New York City Ballet - Opus 19/The Dreamer, Sonatas and Interludes, Burleske, Agon
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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
Conductors, Maurice Kaplow, Andrea Quinn
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center
Review by Roberta Zlokower
February 5, 2003
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Opus 19/The Dreamer (1979): Music by Serge Prokofiev, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Ben Benson, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Violin Solo: Kurt Nikkanen, Performed by Jenifer Ringer, Peter Boal, and members of the Corps, including Saskia Beskow (Danskin Spokesperson). Conducted by Mr. Kaplow and hauntingly and existentially performed on solo violin by Mr. Nikkanen, this Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, my absolutely favorite Violin Concerto, was the score for a quintessentially perfect ballet. I cannot imagine how many times I have listened to this Concerto, especially when I drive long distance with an open roof and a full volume CD player. The violin solos tear at the soul, and the orchestral passages are reminiscent of Prokofiev's ballets, namely Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella, two of my favorite full-length ballets.
Not only is the music surreal, but also the dancers were even more surreal. Mr. Boal, in a white leotard, was a human helicopter, arms and legs spinning in place, sometimes in mid-air. He was enraptured and focused in his partnering of Ms. Ringer, as they wove through the Corps dancers, who were dressed in Mr. Benson's flowing blues. The Prokofiev signature dramatic element was not in a story, but in the sweeping choreography, evocative of a dream. The rapture was not thematic, but rather inherent in the exact notes of the Concerto, as dancers twirled, took tiny, fast sideways steps, and extended expressive hands and arms to the exact timing of the rhythm.
Mr. Nikkanen's violin created, at times, a whispering sensation, for tender partnering, and, at other times, the passion for Mr. Boal's amazing leaps and perfect landings. The most memorable moment of this must-see-again ballet was the final phrase, as Mr. Boal and Ms. Ringer sculpted a human design with their bodies that was held in time, as the curtain fell. Kudos to Mr. Kaplow and to Mr. Nikkanen for their virtuosic music. Kudos to Mr. Boal and Ms. Ringer for their technically demanding and perfect performance.
Sonatas and Interludes (1988): Cast exactly as on the last viewing, I focused on Mr. Soto and Ms. Kowroski and their extreme professionalism and technical prowess. My Guest tonight, David Reynaga, a Ballroom and Latin dance enthusiast, was amazed that the dancers could remember the choreography, as the prepared piano, with continuous sounds and random patterns, and no obvious melody or sections of notes, is so challenging as ballet music. In fact, I noticed this time that the sound of the prepared piano was reminiscent of bells or a glass piano that I once saw in a museum. I also focused this time on the lighting that becomes darker and darker, on the silhouetted hands and faces, and on the purple glow of the blackish costumes. Kudos to Mark Stanley for lighting.
Burleske (2001): This ballet was also cast exactly as on January 31st. This is a ballet that I could see every night and love more and more. The costumes are so exquisite, and, this night, I focused on the transparent black material that covered the skirts of the brightly colored, strapless gowns. I also loved the black vests, sported by the male dancers. It must be noted that Mr. Boal, who should have been breathless from his lead role in Opus 19/The Dreamer, returned in full form for Burleske, only a short time later. Mr. Boal impresses me more and more every week. He is obviously in high demand. I am equally amazed at the rare skills of Janie Taylor, a pixie blond, who is like a sprite, darting and twirling, with the technique of a Prima Ballerina. She has emotional and physical stamina, total confidence, charisma, and a torso that can bend in any direction at ease, arms and legs always in ballet form, pointed in photo finish. Susan Walters and Mr. Kaplow deserve Kudos for this orchestral feast.
Choreographer: Peter Martins
Dancers: Janie Taylor and Jared Angle
Photo by Paul Kolnik
Agon (1957): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Jock Soto, Maria Kowroski, Sébastien Marcovici, Deanna McBrearty, Jason Fowler, Pascale van Kipnis, Stephen Hanna, and members of the Corps. To the dissonant and percussive score, that was Originally commissioned by the NYC Ballet and created in collaboration with Mr. Balanchine, the Principals, Soloists, and members of the Corps brought the audience to its feet at the conclusion of this brilliant piece. There are outlines in this score for the exact timings and movements for twelve dancers, who wear simple black and white costumes. (NYCB Notes).
The high point of the evening was the exquisite Pas de Deux by Mr. Soto and Ms. Whelan. Her dramatic and characteristic legs wrapped around Mr. Soto, as if magnetized and drawn into his space, slowly and purposefully. These two Principals emblazoned themselves into my psyche, as I can still see Ms. Whelan's body in artistic form, surrounding and sculpting a new visual form, reminiscent of an Isamu Noguchi stage sculpture. The other three couples gave extremely inspired performances. It should be mentioned that Deanna McBrearty is fast becoming a poised, balanced, and very capable soloist. She has expressive legs and hands, as well as versatility, as she is equally comfortable in a strong, stark role, such as Agon as she is in Fancy Free.
The orchestral score contained jazzy and dissonant chords on the harp, with full percussion, such as, perhaps, castanets, wooden blocks, and bells, and also wild violins and horns. At times, one duo danced to dissonant horns, and, at other times, one duo (Soto and Whelan) would dance to soft, dissonant strings. The score was occasionally reminiscent of Bernstein or Gershwin. The syncopated rhythms generated amazing choreography, ending with a daring leap into waiting arms. Agon is definitely one ballet to be repeated in my repertoire.