‘Tis the Season

Dance season arrived last week with a vengeance. Suddenly there is just too much to see, too much to choose from! Here are a few of the things I’ve caught around town:

  1. Twyla Tharp at the Joyce
Sara Rudner and Rose Marie Wright in The Raggedy Dances at ANTA Theatre (1972). © William Pierce

 

 

Here’s my review.

2.Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Salva Sanchis’s “A Love Supreme,” at New York Live Arts

Rosas in A Love Supreme. Photo by Maria Baranova.

Here’s my review.

3. The New York City Ballet fall gala, with works by Troy Schumacher, Gianna Reisen, Lauren Lovette and Justin Peck

Indiana Woodward in Justin Peck’s Pulcinella Variations. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Here’s my review. 

Justin Peck Saddles UP

Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar in Justin Peck's "Rodeo, Four Danced Episodes." Phot by Paul Kolnik.
Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar in Justin Peck’s “Rodeo, Four Danced Episodes.” Phot by Paul Kolnik.

My review of Justin Peck’s new ballet, set to Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo,” is here. It was performed in a program that also included Christopher Wheeldon’s “Mercurial Manoeuvres” and Alexei Ratmansky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Here’s an image from the latter ballet:

Ramasar, Mearns, and Sterling Hyltin in Alexei Ratmansky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Ramasar, Mearns, and Sterling Hyltin in Alexei Ratmansky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Balanchine x 6

Here’s my review of the Jan. 20 and Jan. 22 programs at New York City Ballet, which included six works by Balanchine: Serenade, Agon, Symphony in C, Donizetti Variations, La Valse, and Chaconne. Not bad for two nights at the ballet.

A little excerpt:

“These Balanchine evenings quickly establish the company’s core values: musicality, speed, lightness of touch, spaciousness, style. They also impress upon the audience the vast range of balletic modes in which the choreographer worked…. The ballets are not only worlds in themselves but, taken as a group, they seem to encompass most of ballet.”

Teresa Reichlen in Serenade. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Teresa Reichlen in Serenade. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

The continues through March 1.

Ratmansky goes to the Pictures

An image from "Pictures at an Exhibition." Photo by Paul Kolnik.
An image from “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Last night was the première of Alexei Ratmansky’s new “Pictures at an Exhibition”—yes, set to that score—for New York City Ballet. And it’s a good one. You can read my review for DanceTabs here.

And here’s a short excerpt: “At the risk of sounding like a broken record, is there a ballet choreographer working today who is more imaginative, more wholly himself, than Alexei Ratmansky? The images that music awakens in him are often weirdly unexpected, and yet one is so thoroughly drawn into the worlds he creates onstage that surprise quickly turns into a kind of amazed fascination.”

Ratmansky, Amar Ramasar, and Sara Mearns in the studio. By Paul Kolnik
Ratmansky, Amar Ramasar, and Sara Mearns in the studio. By Paul Kolnik
Ratmansky and Gonzalo García. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Ratmansky and Gonzalo García. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

 

Bringing Balanchine Back

Teresa Reichlen in Movements for Piano and Orchestra. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Teresa Reichlen in
Movements for Piano and Orchestra. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

New York City Ballet has been going from strength in a series of all-Balanchine programs. I review ballets with music by Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky here. A short excerpt:

“On the Stravinsky program (Sept. 25), Robert Fairchild returned to Apollo…He has relaxed into this challenging role and is now able to take risks, tilting dangerously (and excitingly) off-balance and pushing the tempo to create moments of surprise and wildness. Like the unruly young god he depicts, Fairchild tests his strengths and weaknesses before us on the stage.”

Guys and Dolls

Sterling Hyltin as Swanilda in Balanchine's Coppélia. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Sterling Hyltin as Swanilda and Gonzalo García in Balanchine’s Coppélia. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Last week I caught a single performance of Coppélia at New York City Ballet, with Sterling Hyltin in the role of Swanilda and Gonzalo García as her wayward beau, Frantz. It’s easy to see why this comic ballet has remained in the repertory for so long. Délibes’ music is enchanting from start to finish, and consistently danceable. The little pause at the top of the phrase in the “wheat dance”—during which the girls listen to an ear of grain to test whether their boyfriends love them—is so lilting, so charming, and, as an added bonus, gives the dancers a perfect opportunity to perch, ever-so-gracefully, in a balance. And who can resist the rousing mazurka? (If only the NYCB dancers were a bit more lusty in their execution of this folk dance. In their ribbons and boots, they look like very well-mannered and slightly embarrassed kids.)

Coppélia and Garía in the wedding pas de deux. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Hyltin and García in the wedding pas de deux. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

It was my first time seeing Hyltin in the role of Swanilda. She is a natural comedienne, with big eyes and a long, girlish face that she is not loath to scrunch up into funny expressions. Unlike many ballerinas, she’s not overly attached to the idea of looking beautiful at all times, no matter what the situation. She’s terribly light on her toes; her jumps have a wonderful sparkle. With her extraordinarily linear frame, she can create marvelous angles with her elbows and knees, handy when dancing the role of a girl imitating a doll. But she can also be soft, lyrical, even sexy (as in Rubies and Stravinsky Violin Concerto).  Her Swanilda is playful and sweet, without the edge some dancers bring to the role. (I remember thinking Natalia Osipova was screaming at the audience when she danced it.) Meanwhile, García’s Frantz is a handsome, seductive dolt, warm and easy to forgive. And he’s so pretty that one is reminded that this role was once danced by a woman, en travesti.

For the first two acts of his 1974 production, Balanchine enlisted Alexandra Danilova, a famously mischievous Swanilda, to help him create a version close to the one she had danced for many years. But he remade the final act, replacing the allegorical dances (dawn, prayer, the hours) with more abstract solos and ensembles. These are lovely, but I do miss the notion of each dance representing a particular idea, which one hears clearly in the music. The dances for the dolls in the second act, too, are somewhat uninspired, though Austin Bachman managed to make a vivid impression as the melancholy acrobat.

But the best thing about Balanchine’s third act is the fact that the corps de ballet is replaced by twenty-four adorable little girls from the School of American Ballet, a garland of perfect Petipa ballerinas in miniature.

Act III of Balanchine's Coppélia. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Act III of Balanchine’s Coppélia. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

A Fond Farewell—Jenifer Ringer

Final farewells. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Final farewells. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Jenifer Ringer danced her last dance yesterday at New York City Ballet, in a program that combined Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering and Balanchine’s tribute to the British Isles, Union Jack. Unsurprisingly she seemed relaxed, dancing with her usual musicality and emotional transparency. Here’s my review of the show, for DanceTabs.

The cast of Dances at a Gathering. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
The cast of Dances at a Gathering. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

I’d love to hear people’s memories of her dancing. I’ll never forget a public coaching of Liebeslieder with Violette Verdy. Dressed in rehearsal clothes, under bright studio lights, Ringer and Jared Angle  conjured a completely enclosed world in which only they existed. After they finished Verdy said simply, “that was perfect, I have nothing to say.”

Jenifer Ringer in Union Jack. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Jenifer Ringer in Union Jack. Photo by Paul Kolnik.