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New York City Ballet - Who Cares?, Chichester Psalms, Eros Piano, West Side Story Suite

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 4, 2004
Lincoln Center
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About the Author:

New York City Ballet - Who Cares?, Chichester Psalms, Eros Piano, West Side Story Suite

(www.nycb.org)

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
Manager, Press Relations, Siobhan Burns

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center

Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 4, 2004

Who Cares? (1970): (See June 15, 2003 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, Guest Conductor: Richard Fletcher, Pianist: Susan Walters, Performed by Miranda Weese, Sofiane Sylve, Ashley Bouder, Nilas Martins, Faye Arthurs, Saskia Beskow (Danskin Spokesperson), Amanda Edge, Pauline Golbin, Amanda Hankes, Darius Crenshaw, Kyle Froman, Henry Seth, Jonathan Stafford, Andrew Veyette, and the Company.

In tonight's presentation of this rousing and tuneful work, there seemed to be extra energy, as the entire evening evolved into high-energy and passion, through one of the most unusual and eclectic programs this season. Who Cares? offers solo piano and orchestral songs with the dancers taking turns in vaudevillian style. Ashley Bouder was red hot in I'll Build a Staircase to Paradise and in the title song, Who Cares? with the magnetic and versatile Nilas Martins. Amanda Edge and Darius Crenshaw were well matched and mesmerizing in 'S Wonderful, and Nilas Martins was in top Broadway-Ballet form in Liza.

The entire cast seemed to project extra luminosity and visual touches with hand and arm extensions, silhouetted against the colorful lighting. Sofiane Sylve's My One and Only was sensual and sultry, and Yvonne Borree and Nilas Martins danced a very seductive, The Man I Love.

Chichester Psalms (Premiere): Music by Leonard Bernstein, Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Katherine Barinas, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Guest Artists: The Juilliard Choral Union, Soloist: James Danner, Performed by Carla Korbes, Amar Ramasar, and the Company. The Danish born Mr. Martins has either danced, choreographed and/or led NYC Ballet for more than 30 years. His dances are performed by ballet companies around the globe. He is also Chairman of the Faculty of School of American Ballet. Leonard Bernstein was the first native-born American to permanently conduct the New York Philharmonic. Mr. Bernstein composed Chichester Psalms in 1965, using Biblical texts with an orchestral score. (NYCB Notes).

Chichester Psalms is the second of the four new works commissioned by NYC Ballet to commemorate the Balanchine Centennial (The first was Wheeldon's Shambards). The six Psalms, sung in Hebrew by The Juilliard Choral Union and one boy soloist, James Danner, are translated for the audience. They call for unity, love, trust in God, praise, thanks, questioning, and peace. Included is the well-known 23rd Psalm, and Bernstein's music matches the verses in mood and somber, yet glorified tonalities.

There are rising steps at stage rear for the chorus and portions of the Corps, and the blacks and golds of the sets, with black and white simple costumes, are all well conceived to blend with magnificent lighting that changes with the musical intensity and lyrical emotions. Carla Korbes and Amar Ramasar are seen at the center of a female corps that winds around the two, followed by athletic duels between pairs of male dancers. I had the distinct impression that Mr. Martins had created a statement on War and its psychological implications, especially as Ms. Korbes and Mr. Ramasar created crucifix figures.

Evocative passages presented couples and ensembles in spiritual lifts and lyrical partnering, tossing their bodies onstage, onto their partners' legs, and against the starkly lit backdrop. Amar Ramasar and Carla Korbes are youthful and fresh, and they seem to have mastered the depth, drama, and development of this work. They have both been seen in new solo roles this Season. James Danner sang flawlessly as the boy soprano, a motif that's so rarely heard these days. The Juilliard Choral Union brought dynamism and texture to Bernstein's music.

Kudos to Peter Martins, Leonard Bernstein, Carla Korbes, Amar Ramasar, The Juilliard Choral Union, and James Danner.

Eros Piano (Premiere): 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 Alexandra Ansanelli, Ashley Laracey, and Nikolaj Hubbe. 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, the third new commissioned piece, also choreographed by Peter Martins, is titled on notions that Feldman's music was erotic. This was a visually erotic work, with the seductive, Alexandra Ansanelli dancing a solo, prior to the entrance of the equally seductive Nikolaj Hubbe, who is subsequently tempted by the youthful Ashley Laracey, in aqua, whom he partners on several special levels, as they slide along the floor in strong sensuality. His duet with Ms. Ansanelli, in green, is more intense and bluesy in rhythm. Rather than choose between these partners, Mr. Hubbe seizes both until they collapse against the floor, heads thrown in abandon.

The audience clearly seemed to prefer Eros Piano to Chichester Psalms, perhaps for its simplicity and elegance. I, as well, would like to see this work again, and the Adams score was entrancing. Kudos to Peter Martins, John Adams, Nikolaj Hubbe, Alexandra Ansanelli, and Ashley Laracey for this exotic performance.

West Side Story Suite (1995): 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, Nikolaj Hubbe as Riff, Jock Soto as Bernardo, Jenifer Ringer as Anita, Faye Arthurs as Maria, Amanda Edge as Rosalia, and the Company as The Jets, Their Girls, and The Sharks, Their Girls. 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).

I have never heard ballet dancers sing before, and this work was the culmination of a most amazing evening at the ballet. Mr. Hubbe, fresh from his demanding performance in Eros Piano, the previous piece, was center stage once again, dancing, acting, snapping his fingers, and actually singing, as were Jock Soto, Jenifer Ringer, et al. With Bernstein's contrasting upbeat and romantic score, so very powerful and driven, urban and jazzy, NYC Ballet entertained its audience with color, dynamism, and signature Robbins choreography, so reminiscent of the Broadway show and film.

Jenifer Ringer as Anita, in Chita Rivera's original role, shook her ruffled skirt and sang America. Jock Soto in black jeans danced a Mambo, as did the Company, and Faye Arthurs fell in love with Tony (Benjamin Millepied). This was one of Mr. Millepied's strongest roles this Season, a perfect Tony in blue jeans, and he performed in brilliant style as Maria's object of desire and Bernardo's nemesis. Jenifer Ringer, as Bernardo's girlfriend, was wanton and wild, an incredible change from her usual sparkling crowns and tutus. Amanda Edge was well cast and vivacious.

The Rumble scene, with switchblades and violence, was tense, and Mr. Soto and Mr. Hubbe carried it off with aplomb. Oliver Smith's scenery and Irene Sharaff's costumes were splendid and timeless. Kudos to Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim, and the entire lead cast of this unforgettable ballet. The Guest singers were perfectly timed with the dance and added depth to the production. Paul Gemignani was a master at the Bernstein score.

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