« Encore Kyra! | Main | SLOW DANCING - UPDATED! »



Our reporter most likely won't be at the ballet til Thursday but thereafter promises to be going to all the remaining performances this week so stay tuned...


Thursday and Friday brought a return to repetory, with three programs of (mostly) masterworks of Balanchine and Robbins and a Wheeldon premiere. The range that was demonstrated over two days is awe-inspiring.

Chris Wheeldon is uneven. He is a prodigiously gifted choreographer who is sometimes "overbooked" with this result: Works have sometimes appeared thrown together with little thought or originality (think American in Paris) and others are jaw-dropping in the inventive use of choreography and music. It's thrilling to see the new "Nightingale and the Rose" in category #2. Wendy Whelan is a creature from other world, Sara Mearns is a spoiled brat from this world, and in just a few movements each character is indelibly drawn. I understand there are projected images included-- not here however, at least not at the matinee. Hopefully they will be shown at the evening performance on Tuesday. This begs several questions: 1.Why is SPAC only seeing part of the ballet and 2. If evening lighting is required for full viewing, why was this piece scheduled for an outdoor matinee and 3. who makes those decisions? more on that in a while.

The Bright Sheng score is melodious and beautiful and the the audience showed their approval of this stirring and very emotional work. For me it is the new choreography story of the season, can't wait to see it again, in the evening.

Dybbuk is the other work new to Saratoga, although I had seen it in the city I didn't enjoy it any more than the first time, even with stellar principal dancing from DeLuz (thank you Joaquim for losing the grin, this is a grave work) and Rutherford, who shows a deeper radiance this season than ever before. She looks utterly glorious in everything--and she is doing lots! Dybbuk is a bizarre work--somewhere in there are remnants of the Ansky story, but I can't find them. It is fantastic to see men in ensembles and to see them dancing so well, the patterns and steps would be interesting if it weren't so repetitive. Once or twice would be fine--enough already. Not hard to see why Robbins didn't want this work to stay active. On a program entitled "Balanchine and Robbins: Masters at Work", I would have been thrilled with one of Robbins' masterpieces. This isn't.

Nor is Circus Polka, but it's adorable and it gives some local children a chance to appear with NYCB.

The Robbins masterwork is of course DAAG--which was shown last night and repeated next Friday night. I don't remember the last time this was shown at SPAC, but the last time I saw it was about four years ago in the city, so it has been a while. DAAG is a wonderful SPAC choice--in fact it is one of a very few ballets that looks beautiful at a matinee. However we have it for two evenings only. Hold that thought, I'll be back to it.

DAAG, my favorite Robbins, looked a little ragged in sections. The Grand Waltz fell flat and there was a major bobble in one of the unision lifts. But there were moments of great beauty to compensate--and even though the aforementioned bobble was unfortunate, pink is one of Yvonne's Borre's best roles. She looked relaxed, happy and utterly lovely at her first appearance here this summer. It was also our first look at Damien and what a treat to have a measured and careful (but still exciting--it is Damien after all)drawing of brown.

DAAG is an outdoor, afternoon scene--what would be more perfect for a matinee? I've seen it that way at SPAC many times. The natural light enhances the scene. Other Robbins works that have a similar effect at the matinee are G Major and Interplay. Please. Powers that be. If there will be a Robbins tribute in 2008 (10th anniversary of his passing) consider using some of these works as matinee choices at SPAC. You have to deal with the light, so use it to it's best advantage.

Today we have brilliant sunshine which makes everyone happy and portends a beautiful night for the SPAC gala. But first we have Serenade, at the matinee. 2 PM, bright sunshine--and that unforgettable opening tableau will be washed out. Serenade is breathtaking at sunset.Thursday's matinee is Jewels--Emeralds also needs the setting sun, Rubies needs the gathering darkness, and Diamonds needs the black of night. Please think about how you program for an outdoor setting. And a little thought as to programming for matinees while you're at it: 4Ts goes often at matinees--while it doesn't have the same requirements of light (or lack thereof) it does require concentration from the audience...and our matinees are mostly attended by the very young and the very old and it is difficult to have this ballet as a closer.

Don't get me wrong: I LOVE 4Ts but I want the audience to love it too. At the end of the matinee, the audience just isn't "there" and most of the children are bored.

I saw 4Ts in the city in winter season. At that time the themes were very strong and the variations ranged from weak to acceptable. It's back and looking great! Sean Suozzi is growing wonderfully as Melancholic. Special notice to the three couples who did the themes--as strong as ever, well done.

End of rant. Serenade was the opener on Thursday night, and the collective gasp from the audience says it all. No matter how many times you have viewed that opening scene it never fails to take your breath away. Sara Mearns gave a lovely debut as Russian girl--if she was a bit cautious it is understandable. She is being given many opportunities and is rising well to those chances. She also replaced Jennie S (uh-oh) in Apollo last night (did she do it in NY?). She has a beautiful serene face, sweeping port de bras, and in her Raymonda variation (last week) demonstrated gorgeous, pliant arched feet. I'm a fan!

