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New York City Ballet - Raymonda Variations
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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 and Hugo Fiorato

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center

Review by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
Originally Published on
January 19, 2003

Raymonda Variations (1961): Music by Alexander Glazounov (from Raymonda), Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Horace Armistead, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor, Maurice Kaplow, Performed by Yvonne Borree, Peter Boal, Faye Arthurs, Alina Dronova, Lindy Mandradjieff, Gwyneth Muller, Abi Stafford, and the Company. In pink perfection and lilting exuberance, the New York City Ballet Company gave us a Balanchine extravaganza, with bravura solo performances by Yvonne Borree, Peter Boal, and those soloists listed above. This light and airy piece, with frolicking and frilly ballerinas, who were reminiscent of a Fragonard painting, showcased Mr. Boal as a polished Principal, among the best I've seen in any Company. He achieved extreme heights and leg extensions, as he ever so passionately, with superb timing, partnered Ms. Borree, who seemed to tremendously enjoy her role, which opened the evening's program with energy and refinement.

The nine Variations were splendidly executed by each of the five soloists mentioned, with two Variations each for Ms. Borree and Mr. Boal. There will never be another George Balanchine, a Master Choreographer. Mr. Kaplow conducted with sensitive attention to each Variation.

Pavane (1975): Music by Maurice Ravel (Pavane pour une Infante Défunte), Choreography by George Balanchine, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor, Hugo Fiorato, Performed by Kyra Nichols. As an ephemeral figure in grief, Ms. Nichols mesmerized the audience, while covered in long, white, flowing chiffon, head to toe, as she danced a Pavane, which was written for a dead Prince. Her performance was soul rending, as she tore at our hearts, reaching out to one that was no more. She sometimes danced as if sleepwalking and sometimes danced as if reconstructing exquisite memories. At times she was reminiscent of Giselle, when she danced on her grave, dead of a broken heart. If you have not heard this rare piece of music, Pavane, by Ravel, it is recommended to hear it in Concert version. Mr. Fiorato kept the orchestra in exact mood and timing with Ms. Nichols' persuasive, impassioned presentation.

In G Major (1975): Conductor, Hugo Fiorato, Pianist: Cameron Grant, Performed by Wendy Whelan and Philip Neal and the Company. In this performance, contrasted with the previous Review, Mr. Neal had complete focus, presence, and attention to Ms. Whelan. He superbly partnered her, with full elevation and purpose. Mr. Neal had the intensity in the Pas De Deux that was required to offset the lighter, more upbeat sections, which were performed by the full Company. On this evening, I focused more intently on the Ravel score and fully appreciated the harpist's and flautist's contributions, as well as those of the percussionists. This Ravel score was reminiscent of works of Satie, Gershwin, and Bernstein. Ravel was influenced by Jazz artists, and he used elements of Jazz in this piece.

Ballet: In G Major
Choreography: Jerome Robbins
Dancers: Kyra Nichols and Philip Neal
Photo: Paul Kolnik

Western Symphony (1954): Music by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by John Boyt, Costumes by Karinska, lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor, Maurice Kaplow, Performed by Jennie Somogyi, Nilas Martins, Alexandra Ansanelli, Robert Tewsley, Sofiane Sylve (Guest Artist), Igor Zelensky (Guest Artist), and the Company. With cowboys and showgirls, Western Symphony is a rousing hoedown. Created in the fifties, when cowboys were all the rage, and showgirls were their entertainment, this piece is a visual delight. There were coy and competitive Pas De Deux', with each of three couples dancing solos and duos for the three Movements: Allegro, Adagio, and Rondo. Nilas Martins, the son of the Ballet Master in Chief, performs with tremendous charisma and dynamism, and the two Guest Artists, Ms. Sylve, as a raging coquette, and Mr. Zelensky, as spinning tornado, were wonderfully partnered.

I loved hearing the American Folk Tunes, so rarely heard in NY Dance Circles, such as Red River Valley. The Company danced with verve, and the ruffled costumes of the showgirls, as well as the rhinestoned cowboy suits, were quintessential Karinska. Mr. Kaplow must have thoroughly enjoyed this engaging work. Kudos to Mr. Martins, for mounting this piece, almost a half-century-old, with refreshing and rare images of American culture.


For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at