Above: Janie Taylor and Sebastien Marcovici in Balanchine's LA VALSE; photo by Paul Kolnik
Saturday March 1st, 2014 matinee - When I realized - weeks ago - that my tickets to hear SALOME at Carnegie Hall tonight would put me in conflict with the farewell New York City Ballet performance of two of my truly favorite people - Janie Taylor and Sebastien Marcovici - I quickly purchased a ticket for this matinee performance so I would be sure of seeing them one last time.
So before I launch into my paean to these two very special dancers, I'll just briefly note how expressively they danced La Valse this afternoon and how their dancing triggered so many emotions in me. It was an all-around excellent performance, with a stunning transformation of the nobly handsome Jared Angle into a potent, vampire-like death figure, his poetic countenance strikingly altered to an unrelenting expression of cruel, manipulative desire. Into the haunted ballroom came the mysterious, gloved Fates: Gwyneth Muller, Marika Anderson and Gretchen Smith. And three superb young couples: Kristen Segin and Troy Schumacher, all youthful radiance; the simply gorgeous Brittany Pollack with the excellent and under-utilized Daniel Applebaum (nice stretchy jump, Daniel!) and my lovely and all-too-rare Faye Arthurs, so captivating with the tall, elegant Andrew Scordato; Andrew goes on to a partnering fete with all the girls before the drama commences. Very well-danced, everyone!!
A new guest conductor - Henrik Vagn Christensen - brought a wonderful resonance to the Ravel score; my last sighting of Janie and Sebastien taking their bows and thinking how, in a few hours, they would be buried in flowers onstage and surrounded by their colleagues...I wish I could have been there for that.
I suppose everyone knows that Sebastien has taken a position with LA Dance Project - the Company founded by his compatriot Benjamin Millepied - and that Janie decided she didn't want to be separated from her husband (understandably) and so they are heading Westward together. My hope is that Janie will continue dancing - by rights we should have had another decade of peformances from her here in NYC!
How to write about all the marvelous memories these two dancers have left me with? I'm sitting here trying to pare down the lists of roles and special moments that are in my Taylor-Marcovici dream-catalog and it's almost impossible to sort things out and make sense of it all. One moment I am seeing Janie's hair flying wildly in a performance of the scherzo from Tchaikovsky Suite #3 where she forgot to wear barettes at her temples...how she managed all those 'blind' pirouettes I will never know but it was simply and literally amazing; then a picture of Sebastien springs to mind, doing some incredible 'one-arm' partnering of Jennie Somogyi in a forgotten Peter Martins ballet, The Red Violin. And then there was the day, several years ago, that I saw Janie and Sebastien sharing a pizza in a little restaurant on Amsterdam...realizing they were lovers and feeling inexplicably happy for them, although I didn't know them personally.
Above: Janie & Sebastien; photo by Paul Kolnik
Sebastien has been at New York City Ballet since 1993; he was a member of the same "class" of exciting male dancers who all sprang onto the scene at the soloist level together: Benjamin Millepied, Christopher Wheeldon, Edwaard Liang and James Fayette. I moved to New York City in 1998 and began seeing him frequently onstage in several memorable performances: as Orpheus, as Melancholic in Four Temperaments, in Liebeslieder, Dances at a Gathering, The Cage, Glass Pieces, Chiaroscuro and After The Rain...and so many others.
Sebastien's performance as Siegfried in the Peter Martins Swan Lake (above, Paul Kolnik photo) with Jenifer Ringer in 2006 was especially moving: "Sebastien Marcovici's pale, haunted presence and his long arms and expressive hands (to say nothing of the cheekbones) make him someone you really want to watch. He was especially interesting in his bewilderment at finding this exotic band of women by the lake. His partnering was secure, tender, and beautifuly alinged to what Ringer was doing...and his final despair was enough to make grown men cry."
And I found Sebastien's physicality and sheer command of the stage to be very impressive as Apollo (above, Paul Kolnik photo) where his pure masculinity and theatrical savvy set him apart from some more coltish (though fascinating) interpretations of the role. A ballet in which I'd always hoped to see him - as the Death Figure in In Memory Of... never came his way.
Above: Janie and Sebastien in Serenade, photo by Paul Kolnik
Janie appears with Justin Peck in my all-time favorite dance-video (yes, really!): HERE.
In a way, Janie Taylor's New York City Ballet career has ended as it began, with the Ravel/Balanchine La Valse (Paul Kolnik photo, above). I remember we went to see her in her 'stepping out' performance in this ballet, when she was a mere slip of a girl just over from SAB, with the inevitable doubt: "Oh, yeah...what is Peter thinking? She's just a kid!" and then moments later being bowled over by her sheer perfection in the role and by the first intoxicating experience of the Taylor perfume, a spell-binding fragrance which has made me inebriated on many evenings since.
It was in Peter Martins' Morgen - a ballet I want so badly to see (and hear) again - that Janie captured my heart for once and for all, locked it up and threw away the key. Her sheer abandon as she flung herself into the arms of her partners, and the sheer poetry of her dancing throughout, made her soar into the stratosphere of my echelons of favorite ballerinas. After that, I was enslaved.
The long injury hiatus with its sad complications which kept Janie from the stage for so many months - it seemed like forever - put a damper on my ballet-going: it seemed I had just fallen in love with her and she vanished. But she persevered and it was so great to see her again when she came back to us; I thought of course I'd have many more seasons to enjoy her and so the announcement of farewell came as a jolt.
Above: Janie Taylor photographed by Wendy Whelan; Janie and Wendy share a love of photography and some of their unique images can be found here.
Janie is that rarest type of ballerina: ethereal. Pale, vulnerable, elusive, and blessed with a marvelous mane of blonde hair, she has - over the seasons - given me so many thrilling experiences at the ballet: in Serenade, Rubies, Afternoon of a Faun, as Dewdrop or as the Lilac Fairy, in The Cage, Opus 19/The Dreamer, Burleske and Dybbuk she has brought her own delicacy of nuance and gesture - as well as sheer mystique linked with a unique musicality - to illuminate so many roles. Then there was her very first Sonnambula, danced on a day the world was supposed to end...it didn't, but if it had we would have taken Janie's performance with us into the cosmos.
Above: in Hallelujah Junction, a Paul Kolnik photo
And so to this charismatic couple we now say 'farewell' and 'bon voyage'. The thought that we shall never again see them sweeping across the stage together gives pause, but the memories are here forever.