Last night closed with the non-stop energy of Symphony in 3 Movements. All the principals did well, but it is hard to tear eyes away from Sterling Hyltin, who bounds onto the stage as if shot from a cannon...and never flags.

The gala tonight brings us our first and only look at Middle Duet. I'll be at the Pillow tomorrow for the Danes.


I imagine that programming for matinees is especially challenging in an outdoor setting. The vast majority of ballets in the NYCB rep look best in the darkened theatre!

Also there is the issue of finding a balance for matinee audiences that will likely include lots of children and lots of senior citizens who don't like venturing out at night (this is true at NYS Theatre as well) so that while, as you say, youngsters get restless during 4Ts the older folks will probably be glad to have a chance to see it.


MM, thank you for the latest update and for the positive reports on Yvonne Borree (some of the NY critics were rather hard on her this season, somewhat unfairly, I thought), Rachel Rutherford (after so many seasons as a soloist "in neutral", she really seemed to blossom this spring and summer), Sara Mearns (I wasn't really sold on her when I first saw her and she was getting all those critical raves, but the more I see her, the more she grows on me - there is, to borrow the famous Danilova expression, a definite "perfume" in her dancing), and Sterling Hyltin (she keeps demonstrating great improvement in whatever role she is dancing - there is so much energy in her dancing - I'm not surprised that even Gottlieb seems to like her). Wish I were still up there but thanks for keeping us informed on the doings at Saratoga. I especially look forward to your observations on the gala - in particular, Kathryn Morgan in Carousel, Bouder and DeLuz in Tarantella and the entire cast in Aurora's Wedding.


For those who are accustomed to the NYCB galas at the NYS Theater, the SPAC gala is a horse of a totally different color. Again the joys and difficulties of an outdoor theater with an expansive lawn--that lawn fills with picnics and lots of booze. Saturday night the weather was glorious and the party crowd cooperated by setting up far back on the lawn. There was occasional hooting and hollering but the dancers managed to acquit themselves beautifully and it wasn't too distracting for the audience.

I had seen the curtain raiser, Wheeldon's Carousel, and wasn't very impressed the first time. This time I just adored it. I am loving watching Kathryn Morgan. She is unique in this company. Not a Balanchine dancer, her style is soft and rounded. It was especially poignant to see Seth Orza in the other principal role since his departure at the end of this season has now been officially announced. Even the very gimmicky "ponies" were utterly charming.

Conversely I was prepared to love my first look at "Middle Duet"...and did not. It is too intimate a work for the cavernous SPAC ampitheater, and I was too far away from the stage. I'd like another look. I found the music annoying too.

Carousel is perfect for the gala audience, Middle Duet fell rather flat. Subtlety is lost on that crowd.

Bouder and DeLuz were uncharacteristically off the music in "Tarantella"--in fairness to them the noise was starting to build and it must have been difficult. The 1000 watt smiles were there though--and the clear, clean technique too.

Aurora's Wedding--our first look this summer at the luminous Jenifer Ringer (and my first time seeing her Aurora. More! Next summer the whole thing--oh please). Philip Neal (also his first appearance here) was subdued and seemed "off" in his solo variations, but was as gallant a partner as ever. Little Red Riding Hood stole the show--she is not a local but was brought up from NY. Luckily for us, we have two more "Aurora's Wedding"s to look forward to. This week brings "Jewels" and, on Friday night a near perfect program: Balanchine masterwork (4Ts) Robbins masterwork (DAAG) and the very intriguing Nightingale and the Rose. Cannot wait.


We were hoping the full-length SLEEPING BEAUTY would be back in the coming season here in NYC but the full-lengths are JEWELS, R & J and the dreaded DOUBLE FEATURE.

Good news: TOMBEAU DE COUPERIN is back.

Nikolaj Hubbe's farewell is announced for February 10, 2008.


Midsummer Magic, was Seth Orza's departure announced on the NYCB website? I didn't see anything about it. What a shame, considering he just got promoted and is such a talented, majestic dancer. Do you know if he is joining another company or exploring other career opportunities?


Evan, I saw nothing on the NYCB website and no announcement here, but Seth's departure has been informally discussed for quite a while, and I did see a formal press release on another website.

He recently married Sarah Ricard and both are joining Pacific Northwest Ballet as corps members. With Carla Korbes and now Miranda Weese as PNB principals, there are now many reasons to take a trip to Seattle.

I agree that Seth has been dancing extremely well--and it is a shame to lose him to the west coast.


NYCB doesn't usually announce the departures of corps dancers or even - it seems - of soloists in advance.

In recent seasons soloists Kipling Houston and Edwaard Liang both left with only a few gestures from their fellow dancers during the curtain calls of their final performances indicating that they would not be back.

