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Nutcracker Érotique

Laura Careless as Marie-Claire and Marisol Cabrera in Nutcracker Rouge. Photo by Phillip Van Nostrand.
Laura Careless as Marie-Claire and Marisol Cabrera in Nutcracker Rouge. Photo by Phillip Van Nostrand.

Last week, I saw Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge, at the Minetta Lane Theatre, and found it to be a rather good show: sexy, imaginative, and great to look at. Here’s my review for DanceTabs.

And a short excerpt:

“I’ll bet this is not the first Nutcracker érotique, but it certainly makes a persuasive argument for the genre. This is partly due to the esthetics of the show – part Marquis de Sade, part cabaret, part drag show – , so beautifully executed by Zane Pihlstrom, the company’s resident designer. Baroque costume, with its panniers, ribbons and delicately-curved heeled shoes (for men and women), lends itself particularly well to the decadent esthetics of burlesque. The corsets are so flattering, and there are so many layers to remove, so much to reveal underneath.”

A New Tempest for ABT

Marcelo Gomes and Daniil Simkin in "The Tempest." Photo by Andrea Mohin.
Marcelo Gomes and Daniil Simkin in “The Tempest.” Photo by Andrea Mohin.

Alexei Ratmansky’s new Tempest premièred at American Ballet Theatre’s fall gala, held at the old State Theatre. Because of the departure (and now closure) of New York City Opera, the theatre is now becoming a magnet for dance companies. ABT is appearing there for the first time since the seventies, and it looks quite at home on its stage. It’s a great space for dance, with excellent site lines.

Anyway, the program consisted of of three works: Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, The Tempest, and a trifle by Marcelo Gomes. Here’s my review for DanceTabs.

And a short excerpt: “As the note in the program points out, ‘the ballet is at once a fragmented narrative as well as a meditation on some of the themes of Shakespeare’s play.’ It is both those things, but even more, it is a series of psychological portraits of its central characters. Each (Miranda, Ariel, Caliban, Ferdinand) dances a kind of aria. Most also have a duet with Prospero; he is the hub of the play’s network of relationships.”

Matthew Bourne and Sleeping Beauty, a Match Made in …Transylvania?

Dominic North (Leo, the gardener) and Liam Mower (as Count Lilac). Photo by Simon Annand.
Dominic North (Leo, the gardener) and Liam Mower (as Count Lilac). Photo by Simon Annand.

With Sleeping Beauty, Bourne completes his Tchaikovsky Trilogy. Not satisfied to delve into its plot, he has reconstructed the story and added some rather surprising supernatural elements. Does it work? Not really. Sleeping Beauty is not an easy work to stage–even ballet companies, following Petipa’s libretto, often fail. But by going hors-piste, Bourne is forced to make increasingly outlandish choices to keep the story on-track. The first act more or less works, but the second goes off the rails. Meanwhil, Tchaikovsky’s music (played in an overloud recording) is more or less trampled. Here’s my review, for DanceTabs.

San Francisco Ballet Comes to Town

And here’s my review of the first night.

Sofiane Sylve in Christopher Wheeldon's "Ghosts."
Sofiane Sylve in Christopher Wheeldon’s “Ghosts.” Photo by Erik Tomasson.

A little excerpt:

“The company looks to be in top form. Throughout the evening, the dancers moved with real power and drive, plunging into the steps, taking no prisoners. The company style seems to combine the speed and attack of City Ballet with the three-dimensionality and grandeur of American Ballet.”

Not so taken with the last ballet of the evening, Wayne McGregor’s Borderlands: “McGregor seems obsessed with the dancers’ butts and ribcages, both of which are prominently displayed. There is a certain fascination to watching bodies being contorted in awkward, self-consciously ugly, wide-open poses, but, at least for me, the fascination passes quickly, leaving a kind of glazed shellshock.”

Back to Basics–Balanchine “Black and White” at NYCB

Sterling Hyltin in "Symphony in Three Movements." Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Sterling Hyltin in “Symphony in Three Movements.” Photo by Paul Kolnik.

New York City Ballet went back to basics this week with its “Black and White” program. All Balanchine, all modernist ballets performed in pared-down leotards and tights: The Four Temperaments, Episodes, Duo Concertant, and Symphony in Three Movements. Here’s my review of the evening for DanceTabs.

And a short excerpt: “The program, a compilation of modernist ballets set to music by Webern, Hindemith, and Stravinsky that span three decades (1946-1972), is a kind of compendium of the choreographer’s most radical, game-changing esthetic. Its distinctive mix of courtliness, mystery, and eroticism still surprises. Not to mention its musical intelligence, which can make sense of a work as impenetrable – and as seemingly undanceable – as Anton Webern’s pointillist Opus 21 symphony.”

The “Black and White” program repeats on Sept. 28, Oct. 1, Oct. 4, and Oct. 13.

A Rollicking Night at the Symphony

One of the puppets in A Dancer's Dream. Photo by Christ Lee.
One of the puppets in A Dancer’s Dream. Photo by Christ Lee.

