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New York City Ballet - La Source, Shambards, La Sonnambula

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 21, 2004
Lincoln Center
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New York City Ballet - La Source, Shambards, La Sonnambula

(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

(See Other NYC Ballet Reviews)

Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 21, 2004

La Source (1968): Music by Leo Delibes, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Richard Moredock, Performed by Jenifer Ringer, Ashley Bouder, and Benjamin Millepied. "La Source" uses music from Delibes' ballets, "Naila" and" Sylvia". Delibes also composed the music for the ballet, "Coppélia". (NYCB Notes). Sometimes life imitates art, and tonight I imagined a Degas painting, as ballerinas in pink twirled and pranced across the stage to the frolicking refrains of Delibes. As it happens, last year's Degas Dancers exhibit in Philadelphia mentioned La Source as the inspiration for one of Degas' paintings that included a horse in fifth position.

Jenifer Ringer, in a pink tutu and flowered white hairpiece, was all confection, elegantly partnered by Benjamin Millepied. Elegantly, but not ecstatically. Mr. Millepied has superb technical skills, but often appears too nonchalant, too remote for partnered duets. He seems better in contemporary solo work, which is more internalized and stylized. Ms. Ringer dances with glistening, porcelain-like features and form, and she exudes sensitivity and joy in works such as this. Mr. Millepied was well balanced and poised, created some magnificent leaps and, with more psychic energy, would have been a splendid partner for Ms. Ringer.

Ashley Bouder led the Corps in Balanchine's effervescent choreography. Ms. Bouder is passionate in every motion, every turn. She relates to her audience with knowing glances and extra extensions, elegantly turned. Karinska's tulle tutus were so pleasing to the eye, as one imagined Degas' dancers preparing in the wings. La Source is inherently romantic and rapturous, although structured and plotless. Kudos to Richard Moredock for creating the orchestral ambiance to suit this lovely mood.


Ashley Bouder in NYCB's La Source (Choreography by Balanchine)
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Shambards (Premiere, May 2004): Music by James MacMillan, Commissioned by NYC Ballet, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Scenery by Michael Nagle, Scenery Supervised by Mark Stanley, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Piano: Cameron Grant, Performed by Carla Körbes, Ask la Cour, Miranda Weese, Jock Soto, Ashley Bouder, Daniel Ulbricht, Megan Fairchild, Joaquin De Luz, and the Company.

"Shambards", set for 24 dancers, includes elements from traditional Scottish folk dances as well as edgy contemporary motifs. This commissioned piano concerto ("Shambards") by the Scottish composer, James MacMillan, includes contrasting rhythms and music from old melodies and new, dissonant tones, as well as contrasting dance styles, including a "sword" dance, with men dancing over the women. The British choreographer in residence, Christopher Wheeldon, has also created the ballet, "Tryst" (2002), to a MacMillan score. (NYCB Notes).

In contrast to the lightness of La Source, the eery darkness of Shambards was piecing and potent. The early browns and blacks in sets, lighting, and costumes, of The Beginning, were later followed by reds and blacks in The End. Carla Körbes and Ask la Cour opened this incredible work with poise and powerful choreography, replete with Scottish refrains, mixed with edgy dissonance. However, the real interest was initiated by Miranda Weese and Jock Soto, and later by Ashley Bouder, Daniel Ulbricht, Megan Fairchild, and Joaquin De Luz, followed once again by Ms. Weese and Mr. Soto.

I almost did not recognize Ms. Weese, who was taught, severe, intense, and magnetic in her brilliantly presented partnering with Mr. Soto. The charismatic Mr. Soto excels in these new, abstract works, and tonight was no exception. He seamlessly wound his way around and over and through the dancers and Ms. Weese in studied and mystifying grace. The remaining leads did not quite exude the internalized and possessed personas that were so evident in Ms. Weese and Mr. Soto, but their performances were of bravura quality in technique and physicality. Ms. Bouder, fresh from the earlier Balanchine work, was, as always, energetic and focused, mesmerizing and muscular. Mr. Ulbricht, as well, paired with Mr. De Luz, were golden images of sensational speed and elevated angularity. Ms. Fairchild was well partnered with Mr. De Luz, and they appeared as lightning sprites in eery dark surroundings.

