Tuesday November 25, 2008 - Here is Kyle Froman's gorgeously sexy photograph of his fellow dancers to celebrate the opening of the Company's Winter season. [Click on the photo to enlarge].
The break between June and November really seemed to stretch out this year, especially when we were being teased by stories of the Company's Danish and Parisian successes.
The rarest and most-anticipated work came first: Peter Martins' pageant-like CHICHESTER PSALMS. The Paul Kolnik photo is from the 2004 premiere when Carla Korbes and Amar Ramasar danced the leads; later Dena Abergel and Henry Seth took over. [Click to enlarge and examine the photo above and you will find dancers who are now Principals as well as some lovely folks who have since left the Company]. How I wish CHICHESTER was re-entering the repertoire instead of just being done as a gala item. It is not only visually unique but also it is set to one of the few Bernstein scores I actually like.
Tonight Sara Mearns and Jared Angle (above in a Paul Kolnik photo) assumed the leading roles and they were excellent. I spent much of the time watching the corps and if you look at the names from the Playbill (below) you will understand why. [Click on the panel below to enlarge it and make it easier to read].
Having Faye Arthurs and Pauline Golbin onstage at the same time and both looking divine posed a problem which could only be solved by using the opera glasses as if watching a tennis match: back and forth and back and forth. Other girls caught my eye as well, and the men looked sexy in the unusual costumes. The New York City Opera Chorus sounded very well and the boy soprano, who had no problem sustaining the long phrase endings, has a wonderful name: Jonathan Makepeace.
Above, another Paul Kolnik CHICHESTER photo.
Peter Martins then stepped before the curtain to pay tribute to David Koch, for whom the State Theatre has now been renamed following his generous gift of $100 million.
Darci Kistler and Albert Evans danced the adagio from the BARBER VIOLIN CONCERTO. This doesn't work well out of context because there is sort of a subtext that only signifies if the ballet is given complete. Kurt Nikkanen played with his customary beauty of tone.
Neither do the two duets from IVES, SONGS really fare well as gala items, despite being sung very well by baritone John Hancock with Cameron Grant at the piano. Rachel Rutherford and Philip Neal looked fine together and danced gracefully despite a moment of unsteady partnering. Wendy Whelan and Charles Askegard brought real drama to their mysterious duet, dancing superbly.
Janie Taylor and Daniel Ulbricht in The Unanswered Question from IVESIANA provided the evening's most thrilling moments. As the barefooted Janie, her magnificent hair down, was manipulated by four men who never allow her to touch the ground, Daniel - shirtless and wearing tights which delineated his spectacular musculature - sought to reach her. The duet ends as she is borne away, aloft, while he struggles after her in vain pursuit. Kudos to the four porteurs: Henry Seth, Max van der Steere, Christian Tworzyanski and Justin Peck. Janie and Daniel roused the typically reticent gala audience to sustained applause and cheers. This duet was especially moving tonight as I was seated immediately in front of Allegra Kent*.
The brief, very animated and tricky duet from CALCIUM LIGHT NIGHT was brilliantly danced by the delightful duo of Sterling Hyltin and Sean Suozzi. They have just the right energy and edge for this piece and they looked great together. Perfect timing and a nice sense of irony.
Maria Kowroski and Sebastien Marcovici in an excerpt from JAZZ: SIX SYNCOPATED MOVEMENTS opened the second half. They danced it so well - and Maria's legs were so glamourously displayed - that they almost made up for the faceless score and the unimginative choreography. Sebastien is looking great and they are a really attractive partnership; we should see them together more frequently.
Several Principal dancers and Soloists appeared in A FOOL FOR YOU in which the girls wear awful, spangly 'dance recital' dresses and high heels. Ashley Bouder in her bangs now looks like a Russian ballerina but although she was joined by a stellar group of dancers - Yvonne Borree, Megan Fairchild, Abi Stafford, Tiler Peck, Jon Stafford, Amar Ramasar, Gonzalo Garcia, Tyler Angle and Ask LaCour - there simply wasn't enough of a choreographic challenge for them. But FOOL FOR YOU did provide the evening's single most remarkable dance opportunity - a solo which Andrew Veyette seized upon and turned into a personal triumph. Classical technique, gymnastics and break-dancing are wittily combined and Andrew is a master of all three. As with his solo in OLTREMARE, Andrew does things which seem humanly impossible.
The other thrilling moment in FOOL FOR YOU occurred when Gonzalo Garcia's shirt came unbuttoned.
Savannah Lowery and Robert Fairchild in BLOSSOM GOT KISSED were a pair of innocent nerds who have wandered into a hot jazz club. They dance a nice adagio, but what makes the piece palatable is a series of six duets strung together as a sort of suite. The partnering in these duets is complex and fast-moving and the City Ballet dancers nailed the sequence; they all deserve mention: Faye Arthurs, Amanda Hankes, Kathryn Morgan, Georgina Pazcoguin, Brittany Pollack, Stephanie Zungre; Adrian Danchig-Waring, Vincent Paradiso, Justin Peck, Henry Seth, Christian Tworzyanski and Giovanni Villalobos.
Jenifer Ringer's return to the stage was a perfect 'dessert' for the banquet of dance. She appeared in her classic 'The Man I Love' from Balanchine's WHO CARES? and was partnered by Nilas Martins. Jeni (above) looks terrific and reminds us of what we've been missing during her maternity leave. Sadly, the soprano Lauren Flanigan was in parlous vocal estate, her singing stayed resolutely flat of pitch most of the time. As a finale, the Company danced I've Got Rhythm in which Rebecca Krohn and Teresa Reichlen made all-too-brief appearances.
The evening flew by; it was good to see all the fans again during intermission. Kristin Sloan stopped to say hello, and I was introduced to Andrew Veyette and to Sterling Hyltin as they headed for the gala dinner. Maria Kowroski appeared in an indescribably elegant black gown with a trace of a bustle and train; Yvonne Boreee looked equally chic.
The Gala did have one distracting element, however: during the quieter musical passages the voice of the stage manager was clearly audible from backstage. This has annoyed me at past performances but was especially irritating today.
* A note from the Balanchine Foundation website about THE UNANSWERED QUESTION:
"In The Unanswered Question section, Denby described a beautiful young girl in white who "appears aloft, carried by a team of four men, and a shadowy fifth [who] precedes the cluster, turning, crawling, reaching toward her. Carefully, as in a ritual or a circus act, the girl is lowered and lifted, revolved in fantastic and horrifying fashions. In all the shapes her body takes, she is never any less beautiful or less placid. At moments her hair brushes the questioner's face. There is no awareness of his question or of his humiliation ... This scene, with its casual ghastly incident when the girl falls backward headfirst into space, is the central one of the ballet. As if to heighten the mystery, the spectral white figure never touches the ground."
Kent, on whom the female role was choreographed, explained it this way in her 1997 autobiography, Once a Dancer . . .: "The woman in this ballet ultimately represents the unattainable. She attracts and eludes the man who tries to grasp her. The mystery is never solved, the question never answered."