On June 27, I saw “A Dancer’s Dream,” at the new York Philharmonic. The program was a collaboration between the orchestra and the production company Giants Are Small and included two Stravinsky ballets (Baiser de la Fée and Petrushka) and a piece for piano four hands by Louis Durey. Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar, of New York City Ballet, performed, amid puppets, projections, and cameos by the orchestra players. And while the concept didn’t completely work (especially in Baiser), the rendition of Petrushka was so vibrant that the evening came alive. Here’s a link to my review, for DanceTabs.”Toy toboggans careened down miniature mountains, onion domes danced, a Russian toy chicken pecked its wooden platform…The musicians too got in on the action, performing little cameos for the camera (like drinking tea from a samovar). At one point, a violinist lay down her instrument and proceeded to juggle colored scarves, perfectly on the beat, and did a Russian dance to boot.”

Of Princes and Swans

Herman Cornejo's curtain call on June 21. Photo by Leena Hassan.
Herman Cornejo’s curtain call on June 21. Photo by Leena Hassan.

There were several débuts in ABT’s Swan Lake this week. I caught two: the soloist James Whiteside (dancing with Gillian Murphy) and Herman Cornejo (alongside Maria Kochetkova, of the San Francisco Ballet). Cornejo danced to the manner born–he was put on this earth to play Siegfried, it seems. The only thing that has kept him back this long is the everpresent problem of finding a partner of his size who dances with the same panache and scale. Originally he was scheduled to perform with Alina Cojocaru, who just retired from the Royal Ballet. But she pulled out at the last minute (because of an injury, they say), and was replaced by Maria Kochetkova. In many ways, Kochetkova is just right for him, though she doesn’t seem to have the same open-heartedness or warmth. But who does?

Here is my review of both casts, for DanceTabs. 

And a short excerpt:

“Cornejo is in the flower of his career, and it was clear from his first steps on the stage that he was more than ready for the challenge. In fact, it was as if he had been dancing Swan Lake all his life. In the first scene, he flirted boyishly with one of courtiers (Luciana Paris), kissed her hand with budding ardor as if wondering, “could she be the one?” Just as clearly, one could read the disappointment in his eyes. His first-act meditation solo, full of aching arabesques and slow swivels with one leg curving behind him (renversés), was delivered as one long thought: “where is my true love? How will I find her?”

Maria Kochetkova and Herman Cornejo at their curtain call. Photo by Leena Hassan.
Maria Kochetkova and Herman Cornejo at their curtain call. Photo by Leena Hassan.

Breaking Through: An Interview with Teresa Reichlen

Teresa Reichlen and Tyler Angle in Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Teresa Reichlen and Tyler Angle in Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Recently sat down with Teresa Reichlen, of New York City Ballet; here‘s a link to my interview, for DanceTabs.

Reichlen has been dancing gorgeously this season; she seems to have broken through some emotional barrier that was holding her back slightly. She’s one of those dancers that just seem to transcend technique and really dance. You can still catch her as Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty on Feb. 22. But keep an eye out for her, especially in roles like the opening section of Vienna Waltzes or Titania in Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Balanchine’s Bait and Switch: Divertimento from Baiser de la Fée

On Sunday, at the New York City Ballet matinée, the company performed a mixed bill: Divertimento from ‘Baiser de la Fée,’ Tchaikosvky Pas de Deux, Bal de Couture, and Diamonds. As always, I was fascinated by Divertimento‘s ungraspable quality. It seems like one kind of ballet, but turns out to be something completely different. Its haunting ending makes you question everything you’ve seen before. Tiler Peck captures this transformation perfectly; she is able to transform herself, subtly, from country girl to spellbound woman, lost in a dream. You can see my review here.

Sara Mearns also performed, in Diamonds:

“Sara Mearns, back from an injury which had kept her off the stage for nine months, was in rare form, dancing with that special intensity that sets her apart from other ballerinas. One could almost hear her thoughts as she slowly zig-zagged across the stage toward her cavalier (Ask la Cour) at the start of their pas de deux. The deep arch in her back in the duet’s many backbends expressed enormous yearning; each unfolding of the leg was a momentous, slow, deliberate affair. “I am your queen, and I have suffered long.” Like a great opera singer, Mearns is able to sustain endless legato phrases, melodies that modulate and stretch and leave the viewer gasping for air.”

Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky (from DanceTabs)

New York City Ballet’s winter season (aka the “Tchaikovsky Celebration”) opened this week. I caught the Wednesday performance, with Serenade, Mozartiana, and Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 (once known as Ballet Imperial). It also marked Sara Mearns’ return to the stage, after a long injury. You can read my review of the performance, for DanceTabs, here.

And here’s a short excerpt:

“I’m not yet fully convinced of the wisdom of New York City Ballet’s thematic seasons, organized around the music of a single composer. A full evening of Balanchine and Stravinsky is bracing and illuminating, but a whole season can leave you begging for melody, harmonic resolution, a drop of pathos. One can’t be acerbic and witty all the time. This season it’s Tchaikovsky’s turn, and the dial flips in the opposite direction, to a sound world filled with mystery, soaring melodies, turbulent crescendi and majestic apotheoses. In other words, a welcome injection of grandeur into our mundane lives. But how long can the audience sustain this fever pitch before beginning to yearn for the sharp edge of modernism? We’ll see.”