A Violette Verdy coaching at City Center from a few years back. Jenifer Ringer’s rendition of Liebeslieder with Jared Angle, which starts at 34:14, is seared into my brain from that day. So simple, and intimate, and true.
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.
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.”
It was just announced that four principals will be retiring from New York City Ballet next winter and spring. I’m especially sad to see Jenifer Ringer go. She hasn’t danced much lately–she’s been busy with her two children–and she’s been missed. Ringer was one of the first dancers I fell in love with, unsurprising since she is a particularly warm, welcoming presence onstage. She seemed to me to represent something essential to American dancers: a kind of easy-going naturalness, musicality, and sense of freedom. She is always herself onstage. I’ve loved her in so many ballets, including as Sugarplum in Nutcracker, in which she exuded beauty and almost maternal warmth. She was the essence of femininity and interiority in Emeralds and Dances at a Gathering. And she could be sophisticated too, as when she danced the fabulous role of the cigarette girl in Ratmansky’s Namouna (see above). And then there was Liebeslieder, most especially the duet in which the woman slowly slides her leg along the floor beneath her dress, and miraculously rises up, like a ship on the seas, then floats down again. I’ll never forget watching Violette Verdy at a public coaching of Liebeslieder with Ringer and Jared Angle; after the pas de deux, Verdy said only: “how lovely.” I’ll be at her farewell performance, on Feb. 9, and I’m sure I’ll shed a tear or two.
Alexei Ratmansky’s Namouna, a Grand Divertissement, is back at New York City Ballet. And what a ballet it is: witty, intelligent, sophisticated, joyous, bubbling over with steps. If you haven’t seen it, you should. (It will be performed again on the evening of Oct. 10, and Oct. 12 at 2.)
I review it here, for DanceTabs. And here is a short excerpt from that review: “Some ballets improve with age, or, to be more accurate, our eye evolves and we learn to see them better. I remember being befudled at the New York City Ballet première of Alexei Ratmansky’s Namouna, A Grand Divertissement in 2010. By the second viewing, I had started to warm to its oddball charm. And by the end of that season, I was smitten. Tonight, revisting this ballet for the first time in three years, it was clear that it is the best new work the company has commissioned since, well, Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH (2008).”
Just received the casting for the final week of The Nutcracker at NYCB, and I see that Jenifer Ringer will be dancing the role of Sugarplum on Dec. 26 and Dec. 30. It’s one of Ringer’s best roles—or rather it suits her quite perfectly—because there is something so refreshingly adult, feminine, and musical about her dancing. Technique and razzle-dazzle are not the point. Ringer is one of those dancers who just let themselves be carried along by the ebb and flow of the music; she never looks forced, and she never tries to impress. While appearing to dance for her own enjoyment, she just opens up her imagination and allows us to come with her for the ride. (She’s a natural in ballets like Liebeslieder Walzer, that require an imagination.) And the way she responds to the kids onstage in Nutcracker, one can see she knows and loves children. This isn’t an essential quality for Sugarplum, but it does add a deeper level to the role. Ringer’s latest absence was caused not by injury but by her second pregnancy; she has spoken with joy of the pleasures of motherhood (and even of pregnancy). Since she’s in her late thirties, there was reason to worry she might not come back, which would have been a terrible shame. Her casting in Nutcracker is a good sign that she will return for the winter season, which begins on January 15 and features a festival of Tchaikovsky ballets. With her sense of scale, wonderful phrasing, and innate glamor, Ringer is a natural for Tchaikovsky. Something to look forward to.
Here she is in a moment from Melissa Barak’s Call Me Ben (not a good ballet, I’m afraid, but a wonderful shot that captures a lot.) The photographer is Paul Kolnik.
Curious to know what ballets others love to see Ringer in? Drop me a line.