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New York City Ballet: Octet, After the Rain, Square Dance

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 22, 2005
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
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New York, NY 10023
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New York City Ballet: Octet, After the Rain, Square Dance

New York City Ballet
George Balanchine's
(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
January 22, 2005

Octet (2003): Music by Felix Mendelssohn (Octet in E-flat for Strings, Op. 20, 1885), Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Violins: Arturo Delmoni, Jean Ingraham, Michael Roth, Yeojin Cho, Violas: Maureen Gallagher, Laurance Fader, Celli: Mark Shuman, Eugene Moye, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Darci Kistler, Benjamin Millepied, Stephen Hanna, Antonio Carmena, Aaron Severini, Sean Suozzi, Seth Orza, Jonathan Stafford, and Andrew Veyette. Mr. Martins, Artistic Director of NYC Ballet, champions contemporary music and choreographs widely for numerous ballets repertoires. (Program Notes).

Octet is a colorful piece, reds for one ensemble and greens for the other, with Benjamin Millepied in red seeming to fly on wings, as Peter Martins' choreography is so well crafted for Millepied's personal style. Stephen Hanna in green, radiant in his brand new promotion to principal, was an aerial companion. Ashley Bouder (also just promoted) in red and Darci Kistler in green wove through patterns of male dancers in various color schemes. On this night of a blustery blizzard, there was warmth in the State Theater, and the stage was alive with a string octet, and aerobic dance in creative patterns of weaving, pulling, leaping, caressing, foot gliding, and pouncing.

Some of Mr. Millepied's mid-air moments were entrancing, and he was certainly in his element. Ms. Kistler and Ms. Bouder were flirtatious with fun, and this upbeat work literally swept the snow from one's mind. The octet performed with grace and verve. The remaining dancers in red or green ensembles seemed to bust onstage with fiery fortitude. Mr. Martins created a choreographic wonder here.

After the Rain (World Premiere): Music by Arvo Pärt (Tabula Rasa (1977), for two violins, string orchestra, and prepared piano, and Spiegel im Spiegel (1978), for violin and piano), Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Violins: Arturo Delmoni, Kurt Nikkanen, Jean Ingraham, Pianos: Alan Moverman and Richard Moredock, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Jock Soto, Sofiane Sylve, Edwaard Liang, Maria Kowroski, and Ask la Cour. Christopher Wheeldon is a former NYC Ballet soloist and is NYC Ballet's first Resident Choreographer. "After the Rain" is Mr. Wheeldon's eleventh ballet created for NYC Ballet. (Program Notes).

The moment this all-too-brief ballet commenced, I knew why I had climbed over "mountains" of snow and walked through sub-zero wind-chills for Christopher Wheeldon's latest world premiere. After the Rain, set to evocative, mesmerizing scores by Arvo Pärt, gave the audience a breathless chill, and the existential duet between Wendy Whelan in scant pink and Jock Soto in scanter white, with just the piano and violin duet, was sensual and romantic, probably ominous of the upcoming retirement of Jock Soto and thus of this tremendous partnership.

Tabula Rasa (blank slate), with prepared piano, two violins, and orchestra, was presented with slate teal/gray screens, backdrop, and costumes. The ensemble (three couples) are seasoned principals all, Ms. Whelan, Mr. Soto, Sofiane Sylve, Edwaard Liang, Maria Kowroski, and Ask la Cour, and the first part choreography was dramatic and dynamic. Spiegel im Spiegel, however, is unsurpassed, sensitively, sorrowful, and rare. Ms. Whelan, with brown hair long and loose, in a tiny pink slip of a costume and flat ballet shoes, and Mr. Soto in white dance pants, that's it, were given monumental moments onstage that brought the audience to its feet at curtain call.

At times, Ms. Whelan was held high on Mr. Soto's leg or back, with her taut limbs and torso twisted and curled. Mr. Soto is a most solidly built dancer, and his power and grace were evident throughout. Jean Ingraham's violin and Richard Moredock's piano were wrenching and soulful, as this daring display drove the audience to a frenzy. This work will happily be reviewed once more. Kudos to Christopher Wheeldon, to Wendy Whelan, and to Jock Soto.

Square Dance (1957): (See January 12, 2005 Review). Music by Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Performed by Janie Taylor and Nilas Martins and the Company. Balanchine wrote, "The American style of classical dancing, its supple sharpness and richness of metrical invention, its superb preparation for risks, and its high spirits were some of the things I was trying to show in this ballet." (NYCB Notes).

It was wonderful to top off such a powerful evening in the midst of a blizzard with a new cast to lead the popular Square Dance. Janie Taylor and Nilas Martins are an excellent duo, two blonds with vivacity and vitality, charm and charisma. Ms. Taylor, a new principal, was radiant and rambunctious. Mr. Martins, who may not always show perfect balance or technique, is nevertheless one of my favorite dancers, with his smiling eyes and obvious enthusiasm. Great ballet dancers are those that captivate the audience with emotional energy and some surprises. Mr. Martins accomplishes that and more, and I enjoy watching his attentive partnering of fine principals, such as Ms. Taylor. They appear to be physically and psychically well matched.

The Company in square dance and classical motifs was outstanding.

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