New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)
Ballet in Two Acts
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, Dena Abergel
Orchestra, Music Director Designate, Andrew Litton
Interim Music Director, Andrews Sill
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects, Robert Daniels
Manager, Media Relations, Katharina Plumb
Communications Associate, Kina Poon
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 24, 2015 Matinee
(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).
Conductor: Daniel Capps
Bournonville Divertissements (1977): Music by Edvard Helsted and Holger Simon Paulli, Choreography by August Bournonville, Originally staged by Stanley Williams, Staged by Nilas Martins, Scenery by Alain Vaes, Garden Drop by David Mitchell, Costumes by Ben Benson, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Erica Pereira, Allen Peiffer, Teresa Reichlen, Tyler Angle, Sara Adams, Meagan Mann, Russell Janzen, Ashly Isaacs, Brittany Pollack, Andrew Scordato, Joseph Gordon, and the Company.
Once again, on revisiting this Bournonville program, I explored Peter Martins’ expansion of the company’s repertoire with a full Bournonville program. Mr. Martins danced the Bournonville genre in Copenhagen, at the Royal Danish Ballet, recently reviewed in its run at The Joyce. Nilas Martins, a former principal with City Ballet, staged today’s first work, based on the original staging by Stanley Williams, a Danish ballet teacher, whom Balanchine hired for his School of American Ballet. City Ballet and the Danish have very much in common, and I am thrilled to have the Bournonville works now part of this season and those to come. The first work we saw in today’s Sunday matinee was Ballabile, Music by Holger Simon Paulli, from Napoli, Act I. Once again Erica Pereira and Allen Peiffer, who have teamed as a duo for years, were smiling throughout, buoyantly leading an ensemble of six women and six men. Among today’s corps, I noted that Kristen Segin caught my eye with a frivolous, ingénue air. Ms. Pereira and Mr. Peiffer’s pas de deux was again folkloric and frolicsome. The ensemble danced with even more flair and confidence.
The next Divertissement was the Pas de Deux from Flower Festival in Genzano, Music by Edvard Helsted. Today’s duo, Teresa Reichlen and Tyler Angle, was more refined and restrained, with Mr. Angle partnering, compared to Mr. Catazaro, on last viewing. The Pas de Six from Napoli, Act III, and Abdallah, music by Edvard Helsted and Holger Simon Paulli was next. Thankfully, here we had a change of cast, for a refreshing take. It included Sara Adams, Meagan Mann, Russell Janzen, Ashly Isaacs, Brittany Pollack, Andrew Scordato, and Joseph Gordon, today’s solo virtuoso. I noted a desire to see Joseph Gordon in some leads, as he’s a captivating dancer, still youthfully charged with a bounce to his step. And, once again, the entire cast from the Divertissements was together onstage for a grand Tarantella, from Napoli, Act II, music by Paulli. As noted before, this dervish, dynamic ensemble dance brings one right into the South of Italy. However, the backdrop paintings, by Alain Vaes, are of Denmark. Given the tambourines and ribbons and robust choreography, I would like to see a new backdrop, maybe painted by Susan Tammany, a City Ballet usher!, who painted the sets for the following La Sylphide. And, again, kudos to Nilas Martins for his superb, staged revival of these challenging, lovely Divertissements.
La Sylphide (1836): Music by Herman Severin Løvenskjold, Choreography by August Bournonville, Staged by Peter Martins, Assisted by Petrusjka Broholm, Scenery and Costumes by Susan Tammany, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Production Supervision by Perry Silvey, Performed by Lauren Lovette as The Sylph, Anthony Huxley as James, Gretchen Smith as Madge, Lauren King as Effie, Troy Schumacher as Gurn, Gwyneth Muller as James’ Mother, and the Company as The Wedding Party, Witches, The Sylphs, and The Wedding Party Children (from School of American Ballet).
Peter Martins has staged an absolutely enchanting, new, intermission-less version of Bournonville’s renowned story ballet, La Sylphide. New Yorkers have seen this ballet across the Plaza, as well as with visiting companies, like the Royal Danish, in full or excerpted form. Click here for the full plot in Bournonville’s version. The sets in this new production are by a City Ballet usher, Susan Tammany. For the Scottish farmhouse, Ms. Tammany used dark woods, a cathedral ceiling, and a wide window, for the Sylph to enter and exit. There’s also a large doorway, for the wedding guests to file through, a fireplace, and a comfortable chair, on which James sleeps. When the Sylph awakes James with a kiss, they fall in love immediately, as ballet characters often do. Never mind that James’ fiancée is about to arrive with the wedding party, so James and Effie can marry later that day. James’ rival Gurn arrives as well. The rejected, evil witch, Madge, whom James turns away, will get her revenge. James’ mother is put to the trouble of losing her son to a forest fairy and a prospective daughter-in-law to her son’s rival. And, the Sylph is devilishly destroyed by the vengeful, scorned Madge.
On this second viewing, James was performed by Anthony Huxley, whose spritely elevation, rapid side-kicks, balance, poise, and newfound maturity were remarkable. I had seen Mr. Huxley in The Steadfast Tin Soldier, in which he blossomed, expressively, and now he’s come into his own as a key storyteller in balletic mime. As the Sylph, Lauren Lovette was glowing, modest, and sophisticated. The Lovette-Huxley duo is one to repeat. In the Act I farmhouse scenes, the School of American Ballet is represented, as students dance in party attire, before the planned wedding. Mr. Martins often finds a way to include his students, an impressive feat. But, it’s in the Act II forest scene that the major drama ensues. Here Ms. Tammany has designed an abstract, impressionistic motif, with hints of the costume colors, for swirling trees, florals, hills, fauna, and more. Where she used purple plaid kilts for the men and matching plaid dresses for the women in Act I, she uses the same colors in costumes for Act II, except, of course, for the ensemble of Sylphs. The Sylphs are in the requisite tulle, white dresses and wings, with hair florals and ornamentations.
Act II opens with Madge at her fiery, smoky cauldron, cooking the poison shawl, which she’ll give to James as a gift for his Sylph. This scene was eerie. As another unusually youthful Madge, Gretchen Smith was more humorous than menacing, more impulsive than brooding. Her characterization was one of another woman scorned. Lauren King was today’s spurned Effie, left at the moment of her pre-nuptial toast. Ms. King is more ingénue than was Ms. Pollack on the 17th, and more vulnerable. Troy Schumacher was James’ rival in love, Gurn, and he played the role differently than had Daniel Ulbricht on the 17th. Mr. Schumacher showed more yearning, more emotion. He was equally athletic and appealing. Gwyneth Muller, as James’ mother, was maternal, confused, upset.
The final image of the Sylph’s floating body in a bed of twigs, taken to the clouds, was ethereal. The female corps as sylphs was stunning and spellbinding. A takeaway was the quality of exemplary, miming gestures of the entire company, simplified and authentic, for meaningful storytelling. For a company so steeped in abstract ballets, to have mastered the dramatic innuendo so expertly remains remarkable. This expertise is noticeable when City Ballet performs Romeo + Juliet, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and other story ballets. This multi-talented company is incomparable. Daniel Capps conducted today’s full Bournonville program with aplomb.
Kudos to Bournonville, and kudos to Peter Martins.
Lauren Lovette and Anthony Huxley
in Bournonville's "La Sylphide", Staged by Peter Martins
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik