New York City Ballet: Fanfare, Liturgy, Chichester Psalms, Stars and Stripes
-Onstage with the Dancers
New York City Ballet
(NYC Ballet Website)
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
Marketing, Managing Director, Rob Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 27, 2005, Matinee
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Fanfare (1953): Music by Benjamin Britten (The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34), Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery and Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Text by Eric Crozier, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Conductor: Richard Moredock, Major Domo: David Lowenstein, Performed by Jennifer Tinsley, Edwaard Liang, Ask la Cour, Rachel Rutherford, Teresa Reichlen, Adam Hendrickson, Daniel Ulbricht, Tom Gold, and the Company, including Saskia Beskow (Danskin spokesperson) as Woodwinds, Strings, Brass, and Percussion. The original cast of this unique work included Jacques D'Amboise. The score was composed by Britten to honor the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and premiered on Coronation Night. It also celebrates the various instruments and families of instruments in the modern orchestra. (NYCB Notes).
On second viewing of this work, to commence the last program of the NYC Ballet Winter 2005 Season, I concentrated on the variations of one theme, as performed by individual instruments, danced colorfully and dynamically by soloists and Company corps. Teresa Reichlen, once again, embodied the tall, voluptuous harp, as did Ask la Cour embody the tall, muscular bass, and as did Tom Gold embody the short, pulsating drum. The scenery and costumes, by Irene Sharaff, with colorful flags descending from the rafters and brown violins sewn on bright-toned leotards (peach-beige, yellow, blue-gray, black) were glowing and refined.
Each Fugue, with ensembles of instruments dancing like similar solos, was entertaining and effervescent. Tom Gold, Amar Ramasar, and Sean Suozzi had all perfected an adorable series of high kicking steps that were hilarious for adults and children alike. When I heard children's laughter, I knew that this work had engaged the youngest members of the audience with clarity and pizzazz. David Lowenstein, as Major Domo, exuded enough stage presence for a one-man show. In fact, the percussive ensemble, along with Ms. Reichlen and Mr. la Cour, could create another piece in similar motif with new music, perhaps a little work for harp, bass, and percussion.
Liturgy (2003): Music by Arvo Pärt (Fratres, for Violin, Strings, and Percussion), Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Violin Soloist: Kurt Nikkanen, Performed by Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. Part's composition is "inspired by the vision of a solemn procession of medieval monks...by candlelight...". (NYCB Notes).
What a surprise discovery to find Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto together once again in a mesmerizing, magical, monumental work, with an equally connected performance as had been reviewed in the more romantic After the Rain and the more structured Symphony in Three Movements. In near darkness, as limbs glowed in golden hues (thanks to Mark Stanley's incredible lighting design), Ms. Whelan and Mr. Soto brought the audience to a fever with the visible passion and concentration of Christopher Wheeldon's connected choreography, including staged distance and staged oneness.
Arvo Pärt's score, skillfully conducted by Andrea Quinn, was haunting and harrowing, and the near-religious symbolism pierced the collective soul. When Ms. Whelan leaped into Mr. Soto's arms, as he wound and twisted her supple body in breathtaking dimensions, one could only respect and adore this historical partnership. There were long moments of silence and long moments of violin solos (also skillfully presented by Kurt Nikkanen), and the total dramatic effect generated a desire for this work and this partnership to never end.
Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto in NYCB's Liturgy
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik
Chichester Psalms (2004): Music by Leonard Bernstein, Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Katherine Barinas, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Guest Artists: The Juilliard Choral Union, Soloist: James Danner, Performed by Dena Abergel, Henry Seth, and the Company. The Danish born Mr. Martins has either danced, choreographed and/or led NYC Ballet for more than 30 years. His dances are performed by ballet companies around the globe. He is also Chairman of the Faculty of School of American Ballet. Leonard Bernstein was the first native-born American to permanently conduct the New York Philharmonic. Mr. Bernstein composed Chichester Psalms in 1965, using Biblical texts with an orchestral score. (NYCB Notes).
This dramatic work for the corps, recently created by Peter Martins to Leonard Bernstein's Hebrew and dissonant score of psalms and verses, was led by Henry Seth and Dena Abergel. Ms. Abergel was more suited to be showcased in such a prominent piece than was Mr. Seth, who seemed off-balance and self-conscious, on occasion. However, the overall effect was quite powerful, and James Danner, Boy Soloist, sang in flawless and proud fashion. The long, flowing biblical costumes and the black side panels and stage steps all worked cohesively to rivet the audience in the spiritual essence of this work. Kudos to Mark Stanley, once again, for incomparable luminosity.
Stars and Stripes (1958): Music adapted and orchestrated by Hershy Kay after music by John Philip Sousa, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by David Hays, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor: Richard Fletcher, Performed by Jennifer Tinsley, Dana Hanson, Daniel Ulbricht, Ashley Bouder, Benjamin Millepied, and the Company. Balanchine created five "campaigns" with changing Sousa themes. This ballet was performed for the opening ceremonies for the New York State Theater. (NYCB Notes).
In contrast to the to the previous, starker works, NYC Ballet ingeniously chose the perfect work to bookend Fanfare, as the finale of the Season. Stars and Stripes, with John Philip Sousa's marches, orchestrated by Hershy Kay, was that perfect work, with five demanding Campaigns and Regiments, energetically and aerobically led by Jennifer Tinsley, Dana Hanson, Daniel Ulbricht, Ashley Bouder, and Benjamin Millepied.
Each Regiment acrobatically appeared or bounded onto the stage: with Ms. Tinsley catching a baton, surrounded by female Cadets in pink and black; with Ms. Hanson and her mostly female, Rifle Regiment in blue and red, dynamically locked in syncopated steps; with Mr. Ulbricht (Happiness is the recently promoted soloist, Daniel Ulbricht onstage in gravity-defying, hormonal leaps and spins) in multi-level spins and sideward, mid-air elevations with his Thunder and Gladiator Regiment dressed in black; with Ashley Bouder and Benjamin Millepied as Liberty Bell and El Capitan in red, blue, yellow, and gold costumes, charismatically cavorting and loftily leaping in pas de deux and solos, and with the entire four Regiments in Stars and Stripes elevation of excitement and patriotic pride.
Kudos to Guest Conductor, Richard Fletcher, for his conducting of such a radiant and rousing score. NYC Ballet Spring Season tickets can be viewed and purchased on their website.