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Nutcracker Season is Past! - New York City Ballet - Allegro Brillante, Liturgy, Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Fearful Symmetries

by Richard Penberthy
January 7, 2006
Lincoln Center
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Nutcracker Season is Past! - New York City Ballet - Allegro Brillante, Liturgy, Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Fearful Symmetries

New York City Ballet
State Theatre, Lincoln Center
New York, NY
www.nycb.org

Richard Penberthy
January 7, 2006

Program: Allegro Brillante, Liturgy, Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Fearful Symmetries

This company renews itself in the face of challenge and change. In the space of less than a year, several dancers have taken on new confidence, new roles, and they have framed a new view of some of these ballets.

Philip Neal and Sofiane Sylve led the program with Allegro Brillante, backed by the corps of eight. Allegro Brillante demands precision, speed, explosive legwork, flawless port de bras, Cecchetti hands, and absolutely solid tours and lifts. It is romanticism that can collapse in a flash if the dancing is substandard. This performance was crystalline, a fine beckoning into the evening.

The next dance is changed, made a new species entirely, with Albert Evans taking over his role. Liturgy was created with two dancers in mind - built on, as the jargon goes - Jock Soto and Wendy Whelan. The fine young dancer/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon made this dance less than three years ago. It premiered on May 31, 2003, and Jock Soto retired in June of 2005. With its creation, and in that very brief time, several things were accomplished. First, this stark duet moved ballet into and past the imagined barrier of a "modern" idiom. The spectacular lighting by Mark Stanley (who did all the lighting for the evening's program) served at different junctures of the piece as enrobing costume, set, and visual music. The music of Alvo Pärt was recognized for the choreographic possibilities of its beauty, the beauty of its simple plainness. Haunting harmonic variations and odd percussion characterize this music, and the dance itself is haunting and seductive.

In the years of his tenure here, Jock Soto was a strong partner, muscular and large, to Wendy Whelan's tiny, sylph-like build. They danced to each other's strengths and images, with the result that there was that image of a large man lifting a live, precise mechanical doll. Never were they less than two fine dancers performing beautifully, but in some ways the difference in their physical statures imposed itself on the dance. Jock has retired and his audience wondered who would dance "his" roles, who would partner so generously. In Liturgy, the answer is that a dancer closer in stature to Wendy Whelan has taken the role. If Mr. Soto was perfect for the role, Mr. Evans is the new perfect. The lifts that demand stop-motion, freeze-frame precision and strength are executed without a flinch. In some ways the ballet is freed from its performers' physical statistics. It is a new, a great, thing to see this ballet with Wendy Whelan still dancing so intelligently but with this new partner. The dance shines.

Darci Kistler and Charles Askegard danced in both Monumentum pro Gesualdo and Movements for Piano and Orchestra. The are fine together and the two brief pieces deserve more attention than the audience can give them, having just come from the riches of Liturgy. Movements is a particular joy, with intimations of things to come (it was premiered in 1963) when early in the dance, dancers have some of the akimbo articulation of Keith Haring's figures!

Maurice Kaplow conducted the orchestra up to this point. He shows great sensitivity and understanding of these wildly different periods and modes of making music. For this final dance, Fearful Symmetries, Andrea Quinn took the podium.

Fearful Symmetries is one of Peter Martins's most engaging ballets, fast and intricate, using the dancers' skills and physical strength in unusual ways. It is also already fifteen years old! Among the three principal couples, it must be noted that Amar Ramasar has somehow grown over the past year - inhabited his skill and his long limbs with confidence and presence. Partnering the fine Abi Stafford, he - and they - are called upon to perform very demanding lifts. He has been a fine dancer for a time; now it is as if he owns up to that fact. This ballet is dazzling. The Steven Rubin costumes and the lighting are all fuchsia and magenta and blue. A childhood memory - or a recollection from the Central Park's Perennial Garden - is of staring into an impossibly lively bright magenta flower - a rose campion (mullein pink, lampflower) in full sunlight while lesser pinks and lavenders blink and vie for attention behind it. Such excitement for the senses!

The Nutcracker is a fine entertainment, but it is such a relief to have the New York City Ballet back to showing the other things it can do!


New York City Ballet - Monumentum Pro Gesualdo - Darci Kistler and Charles Askegard
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik



New York City Ballet - Liturgy - Wendy Whelan and Albert Evans
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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