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New York City Ballet Opening Night Gala 2009
(NYC Ballet Website)

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 Master, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Fayçal Karoui
Managing Director, Communications, Robert Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Joe Guttridge
Assoc., Communications and Special Projects, Caitlin Gillette
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 24, 2009

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

The Sleeping Beauty Waltz: Music, Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Performed by the New York City Ballet Orchestra. City Ballet audiences had waited for months, for just this moment, when the newly refurbished David H. Koch Theater (renamed in 2008) would be unveiled. All those months, Koch Theater had been surrounded by scaffolding, fences, and moats of space and construction paraphernalia. Mr. Koch, who donated $100 million gift to City Ballet’s capital campaign, spoke tonight, encouraging the audience to be as generous as possible in the years ahead. Peter Martins had been onstage first, following the Orchestra’s brief Waltz, that showcased the new rising orchestra pit, a feature of the renovation. The original State Theater, as it was called since 1964, had no center aisle, and now there are two. Acoustics are improved, seats are new, and the ceiling glistens with its iconic lighting and tiles.

The Orchestra received a rousing applause, which was really a nice gesture, as they usually stand for a brief recognition, after the dancers take their bows. Maestro Fayçal Karoui seemed gratified to finally be the center of attention. Sleeping Beauty never sounded better. Following the speeches, a documentary film, showing, in fast-motion, the construction workers and renovation, jumping forward here, whizzing through there, was a huge hit. I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy these brief documentary ballet films, recalling another from the costume department last year. It will be a pleasure attending Winter Season in this stunning theater.

Concerto DSCH (2008): Music by Dmitri Shostakovich, Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano: Susan Walters, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Wendy Whelan, Joaquin De Luz, Gonzalo Garcia, Benjamin Millepied, Alina Dronova, Kaitlyn Gilliland, Gretchen Smith, Christian Tworzyanski, Russell Janzen, Justin Peck, Likolani Brown, Lauren King, Joshua Thew, Cameron Dieck, Georgina Pazcoguin, Kristen Segin, Andrew Scordato, Devin Alberda.

On revisiting this work, from the vantage of a side parterre box, I was able to watch dancers and musicians at once, in this gloriously sparkling hall, and Holly Hynes’ rust, blue, and grey costumes immediately gripped my eye. I still find Concerto DSCH it to be one of Ratmansky’s best ballets, with Shostakovich’s riveting score, his Second Piano Concerto. Susan Walters performed with proficiency and flair. The elegant “Andante” second movement (the other two are “Allegro”) brought Wendy Whelan and Benjamin Millepied together for its melancholy pas de deux, with Mr. Millepied chasing Ms. Whelan in slow motion. Ms. Whelan moves her feet together, like a wounded butterfly. Ratmansky’s work also calls for sharp angles and prominently bent elbows, swirling leaps about each other, propulsive powerful ensemble athletics, and vigorous surprises. Yet, the style remains balletic, never modern.

Gonzalo Garcia and Joaquin De Luz leaped about in bold, brisk fashion, as we’ve come to expect of them, and their timing was tight. Mr. De Luz executed full body springs that defied gravity. Ashley Bouder ‘s feet seemed to be plugged into batteries, as they danced with lightning-quick gestures. Concerto DSCH is replete with shifts in mood, momentum, direction, and space. Now they fall on the stage, now they huddle, now they toss themselves about with abandon. There’s a taut design to this visual integration, and we cannot stop gazing at the gestalt. Moods shift, with flirtation, humor, the unexpected, and the audacious. Kudos again to Alexei Ratmansky.

