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New York City Ballet: Who Cares?, Union Jack

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 1, 2005
Lincoln Center
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New York City Ballet: Who Cares?, Union Jack

New York City Ballet

(NYC Ballet Website)

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children's Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn
Marketing, Managing Director, Rob Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 1, 2005

Who Cares? (1970): (See January 30, 2005 Review.) Music by George Gershwin, Adapted and Orchestrated by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Jo Mielziner, Costumes by Ben Benson, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Pianist: Elaine Chilton, Performed by Alexandra Ansanelli, Jenifer Ringer, Teresa Reichlen, Philip Neal, Dena Abergel, Saskia Beskow, Amanda Edge, Pauline Golbin, Sarah Ricard, Darius Crenshaw, Kyle Froman, Amar Ramasar, Henry Seth, Andrew Veyette, and the Company. "Who Cares?" is an old song written by George and Ira Gershwin in 1931 for Of Thee I Sing. Balanchine used a small part of the Gershwin repertoire for classic dances. (Program Notes).

In today's scintillating performance of this favorite matinee work, Jenifer Ringer was especially engaging and theatrical in Fascinatin' Rhythm, the ensemble of Darius Crenshaw, Henry Seth, Kyle Froman, Andrew Veyette, and especially Amar Ramasar was sprightly and magnetic in Bidin' My Time, Teresa Reichlen, with leggy lyricism, was most effective and effortlessly nimble in I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise, and Alexandra Ansanelli was perfection of timing, confidence, and coyness in My One and Only. At the beginning of Spring Season 2005, NYC Ballet is in great form and always manages to bring an extra surprise to even the most seasoned ballets in its repertoire.

Union Jack (1976): Music by Hershy Kay (Adapted from Traditional British Music), Music commissioned by New York City Ballet, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Benjamin Millepied, Damian Woetzel, and male Company as Scottish and Canadian Guards Regiments, Lennox and Dress MacLeod, by Alexandra Ansanelli and female Company as Green Montgomerie, by Philip Neal and male Company as Menzies, by Miranda Weese and female Company as Dress MacDonald, by Wendy Whelan and female Company as MacDonald of Sleat, by Maria Kowroski and female Company as RCAF, by Nilas Martins, Kyra Nichols, Beatriz Stix and Isabella Tobias in Costermonger Pas de Deux, by Adam Hendrickson, Wendy Whelan, Arch Higgins, Damian Woetzel, Alexandra Ansanelli, Benjamin Millepied, Miranda Weese, Philip Neal, and the Company as Royal Navy, and by Maria Kowroski and female Company as Wrens.

"Union Jack" was designed by Balanchine as a tribute to the British heritage of America in the Bicentennial year of 1976. With Scottish military marches, British Music Hall entertainment, British Navy jigs, and Royal Navy drills and hand flags, Union Jack is Balanchine's ballet gift to a national historical moment. (Program Notes).

To the dirge of orchestrated bagpipes and endless drum rolls, the Company, led by various principals, in stern and structured fashion, marched with high knees, females in toe shoes and males in white/black footed slippers, in long lines of Scottish military garb, bedecked in tartans, berets, and rolls of plaid - gray, red, green, and yellow. This was a surprising sight to see, danced in full Company before a large castle setting, and the dramatic motion was mesmerizing. Damian Woetzel, Benjamin Millepied, Alexandra Ansanelli, Philip Neal, Miranda Weese, Wendy Whelan, and Maria Kowroski were all in sync and attitude, with power in their personas and persuasion in their demeanor.

The second part of this ballet is a playful interlude, with the very playful Nilas Martins, partnered by a nimble and energetic Kyra Nichols, onstage with two young girls in a donkey cart; yes, a live and very well behaved donkey, onstage at State Theater. Mr. Martins is splendid at pantomime, and his theatrics and acrobatics were an excellent contrast to the earlier, quite serious portion of this complex ballet. The third part, with Royal Navy and very upbeat and buoyant choreography, was danced by principals and company in Navy outfits, blue and white. They were followed by the skirted Wrens, with red/yellow hand flag signals, and by the unfurling of the Union Jack flag, the signals spelling "God save the Queen". This was my first viewing of this delightful, full-length Union Jack, a must-see-again ballet. Kudos to Hershy Kay, and kudos to George Balanchine, as well as to Peter Martins for staging such a complex work. Rouben Ter-Arutunian's sets and costumes are monumental.


New York City Ballet - Union Jack
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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