Friday October 30, 2009 - I've ended up seeing Program B before seeing Program A of the current MORPHOSES season at New York's City Center. Above, Wendy Whelan and Andrew Crawford in the new Wheeldon ballet RHAPSODY FANTAISIE photographed by Dave Morgan. The evening featured two works by Christopher book-ending a dramatic Lightfoot/Leon duet.
Christopher (above, Yaniv Schulman photo) came before the curtain to welcome us and give us just a bit of information about the works we were to see. In a film shot during the Company's stay on Martha's Vineyard we got to meet some of the dancers new to us this year. The young Argentine danseur Lucas Segovia spoke movingly about having found a family among his MORPHOSES colleagues. Any film in which Wendy Whelan is featured is bound to please me.
Above, the composer Gyorgy Ligeti. Christopher created CONTINUUM for San Francisco Ballet in 2002. Along with POLYPHONIA and MORPHOSES, CONTINUUM form a sort of Gyorgy Ligeti/Wheeldon triptych. These works - and perhaps most especially CONTINUUM - show Christopher's links to the Balanchine black-and-white ballets. Ligeti's music can seem spare and edgy but there is also a mysterious beauty there which Cameron Grant's rapt playing always underlined.
CONTINUUM opens and closes with the dancers in silhouette. Throughout the work, Mary Louise Geiger's lighting played a major role in the visual experience - at one point the dancers' enormous shadows filled the backdrop (Erin Baiano photo, above). Her choice of colours and the way they appeared and melted as the ballet progressed so pleased the eye, as did the simple forest-green costumes.
Like POLYPHONIA, CONTINUUM features four couples. Each pair have a duet and there are also three solos: Melissa Barak, Gabrielle Lamb and Rory Hohenstein each very responsive to the music and to Christopher's steps. We met some of the 'new' MORPHOSES dancers - the Australians Danielle Rowe and Andrew Crawford and the curly-haired American blonde Matthew Prescott who drew the dream job of partnering Wendy Whelan and clearly relished the opportunity.
It's almost impossible to take your eyes off Wendy whenever she is onstage. For her legion admirers tonight was a double pleasure since she appeared in two ballets we haven't seen before. In the film, Wendy spoke of wanting to do new things and to continue expanding her horizons by seizing on fresh choreographic opportunties. As Christopher's muse, she's simply magnificent.
At one point the Ligeti music shifts from piano to harpsichord and Christopher said in his pre-show speech that watching the playful sparring of a dog and cat had inspired him in this particular passage; Edwaard Liang and Danielle Rowe were wonderfully subtle and their bodies perfect in fluidity and stretch for this piece which captured the audience's fancy.
There was an airy quartet for the four women in which they merged and withdrew and re-emerged, as well as a quartet for the men who - like the SWAN LAKE cygnets - held hands throughout. Overall I thought CONTINUUM one of Christopher's best abstract works especially for the opportunities he affords the dancers.
Rubinald Pronk and Drew Jacoby (above) danced the Lightfoot/Leon duet SOFTLY AS I LEAVE YOU which they performed to acclaim at Fall for Dance earlier this season. This duet successfully melds the music of J.S. Bach and Arvo Part and shows an evolving relationship which begins and ends with one of the protagonists trapped inside a coffin-like box. While not a choreographic masterpiece, SOFTLY gives the two dancers a perfect setting to display their powerful style: intense, sexy but unromantic, with engrossing fluidity of movement and remarkable extension. The audience greeted the ultra-charismatic couple with a screaming ovation to which the celebrated dancers seated in front of me added their own enthusiastic bravos.
RHAPSODY FANTAISIE is Christopher's new ballet set to the Rachmaninov Suites for Two Pianos. Above, the ensemble in Dave Morgan's photo. The Cuban designers Los Carpinteros have created a set of floating megaphone-shaped panels (interestingly, this ballet was premiered in London with a different setting). Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein has provided gorgeous red tunics for the women and billowing trousers for the shirtless men. Again Mary Louise Geiger's lighting was perfect.
With Cameron Grant and Susan Walters playing the Rachmaninov Suites with a nicely lush quality, the twelve dancers move thru a flowing sequence of ensembles, duets and solos. A quartet (Carrie Lee Riggins - welcome back to the NY stage! - Rachel Sherak, Juan Pablo Ledo and Lucas Segovia) appear and reappear throughout the work, as a sort of chorus. All four of them are intriguing dance personalities, and seeing Carrie Lee made me again regret that she left NYC Ballet for California.
Rory Hohenstein and Melissa Barak (photo: Dave Morgan) have the first duet. Rory's impetuous, slightly edgy sense of lyricism is well-matched to Melissa; she was always a particularly vivid and very musical dancer during her time at New York City Ballet. She seems now to have developed a nice floated quality to her extension and her port de bras while maintaining her strong technique. In their duet and in solo passages, both dancers excelled.
Rubinald Pronk and Drew Jacoby carried over all the strength and suppleness of their performance in the Lightfoot/Leon into RHAPSODY investing their duet with a very personal magnetism.
