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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
Performance Reviews
New York City Center

Kings of the Dance at City Center

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 23, 2006
New York City Center
130 West 56th Street
(Audience Entrance is on West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
(Entrance for Studios and Offices is on West 56th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019

About the Author:

Kings of the Dance at City Center

Sergei Danilian and Ardani Artists Management
(Ardani Artists Website)
(with Orange County Performing Arts Center)

Kings of the Dance

At City Center
(City Center Website)

Angel Corella, Johan Kobborg
Ethan Stiefel, Nikolay Tsiskaridze

Guest Artists: Gudrun Bojesen, Deirdre Chapman

Artistic Associates: Angel Corella, Ethan Stiefel
Balletmaster: Yuri Fateev
Production Manager: Michael Vool
Lighting Designer: Antonio Marques
Sound Engineer: Vladislav Kalinin
Pianist: Regina Martin
Film Produced by Alexander Goldstein
Company Manager: Victoria Zengin-Karaian
Associate Producer: Gaiane Danilian
Press: Ellen Jacobs Associates

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 23, 2006


For 4 (World Premiere): Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Music by Franz Schubert (Death and the Maiden), Design by Jean-Marc Puissant, Performed by Angel Corella, Johan Kobborg, Ethan Stiefel, and Nikolay Tsiskaridze.

The Lesson (1963): Choreography by Flemming Flindt (Based on the play by Eugene Ionesco), Music by George Delerue, Décor by Flemming Flindt (after Bernard Dayde), Costumes by Tine Sander and Flemming Flindt, Lighting by Flemming Flindt, Performed by Angel Corella, Gudrun Bojesen, Deirdre Chapman.

Wavemaker (World Premiere): Choreography by Nils Christe, Music by John Adams, Performed by Ethan Stiefel.

Afternoon of a Faun (World Premiere): Choreography by Tim Rushton, Music by Claude Debussy, Performed by Johan Kobborg.

Carmen Solo (World Premiere): Choreography by Roland Petit, Music by Georges Bizet, Performed by Nikolay Tsiskaridze.

We Got It Good (World Premiere): Choreography by Stanton Welch, Music by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington, Performed by Angel Corella.

Sergei Danilian has featured a unique mélange of la crème de la crème of male virtuoso ballet principals, two from American Ballet Theatre, one from the Bolshoi, and one from the Royal Ballet. Angel Corella and Ethan Steifel have been frequently reviewed in this magazine in ABT's full-length and one-act ballets, as well as the occasional, privately produced gala, such as this. Nikolay Tsiskaridze has been reviewed in last summer's Bolshoi at the Met productions, and Johan Kobborg has appeared in New York in a variety of galas and dance events.

The evening opened with a video, showing the four premier danseurs in real life, onstage, and in rehearsal for this series of Kings of the Dance. Alexander Goldstein's video was well conceived and well constructed, as one could be drawn into the energy and obsession of dance, as well as the camaraderie that developed among this quartet of bravura performers. Scenes at the ocean and scenes at the studio allowed a rare glimpse into the deep recesses of a dancer's mind.

Seamlessly following the video, silhouette to silhouette, the four dancers broke into Wheeldon's commissioned work, For 4, set to Schubert's Death and the Maiden. Ironically, we had just seen Mr. Corella filmed at the edge of the shore, and this ballet's lighting design was evocative of washing waves. Wheeldon has been reviewed in this magazine for some dramatically driven works and some less engaging. For 4 seems to fall in between, as the choreography was visually fascinating, but, given the powerful potential of this fiery foursome, it did not achieve magnetic excitement or wild abandon. Restraint seemed to be rampant, and I wondered at the logic of it all. Solos and ensemble dance were contemporary and fairly one-dimensional, with imagery of arm-leg patterns and colorful unitards, rather than imagery of tour de force breathless buoyancy.

The second work of the evening was dark, demonical, and dysfunctional. Flemming Flindt's The Lesson is a 1963 ballet of murder, the victim being the ingénue ballerina, the perpetrator her trusted ballet teacher, and the piano accompanist the voyeur-provocateur, egging it all on. Tonight's Teacher was Angel Corella, and he played the theatricality with passion. The two female guest artists, Gudrun Bojesen, the Pupil, and Deirdre Chapman, the Pianist, were wasted in this disturbing dervish, and extraneous in this all-male genre. Both seem to have remarkable talent and presence. There was an eerie edge here, evocative of German Expressionism, in the angular body language and walks. The sexual symbolism of the crime in dance was evident in each tableau. The fact that The Lesson, a forty-three year old ballet, is not known to the general ballet audience speaks for its relevance.

It was Act III, the four solos, each choreographed by the whim of each danseur, where some excitement ensued. Ethan Stiefel was first, with Nils Christe's The Wavemaker (another reference to the sea), and most of the motion was inwardly, rather than outwardly, muscular. Mr. Steifel stood still, with tiny ripples of flesh, building in volume and vivacity. He unfolded and retracted to the John Adams score, like the motion of the sea. Johan Kobborg chose Tim Rushton, who created quite an unusual faun for Debussy's renowned score, a brand new Afternoon of a Faun. This faun had no nymphs, no grapes, no mountain, no scarf, unlike Nijinsky's faun. However, it did have a spotlight, a ray of sunshine. This was a mesmerizing and magical dance, featuring Mr. Kobborg in undulating floor patterns and primal positions.

The showstopper of the evening was Nikolay Tsiskaridze's interpretation of three roles in Bizet's Carmen, created by Roland Petit. This is a must-see-again performance, and Mr. Tsiskaridze literally transformed himself into male, female, male, with the turn of the music and a prop or two. An assistant, almost as engaging as Mr. Tsiskaridze, himself, changed the props with consistent camp. The audience vocalized vociferous approval. Angel Corella closed the evening with humor and smiles, dressed in casual New York at midnight attire, dancing an effervescent elegy to Ellington and Strayhorn, created by Stanton Welch. This was a bit of Astaire, a bit of Gene Kelly, and a bit of Corella. We Got It Good was a dazzling, dashing dance.

Kudos to Sergei Danilian, and kudos to the four Kings of the Dance.

Christopher Wheeldon's dance For 4
Photo courtesy of Stefano Paltera

Nikolay, Angel, Johan and Steifel
Photo courtesy of Stefano Paltera

Johan Kobborg
Photo courtesy of Stefano Paltera

Nikolay Tsiskaridze in Roland Petit's Carmen
Photo courtesy of Stefano Paltera

Ethan Steifel
Photo courtesy of Stefano Paltera

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