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New York City Ballet - Raymonda Variations, Vespro, and Symphonic Dances

by Robert Abrams
January 11, 2003
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023
212.875.5456

New York City Ballet - Raymonda Variations, Vespro, and Symphonic Dances

www.nycballet.org

Review by Robert Abrams
January 11, 2002

Tonight's performance started with the Raymonda Variations. This is a collection of excerpts from the full ballet Raymonda. The work, choreographed by George Balanchine, was dainty and fluttering with progressions of lines followed by nine solos. The work, as presented in this form, was narrative-less, which showed that even if stylistically this ballet is as far from modern dance as one can get, ballet and modern dance have more fundamental commonalities than people often admit. But more on that later.

Raymonda Variations felt like a romp in the park, assuming for the moment that it is possible to romp en pointe. The dance was set against a backdrop by Horace Armistead that looked like Central Park as imagined by a Romantic painter looking north and west. While there were some percussive sections to the music by Alexander Glazounov and conducted by Maurice Kaplow, the music was mostly percussion-less, but the dancers were still dancing to the music if you listened carefully enough. The lack of a clear rhythm took some getting used to.

The dancers tonight were Jenifer Ringer, Philip Neal, Amanda Edge, Dana Hanson, Teresa Reichlen, Carrie Lee Riggins, Abi Stafford, Faye Arthurs, Ellen Bar, Martine Ciccone, Alina Dronova, Lindy Mandradjieff, Gwyneth Muller and Sarah Ricard, with solos in order of appearance by Teresa Reichlen, Amanda Edge, Philip Neal, Jenifer Ringer, Dana Hanson, Carrie Lee Riggins, Abi Stafford, Philip Neal and Jenifer Ringer. Raymonda Variations was originally premiered in 1961.

Vespro is a work first presented in 2002. The choreography by Mauro Bigonzetti uses bold forms. For instance, the piano was placed on the stage, which when not being used as a piano, was used as a platform to dance around, on and sometimes with. At several points the choreography called for a dancer to fall onto the piano's keyboard, sometimes with his hands and sometimes with his feet. The resulting movement and sound (not quite a chord but not quite a noise either) was perfectly placed in the dance. At one point, several dancers who were lying on the floor made their own rhythm by slapping the floor. This moment had a very African feel. The costumes by Julius Lumsden looked like boldly geometrical updatings of 19th century collegiate crew uniforms (as in the sport of rowing).

The dancers, who were as fit and athletic as any crew team - and thankfully non-emaciated looking, included Maria Kowroski, Alexandra Ansanelli, Jason Fowler, Sébastien Marcovici, Benjamin Millepied, Saskia Beskow, Sophie Flack, Megan LeCrone, Deanna McBrearty, Antonio Carmena, Craig Hall, Jonathan Stafford and Sean Suozzi. Musical accompaniment and participation was provided by Bruno Moretti on the piano, Steven Rickards as the countertenor, and Albert Regni on the soprano saxaphone. The music was ably composed by Bruno Moretti, and the lighting was by Mark Stanley.

The choreography made excellent use of both variations in intensity and seamless use of the ensemble. The choreography sustained audience interest in a completely non-narrative work from beginning to the stunning final tableaux.

In many ways, Vespro was a melding of ballet and modern dance. If it weren't for the graceful bearing and delicate feet of the NYCB dancers, one would be hard pressed to call Vespro a ballet at all. If the dancers were to remove their delicate feet (or at least their ballet slippers), Vespro would easily fit in the category of high-level modern dance.


Ballet: Vespro
Choreography: Mauro Bigonzetti
Dancers: Maria Kowroski, Jason Fowler, Alexandra Ansanelli and Sébastien Marcovici
Photo by Paul Kolnik


Ballet: Vespro
Choreography: Mauro Bigonzetti
Benjamin Millepied on piano, and company
Photo by Paul Kolnik

The final act of the evening was Symphonic Dances with music by Sergei Rachmaninoff, choreography by Peter Martins, costumes by Santo Loquasto and lighting by Mark Stanley. Hugo Fiorato conducted.

This work was originally performed in 1994. Mr. Martins has created what to my eye looks like traditional ballet, but a work of ballet which has dynamic and interesting choreography. The dancers filled the choreography with great energy from start to finish. The dancers often seemed to have a little extra spring in their step. The work was full-length and non-narrative, and managed to sustain coherence and audience interest. Tonight's principal dancers, Yvonne Borree and Nikolaj Hübbe, were wonderful. The costumes used skirts rather than tutus. This was a good choice because the movement of the skirts responded to and amplified the movement of the dancers. Plus the costumes were beautiful. I could easily see a variation of them on sale at a fine retailer.

The dancers, who would have been just as beautiful had they danced in clothing randomly pulled from their dressers, included Yvonne Borree, Nikolaj Hübbe (who filled in for Robert Tewsley), Faye Arthurs, Amanda Edge, Deanna McBrearty, Carrie Lee Riggins, Ask la Cour, Seth Orza, Jonathan Stafford, Sean Souzzi, Dena Abergel, Ellen Bar, Saskia Beskow, Mary Helen Bowers, Pauline Golbin, Gwyneth Muller, Ellen Ostrom, Teresa Reichlen, Christopher Boehmer, Darius Crenshaw, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Jerome Johnson, Amar Ramasar, Andrew Robertson, Henry Seth and Christian Tworzyanski.


Ballet: Symphonic Dances
Choreography: Peter Martins
Dancers: Yvonne Borree
Photo by Paul Kolnik


Ballet: Symphonic Dances
Choreography: Peter Martins
Dancers: Yvonne Borree & Nikolaj Hübbe
Photo by Paul Kolnik

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