-ended the previous ballet, with its mesmerizing momentum and artistic grace. Among the Grecian dancers, who, together, were the image of iconic friezes, Sara Mearns, Rachel Rutherford, and Teresa Reichlen caught my eye. Paul Dunkel played an enchanting flute solo.

In G Major (1975): Music by Maurice Ravel, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery and Costumes by Erté, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Pianist: Cameron Grant, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Philip Neal, and the Company. Exactly thirty-three years ago, to the day, Jerome Robbins premiered this ballet in this same theater, to Ravel’s jazzy Piano Concerto in G major. Tonight Cameron Grant performed the piano solos with pizzazz. The setting is designed by Erté, with retro sun-bathing suits, striped and full, and a backdrop of blue water, with just a hint of waves. This is fanciful, fun, and bubbly ballet. Wendy Whelan and Philip Neal’s pas de deux shifts the mood to romance, but with soft energy that befits the sunny milieu. Mr. Neal’s partnering was well suited to the muscular imagery, and Ms. Whelan’s nuanced elongations, especially in the lifts, magnetized the mood.

Kudos to Fayçal Karoui.

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