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New York City Ballet - Mozartiana, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, Tarantella, Symphony in C
-Onstage with the Dancers

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(www.nycballet.org)

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

Conductors, Maurice Kaplow and Richard Moredock

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center

Review by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
February 16, 2003

Mozartiana (1981): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Tom Gold, Philip Neal, Dena Abergel, Saskia Beskow (Danskin Spokesperson), Rebecca Krohn, Eva Natanya, and students from the School of American Ballet: Lola Cooper, Saige Miller, Kay Ohta, and Ksenia Pereverzeva. Tschaikovsky studied at the Conservatory in St. Petersburg, where Balanchine also studied piano and dance. The original NYC Ballet cast included Suzanne Farrell, Ib Andersen, and Christopher d'Amboise. (NYCB Notes).

As an homage to Mozart, this ballet opens in the most classical manner, in the stillness of a scene, with the exquisite Wendy Whelan, flanked by four young members of the School of America Ballet. The young girls wear lacy, black tutus, and they do not miss one step. Moreover, they have poise and elegance and are perfectly en pointe. This first movement, called Prighiera, allows Wendy Whelan to mesmerize the audience, with her charismatic persona and unusual talent. She essentially opened the matinee, solo, with her four young dancers, perhaps as muses, like tiny, rustling birds. Tom Gold enters the stage in a whirlwind, in the Gigue, hopping and leaping, with the same energy exhibited in Variations Pour Une Porte et Un Soupir. In fact (See The Steadfast Tin Soldier), Mr. Gold has tremendous audience appeal. He has dramatic capacities and engages the audience with an explosive and dynamic, as well as a lyrical, style and presence.

In Menuet, the four dancers in black are now soloists, with more expansive choreography, and more intricate weaving around Ms. Whelan. Philip Neal has tremendous virtuosity as a soloist, and he ignited the stage with increasing energy, as his long, muscular limbs leaped, and as he spun and twirled in place with amazing speed. As a partner to Ms. Whelan, he was attentive and timely, but he still does not exude chemistry with his partners, as do Peter Boal, Robert Tewsley, and the Master of partnered chemistry, Jock Soto (also Adam Hendrickson, see Tarantella). The Finale, with the complete cast, was quintessentially Balanchine, very inventive and visually enticing.

I would like to also mention the violin solo, during Ms. Whelan's and Mr. Neal's duet, which was extremely evocative. Kudos to Mr. Kaplow for stepping in for Mr. Fiorato to conduct today's program.

The Steadfast Tin Soldier (1975): Music by Georges Bizet, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by David Mitchell, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Yvonne Borree and Tom Gold. Georges Bizet is best known for his opera, Carmen. He was an excellent pianist and wrote works, including Jeux d'Enfants, part of which is the music for this ballet. The story is based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, which tells of the love between a tin soldier and a paper-doll ballerina. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center commissioned this piece. (NYCB Notes). New York City Ballet is in residence each summer in Saratoga Springs, NY.

This is such a heartwarming and poignant story about unrequited love, but not one that is above a child's world. Tom Gold, who solos in two ballets in a row, is totally amazing. As the Soldier, in this Christmas Eve fairy tale, he exudes the same kinetic energy and lightning leaps and jumps, as if he were springing off a trampoline, not from a stage. In fact, his straight leg lifts touched his head. Ms. Borree, in frothy, ruffled pink, a perfect paper doll, is enormously engaging and develops her character enthusiastically, with nuanced grace and coyness. Her arms moved, as would a doll's. She was pure confection.

I was taken with the scene, in which the soldier takes his bright red heart and offers it to the doll, who places it within her own heart. Shortly after, this same heart is sadly retrieved by the soldier, from within the fireplace that has engulfed the elusive doll. There is such an innocent and loveable quality to this ballet, and I was thrilled to see so many children in the audience, all of whom seemed to thoroughly enjoy the entire matinee program. Kudos to Mr. Mitchell for scenery and costumes.

Tarantella (1964): Music by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Reconstructed and Orchestrated by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano Solo: Nancy McDill, Performed by Alexandra Ansanelli and Adam Hendrickson. This music is from Gottschalk's Grande Tarantelle for Piano and Orchestra. Gottschalk was well known in the Nineteenth Century as a pianist and composer from Louisiana. He was praised by Chopin and toured Europe. Hershy Kay was an orchestrator and composer of Musicals and Ballets. The Tarantella is a classical dance with instantaneous spins and directional changes.

I found the partnered chemistry I was longing for in this exciting duo. Mr. Hendrickson, who superbly carried Interplay last week, could not take his eyes off Ms. Ansanelli, who could not take her eyes off Mr. Hendrickson. Something about his persona, with his gypsy scarf and tambourine, wild animal magnetism, extended leaps and his manner of surrounding Ms. Ansanelli, began to be reminiscent of the early images of Rudolf Nureyev. And, something about Ms. Ansanelli's flirtatious exuberance and wild confidence was reminiscent of Nureyev's partner, Margot Fonteyn. I loved the way the dancers played the tambourines, as the orchestra provided the explosive rhythms for this must-see-again duet.

Symphony in C (1948): In this performance, Antonio Carmena danced the role that Robert Tewsley danced on February 4, 2003. Included in today's cast, which is, otherwise, essentially the same as that of February 4, 2003, are Saskia Beskow and Deanna McBrearty, who are both Danskin Spokespersons. The last time I reviewed New York City Ballet's Symphony in C, I knew the music and choreography were familiar and later realized that I had reviewed this piece for American Ballet Theater, as well. This is a work that can be enjoyed time after time, because the music and choreography build like Debussy's La Mer, an ever-swelling ocean of movement and sound. In today's performance, it must be noted that the entire cast was in rare form.

The Adagio, danced by Darci Kistler and Jock Soto, was a moment to be forever locked in my ballet memory box. These two were seamless. Mr. Soto and Ms. Kistler were one. Ms. Kistler had complete trust, as she splendidly danced backwards into his waiting arms, as she slowly collapsed forward and backward, into his signature support, and as she danced mid-air, as if they were angels in Baroque murals. Janie Taylor and Antonio Carmena brought youthful verve and dynamism to this classic work. Nilas Martins and Abi Stafford were engaging and lyrical, and Pascale van Kipnis and Arch Higgins led the Allegro Vivace to its conclusion, with a hurricane of pulsating music by Bizet. Kudos to Richard Moredock for his brilliant conducting.

 

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net