Carla Korbes's last performance at NYCB went by with no recognition at all; we guessed she was leaving when we saw her hugging her fellow dancers and everyone weeping outside the stage door after Jock's farewell.

Longtime and lovely corps members like Amanda Edge and Dana Hanson and Deanna McBrearty simply dropped off the roster.

Sarah Ricard left NYCB two or three years ago; Seth Orza seemed to be absent for a while a couple of seasons back - injured, most likely. Then he returned and was dancing prominent roles (CAROUSEL, EVENFALL, ROMEO) which led to the soloist designation. My guess is that he will move up the ranks at PNB pretty quickly.

The comings & goings of soloists and corps members are noted in 'City Ballet News', a sort of in-house news bulletin which you can pick up in the lobby of the State Theatre from time to time. I do think it would be a nice idea to have this information on the website as well, since folks who don't get to the Theatre with any frequency might like to know what's going on.


With Peter Boal as artistic director of PNB, I wonder if more NYCB dancers - who are either unhappy in the company or eager to move west - will be warmly welcomed to PNB by Boal. He was a true mentor to many of the younger dancers that he taught at SAB, which was the case with Carla Korbes. I'm sure he would be happy to take more NYCB dancers under his wing in Seattle.


Yes, Kathryn Morgan is indeed unique and special - she possesses that mysterious "X" factor that cannot be taught. She may not be the prototypical Balanchine dancer but the company is very fortunate to have her and I think she will be a big star at NYCB for many years to come. You are also 100% correct about Middle Duet not being an appropriate piece for SPAC - it works well at Lincoln Center, where the critics by and large loved it but in the SPAC venue with their audience - no, not a good programming choice. Glad to hear the glowing review of Jenifer Ringer in "Aurora's Wedding" - I sometimes think she is the unsung hero (heroine) of the company - so dependable and versatile and lovely in whatever she dances and not, I think, fully appreciated by either critics (well at least some of them) or even the audience at times.

Yes, I too would have loved to have seen the return of Sleeping Beauty for the winter Season but let us not, I beseech you, dismiss "Double Feature" as "dreaded." No, of course, it is not a great ballet but come on, it is a FUN ballet and I actually enjoyed it when I saw it (twice)its first season. But hey, I also like Peter's "Thou Swell" - I guess I just can't resist that Walter Donaldson/Richard Rodgers kind of music.

You make a good point regarding the Peter Boal connection. When you think about it, he taught most of the current soloists and corps members at NYCB. Since he was considered an excellent teacher and everyone in the company apparently liked him, it is not surprising that anyone who wanted a change of scenery would go west, young man (and young woman)and join PNB. Fortunately, it's easy for NYCB to replace a Seth Orza (as good as he is) and at the same time it's a great development for all those balletomanes out in Seattle.


DOUBLE FEATURE is the type of 'Broadway ballet' that I really dislike.

WHO CARES? is about the only ballet in this genre I can stomach, and that only once in a great while. CAROUSEL works because it is dark and rather abstract. Beyond that, ballets like THOU SWELL, SLAUGHTER ON 10th AVENUE, I'M OLD FASHIONED, AMERICAN IN PARIS and WEST SIDE STORY don't do a blasted thing for me...no matter who is dancing in them.


Well, you know what they say - beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or the ear of the listener). I genuinely enjoy "Broadway BAllet" - I like THOU SWELL, I'M OLD FASHIONED, AND AMERICAN IN PARIS And I love SLAUGHTER ON 10th AVENUE, WEST SIDE STORY AND WHO CARES? (I could watch the latter at least once a week). They are not exactly in the "Broadway" category but how do you feel about WESTERN SYMPHONY and STARS & STRIPES?


WESTERN SYMPHONY and STARS & STRIPES are fun - once in a while. I think Balanchine's use of classical technique to 'Broadway' style music makes his ballets in this genre more appealing and enduring than those of Robbins, Wheeldon and Martins.

FANCY FREE is another ballet I usually skip...luckily these pieces are invariably the last ballet shown on a given programme and you can always scoot out.


Evan, I wonder how large of a roster Peter Boal intends to develop at PNB and whether in fact there will be more NYC Ballet dancers moving out there.

I'm also curious to see how Christopher Wheeldon's new MORPHOSES takes off and whether dancers from NYCB will join that Company full-time. My impression is that during the first season most of the dancers working with Christopher will sort of be there on a guest-artist basis.


Oh no, FANCY FREE (one of my favorite Robbins' ballets and one that I would always go out of my way to see) also made your "dreaded" list! Well, it is sort of a Broadway ballet, isn't it. The Romans said it best - De gustibus non disputandum est. In the end, it all comes down to the mystery of human subjectivity and the unique perspective that each of us brings to the table.

Annette L. Charniak

Need a 2008 program for Saratoga to arrange a trip for our senior center.

Please advise

The comments to this entry are closed.