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New York City Ballet - Soirée, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, Sinfonia, Who Cares?
-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

Conductor, Maurice Kaplow and Andrea Quinn

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center

Review by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
Originally Published on
February 26, 2003

Soirée (2001): In this performance, Lindy Mandradjieff assumed her regular role, having been replaced by Amanda Edge in the other reviewed performance. However, Alexandra Ansanelli replaced Carla Körbes, who was reviewed in that performance. Also performing were Janie Taylor, Benjamin Millepied, Seth Orza, Daniel Ulbricht, and the Company. As mentioned previously, it is common for NYC Ballet Principals to dance two consecutive roles in one night or two challenging roles, two nights in a row. In this case, Benjamin Millepied, fresh off the stage from Coppélia last night, appeared in a lead role in Soiree, tonight, the first work of the evening. He was in good form as Ms. Taylor's partner, but there did not appear to be strong chemistry between the two. Ms. Taylor has been featured prominently this Season and is extremely flexible and skilled with dynamic, second-splitting energy. Mr. Millepied, however, was able to leap with his amazing extensions and to light up the stage with his vivacity.

Ballet: Soirée
Choreographer: Richard Tanner
Dancers: Lindy Mandradjieff and Daniel Ulbricht
Photo by Paul Kolnik

Ms. Ansanelli and Mr. Orza were well matched, with their growing virtuosity and charm. However, for me, the stars of the night were Lindy Mandradjieff and the wildly exciting Daniel Ulbricht. They had chemistry! This was a perfect partnership, with total focus on each other and admiration and support for their individual choreography, including lifts, spins, and collapses. In physique and emotionality, they mesmerized the audience with daring charisma. The music by Nino Rota swells like a storm, and Susan Walters' piano was scintillating and romantic. This is music I will purchase on CD, performed by the City of Ferrara, Italy Orchestra. (NYCB Notes). The choreography of just males and just females, in addition to the partnered combinations, was visually entrancing, as was Rota's score.

The Steadfast Tin Soldier (1975): Performing again were Yvonne Borree and Tom Gold. This performance was one night after Coppélia, and then we see Ms. Borree reappearing in this piece, as did Mr. Millepied in the previous piece. Mr. Gold and Ms. Borree were, as always, flawless, a combination of forced stiffness, as the doll and tin soldier, and uninhibited tenderness, as Mr. Gold wipes his eyes and returns his own broken heart into his cold, tin body. Ms. Borree, at an earlier point, also demonstrably tender, claps her hands in delight. The sets are exquisite, with the wind billowing the long white, wispy curtains, as well as the symbolic flames beneath the chimney. Mr. Gold is spring-like on his feet, barely touching the stage, as he jumps and kicks and leaps mid-stage with extended legs. These are two extremely talented and magnetic dancers. Mr. Gold, a Soloist, is a performer to watch.

Sinfonia (1993): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Carole Divet, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Violin: Kurt Nikkanen, Piano: Cameron Grant, Performed by Sébastien Marcovici, Ashley Laracey, Janie Taylor, and Megan Fairchild. The music is a Concert Suite from Le Baiser de la Fee in the First Movement of Sinfonia. The original cast of this 1993 piece included: Wendy Whelan, Yvonne Borree, Darci Kistler, and Jock Soto, all still Principals in the Company, ten years later. Stravinsky's music has been used in over 30 of those NYC Ballet Repertory works that originated between 1948 and 1987.

This was one ballet, when, I must say, the musicians were more inspiring than the dancers. I am not faulting the performers, but, for some reason, I could not take my eyes off Mr. Nikkanen and Mr. Grant, both of whom stole the charisma and excitement from the stage and exuded charm and poignancy with the skillful delivery of a most challenging Stravinsky score. The dance seemed to be lost to me, as it was seeped in uncomplicated and uninteresting partnering and configurations. However, to repeat my point, I loved the music and would like to see this ballet again to give the choreography a second appraisal, as well as to revisit these fantastic and magnetic performers. It should be mentioned that Mr. Marcovici held his own, quite well, with these three, talented, female dancers, especially Ms. Taylor, who had just danced in Soiree, and is always in rare form.

Who Cares? (1970): Music by George Gershwin, Adapted and Orchestrated by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Jo Mielziner, Costumes by Ben Benson, lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Piano: Elaine Chelton, Performed by Alexandra Ansanelli, Miranda Weese, Abi Stafford, Philip Neal, Dena Abergel, Saskia Beskow (Danskin Spokesperson), Amanda Edge, Pauline Golbin, Eva Natanya, Darius Crenshaw, Jason Fowler, Kyle Froman, Stephen Hanna, Henry Seth, and the Company. (Not listed, but seen performing, was Amar Ramasar). Who Cares? is both the name of the song by Gershwin and Ira for the show, Of Thee I Sing (1931) and the name of this ballet by Balanchine. This music is traditionally American, classic, classy, refreshing, and sentimental.

Balanchine and George Gershwin were to collaborate on Follies in Hollywood, but Gershwin tragically died. Thirty-three years later, Balanchine choreographed Who Cares? to sixteen of Gershwin's songs that had been composed between 1924 and 1931, including Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm, and The Man I Love. Balanchine used these songs to celebrate the energy and style of Manhattan.

This ballet made me proud to be American, in the cultural vernacular, as well as proud to be a New Yorker. This was a red, white, and blue extravaganza, with some of my favorite songs danced by the extremely talented Ms. Weese, who engages the audience with flirtation and unique dance form. She is daring and wonderful to behold. Ms. Ansanelli reappeared, after a lead role in Soiree, with characteristic poise and charm. Ms. Stafford was spunky and confident, athletic and in touch with her songs. Mr. Neal seemed to truly enjoy this Broadway style of dance and performed superbly. In fact, this is his milieu. My past criticism of Mr. Neal emanated from the fact that he showed no charisma or emotional connection to the music or partner. Yet, in Who Cares? Mr. Neal was actually dynamic, in time, in focus, attentive to his many partners, and, in his solo, Liza, he exuded virtuosity and excitement.

Ms. Weese's solo, Fascinatin' Rhythm, was, one of the high points of the evening, with her successful and determined seduction of the audience. In The Man I Love, with Mr. Neal, Ms. Weese helped Mr. Neal to realize his full capacity as a charismatic Principal, at least in this Modern Jazz styled, ballet choreography. Ballet shoes were worn by all, unlike the ballroom shoes worn in I'm Old Fashioned. Ms. Stafford's solo, I'll Build a Staircase to Paradise, was brilliantly executed, and, with a bit more personality, she will shine even more. Ms. Beskow (Danskin) and Mr. Hanna were fun to watch in Lady Be Good. In I Got Rhythm, the entire cast made us want for more, with a rare and rousing spirit. Ms. Quinn was brought in to conduct this piece, and she was, as always, exuberant and elicited some fantastic orchestral music to close the program. Kudos to George Gershwin!


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