About the Author:
New York Theatre Ballet Presents: A. De Mille Celebration
New York Theatre Ballet
(New York Theatre Ballet Website)
A. De Mille Celebration
In Honor of Agnes De Mille's 100th Birthday
(Agnes De Mille Bio)
President/Artistic Director: Diana Byer
Vice President: Gail Spangenberg
Executive Director: Joey Stocks
Ballet Mistress: Sallie Wilson
Staging: Gemze De Lappe and Sallie Wilson
Costume Design: Sylvia Taalsohn Nolan
Costume Construction: Heather Coiner, Caroline Czaloun-Moore, Kuwako, Inc., Fritz Masten, Rachel Winborn
Lighting Design: Lucas Benjaminh Krech
Act Two Scenery: Gillian Bradshaw-Smith
Music Direction and Arrangements: Ferdy Tumakaka
Press: Shaffer-Coyle Public Relations
Presented at Florence Gould Hall
(Gould Hall Website)
55 East 59th Street
The Company: Ivonova Aguilar, Diana Byer, Ursula Cooper,
Emily Dowse, Danielle Genest, Yukiko Kashiki, Marina Lazzaretto, Steven Melendez, Saori Nagata, Melissa Sadler, Darion Smith,
Ron Spiess, Joey Stocks, Kieran Stoneley, Kip Sturm, Julie-Ann Taylor,
Seth Wilson, Elena Zahlmann, Laura Schwerzler
New York Theatre Chamber Ensemble: Ferdy Tumakaka, Director
Amy Tori, Flute; Tessa Gross, Oboe/English Horn;
Schyler Fung, Clarinet; Patrick Posey, Alto Sax/Clarinet;
Adam Havrilla, Bassoon; Russell Fonafide/Michael Rosenberger, Horn; Christopher Coletti, Trumpet; Josh Koppeis, Trombone; Edgar Vinson, Tuba; Kaiwen Liu/Zhibai Lin, Celli; Ferdy Tumakaka, Piano;
Jarrod Cafaro/Matt Castle/Kathleen White, Vocalists
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 28, 2006
ACT I: AGNES THE DANCER
Three Virgins and a Devil (1941): Choreography by Agnes De Mille, Music by Respighi, Book by Ramon Reed, Performed by the Company as Priggish Virgin, Greedy Virgin, Lustful Virgin, Devil, and A Youth.
Debut at the Opera: Choreography by Agnes De Mille, Music by Leo Delibes, Reconstructed by Janet Eilber, Costume Design by Sylvia Taalsohn Nolan, Performed by Elena Zahlmann.
Judgment of Paris (1938): Choreography by Antony Tudor, Music by Kurt Weill, Book and Costume Design by Hugh Laing, Costume Adaptation by Sylvia Taalsohn Nolan, Performed by Melissa Sadler, Ursula Cooper, Diana Byer, Joey Stocks, Ron Spiess as Juno, Venus, Minerva, Client, Waiter.
ACT II: AGNES THE CHOREOGRAPHER
Dream Ballet from Oklahoma! (1943): Choreography by Agnes De Mille, Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Performed by the Company as Laurie, Dream Laurie, Dream Curly, Dream Jud, Jud's Postcards, Laurie's Friends, Cowboys.
Another Autumn from Paint your Wagon (1951): Choreography by Agnes De Mille, Music by Frederick Loewe, Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, Performed by Elena Zahlmann and Steven Melendez as Dance Hall Girl and Young Miner.
Come Bend to Me from Brigadoon (1947): Choreography by Agnes De Mille, Music by Frederick Loewe, Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, Performed by the Company as Charlie Dalrymple, Jean MacLaren, Dancers.
Hornpipe from Carousel (1945): Choreography by Agnes De Mille, Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Performed by the Company as Jigger Craigin, Hannah Bentley, Boatswain, Dancers.
It was wonderful to see one of my favorite choreographers honored on her 100th birthday, a date that seemed to slip by so many ballet companies, as well as the world of Broadway musicals. Fortunately, New York Theatre Ballet was up to the task, and they did a splendid job in the restaging of the humorous, upbeat, and challenging Agnes De Mille choreography (plus a Tudor work) that dated from the 1930's to the 1950's. In fact, we were treated to excerpts of renowned Broadway shows: Oklahoma!, Paint Your Wagon, Brigadoon, and Carousel. Plus, Artistic Director, Diana Byer, took a turn, just as De Mille used to dance in her own ballets, this time in Judgment of Paris, a hilarious vaudeville spoof.
Debut at the Opera, one of Miss De Mille's earliest works, is a solo for a dancer and a ladder. That is, the ladder is a large prop that serves a variety of uses, as the dancer waters flowers, falling, tripping, mugging, and dancing in between. This was frothy fun, and a warm-up to the next piece, Judgment of Paris, in which three very campy "dance hall girls" compete to seduce a wealthy, well-dressed client, who sips champagne served by the waiter, Ron Spiess. When the client (Joey Stocks) gets drunk, a mêlée ensues, as he is freed in a frenzy of his wallet, cash, and watch. Ms. Byer showcases the strong theatricality inherent in her Company. The Broadway choreography in tonight's program came in Act II, as Act I honored Miss De Mille's dancing, as well as her early productions.
Act II began with The Dream Ballet in Oklahoma!. This was truly fine dancing, with the dramatization of Laurie's dream, the conflict between Jud (Kip Sturm)and Curly (Steven Melendez), the role of the cowboys, the two Laurie's, one a vocalist, Kathleen White, the other a dancer, Danielle Genest, and the Company as postcards and friends. At this time, I became aware, as well, of the fine preparation of the 13 member music ensemble, led by Ferdy Tumakaka on piano. New York Theatre Ballet's stylizing of sets and costumes, so authentically conceived, added to the visual pleasure of the tribute. Ms. Zahlmann and Mr. Melendez, as Dance Hall Girl and Young Miner, in Another Autumn from Paint Your Wagon followed the previous work quickly, and I then realized that the four Broadway excerpts would be presented with little pause, almost like a dream within a dream.
Come to Me, Bend to Me, from Brigadoon, was very De Mille, with white slip dresses, barefoot, long hair, and the vocalist, Jarrod Cafaro, in a bright kilt and ornamentation. Flirtatious can-cans were included, as well as a Scottish reel. The Hornpipe from Carousel featured a strong vocalist, Matt Castle, plus Yukiko Kashiki as Hannah Bentley, Kieran Stoneley as Boatswain, and the Company as Dancers. The dancing tonight and re-created Broadway choreography, from the 1940's and 1950's, was exceptionally staged and performed. Kudos to New York Theatre Ballet, and kudos to Miss Agnes De Mille, who was a vital presence in American culture until her death in 1993, at age 88. Miss De Mille was awarded the Kennedy Center Honor in 1980, seventeen honorary degrees, two Tony Awards, an Emmy Award, and she spoke three times in Congress. I last saw Agnes De Mille in person in the audience at American Ballet Theatre, greeting her fans.
New York Theatre Ballet's Melissa Sadler, Elena Zahlmann, and Danielle Genest in Agnes De Mille's Three Virgins and a Devil
Photo courtesy of Richard Termine
New York Theatre Ballet in Anthony Tudor's Judgement of Paris
Photo courtesy of Richard Termine