New York City Ballet - Kammermusik No. 2, Afternoon of a Faun, Sonatine, Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet
-Onstage with the Dancers
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
Review by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
April 28, 2004
Kammermusik No. 2 (1978): Music by Paul Hindemith, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Ben Benson, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Richard Moredock, Piano Solo: Cameron Grant, Performed by Maria Kowroski, Charles Askegard, Sofiane Sylve, James Fayette, and the Company. With surreal piano effects, the two lead couples, Ms. Kowroski and Mr. Askegard, and Ms. Sylve and Mr. Fayette enhanced Hindemith's edgy score with floating formations and dynamic demeanor. I wished for more affect from Mr. Fayette, who transforms himself so often into theatrical treachery in full-length ballets. Ms. Kowroski, as usual, extended her elegantly lengthy limbs for exquisite figures. Amar Ramasar is a Corps dancer to watch, with his growing skills and enticing expressions. Kudos to Cameron Grant.
Afternoon of a Faun (1953): Music by Claude Debussy, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery and Lighting by Jean Rosenthal, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Guest Conductor: George Cleve, Performed by Alexandra Ansanelli and Damian Woetzel. Debussy is known for "musical impressionism" and wrote a large repertoire of works for piano and for orchestra, including "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune", 1892-94. (Program Notes). This is hardly Nijinsky's Faun There were no nymphs and no scarves, no grapes and no cliffs. However, in an amazing re-creation of Nijinsky's angular hands and feet, sideways glances, and goat-like movements, Damian Woetzel was a faun in his dance studio, with a mirror and open, blue/black wall, as if he were perched upon an open cliff, but his mountain was his dance floor, and he even curled into the fetal position and wound himself around his walls. Ms. Ansanelli was a quintessential nymph, ingénue but wily, enchanting but vulnerable. She knows her partner, and she knows her audience.
Together, Mr. Woetzel and Ms. Ansanelli are one hot dance partnership in progress. There is no lack of affect here, but smoldering fire and driven dancers. They seem to feed off each other's magnetism and virtuosity with awe and energy. Mr. Woetzel has never seemed so young and powerful, at once the quintessential faun dazzled by the enigmatic nymph. Their timing and togetherness were instantaneous. Kudos to George Cleve for an elegant interpretation of Debussy's intoxicating score.
Sonatine (1975): Music by Maurice Ravel, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Pianist: Elaine Chelton, Performed by Aurélie Dupont and Manuel Legris (Courtesy of Paris Opera Ballet). This ballet was presented in the 1975 NYC Ballet Ravel Festival. It is about a gentle stroll for two onstage with the pianist. (Program Notes). Unlike Faun, Sonatine is all smiles and blandness, and the audience seemed to miss the daring dancers above.
Ms. Dupont and Mr. Legris, on loan from Paris Opera Ballet, were guided to interpret this work as if they were euphoric with no relief. Mr. Legris' Cheshire grin was annoying, and it would have helped to add depth and intensity to the pink and blue, froth and frills. To be fair, Ms. Dupont and Mr. Legris are skillful, fluid dancers with grace and professionalism. The lack of emotional stage connection, however, reduced the sensation of the celebration of young love. Kudos to Elaine Chelton.
Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet (1966): Music by Johannes Brahms (First Piano Quartet in G Minor, Op. 25), Orchestrated by Arnold Schoenberg, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by David Mitchell, Costumes by Karinska, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Performed by Miranda Weese, Stephen Hanna, Ellen Bar, Jenifer Ringer, James Fayette, Yvonne Borree, Nikolaj Hübbe, Wendy Whelan, Damian Woetzel, and the Company, including Saskia Beskow, Danskin Spokesperson. This was Balanchine's first abstract work for New York State Theater. Schoenberg orchestrated Brahms' "Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor", and Balanchine used this work, as he did not like chamber music for ballet. (Program Notes).
With dancers dressed by Karinska as frolicking Fragonard figures, replete with rosebuds and ribbons, chandeliers and curtains, love and romance filled the air, and the expertise of the leads in four movements was well acknowledged. Allegro was whirling confection, and Intermezzo included rapid spins and dynamic drama, as Mr. Fayette found his stage presence with his attentive partnering of Ms. Ringer, who always seems like a poised princess en air. Ms. Weese and Mr. Hanna were well matched with their muscularity and technical brilliance. Ms. Bar enhanced the trios.
Mr. Hübbe and Ms. Borree danced the dark, percussive passages of Andante, and Mr. Hübbe 's solo was regal and bravura. The work ends with signature Balanchine choreographic figures in Rondo alla Zingarese. Kudos to Andrea Quinn for her consistent leadership skills of such a fine orchestra, as she matches the dance with such sharp timing.