Australian Ballet's Danielle Rowe (on the right above, with Wendy Whelan) caused much excited comment during the evening for both the clarity and poetry of her dancing. Both here and in the opening CONTINUUM, Danielle found a perfect partner in expressiveness in Edwaard Liang; Edwaard was on peak form all evening and what I have always loved about watching him is his effortless sense of placement: his line at any give moment always so perfectly scuplted right to his fingertips. He is a dancer I could watch for hours on end and how lovely his partnership with Danielle was tonight.
Wendy Whelan (top photo) was partnered by the Australian Andrew Crawford whose quiet confidence and looming sense of tenderness made Wendy seem especially light and luminous. As their sustained, emotive duet came to an end, Andrew placed Wendy on the floor as if she were sleeping and he slowly withdrew. I thought the ballet should have ended here with this incredibly poignant image.
One of the most exciting segments of RHAPSODY was a sextette for the men in which they appeared in pairs with virtuosic combinations and then in swirling ensembles where their red trousers added to the exhilarating sense of motion. This made me think - again - that I'd like to see Christopher create an all-male ballet.
Erin Baiano photos from RHAPSODY - the ensemble (above), and Andrew & Wendy (below).
I want to see both CONTINUUM and RHAPSODY again since I feel both have layers that invite further delving. The house was seemingly full and the dancers were joyously greeted by the crowd which included many of their colleagues from the Gotham dance scene. I very much enjoyed seeing Melissa and Carrie Lee onstage again since their NYC Ballet performances have always remained clearly in my mind. Wendy and Edwaard, Drew and Rubinald, and Rory - all such compelling talents. And the 'new' dancers look great and rose to the occasion with flair.
My appreciation to Helene Davis for sending the Erin Baiano photos 'hot off the press'.
RHAPSODY FANTAISIE photos by Dave Morgan courtesy of the photographer with my sincere thanks to him.
Friday October 30, 2009 - Monica invited me to the annual Halloween festivities at the School of American Ballet. On Valentine's Day and Halloween, the young dancers are permitted to spiff up their classroom garb with personal accoutrements.
When you attend these 'open house' events at SAB you can choose from among various classes to watch and Monica and I quickly agreed that we wanted to be in Suki Schorer's studio. Suki (above) has caught my eye so many times among the audience at performances and of course she has written a celebrated book. Today she was adorably dressed-up as a fanciful witch and she put the girls thru their paces with boundless energy and spot-on technical corrections.
There were some celebrities in her class today as well as advanced students from the School. The 90-minute session swept by swiftly and while many of the girls wore cute outfits and there were moments of comic by-play, the dancing was serious.
We then stopped to have (delicious) cookies and tea in the lounge area and watched several NYC Ballet luminaries coming from and going to rehearsals: a very nice way to get in the mood for the upcoming season. Thank you, Monica!
"Our son, M., is five. From the time he was born, or it
seems that way anyway, he has liked pink, and sparkles and bows and the
things you usually think of when you think of girls.
My husband and I understand that he is who he is. We haven’t made a
big deal out of this, and we buy him the kinds of things that he likes
when it comes to toys and clothes. We also try to ignore our relatives
when they load him up with trucks and guns and toy hammers that he has
no interest in, but it is hard smiling my thanks as they try to send a
In preschool the teachers were on board
with letting him be who he is, and the other kids seemed to accept him,
too. He wasn’t the most popular one in the class, but he had friends
and playdates (lots of those were with girls) and no one made fun of
him. Halloween quickly became a favorite time of year for him because
he could wear the things to school (for the party and class “parade”)
that usually we only let him wear at home.
But now he is in kindergarten and he wants to be a ballerina this
year. I think it’s time to have him put away the tutu and be more like
the other boys. My husband says that we can’t change him, and while I
know my question probably sounds like I want to change him, or that I
am embarrassed by him, I really mean it when I say that’s not my
reason. Instead, I am worried about him getting hurt. Eventually other
kids will notice and the teasing is inevitable. And one day someone
will fight him over this. If I can protect him from that by explaining that this isn’t the way boys dress, then shouldn’t I? If should, then when do I start?"
Six dancers at New York City Ballet have been promoted: we have five new principals and one incredibly lovely new soloist. Alphabetically, we have Tyler Angle, seen above in Christopher Wheeldon's THE NIGHTINGALE & THE ROSE...
...and Robert Fairchild, pictured above as Romeo in Paul Kolnik's photo from the Peter Martins setting of ROMEO & JULIET. Both Tyler and Rob have been promoted to the rank of Principal.
Kathryn Morgan, photographed by Paul Kolnik in her memorable performance as Aurora in the SLEEPING BEAUTYpas de deux at last season's Dancer's Choice Gala (with Tyler Angle). Katie is NYCB's newest soloist.
The dazzling Tiler Peck is shown above in Balanchine's THEME & VARIATIONS with Joaquin de Luz (Kolnik photo). Tiler is promoted to Principal...
