New York City Ballet
All German and Some Tharp
(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 Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Fayçal Karoui
Managing Director, Communications, Robert Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns
Manager, Press Relations, Joe Guttridge
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 25, 2008
(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).
Conductor: Maurice Kaplow
The Goldberg Variations (1971): Music by J. S. Bach, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Joe Eula, Lighting by Thomas Skelton, Piano: Cameron Grant, Performed by Kaitlyn Gilliland, Jason Fowler, Abi Stafford, Megan Fairchild, Tyler Angle, Amar Ramasar, Adam Hendrickson, Andrew Veyette, Rachel Rutherford, Jared Angle, Sara Mearns, Stephen Hanna, Wendy Whelan, Gonzalo Garcia, and the Company.
The Goldberg Variations is a Two-Part ballet, each with its own Variations, that seems to be a full genre examination in style, costume, interpretation, balance, and solo virtuosic appearances. A simple grey backdrop opens Jerome Robbins’ ornate oeuvre, and Joe Eula must have been exceptionally busy in 1971, as he created a wide array of costume changes of material, texture, and style. This is a lengthy, well over one hour, ballet, with multiple moods, dance motifs, and partnering devices. The Goldberg Variations was originally commissioned by Count Keyserling, who had insomnia, and Goldberg, Bach’s student, played the variations for the Count during his sleepless nights in 1742. In order to captivate ballet audiences for such a long sitting, Jerome Robbins kept changing from classical to contemporary in costume and dance genres, as the Variations played out. Cameron Grant, at the Kawai, constantly watched the dancers from his offstage vantage point, and, on this viewing, I appreciated this complex work more than on the last viewing. Of note, Mr. Grant’s keyboard performance was flawless.
With Kaitlyn Gilliland and Jason Fowler leading the Theme, all eyes were on Ms. Gilliland. She is unparalleled in ethereal innocence, long-limbed, blonde, and fair, with a gaze into the audience that garners our full focus. Mr. Fowler is more passively presented, a studious partner with energy and timing, but not charismatic, as was his partner. I would like to see her partnered by Amar Ramasar, Ask la Cour, or Adrian Danchig-Waring, all physically and stylistically suited to her mesmerizing magnetism. In the Part I Variations, Tyler Angle and Amar Ramasar caught my attention, with Abi Stafford springing to life in her iconic sprightliness. Megan Fairchild, although seamlessly skilled in each segment, was too self-conscious. An accompanying ensemble of twelve backed up the leads.
In Part II Variations, the entire ensemble (Rachel Rutherford, Jared Angle, Sara Mearns, Stephen Hanna, Wendy Whelan, Gonzalo Garcia) was splendid, and an accompanying ensemble of twenty-three backed the leads. Especially noteworthy were Sara Mearns and Jared Angle, not partners, but both imaginatively impassioned and smooth-lined in their pas de deux. (Ms. Mearns was partnered by Stephen Hanna, and Mr. Angle partnered Rachel Rutherford.) Also offering buoyant fluency were Wendy Whelan and Gonzalo Garcia. However, I must return to Joe Eula, Costume Designer, who brought simple leotards and unitards to the stage, as well as military outfits and pastel tutus. It was this Variation of the visual, musical, and stylistic devices that kept tonight’s City Ballet audience captivated for the duration. It’s a shame that Count Keyserling did not get to see this stunning ballet.
Brahms/Handel (1984): Music by Johannes Brahms (Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel), Orchestrated by Edmund Rubbra, Choreography by Jerome Robbins and Twyla Tharp, Costumes by Oscar de la Renta, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by Abi Stafford, Gonzalo Garcia, Sara Mearns, Jared Angle, Jason Fowler, Rebecca Krohn, Amar Ramasar, Teresa Reichlen, Georgina Pazcoguin, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Tiler Peck, David Prottas, Ana Sophia Scheller, Giovanni Villalobos, and the Company.
Brahms/Handel, on this first experience, was a total delight, with a twist and surprise at every turn. This was duo choreography, with Jerome Robbins’ dancers in blue and Twyla Tharp’s dancers in green. Just as Brahms wrote Variations on Handel, Ms. Tharp designed Variations on Robbins, while they choreographed on separate groups of dancers. By this point in the Spring Season, the City Ballet audience had fully absorbed the Robbins motifs (dozens of Robbins’ works for this 90th year of his birth), and it has had numerous opportunities to be familiarized with the Tharp motifs, as well. And, here they were, first one, then another set of dancers, with Ms. Tharp’s clapping, running, propulsive abandon, followed or juxtaposed with Mr. Robbins’ lifts, leaps, and romantic exits. There were men holding hands and spinning (Tharp) and dancers carried upside down (Robbins). There were cartwheels, and there were off-center lunges.
Most amazing was the re-appearance of so many dancers from the previous, lengthy work, looking just as fresh as a spring morning. Among the non-repeat dancers, Teresa Reichlen, Georgina Pazcoguin, Tiler Peck, and Adrian Danchig-Waring were especially scintillating. Among the number of dancers, who were onstage almost all evening, Sara Mearns and Jared Angle (partners) and Teresa Reichlen and Amar Ramasar (partners) evoked energetic enthusiasm and lyrical abandon. It is hoped that this surprise work will be repeated in the Winter 2009 Repertoire, so the viewer can re-experience the likenesses and differences in the duo choreographies.
Kudos to Jerome Robbins, and kudos to Twyla Tharp.