About the Author:
New York City Ballet: Eros Piano, Apollo, Concerto for Two Solo Pianos, West Side Story Suite
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
February 6, 2005
Eros Piano (2004): (See June 4, 2004 Review). Music by John Adams, Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Piano Soloist: Richard Moredock, Performed by Janie Taylor, Megan Fairchild, and Nikolaj Hübbe. Mr. Adams' compositions are known for minimalism and romanticism and include electronic as well as instrumental music. Mr. Adams composed Eros Piano in 1989 as an elegy on the death of Morton Feldman. (NYCB Notes).
Eros Piano is one of Peter Martins' finest ballets, in shades of blue costumes and backdrops, with existential lighting by Mark Stanley, and with an exquisite piano score that enhances Janie Taylor's erotic duet with Nikolaj Hübbe. Mr. Hübbe Îs tiny backward steps are an introduction to those replicated by his two women, and Megan Fairchild filled in for the ailing Alexandra Ansanelli. Unfortunately, in a work with such gravitas, Ms. Fairchild lacks the maturity and depth of persona to exemplify the minimalism and romanticism of the score and choreography.
By coincidence, I had just been reading about Mr. Hübbe in Round About the Ballet (Look for upcoming book review), and Mr. Hübbe has a controlled, dramatic physique and virtuoso stance, with attentive partnering skills. Ms. Taylor, as well, a new principal, is magnetic and riveting in her versatility and skill. Ms. Fairchild is better seen in lighter, more upbeat works, with her bouncy personality and youthful, athletic demeanor. Mr. Hübbe Îs duet with Ms. Taylor could be likened to underwater swimming, with slow motion legwork and twisting torsos. Kudos to Peter Martins, and kudos to Mark Stanley.
Apollo (1951): (See January 14, 2004 Review). Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Performed by Peter Boal, Wendy Whelan, Ashley Bouder, and Rachel Rutherford. Balanchine looked upon Apollo as the turning point of his life, "in its sustained oneness of tone and feeling". Balanchine received international recognition at age 24 with this significant collaboration with Stravinsky. (NYC Ballet Notes).
Apollo was led by Peter Boal, as Apollo, with Wendy Whelan as Terpsichore, Muse of dance and song, Ashley Bouder as Polyhymnia, Muse of mime, and Rachel Rutherford as Calliope, Muse of poetry, all among the top tier of NYC Ballet, and all in a fine-tuned quartet, with Apollo in the envied role of object of desire of three muses, as he chooses Terpsichore for his long duet. Each dancer was perfectly suited for the role, with Mr. Boal both rejecting, accepting, and interested, never quite passionate, just dancing with a musical instrument that seems to be a lute.
Ms. Whelan, with the larger role, Muse of dance and song, was elegant, seductive, and also fused, as she merged into her trio of sister Muses. Rachel Rutherford, as Muse of poetry, opened her mouth wide in dance, as if eagerly reciting to her Apollo, and Ashley Bouder, as Muse of mime, was perky, buoyant, and, for Ms. Bouder, low key.
The final tableau, of Mr. Boal in his white tights and triangle, white half top, against a full moon, with the Muses' all in white scant leotards, legs in high fan-like lifts, was breathtaking. Peter Boal took virtuoso solos in dynamic and dashing form, and each year he seems to become stronger and more nuanced in theatricality. Kudos to this fine cast. And, Kudos to Stravinsky for this rapturous score.
Concerto for Two Solo Pianos (1982): (See June 15, 2004 Review). Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Ben Benson, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Pianists: Cameron Grant and Richard Moredock, Performed by Carla Körbes, Ask la Cour, Amar Ramasar, and the Company.
This early choreographed work is not Peter Martins' most compelling, with the very diffuse and fragmented Stravinsky score, but it can be quite fascinating with the right cast. Ask la Cour, in black, had the gravitas here, but Amar Ramasar, in his signature red, and Carla Körbes in white seemed a bit overwhelmed with the enormity of the mood and motif. This work requires physical intensity and deep emotionality. Mr. Ramasar, in his partnered duet, seemed less confident than he does in the more melodic, story works, such as the following piece, choreographed by Jerome Robbins, in which he is perfectly poised and impassioned.
Cameron Grant and Richard Moredock performed on two pianos, stage left, and their music lent itself interchangeably with Mr. Martins' magnetic push-pull effects on the three dancers and the intermittently seen corps. However, the piano speaker volume required a stronger mike level, as it was difficult to hear the score. I noticed restlessness in the audience and was wishing for sound strength to equal psychological strength of the choreography. Mark Stanley's lighting was, as always, remarkable and requisite. Kudos to Cameron Grant and Richard Moredock on two pianos.
West Side Story Suite (1995): (See February 2, 2005 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).
Upon learning from Round About the Ballet (See upcoming book review), that Jenifer Ringer is married to James Fayette, I understood the natural passion recently exuded by this dance couple onstage in Thou Swell (as one of four elegant dance couples) and in West Side Story Suite, as Bernardo, leader of the Sharks, and Anita, his girlfriend. Their Latin dances with swiveling hips and clave rhythm were astounding, an onstage- offstage partnership. Benjamin Millepied, as Tony, seemed especially dramatic and elevated today, with his mid-air side leaps and his screaming for Maria, just as her brother, Bernardo, is murdered at his own hands in the revenge of the death of Riff, leader of the Jets.
Irene Sharaff's costumes, with Jets in blue jeans and pastels and Sharks in blacks, reds, and bright, dark colors, were well conceived. Jennifer Tipton's lighting (the sudden burst of morning sky for Somewhere Ballet) and Oliver Smith's scenery (the gym, the street park, the impressionistic sky) were essential to the success of this timeless work…Romeo and Juliet once again. Paul Gemignani led the orchestra with aplomb. The dancers' voices were just lovely today, especially Damian Woetzel's Cool and the entire Company's rendition of Somewhere. Kudos to all.
James Fayette with Henry Seth and Amar Ramasar in New York City Ballet's West Side Story Suite
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik