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New York City Ballet: Dances at a Gathering, Firebird
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New York City Ballet: Dances at a Gathering, Firebird

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Dances at a Gathering
Firebird

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: Andrew Litton
Resident Choreographer: Justin Peck
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects: Robert Daniels
Associate Dir. Communications: Katharina Plumb
Communications Associate: Kina Poon
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center
www.lincolncenter.org

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 13, 2016


(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Dances at a Gathering (1969): Music by Frédéric Chopin, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Joe Eula, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Pianist: Susan Walters, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Megan Fairchild, Lauren King, Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, Jared Angle, Amar Ramasar, Joaquin De Luz, Chase Finlay, and Joseph Gordon.

Each of the ten dancers in Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering, in mostly differently colored costumes by Joe Eula (women in wistful dresses and men in tights and flowing shirts), is alternately part of an ensemble, duo, trio, or solo. At one point, a trio, Jared Angle in purple, Megan Fairchild in apricot, and Joaquin De Luz in brown, work the stage together, as Chopin’s Waltzes, Mazurkas, Études, and the Nocturne Op. 15, No 1 (18 piano pieces in all) enhance the seamless couplings, through Susan Walters’ insightful keyboard interpretations. From little prancing steps, to upside down lifts, to fanciful tableaux, to macho gestures, Robbins’ choreography nourishes the viewers. Mr. De Luz and Sara Mearns (in mauve) seemed bursting with unique and shared sentiment.

Ms. Fairchild bounds about in confident stride, while Ashley Bouder and Mr. Ramasar, both in green, add depth and dance nuance to the spring-like ambiance. At one point, Mr. De Luz and Mr. Angle lift and swing each other in a circular gravitational duo, using each other’s arms as springboards. Mr. Angle matched Ms. Peck in some sprightly, soaring lines, while Joseph Gordon, in brick, seemed to enter and exit the proceedings with bounce. Lauren King and Chase Finlay, both in blue, were imbued with the ingénue dreaminess so inherent in this ballet’s expansive theme. The ballet extends to one hour, like a one-act silent play, with dancers presenting their own personalities, showcased in the dancing, walking, and stage exits. Near the finale, all ten dancers finally move about as an organic ensemble. Kudos to Susan Walters for the 18 luxurious Chopin works, a veritable recital of the Chopin repertory.


Firebird (1949): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, Scenery and costumes designed by Marc Chagall (1945), Scenery executed under the supervision of Volodia Odinokov, Costumes executed by Karinska, Firebird costume supervised by Dain Marcus, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrew Litton, Performed by Teresa Reichlen as Firebird, Justin Peck as Prince Ivan, Andrew Scordato as Kastchei the Wizard, Savannah Lowery as Prince’s Bride, and the Company as Maidens, Youths, and Subjects. Balanchine’s Firebird was one of his earliest creations for NYC Ballet that used such elaborate costumes and sets. Russian folklore is integrated in this ballet. Balanchine used Stravinsky’s orchestral suite instead of the three-act score. In 1970, Chagall came to NYC to supervise the new costumes and sets for a new production, and Robbins contributed some new choreography. This newer production was staged in 1985. (NYCB Notes).

Andrew Litton, City Ballet’s new Music Director, was in the pit for the revival of Balanchine’s Firebird. Mr. Litton brought out the percussive aspects of Stravinsky’s charged score, especially in the battle with Kastchei the Wizard. The story is another fairytale, this time about a grateful Firebird who rewards a prince for freeing her from capture. She gives him a magic plume that enables him to rescue a Princess and her maidens. Naturally, the Prince marries the Princess amid celebratory dance. This wedding scene, with children from School of American Ballet, is colorful and charming, including a magical animal kingdom and children serving the cake. Teresa Reichlen is an imposing Firebird, one with command and little vulnerability. Ms. Reichlen dances in her prime, with knowing glances to her fans. Her theatrical pas de deux with Prince Ivan, a compelling Justin Peck, was a well-matched tour de force. Savannah Lowery, as the fiancée then Bride, danced better than I’ve ever seen her, with fluid lines and mastery in the moment. Her accompanying ensemble, the Maidens, in Karinska’s embroidered Russian dresses, danced with ebullience.

The battle scene, with Andrew Scordato as the theatrical and imposing Kastchei, was followed by the Wedding, a lovely finale to an evening program of joy and mystery. Among the Maidens, Unity Phelan and Gretchen Smith caught my eye, while among the Youths, Daniel Applebaum and Spartak Hoxha caught my eye as well. The Chagall sets and backdrops, with signature Chagall Firebird, forests, flowers, birds, and moon, are worth the experience in themselves. Karinska's feathery red Firebird costume and all the costumes of the woodland creatures including Kastchei, and the wedding scene costumes possess Karinska's quintessential detail and creativity. Stravinsky's marvelous score, orchestrated under Mr. Litton, is also an experience in itself. Kudos to George Balanchine.



Tiler Peck and Joaquin De Luz in
Robbins' "Dances at a Gathering"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik


For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net