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Morphoses / The Wheeldon Company 2008
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Morphoses / The Wheeldon Company 2008

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Morphoses / The Wheeldon Company 2008
(Morphoses Website)
Christopher Wheeldon, Artistic Director
Lourdes Lopez, Executive Director
Gregory Spears, Musical Director
Cameron Grant, Principal Pianist
Ballet Masters:
Jeffrey Edwards, Jason Fowler,
Olga Kostritsky, Edwaard Liang
Pierre Lavoie, Penny Jacobus, Lighting Designers
Loreen Domijan, Production / Stage Manager
Elizabeth Johanningmeier, Company Manager
Benjamin Pierce, Film Producer and Director
Orchestra of St. Luke’s
Alan Pierson, Conductor
(Orchestra of St. Luke’s Website)

At City Center
(City Center Website)
Press: Helene Davis Public Relations

Dancers: Tyler Angle, Leanne Benjamin, Céline Cassone,
Adrian Danchig-Waring, Jason Fowler, Gonzalo Garcia,
Craig Hall, Andreas Heise, Rory Hohenstein, Drew Jacoby,
Maria Kowroski, Edwaard Liang, Tiler Peck, Rubinald Pronk,
Teresa Reichlen, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Christine Thomassen,
Edward Watson, Wendy Whelan

Dancers Courtesy of:
New York City Ballet, The Norwegian National Ballet,
and The Royal Ballet

Morphoses is Guest Resident Company of
New York City Center and Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 1, 2008

(See a Review of Morphoses 2007.)

Polyphonia (2001): Music by György Ligeti, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Pianist: Cameron Grant, Staged by Christopher Wheeldon and Jason Fowler, Performed by Wendy Whelan and Tyler Angle, Tiler Peck and Gonzalo Garcia, Beatriz Stix-Brunell and Craig Hall, Teresa Reichlen and Jason Fowler.

Tonight was Opening Night of Christopher Wheeldon’s second season of his own Company, Morphoses. Many of his dancers were again members of New York City Ballet, and others were from The Royal Ballet and The Norwegian National Ballet. Once again Mr. Wheeldon opened the dances with films of his rehearsals, and he also welcomed the audience. Polyphonia, part of the New York City Ballet repertory, is one of Wheeldon’s finest. All dancers in tonight’s Polyphonia, except Beatriz Stix-Brunell, are City Ballet dancers, and they were masters of this contemporary, atonal work.

The high point, however, was the introduction of Ms. Stix-Brunell, of The Royal Ballet, a slight, youthful dancer in her teens, who is mesmerizing to watch. With Craig Hall, another mesmerizing performer, and then solo, Ms. Stix-Brunell was highlighted with shadowed lighting to exotic effect. As the piece progressed, the music became more melodic, and the choreography became more fluid. Gonzalo Garcia and Tiler Peck were well partnered, especially when Mr. Garcia carried Ms. Peck offstage, after she had grabbed his waist with crossed legs. Wendy Whelan and Tyler Angle were also riveting in a backbend motif, with Ms. Whelan lifting her legs to slice the air, while wound about Mr. Angle. At one point, the four male dancers left their partners for dynamic imagery, and the purple unitards enhanced the stark focus. Cameron Grant played the Ligeti score with attention to its shifting tempo and tones.

Monotones II (1966): Music by Erik Satie, Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Costumes by Frederick Ashton, Lighting by Frederick Ashton, Staged by Lynn Wallis, Conductor: Alan Pierson, Performed by Maria Kowroski, Rubinald Pronk, Edward Watson. There is not music more soothing than Debussy’s orchestration of Satie’s “Trois Gymnopédies”, and Orchestra of St. Luke’s presented its undulating, simple themes with sensuality and sophistication. The three dancers in white unitards and white caps, with moon-like jewels in tiny points, joined and separated, like the “Three Gymnopédies”. Rubinald Pronk and Edward Watson circled Maria Kowroski, turned her around, and lifted her onto their shoulders, before they bent about each other in Frederick Ashton’s concept of interlocking bodies. The airy, surreal melodies were cohesive to the airy, surreal figures, in scintillating white. (The photo of Monotones II below is of a different cast).

Six Fold Illuminate (2008): Music by Steve Reich, Choreography by Emily Molnar, Costumes by Narcisco Rodriguez, Lighting by Pierre Lavoie, Costume Production by Ellen Stockbridge, Conductor: Alan Pierson, Performed by Céline Cassone, Drew Jacoby, Rory Hohenstein, Edwaard Liang, Rubinald Pronk, Edward Watson. This new commissioned work, by Emily Molnar, seemed ill-conceived and a major disappointment. With such a brief Fall Season, Morphoses would have been better served with another Wheeldon or Ashton work. I overheard audience comments about Ms. Molnar’s “borrowing” of choreographic devices, and her use of raucous running, wild kinetics, and jabbing motifs seemed aimless. Reich’s electronic score was rapid and repetitive, and the grey-white costumes did not add luster to the proceedings. Rather, the six dancers seemed to be in a constant state of being shocked.

Commedia (2008): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Isabel Toledo, Scenery by Ruben Toledo, Lighting by Penny Jacobus, Costume Production by Angela Kostritsky, Conductor: Alan Pierson, Performed by Leanne Benjamin, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Céline Cassone, Drew Jacoby, Rory Hohenstein, Edwaard Liang, Rubinald Pronk, Edward Watson. Commedia was a true highlight of tonight’s Opening Night, with the tribute to “Commedia dell’ Arte”. The backdrop featured black/white masks and tiny colored lights, and the dancers wore white unitards with black diamond shapes at different points on the leg or torso, plus short black gloves or long black sleeves. No two costumes were exactly alike. Nor were any dance couples in like motion or momentum.

After their own colorful ruffles were removed, the four couples danced in differentiated style, such as bright dynamic sprightliness, rapturous romance, a spinning sensational solo, and faux sadness and melancholy. This is a work I’d like to see again, at the beginning of the evening, rather than at the end of a long program. It deserves fresh attention to its theatrical nuances. Kudos to Morphoses, The Wheeldon Company, on its continued growth and on its exploration and creation of contemporary ballets.

Tyler Angle, Wendy Whelan, Adrian Danchig-Waring in Ashton's "Monotones II"
Courtesy of Erin Baiano

Cast of Wheeldon's "Commedia"
Courtesy of Erin Baiano

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