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New York City Ballet: Mozartiana, Thou Swell, West Side Story Suite

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 2, 2005
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
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New York City Ballet: Mozartiana, Thou Swell, West Side Story Suite

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
February 2, 2005

Mozartiana (1981): (See February 16, 2003 Review). Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (Suite No. 4, Op. 61), Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor: Richard Fletcher, Performed by Kyra Nichols, Tom Gold, Philip Neal, students from the School of American Ballet, and the Company. Tschaikovsky studied at the Conservatory in St. Petersburg, where Balanchine also studied piano and dance. The original NYC Ballet cast included Suzanne Farrell, Ib Andersen, and Christopher d'Amboise. (NYCB Notes).

What a joy to see Kyra Nichols, who has not danced in some time, and she was in steady and impassioned form. Her tiny backward steps and nurturing, wing-like stance, amongst young students and corps, were lovely and lyrical. Tschaikovsky's score enhanced her momentum, and her quiet, sophisticated manner complemented Tom Gold's acrobatics, with jumping jacks en air, scissors kicks, and lightning spins. This is one ballet that never tires, always seems fresh and inspired, and exudes Balanchine's classicism, while encompassing the joy and skills of young ballerinas.

Thou Swell (2003): (See November 26, 2002 Review). Music by Richard Rodgers, Music Arranged by Gene Kelly, Orchestrations by Don Sebesky, Choreography by Peter Martins, Scenery by Robin Wagner, Costumes by Julius Lumsden, Costumes Supervised by Julie Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor Paul Gemignani, Guest Singers, Debbie Gravitte and Jonathan Dokuchitz, Guest Trio, Nick Archer on Piano, John Beal on Bass, Paul Pizzuti on Drums, Performed by Darci Kistler, Jock Soto, Maria Kowroski, Charles Askegard, Jenifer Ringer, James Fayette, Janie Taylor, Nilas Martins, and the Company.

With four couples in rapturous leaps and embraces, against one of the most magnificent backdrops and scenery ever invented for ballet, Thou Swell brought the audience to endless accolades. A tilted mirror in the rear visually echoes the dance onstage, and Darci Kistler with Jock Soto, as one couple, were radiant and romantic, as the music throbbed with Richard Rodgers favorites. Their dance was mature, mesmerizing, and magical. Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette were sexy, sensual, and sizzling, with Ms. Ringer's split black and red costume (In fact all of Julius Lumsden's costumes were elegant fashion statements, with some women in toe shoes and others in heels, while men sported formal, black attire) and Mr. Fayette's en air embraces and lifts.

Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard created some drama and dynamic choreography, but it was the powerful partnership of Janie Taylor and Nilas Martins that caught so much attention. They seem genuinely well matched, as do the first two couples above, and Mr. Martins implored Ms. Taylor to join him over and over again, with outstretched arms and boyish charm. Ms. Taylor, now a principal, was, as always, electrically charged and daringly dynamic, and Mr. Martins seems to renew his dance power in her presence. An ensemble of onstage singers and musicians adds to Robin Wagner's glittering nightclub design, and Mr. Martins' brief turn on piano is always a welcome surprise. Kudos to Peter Martins.


Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette in New York City Ballet's Thou Swell
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik


West Side Story Suite (1995): (See June 6, 2004 Review). Music by Leonard Bernstein, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Original Book by Arthur Laurents, Co-Choreographer: Peter Gennaro, Guest Conductor: Paul Gemignani, Guest Singers: Rob Lorey, Joan Barber, Derin Altay, Stephanie Bast, and Whitney Webster, Performed by Benjamin Millepied as Tony, Damian Woetzel as Riff, James Fayette as Bernardo, Jenifer Ringer (Danskin spokesperson) as Anita, Faye Arthurs as Maria, Genevieve Labean as Rosalia, and the Company as The Jets, Their Girls, and The Sharks, Their Girls, including Saskia Beskow (Danskin spokesperson). Mr. Sondheim began his career as a lyricist with West Side Story in 1957 and then with Gypsy in 1959. His theatrical mentor was Oscar Hammerstein. (NYCB Notes).

At a recent ballet book signing (Watch for an upcoming review of Round About the Ballet), Jenifer Ringer spoke to me about the experience of voice lessons for ballet dancers. In West Side Story Suite, the dancers not only dance, they sing, that is all dancers onstage, and tonight's solos by Jenifer Ringer and Damian Woetzel were astounding, as they both performed with full and tuneful vocalizations. On and offstage, there are guest singers who add to Paul Gemignani's orchestral interpretations, and the result is fully rich and rewarding.

Daniel Ulbricht, a Jet, and Adam Hendrickson, a Shark, both new soloists, were in strong form, and both are dancers to watch. Amar Ramasar, Henry Seth, and Ask la Cour also gave noteworthy, but minor performances. Benjamin Millepied, in pastel blue jeans, also present for the above ballet book signing, was an impassioned and inventive Tony, especially at the death of Maria's brother, Bernardo. James Fayette, as Bernardo, Leader of the Sharks, in red shirt and black pants, exuded street-smart and confidence, and his knife scene was riveting.

Damian Woetzel as Riff, Leader of the Jets, was also a purposeful and potent dancer, and Faye Arthurs and Genevieve Labean as the wispy ingénue, Maria, and Rosalia added texture and charm. But, it was Jenifer Ringer, as the black, curly-haired Anita, who garnered sizeable attention, with her sexy singing and dancing, especially of America, and she even walked in street fashion, tough and tempting. Women wore heeled dance shoes for this work, and the visual effect was fashionable and fun. Kudos to Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein.

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