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New York City Ballet: Damian Woetzel Farewell

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New York City Ballet
Damian Woetzel Farewell
(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 18, 2008

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Damian Woetzel, from Newton, Massachusetts, has danced with new York City Ballet for over twenty years. Tonight’s performance is his “Farewell”, a ballet tradition, where the retiring Principal chooses the program, which ends with confetti, a mountain of flower garlands and bouquets, and onstage greetings and kisses from former and current ballet partners. Peter Martins, Ballet Master in Chief, always joins the stage festivities with proud enthusiasm. Mr. Woetzel has been reviewed countless times in this magazine, and a simple Google Search on the front page will yield descriptions of past performances, in Carousel, American in Paris, Stars and Stripes, Western Symphony, and in those works on tonight’s program. Mr. Woetzel joined School of American Ballet, the training school for City Ballet, in order to work with Jerome Robbins, whose vast eclectic ballets are being celebrated this Season. Now Mr. Woetzel retires from the stage, but with a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard University and with the title of Director of the Vail (Colorado) International Dance Festival. Damian Woetzel will be sorely missed, when it’s ballet season again.

Fancy Free (1944): Music by Leonard Bernstein, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Kermit Love, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Guest Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Tyler Angle, Joaquin De Luz, and Damian Woetzel as the Sailors, Georgina Parkinson, Tiler Peck, and Briana Shepherd as the Passers-by, and Jason Fowler as the Bartender.

Ballet Farewells are often sad with a sense of loss, but tonight’s Farewell for Damian Woetzel was quite celebratory, as he chose to dance three iconic works, each thoroughly satisfying in its own way. Fancy Free was first on the program, and Mr. Woetzel was joined by Joaquin De Luz and Tyler Angle, as the three Sailors, on the town and on the prowl. These three “Sailors” have performed this work together often, and the chemistry and humor and tiniest nuance were on display with rousing audience approval. Again, City Ballet showed a film clip of Mr. Woetzel learning the rhumba technique for a solo bravura turn, directly from Jerome Robbins. Soon we were treated to Mr. Woetzel swiveling his hips and grinning toward the table of Sailors and Passers-By. Tiler Peck, one of those Passers-By, exuberantly danced with Mr. Woetzel, replete with rapture, romance, and closeness.

Mr. De Luz and Mr. Angle were buoyed by the electricity of the evening, and their solo turns in the Bar exploded with vibrancy and verve. At one point, Mr. Angle slid across the stage as if on ice, and at one point Mr. De Luz spun with dizzying dervish. But Mr. Woetzel stole the show with shoulder gestures, theatrical body language, and just plain fun. He also slowed down and extended some of his solos, something “extra” built into the timing. Georgina Pazcoguin was a sultry, sensual Passer-By, a great role with her strong personality, and Briana Shepherd was the third Passer-By, the one that gets the Sailors catapulting in chase, one more time. Jason Fowler was the bartender behind the scene. Clotilde Otranto conducted this performance with split-timed precision, watching the improvisations from the pit. Fancy Free will never be the same.

Rubies (1967): Music by Igor Stravinsky (Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra), Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano Solo: Susan Walters, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Joaquin De Luz, Teresa Reichlen, Yvonne Borree, Damian Woetzel, Megan Fairchild, Gonzalo Garcia, and the Company.

This was a Rubies for the archives. We saw three separate dance couples, with only one listed on the program, Ashley Bouder and Joaquin De Luz (straight from Fancy Free, and looking none worse for the wear). Ms. Bouder sparkled with delight, devilishness, and dynamism, and Mr. De Luz partnered her in this party ambiance, adding blasts of kinetic energy to his swings and runs. Soon Megan Fairchild and Gonzalo Garcia appeared for the second segment, and the audience was charged. Then Yvonne Borree and Damian Woetzel appeared for the third segment, and Mr. Woetzel spun, with angular wrists and bent knees, fast into the wings. Ms. Borree danced with full abandon. The Audience went wild. Meanwhile, Teresa Reichlen, with a calm sense of confidence, used her astounding limbs to good advantage, adding some magic to her dance. This and the next work were Mr. Woetzel’s bow to Balanchine. Maurice Kaplow conducted the Stravinsky score with might.

Prodigal Son (1950) Ballet in Three Scenes: Libretto by Boris Kochno, Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Choreography be George Balanchine, Décor by Georges Rouault, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor: Paul Mann, Performed by Damian Woetzel as The Prodigal Son, Maria Kowroski as The Siren, Ask la Cour as Father, Adam Hendrickson and Sean Suozzi as Servants to The Prodigal Son, Dena Abergel and Pauline Golbin as The Sisters, and the Company as Drinking Companions.

It was fitting that Mr. Woetzel chose Prodigal Son to close the Farewell event. In this Balanchine drama, The Prodigal Son is reduced to near nakedness, after youthful fist jumps, wandering, and dangerous adventure. He is left alone onstage, baring his soul against a wall, with his belongings and strength sapped and stolen, before he crawls back to his Father to be cradled and carried. This was quite a visual and emotional departure, so surreal and spellbinding. At every moment, Mr. Woetzel danced in his prime. Maria Kowroski performed her renowned role as The Siren, but tonight with extra eroticism, guile, and hypnotic glares. Ask La Cour was the imposing Father, and Adam Hendrickson and Sean Suozzi were buoyant Servants. The Corps, as Sisters and Drinking Companions, were extra persuasive and percussive. Paul Mann had the final conducting honors for this complex Prokofiev score.

The Farewell confetti and flowers flowed, and numerous choreographers, dance partners, and ballet glitterati from past and present Companies poured onstage to give Damian Woetzel a final embrace of thanks. Kudos to Damian Woetzel.

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