‘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. 

Looks like I have some catching up to do…

Let’s recap 🙂

Since my last post (of Jan. 20), New York City Ballet has reached the midpoint of its winter season. Here are a few glimpses of what’s gone on so far.

On Jan. 22, I reviewed two mixed bills, one including Liebeslieder Walzer and Glass Pieces, the other Ballo della Regina (a not very inspiring performance), Kammermusik No. 2, And Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3. You can can read my review, for DanceTabs, here.

pk-liebeslieder-lauren-lovette-jared-angle-back-front_1000-1024x702

Then, on Jan. 27, I reviewed a wonderful all-Balanchine program: Walpurgisnacht Ballet, Sonatine (jazzily danced by Tiler Peck), a luminous Mozartiana, and a pretty good Symphony in C. The review is here.

Sterling Hyltin in Mozartiana. © Paul Kolnik.
Sterling Hyltin in Mozartiana.
© Paul Kolnik.

While I was down in Sarasota, I watched rehearsals for Miro Magloire’s new ballet for Aida. It was fascinating to see him navigate the challenges of choreographing for opera: restricted space, weird footwear, fabric, tempo. I wrote about it here, for DanceTabs.

Sarasota Opera rehearsing Aida. © Sam Lowry and Sarasota Opera.
Sarasota Opera rehearsing Aida.
© Sam Lowry and Sarasota Opera.

The Trisha Brown Dance Company is completing its three-year Proscenium Works Tour, after which the company will transform itself into a smaller, more nimble entity. Brown’s large pieces will likely never be performed by her company again. An important, and moment of transition for the company. Her dancers came to BAM one last time at the end of January, where they performed Set and Reset, Present Tense, and Newark (Niweweorce). My review for DanceTabs is here.

Trisha Brown Dance Company in Present Tense. © Nan Melville.
Trisha Brown Dance Company in Present Tense.
© Nan Melville.

The Baroque-Burlesque company Company XIV, which created a very effective Nutcracker a few years ago, is back with a new decadent evening, a naughty version of Snow White. Decadent it is, an sumptuous to look at, but unfortunately, not tight enough to hold my interest for two hours. Here’s my review, for DanceTabs.

Lea Helle in Snow White. © Mark Shelby Perry.
Lea Helle in Snow White.
© Mark Shelby Perry.

Gemma Bond, a dancer with ABT, produced her first full evening of works, danced by a group of her friends (all wonderful dancers). The evening was a bit of a throwback, with much loveliness all around. My review is here.

Unspecified work in Gemma Bond’s Harvest bill. © Kathryn Wirsing.
Unspecified work in Gemma Bond’s Harvest bill.
© Kathryn Wirsing.

More Bournonville at NYCB

Teresa Reichlen in the pas de demux from "Flower Festival in Genzano." Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Teresa Reichlen in the pas de demux from “Flower Festival in Genzano.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Lauren Lovette and Anthony Huxley had their débuts in Peter Martins’ La Sylphide, and Teresa Reichlen and Zachary Catazaro danced the pas de deux from Flower Festival in Genzano. Read my review for DanceTabs here.

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.

Evergreen–Why Balanchine’s Nutcracker never Gets Old

Tiler Peck as Dewdrop in the Waltz of the Flowers. (photo by Paul Kolnik.)

Last night I saw my umpteenth performance of Balanchine’s Nutcracker at New York City Ballet, and was once again impressed by the construction, power, and fluency of this version. Yes, it was a particularly tight performance, without a weak link—even the kids were especially lively. But it’s not just that. There is something in the way the choreographer paced the action, the dancing, and the music that both streamlines and enlarges it. I talk about it some more in my review for DanceTabs.

And if you just can’t get enough, here is an excellent piece by Laura Jacobs about the history of the ballet, from Vanity Fair.

Something Old, Something New

Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette with the company in Justin Peck's <I>Everywhere We Go</I>.<br />© Paul Kolnik. (Click image for larger version)

Here’s my review of the Saturday matinee at New York City Ballet, including débuts by Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen  in Balanchine’s Chaconne and my second look at Justin Peck’s Everywhere We Go, from last season.

And a short excerpt: “[Everywhere We Go] begins well, with a striking duet for two men, or rather for a man and his shadow. This shadowing theme suffuses the rest of the ballet, particularly the complicated relationship between principals and corps. Peck constantly subverts the hierarchies of lead dancers and ensemble. Dancers melt in and out of larger formations; at times the shadow figures become the main event. Peck’s configurations for the ensemble are often asymmetrical, non-frontal, kaleidoscopic, but never less than clear.”

