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World Tour— Bugaku, An American in Paris, Valse Triste, The Chairman Dances, Russian Seasons

by Lori Ortiz
May 10, 2008
Lincoln Center
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New York City Ballet
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There's no excuse for not having seen Alexie Ratmansky's "Russian Seasons," the ballet that endeared this Russian choreographer to us when it premiered here two years ago as part of New York City Ballet's 6th "Diamond Project," a festival of new creations. This year City Ballet performs it in "World Tour," a mixed program of works that evoke far off places.

"Russian Seasons" fittingly closes the curtain May 10th afternoon. There seems nothing more to say after passing the Russian liturgical calendar with twelve dancers, mezzo-soprano Irina Rindzuner, violin soloist Arturo Delmoni, and the orchestra under guest conductor Clotilde Otranto. The eponymous music is by Leonid Desyatnikov, in twelve parts following the four seasons, beginning with spring.

Wendy Whelan and Albert Evans lead, in orange. Pairs wear different, deep, solid colors. Rebecca Krohn's natural bearing as she dramatically falls into her partner's arms is notable. Evans does a shoulder stand that looks almost balletic. Three onlookers fall into him like dominoes. Whelan sits on the floor, sadly, as the lyrics speak of losing a loved one at war. The others sympathize.

It recalls Mark Morris's "Something Lies Beyond the Scene," to Edith Sitwell's suite of poems "Façade." "Russian Seasons" has a similar oblique humor. "Russian Seasons" is more elegant, stripped to essentials, and more abstract. The music, created for it, has lyrics sung in Russian and translated for us in the program. The movement is literal without being slavish. Both dances have a folksy, informal feel and a sense of national character.

"Seasons'" tale is told through the dancers' interaction in groups, solo or duets. Two men shoulderstand in tandem while in a small group nearby, one touches the shoulder of a dancer in front, causing him to fall forward. Later, in a quartet, Rachel Rutherford steps up onto the backs of the males, and then, all moving to center stage together, Amar Ramasar makes a bridge for her to crawl under. Ratmansky's ballet includes modern falls, acrobatics, jazz, and folk, but it's never overkill. It looks very natural, following the cadence of the (sometimes mournful) song.

The patterns are wonderfully original. The dancers show off the choreography as much as the choreography exhibits their fine lines, technique, and togetherness. Three women are lifted flying overhead as their men walk upstage. Their arms are out and curled downward like seagull's wings. A wonderful trio of men later moves together in tandem with their arms angled overhead and in other synched positions.

The bits of humor provide comic relief and release. When one dancer remains on the stage after the others have left, he looks around, finding himself alone, before scampering into the wings himself. The goofy slapstick touches us in vulnerable places, as does the sacrosanct element.

Ramasar impresses us with a flash of multiple pirouettes en l'air. Sean Suozzi jumps straight upward and tucks his legs, landing on his feet with inches to spare. Krohn falls away from Ramasar in a gorgeous duet. The cast then surprises us, embracing, panting, and audibly sighing.

To hallelujas in the music's finale, Evans carries Whelan. She's standing above with her arms out, cruciform, while the others lie back, spaced across the front of the stage, and watch.

The program also includes Balanchine's "Bugaku," to music by Toshiro Mayuzumi. The characters are standard Orientalist: men look samurai and women suggest the floating world. Five women sit like water lilies in a pond. At other times their heads nod like netsuke dolls'. Contrastingly, Whelan, with Evans, brings out the strong sexual tones of the ballet when she is lifted with her legs adamantly opened out at us.

Buoyant, natural Damian Woetzel danced Christopher Wheeldon's "An American in Paris." Facal Karoui stepped in to conduct the popular George Gershwin music. Though there's a story, it's all a blur amidst the dancing Parisian passersby traversing behind and in front of translucent city scenes in 60s cosmopolitan dress. Woetzel's competing with Gene Kelly but will be remembered in this ballet, as he is for his role in "Fancy Free." He retires on June 18th after 23 years with the company.

Teresa Reichlen is an easygoing Madame Mao in Peter Martins's "The Chairman Dances," to John Adams music. With her long extensions and rigor that looks effortless, she scintillates. The cast chassés with arms wafting in second. It's almost meditative, but never sleep inducing thanks to Reichlen.

Martins's 1985 "Valse Triste," to music of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius is an enchanting surprise, as danced by Darci Kistler with Jared Angle. Between the sad beginning and end, where Kistler is left alone, their central waltz uplifts, recalling the soothing comfort of being with another.

World Tour can be seen also on May 23.
New York City Ballet's Wendy Whelan in Bugaku

New York City Ballet's Wendy Whelan in Bugaku

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik


New York City Ballet's Amar Ramasar, Rachel Rutherford, Sean Suozzi and Jonathan Stafford in Russian Seasons

New York City Ballet's Amar Ramasar, Rachel Rutherford, Sean Suozzi and Jonathan Stafford in Russian Seasons

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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