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New York City Ballet: Friandises, Donizetti Variations, Fanfare
-Onstage with the Dancers

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New York City Ballet

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children's Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn
Managing Director, Robert Daniels
Associate Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns
Press Coordinator, Joe Guttridge

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 15, 2006

Originally Published on

Friandises (World Premiere): Commissioned Music by Christopher Rouse, Choreography by Peter Martins, Leotards by Yumiko, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Performed by Tyler Peck, Daniel Ulbricht, and the Company. "Friandises" in French means morsels or bits. The French dance suite includes an "Intrada", a "siciliane", a "sarabande", and a "gallop". (NYCB Notes)

Peter Martins has a hit on his hands with Friandises. Mr. Martins' choreography has reached a new point of masterful invention, with one of my Martins favorites, Morgen, having been presented earlier this season. (Another is Thou Swell, and I hope to see it again soon). Friandises, French for "morsels" or "bits", is actually a virtuosic piece for rising stars, Daniel Ulbricht and Tiler Peck. If you love watching Daniel Ulbricht's wild spins, en air, and his gymnastic gyrations and jumps, then you should not miss this new ballet in the next season. With dancers leaping and sliding, to and fro, some partnering, some solos, this is an exciting work. The friezes, with linked arms, and the vision of grey unitards deftly designed, work very well to enhance the simplicity of staging with the challenging dance genre.

Also notable here were Amar Ramasar, Sara Mearns, and Craig Hall, three additional rising stars in the corps. Christopher Rouse's score is buoyant, bouncy, and blazing, infusing drama and gravitas to the catapulting choreography. There is, in addition, a contrasting form, as the females seem to surround the males with affected arms in Baroque imagery, as if to reference the Baroque French dance suite motif, on which the score is based. The "gallops" are perfect for the coltish corps, and I look forward to re-visiting this work before this season ends.

Donizetti Variations (1960): Music by Gaetano Donizetti (from Don Sebastian), Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conducted by Andrea Quinn, Performed by Miranda Weese, Andrew Veyette, and the Company. Donizetti composed over 65 operas, plus chamber music, for some of the greatest singers of his time. Balanchine created this ballet for a "Salute to Italy". (NYCB Notes)

Keeping with the energy on display in tonight's program, this work has pizzazz and poise, and Miranda Weese was on the mark. Ms. Weese, in Italian folk fashion, was resplendent and rambunctious. Andrew Veyette, however, a pallid substitution for Benjamin Millepied, never seemed to reach his elevation. He danced with some stiffness, and his rear leg was low. But, his partnering was attentive and timely. Ms. Weese had fluid, powerful lines. The ensemble danced in duos, trios, and together with spunk and style. Karinska's costumes lend the cultural connection to the Donizetti operatic origin, and Maurice Kaplow kept the orchestra bubbling.

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: Maurice Kaplow, Major Domo: David Lowenstein, Performed by Abi Stafford, Edwaard Liang, Rachel Rutherford, Teresa Reichlen, Adam Hendrickson, Daniel Ulbricht, Tom Gold, and the Company, 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).

This ballet was reviewed with the same cast yesterday, and, yet, it was once again refreshing and resplendent. Sterling Hyltin danced like a gazelle, and Amar Ramasar, fresh from the Donizetti, was in form, in sync, and worthy of a spotlight. Irene Sharaff's costumes would be interesting to research, as, for example, she chose fanciful drummer hats for the black unitards and sewed violins and basses directly onto the outfits. The score, composed in 1945, still seems relevant and rich. Kudos to Benjamin Britten and to Jerome Robbins for this timeless work.

Daniel Ulbricht and Tyler Peck in Peter Martins' Friandises
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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