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.”

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.

The Spell of “Dances at a Gathering,” and other things

Tiler Peck and Joaquín de Luz in Dances at a Gathering. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Tiler Peck and Joaquín de Luz in Dances at a Gathering. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

For DanceTabs, I reviewed two programs at NYCB, “Just for Fun” (Carnival of the Animals, Jeu de Cartes, and The Four Seasons), and “Tradition and Innovation” (Vespro, Duo Concertant, and Dances at a Gathering). Yes, the company has taken to “naming” its programs, and also to grouping them by theme, which I often find to be problematic–too much of a good thing, not enough contrast. But still, serendipity happens. The seasons’ single performance of Jerome Robbins’ “Dances at a Gathering” turned out to be one of the freshest renditions I’ve seen in a long time. Tiler Peck, in particular, was ravishing as the “girl in pink” (see photo above).

Christopher Wheeldon’s “Carnival of the Animals,” which the company hasn’t done for a while, turned out to be a be a bit of a disappointment. It’s flat, and tries too hard to be funny (without succeeding). But there are some lovely images, like this one, of a mermaid, danced here by the beautiful Lauren Lovette.

Lauren Lovette in Carnival of the Animals, by Christopher Wheeldon. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Lauren Lovette in Carnival of the Animals, by Christopher Wheeldon. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Carousel Redux (at NYCB)

Overall, I found the ballet blander than I remembered. The pas de deux is  lovely, with hints of danger and a slightly obsessive quality. Lauren Lovette, débuting in the “Julie Jordan” role at New York City Ballet, captured this sense of excessive abandon quite well. At first she seems frightened and tries to run away from this strange man who pursues her, but then she finds herself drawn in inexorably. Finally, she acquiesces entirely, running toward him and wrapping herself around him like a scarf, chest exposed, off balance, completely vulnerable. In her excessive self-exposure, “Julie” reminds me of Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass. A rather conventional swoony pas de deux follows, with the usual big lifts. The first part is more interesting, more uncomfortable. Why does the man grasp her forearms with such force, and why does she keep running back to him? Why does he leave her alone, defenseless, for a moment? Lovette, a dark beauty with sparkling eyes, was perhaps a touch too innocent, too sweet here. Her interpretation felt like an extension of her Maria, from West Side Story. But I’m sure she’ll find more nuances over time. I remember Peck having a strange sort of animal quality; at first she fought for her freedom, and then she seemed to give in to an urge that even she couldn’t quite understand.

But the main problem with the  ballet is the Billy Bigelow part. In the musical, he’s depicted as an angry man with violent urges and a strong sexual energy. He’s damaged goods, but fatally attractive.  But Wheeldon’s choreography for Billy gives him almost no chance to reveal himself. Billy comes across as more of a conventional romantic lead. For the most part, Wheeldon keeps him occupied with partnering, pulling, lifting, turning, catching the girl. Or standing apart, under a spotlight and watching her as concentric circles revolve around him. Finally, when he does dance alone, briefly, the choreography doesn’t give us a sense of who he is or what he represents.  He performs a few jumps, some turns with his arms thrown out wide, and rushes about the stage with what looks like elation. Of course, it’s also true that there is absolutely nothing dark or dangerous about Robert Fairchild, who danced the role of Bigelow this afternoon. (In the recent New York Philharmonic production shown on Live from Lincoln Center it was equally hard to believe that Fairchild could be anything but a warm, lovely young man.) His dancing here had a lot of fervor but no real heat, and I do remember Woetzel having a bit more of an edge.

Wheeldon’s ensembles, which consist mainly of social dances and waltzes, interspersed with fluid, elegant lifts, are expertly handled, as are the big numbers, including  a long diagonal of couples that rise up and fold down to the ground and roll away, like a wave. The carousel image, with the women raised on the men’s shoulders as if on horseback, is nice. As is the overall look of the  ballet, suggesting a nocturnal outdoor dance pavilion, with two pretty garlands of colored lights hanging above. The costumes, stretchy summer dresses with panels in complementary colors (by Holly Hynes),  flow beautifully as the women whirl. And I’ve always liked  “Julie’s” yellow dress; the off-the shoulder straps expose her neck and upper back, making her look even more vulnerable, ripe for the picking.