Rubies pas de Deux (from “Jewels”, 1967): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Peter Harvey, Costumes by Christian Lacroix, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano Solo: Cameron Grant, Performed by Aurélie Dupont and Mathias Heymann. Sometimes you appreciate your home Company’s dancers so much more, after seeing a favorite work performed by guest artists. In a current Paris ballet exchange, thanks to Ashley Bouder and Gonzalo Garcia’s Rubies performance with the Paris Opera Ballet this month, Aurélie Dupont and Mathias Heymann danced the same leads tonight. The Rubies pas de Deux has been reviewed in this column with numerous City Ballet partners, with ABT-City Ballet artists at the YAGP Gala, with Miami City Ballet artists, and with Kirov Ballet artists. Of all the Rubies I’ve seen through the years, I always prefer City Ballet’s performances of this iconic, playful, jazzy Balanchine work. And, who could forget Damian Woetzel’s Farewell, with a string of principals and soloists in a Rubies extravaganza.

Dressed in Lacroix, instead of Karinska, Ms. Dupont and Mr. Heymann danced in a style more suited to Balanchine’s Who Cares?, than that of the sexy centerpiece of Jewels. They danced for each other, not the audience, with a casual, loosely energetic pace, no sharp angles, no impassioned fervor. As representatives to New York from Paris Opera Ballet, I was quite stunned, as we see so little from this renowned company, and, I, for one, would love to see more. But, to ask an audience that’s accustomed, in this work, to vigorous undulation and compelling dramatic gestures to marvel at what looked like a warm-up for the rehearsal, was too much to ask.

Naïve and Sentimental Music (World Premiere): Music by John Adams, Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Liliana Casabal, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by (in couples) Jenifer Ringer/Philip Neal, Yvonne Borree/Tyler Angle, Jennie Somogyi/Nilas Martins, Janie Taylor/Jared Angle, Abi Stafford/Andrew Veyette, Ashley Bouder/Daniel Ulbricht, Megan Fairchild/Joaquin De Luz, Sara Mearns/Jonathan Stafford, Darci Kistler/Stephen Hanna, Maria Kowroski/Charles Askegard, Sterling Hyltin/Robert Fairchild, Teresa Reichlen/Amar Ramasar, Tiler Peck/Gonzalo Garcia.

With the entire cast of City Ballet principals, including newly promoted dancers, minus Benjamin Millepied, who danced in the first work, minus Sébastien Marcovici and Albert Evans, who were injured, Peter Martins showed off his World Premiere, Naïve and Sentimental Music. A film was shown, again very informative, with John Adams and Peter Martins being interviewed and in rehearsals; John Adams’ score took on new meaning. Unfortunately, his music is not memorable or transfixing, on any level, and Mr. Martins’ choreography was repetitive and unembellished. But, in spite of these drawbacks, I truly enjoyed gazing on the cast of thirteen couples in Liliana Casabal’s green-blue, scarf-like, short silky dresses for the women and black, sleeveless, two-pieced tunic suits for the men. In fact, the costumes enhanced the flowing quality of the motion, as dancers reached out, men lifted women, and in dancing traffic patterns, couples appeared and disappeared in ensembles and duos.

This ballet seemed a metaphor for Mr. Martins to introduce to the ballet community his current cast of principals, with the newly promoted performing with the longtime pros. Amar Ramasar was partnered with Teresa Reichlen, both new principals. Tiler Peck was partnered with Gonzalo Garcia, both new and recent promotions. Yvonne Borree was partnered with Tyler Angle, for seasoned and newly promoted showcasing. And, Darci Kistler, scheduled to retire in June, was partnered with Stephen Hanna, who just returned to the company from a Broadway show. This ballet exudes a sleek, luxurious affectation, a dance for adults. There were few frills, few surprises, but a sense of comfort, with dancers on each others shoulders, and 26 principals sharing a stage. The ballet is divided into three segments, with seven couples introduced in Naïve and Sentimental Music, three couples introduced in Mother of the Man, and three more introduced in Chain to the Rhythm, with the entire cast performing here. Mark Stanley’s lighting added a soft glow.

Peter Martins'
"Naïve and Sentimental Music"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

New David H. Koch Theatre
All seats replaced.
Two new orchestra level side aisles.
Courtesy of Jon Simon

New David H. Koch Theatre
Iconic Ceiling and Lighting
Courtesy of Jon Simon

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