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New York City Ballet
Musical Muses
(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 28, Matinee

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).
Guest Conductor: Andrews Sill

Mozartiana (1981): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky (Suite No. 4, Op. 61), Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Daniel Ulbricht, Philip Neal, Dena Abergel, Saskia Beskow, Dara Johnson, Gwyneth Muller, and students from the School of American Ballet (SAB). Tschaikovsky studied at the Conservatory in St. Petersburg, where Balanchine also studied piano and dance. The original NYC Ballet cast included Suzanne Farrell, Ib Andersen, and Christopher d'Amboise. (NYCB Notes).

No matter how many times I see this ballet, new nuances are revealed. Four young girls of SAB, after dancing toward the audience and then (face forward) back toward rear stage, and after appearing with arms in perfectly formed ovals, are replaced by four corps dancers, costumed in similar Rouben Ter-Arutunian, black tulle tutus. I began to think of Balanchine’s dedication to the School of American Ballet, and the natural progression of his dancers. The youthful and exuberant students repeated some of the adult dance steps, and then the adult dancers repeated some of the students’ steps.

Wendy Whelan looked warm and nurturing with the four young girls (in the Preghiera), and, at one point, so did the four corps dancers (in the Finale). Daniel Ulbricht danced the Gigue with buoyant side kicks, but with a sense of gravity and assuredness. He has grown into this showcase role, with all its history and classicism. Wendy Whelan was partnered in the Theme and Variations by Philip Neal, who has also developed in the role, with rapid footwork, jumps, and spins. Tschaikovsky’s Suite adds elegance and magic to this renowned Balanchine work.

Le Tombeau de Couperin (1975): Choreography by George Balanchine, Music by Maurice Ravel, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by an Ensemble of 16 from the Corps in Left Quadrille and Right Quadrille in Four Movements: Prélude, Forlane, Menuet, and Rigaudon. Against a blue-grey backdrop, in simple white costumes (men in black and white), sixteen corps dancers replicate the genre of French Baroque quadrilles. The Ravel score (in memory of friends, who died in World War I) evokes the music of François Couperin, a French Baroque composer.

The dancers form equal patterns on either side of the stage, partnering in two’s and four’s, and the score builds in momentum. The patterns of dancers switch to all female, and special images are formed, with just a hint of jazz in the evocative passages. When the dancers line up to face the audience, there is joy and maturity in their stage presence. This Balanchine ballet should be seen more than once, to absorb the emerging patterns, and on this viewing I was more riveted to these kaleidoscopic shapes. This is a ballet with flowing structure, indicative of Balanchine’s genius.

Divertimento from "Le Baiser de la Fée" (1972): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Megan Fairchild, Joaquin De Luz, Faye Arthurs, Alina Dronova, and the Company. Stravinsky's theme for this ballet was "The Ice Maiden", and the music is a tribute to Tschaikovsky. The original ballet was choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska. (NYCB Notes.) Before the Spring Season ended, I was hoping to see Joaquin De Luz dance once more, and it was a pleasure to see him partnering Megan Fairchild this afternoon (matinee).

In fact, it was also a pleasure to see Ms. Fairchild creating more eye contact with her partner than in recent performances. They seemed delighted to be capturing the fanciful mood of this Divertimento, and their repetitive embraces, as the corps fairies dance through their arms, were inspired. The highlight today was Mr. De Luz’ extended solo, as if he stretched time, and Maestro Sill, Guest Conductor, obliged. In the supporting ensemble, Faye Arthurs and Alina Dronova led the corps, but Kathryn Morgan and Georgina Pazcoguin caught my eye.

La Sonnambula (1960): Music by Vittorio Rieti (after themes of Vincenzo Bellini), Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Alain Vaes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Sara Mearns as The Coquette, Amar Ramasar as The Baron, Sébastien Marcovici as The Poet, Yvonne Borree as The Sleepwalker, Adam Hendrickson as Harlequin, and the Company, led by Likolani Brown, Stephanie Zungre, Daniel Alberda, Aaron Severini, Alina Dronova, and David Prottas.
Rieti's music is based on themes from Bellini's operas, including "La Sonnambula". The Coquette's encircling movements, the Moorish dance, and the Harlequin dance all help to create a sinister effect to this ballet. Rieti was born in Egypt and composed for Ballets Russes. In the US, Rieti collaborated with Balanchine on ballets for several companies, including Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and NYC Ballet. (NYCB Notes).

As my last ballet for this Season, I was thrilled to see La Sonnambula, romantically performed by an impassioned cast. Yvonne Borree was the quintessential Sleepwalker, vulnerable and ethereal, dancing in the tiniest, most rapid steps, backward, sideward, forward, across the stage, eyes wide shut. When The Poet (an effusive Sébastien Marcovici), first sees her, he bends to her feet, and he tries to garner her attention, but she dances right over him. When The Poet is later stabbed by The Baron (a bristling Amar Ramasar), Ms. Borree manages to combine other-worldliness with sorrow, and she carries The Poet with an unforgettable serenity.

Sara Mearns, The Coquette, exquisite and captivating in the role, has perfected her gesture and timing. She glances past the curtain to watch The Poet, with whom she had been flirting and conversing, who is now with The Sleepwalker, and she orders immediate revenge from The Baron. Amar Ramasar, as The Baron, is masterful in his sense of theatricality and dramatic motion. Most of the dancing is seen from the corps, in the ballroom scene, which becomes a quasi-Carnivale, a masked ball. Alina Dronova and David Prottas were a bit stiff in the Pas de Deux, but they carried the motif with aplomb. As The Harlequin, Adam Hendrickson, as always, bounded and bounced about with athleticism and personality. In the Pastorale, four corps dancers enlivened this drama. Most critical to this Balanchine jewel of a ballet are Alain Vaes’ sets and costumes, and the slowly lit windows, as if illuminated by The Sleepwalker’s candle, are a riveting effect. The castle-like residence, with the private garden and almost off-stage entry/exit, adds mystery and moodiness to this mesmerizing work. Rieti’s exotic score enhances that mood with foreboding musical features.

Kudos to City Ballet for another splendid Season.

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