Christopher Wheeldon, Resident Choreographer of NYC Ballet, has created a masterpiece, with a blazing, commissioned score by Scottish composer, James MacMillan. The orchestral contrasts of Scottish dances and dissonant modernism were well executed with Andrea Quinn's expert conducting. Cameron Grant, featured in this piano concerto, played flawlessly as always. The Corps danced with seriousness and agility, to celebrate this new commissioned work by choreographer and composer. Kudos to Christopher Wheeldon, and kudos to James MacMillan.


Carla Körbes and Ask la Cour in NYCB's Shambards (Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon)
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik



Miranda Weese and Jock Soto in NYCB's Shambards (Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon)
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

La Sonnambula (1960): Music by Vittorio Rieti (after themes of Bellini), Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Alain Vaes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Richard Moredock, Performed by Sofiane Sylve as The Coquette, James Fayette as The Baron, Nikolaj Hübbe as The Poet, Yvonne Borree as The Sleepwalker, Tom Gold as Harlequin, and the Company, led by Alina Dronova, Lindy Mandradjieff, Antonio Carmena, Aaron Severini, Amanda Edge, and Craig Hall.

Rieti's music is based on themes from Bellini's operas, including "La Sonnambula". The Coquette's encircling movements the Moorish dance, and the Harlequin dance all help to create a sinister effect to this ballet. Rieti was born in Egypt and composed for Ballets Russes. In the US, Rieti collaborated with Balanchine on ballets for several companies, including ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and NYC Ballet. (NYCB Notes).

More than every once in awhile, there is a ballet that rivets one so passionately, that one cannot bear to take one's eyes offstage. Thus, there are no written notes, but thousands of mental notes, emblazoned for eternity. Tonight was clearly Yvonne Borree's finest hour. She was a miracle en pointe. As La Sonnambula, the sleepwalker, the wife of the host (the Baron), performed by the theatrical and magnetic James Fayette, Ms. Borree flew around the stage, en pointe endlessly and gracefully, in flowing pale yellow, as she held a flickering candle, following the Corps' superb masked dance.

As the story unfolds, after a masked ball, each female partner snaps off her mask to be whisked into the wings by her elegant and chivalrous, male partner. A bravura and colorful Harlequin dance, by the powerful and muscular Tom Gold, short in stature and high in energy, all muscles and hormones, follows. The Coquette, Sofiane Sylve (imported from France), first partnered by James Fayette and later by Nicolaj Hübbe, the thrillingly handsome, princely Poet, allows her mind to wander from the Baron to the Poet, but she is snatched at the wings by her host, leaving the forlorn Poet to himself. As he searches her path, with the slowly lit windows in Alain Vaes' superb, castle backdrop, he imagines her location and wishes for her return.

But, lo and behold, a different vision emerges, the Sleepwalker (Ms. Borree), who is the wife of the Baron, and the Poet passionately tries to awake her. The Coquette sees this duet, and, in a jealous rage at the assumed loss of the Poet's object of desire, she informs the Baron of the poet's advances to his wife. The Baron disappears and stabs the Poet, who appears long enough to die onstage and then is quickly carried offstage by none other than the Sleepwalker, herself, who does not lose one fleeting step. Of course, the Coquette is then remorseful, but all too late, as happens in ballets with plots.

Ms. Sylve was always in character, as the rapturous partner of the Poet, as the distant partner of the Baron, as the rejected lover, and as the always, intense Coquette, perfect for this dancer from France. Her skills are fine and flawless, light and airy, classic and poised. Mr. Fayette, as the Baron, exuded vengeful passion against the Poet, for attention to his wife, after dynamic desire for the charming Coquette. Nikolaj Hübbe performed exquisitely as the Poet seduced by one and then another woman, and then killed from jealousy of the first. Ms. Borree danced hypnotically, floating en pointe, a vision in motion. The Divertissements and dance of the Guests were performed with verve and vivacity, and Amanda Edge was especially engaging. Tom Gold, as the Harlequin, was wild and wanton, a foreboding contrast to the impending eeriness and violence to follow.

Kudos to Richard Moredock for carrying the orchestral mystery with operatic themes to such intensity in the exceptional moods of joy, seduction, tranquility, and death. Kudos to Nikolaj Hübbe, and kudos to Yvonne Borree for this memorable moment. I hope to visit this ballet once again.

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