...as is Amar Ramasar, shown above in a Joe Anderson rehearsal photo for the upcoming film release of NY EXPORT: OPUS JAZZ. (The film, by the way, has a PBS airdate of March 24, 2010!)
And now gracing our roster of Principal ballerinas is the tall, blonde and beautiful Teresa Reichlen, pictured above in her debut as The Siren in PRODIGAL SON with Daniel Ulbricht in the title-role. Photo: Paul Kolnik.
These six dancers have already given us so many resplendant performances and we can look forward to their future successes with keen anticipation. Please join me in saluting their extraordinary talents.
Jessica Lang is a choreographer I really admire. This past Summer one of her recent works drew a rave review at the Chicago Dancing Festival. An excerpt from the review follows:
"The evening's most breathtaking work – Jessica Lang's "To Familiar Spaces in Dream" – came first. Exquisitely danced by the Virginia-based Richmond Ballet (a real revelation here), it was an all but impossible piece to top. It also created a sense of keen anticipation at the prospect of seeing Lang's upcoming commission for the Joffrey Ballet, which debuts in spring 2010.
If architecture is sometimes defined as "frozen music," Lang's work for eight dancers and a collection of squared-off white columns of varying heights might be described as "liquid architecture." Set to the music of Philip Glass, Craig Armstrong and John Cage, the work's interplay of human forms and architectural building blocks suggested countless subtly shifting moods and meanings. Most wondrously, it consistently managed to feel charged with emotion and meaning rather than abstract theory...a hypnotic piece from first image to last." - Hedy Weiss/Chicago Sun-Times (August 20, 2009)
Jessica Lang interview here. And her website is here.
While pondering this review and wishing I could see this work, what should land in my Inbox but an e-mail announcing that Richmond Ballet will be at The Joyce April 6th - 11th, 2010 and will be performing TO FAMILIAR SPACES IN DREAM as part of their nicely eclectic offering:
"The 2 programs
(schedule tba) will consist of ANCIENT
AIRS AND DANCES by Stoner Winslett, music Italian and French lute songs
orchestrated by Respighi (1986);MISA CRIOLLA by William
Soleau, music by Ariel Ramirez (2008);TO FAMILIAR SPACES IN DREAM by Jessica
Lang, music of Philip Glass, John Cage and Craig Armstrong (2007);VESTIGES by Colin Connor, music by
Michael Nyman (2000);VIOLIN by Val Caniparoli, music by
Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (2006);VOYAGES by Mauricio Wainrot,
set to a variety of ethnic and folkloric music
Production photos of TO FAMILIAR SPACES IN DREAM by Suzanne Grandis. To get a bit of a feeling for Richmond Ballet's dancers and rep, visit photographer Aaron Sutten's site here.
One of Kokyat's images from Storm King. After a week of distressing headlines from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan (among other world trouble spots) this photo is especially timely. Click on the picture for an enhanced view.
Above, Kokyat's image of the five stone columns which loom over the fields of Storm King; they were once part of the veranda of Danskammer, Edward Armstrong's 1834 mansion which stood above the Hudson River north of Newburgh, NY. Click on Kokyat's images to enhance.
The pillars were salvaged when the mansion (above) was torn down and they eventually came to be a permanent part of the Storm King property. On our visit to the site yesterday, I was particularly intrigued by these Ionic columns which lend an ancient air to the otherwise very 20th-century feel of the Storm King collection. They preside over this 500-acre junction of nature and art with a timeless beauty and mystery.
Made of weathering steel, Charles Ginnever's 1979 Prospect Mountain is one of those works that keeps revealing more and more about itself as you move around it. It looked especially striking against the golden leaves of Autumn.
Eight Positive Trees (1977) by Menashe Kadishman are so unobtrusively placed along the side of the walking path that we nearly passed by; but stopping to investigate we found them delightful and Kokyat took many photos from various perspectives. This is one thing about the art at Storm King: the more time you invest in studying each individual work the greater the reward.
This was a favorite of mine: Ursula von Rydingsvard's For Paul (1990-1992) which appears to have shot up out of the Earth fully formed. Approaching it, it seemed hewn from stone but is in fact made of wood and graphite. It stands about 14 feet high. All day I was telling Kokyat that I regretted there were so many people around because I wanted to have images of the works without a human presence. He kept saying that having people in the pictures would give a perspective as to their size. He was right. As always.
Alexander Calder's 1975 The Arch looms up out of the field like a towering Trojan Horse...
...and took on a Darth Vaderish feel when viewed from a different perspective.
The late-afternoon light gave this grove of trees an Impressionistic feeling.
All day today I have been looking over the images Kokyat sent me from our Storm King excursion and recalling the pleasure of being with him while he took his time finding the best angles and light.
Storm King will close for the Winter in mid-November but when Spring comes I urge you to visit there if you are within traveling distance.
My endless gratitude to Kokyat for the images, and for bringing me on this memorable journey north of Manatus.