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New York City Ballet: Definitive Chopin

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New York City Ballet
Definitive Chopin
(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
June 6, 2008

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

Dances at a Gathering (1969): Music by Frédéric Chopin, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Joe Eula, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Pianist: Richard Moredock, Performed by Yvonne Borree, Ashley Bouder, Sara Mearns, Rachel Rutherford, Abi Stafford, Jonathan Stafford, Damian Woetzel, Jared Angle, Antonio Carmena, and Amar Ramasar. Dances at a Gathering was a perfect showcase for Damian Woetzel’s near retirement (June 18) performances, as he was the centerpiece of this rapturous Robbins work from 1969, almost four decades old, and so fresh and spontaneous yet.

Each of the ten dancers, in mostly differently colored costumes (women in wistful dresses and men in tights and flowing shirts), is alternately part of an ensemble, duo, trio, or solo, especially Mr. Woetzel (in brown). At one point, a trio (Abi Stafford, in blue, Rachel Rutherford, in mauve, and Yvonne Borree, in pink) work the stage together, as Chopin’s Waltzes, Mazurkas, Études, and the Nocturne Op. 15, No 1 (18 piano pieces in all) enhance the seamless couplings, through Richard Moredock’s insightful keyboard interpretations. From little prancing steps, to upside down lifts, to fanciful tableaux, to macho gestures (Mr. Woetzel at his campiest, but never over-done), Robbins’ choreography nourishes the viewers.

Ashley Bouder, in apricot, bounds about in confident stride, while Amar Ramasar and Sara Mearns, both in green, add depth and dance nuance to the spring-like ambiance. At one point, Mr. Woetzel and Jared Angle, in purple, lift and swing each other in a circular gravitational duo, using each other’s arms as springboards. Jonathan Stafford, in blue, matched Abi Stafford in some sprightly, soaring lines, while Antonio Carmena, in brick, seemed to enter and exit the proceedings with bounce. Kudos to Richard Moredock.

Other Dances (1976): Music by Frédéric Chopin, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Santo Loquasto, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Pianist: Cameron Grant, Performed by Julie Kent (Guest Artist) and Gonzalo Garcia. It’s quite unusual to see Julie Kent, of American Ballet Theatre, onstage across the Plaza, all elegance in pale lavender, with the charismatic Gonzalo Garcia, who watches over her, as if she were porcelain. Four Chopin Mazurkas and one Waltz are used by Robbins (here performed on piano by Cameron Grant) to propel ravishing partnering, with a tender approach. Ms. Kent is a theatrical dancer, trained in the three-act story ballets, and here she adds dramatic nuance to her lyricism, a quasi-Swan, or Wili, or Cinderella at the ball. Mr. Garcia This dance duet was so powerfully performed that I would like to see the partnership endure, perhaps in the Guest Galas.

The Concert [Or the Perils of Everybody] A Charade in One Act (1956): Music by Frédéric Chopin, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Décor by Saul Steinberg, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Pianist: Nancy McDill, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Andrew Veyette, Gwyneth Muller, Tom Gold, Arch Higgins, Justin Peck, Allen Peiffer, Ashley Laracey, Georgina Pazcoguin, Rachel Piskin, and the Company.

There could not be a more delightful ballet, and such a surprise on this first viewing. Sterling Hyltin has the lead in this very campy, very vaudevillian romp. She plays the adorable seductress to Andrew Veyette, the cigar-smoking husband. Gwyneth Muller was exceptional in her star role as the jealous wife, a very memorable performance, and Tom Gold, seen little lately, was just as riveting here as he has been in Double Feature. His ability to dance-act in bravura burlesque is unparalleled.

Georgina Pazcoguin and Allen Peiffer caught my eye as the romp progressed seamlessly in vignette after vignette. Nancy McDill, however, deserves the kudos here for what may be her first acting –choreographed role as the Victor Borge of New York City Ballet. She walked onstage in vamp slowness, dusted the keyboard with powder blowing, and often interacted with the dancers and audience in gesture or keyboard style.

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