New York City Ballet - Fancy Free, Barber Violin Concerto, Stars and Stripes
-Onstage with the Dancers
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Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children's Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn
Manager, Press Relations, Siobhan Burns
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 26, 2004
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Fancy Free (1944): Music by Leonard Bernstein, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Kermit Love, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Performed by Tom Gold, Seth Orza, and Damian Woetzel as the Sailors, Amanda Edge, Jenifer Ringer, and Rebecca Krohn as the Passers-by, and Andrew Veyette as the Bartender.
After having seen many productions of Fancy Free at NYC Ballet and ABT, there is always freshness and energy upon visiting it once again. Tonight, the powerful combo of Tom Gold and Damian Woetzel, along with the endearing Seth Orza, brought new life to this timeless work, first staged during World War II. The full potential of the momentum and mime were almost realized. I say almost, because, in reference to momentum, Mr. Orza seemed a bit less buoyant than his team of sailors, on leave in the City. Mr. Gold and Mr. Woetzel were tornados with beer, as they guzzled and leaped from bar counter to chairs to floor in stormy bravado and bravura excitement. Mr. Orza has energy and skill, but Fancy Free calls for extraordinary hormonal dynamism, as the men change mood and style, each time a female "passer-by" enters the scene.
As for the potential of mime, Amanda Edge seemed miscast as the lead female that woos two sailors with her sassy, red pocketbook. She had an angry, fitful persona, not the wily, sexy demeanor that has been evident in previous reviews of this role. As the scene developed, Ms. Edge never seemed relaxed or connected to the sailors. Jenifer Ringer, however, was a superb Passer-by, wooing Mr. Woetzel shamelessly and kissing onstage. Her purple dress and shoes gave Ms. Ringer, usually onstage in white tutu and crown, a new presence. Rebecca Krohn, in a lesser role, was sensual and created a lovely walk. With Fleet Week in the air, Fancy Free was timely and terrific.
Barber Violin Concerto (1988): Music by Samuel Barber (Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 14), Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by William Ivey Long, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Solo Violinist: Arturo Delmoni, Performed by Darci Kistler, Ask la Cour, Ashley Bouder, and Jock Soto. Barber, usually considered a classicist, moved into a contemporary motif with his "Violin Concerto", with its dissonance and starkness. This work includes melodic movements as well as a rapid scherzo. (NYCB Notes).
On this first experience with Barber Violin Concerto, I was struck by the element of surprise. Here were two dancers in ballet form, ballet shoes, and ballet costumes (Darci Kistler and Ask la Cour)and two dancers in modern dance form, barefoot, and modern costumes (a bare-chested Jock Soto and austere Ashley Bouder). There were three movements and three motifs: Movement I included the two sets of partners in their own contrasting rhythms and style, as Mr. la Cour and Ms. Kistler danced slowly and eloquently, while Mr. Soto and Ms. Bouder (in ponytail) danced seductively with extended leaps and wing-like arms.
Movement II included a change of partners, as Mr. Soto and Ms. Kistler danced a most passionate and mesmerizing, melodic duet, visually entrancing and physically challenging. Movement III contained the grandest surprise, as Ms. Bouder chased and attacked Mr. la Cour, leaping onto his back, grabbing his thighs and calves, poking and falling onto him, during a rapid scherzo. I found the last movement at first adorable, and finally annoying. However, Ms. Bouder is amazing to behold, in any solo role, as she exudes unbridled energy and passion in motion. Mr. Martins has choreographed a unique work to this fascinating score, and Ms. Quinn led the orchestra and soloist in brilliant fashion. Arturo Delmoni, violin soloist, was virtuosic and confident in this eclectic work.
Stars and Stripes (1958): Music adapted and orchestrated by Hershy Kay after music by John Philip Sousa, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by David Hays, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor: Richard Fletcher, Performed by Jennifer Tinsley, Dana Hanson, Adam Hendrickson, Wendy Whelan, Damian Woetzel, and the Company. Balanchine created five "campaigns" with changing Sousa themes. This ballet was performed for the opening ceremonies for the New York State Theater. (NYCB Notes).
This is the kind of piece that reminds even the most urban Americans of their roots and heritage, with the rousing refrains of John Philip Sousa. Balanchine developed this piece into five Campaigns, with five Company choreographies or duets. Karinska's costumes, like toy soldiers and dolls, military hats and feathers, large buttons and tutus, perfectly set the mood for chivalry and daring. Of special note were Adam Hendrickson's incredible performance as leader of the Third Regiment and Wendy Whelan and Damian Woetzel's sensational duet as Liberty Bell and El Capitan. Mr. Hendrickson was reviewed in this magazine last year as a dancer to watch. It is nearly impossible to allow one's eyes to wander, when this young Corps dancer is onstage. His powerful performances are flawless, and his theatrical sense is inherent in all roles.
Mr. Woetzel, as always, proves to be one of the most charismatic and virtuosic dancers on the stage of any ballet company today. He plays with the audience to the utmost extent, and he lingers en air in defiance of gravity. He is a tremendously focused and balanced dancer, with multiple entrechats, punctuated with personality and pizzazz. Ms. Whelan, always the extreme dancer, with extra extensions and curved leg patterns, was confident and buoyant. Dana Hanson and Jennifer Tinsley executed their leads of the Second and First Campaigns with personality and charm (Ms. Tinsley even caught her baton en air). The Corps was magnificently meticulous in their signature and extensive Balanchine formations, at times reminiscent of a chorus line of Rockettes, and at times reminiscent of Busby Berkeley films -- a kaleidoscope of color and class, a patriotic pot pourri of music, dance, costumes, and sets, against Stars and Stripes.
Kudos to Guest Conductor Richard Fletcher for his excellent interpretation of Hershy Kays' adaptation of these Sousa favorites.