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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
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New York City Ballet: Intermezzo No. 1, Backchat, Étoile Polaire, A Stair Dance, Western Symphony

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 12, 2006
Lincoln Center
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New York, NY 10023

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New York City Ballet: Intermezzo No. 1, Backchat, Étoile Polaire, A Stair Dance, Western Symphony

New York City Ballet

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children's Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn
Managing Director, Marketing and Communications, Robert Daniels
Associate Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns
Press Coordinator, Joe Guttridge

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center
(See Other NYC Ballet Reviews)

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 12, 2006

The Diamond Project: The Diamond Project is the sixth such festival of new works, with seven choreographers, from unique international backgrounds, presenting new ballets. Tonight's program features new works by Eliot Feld, Artistic Director of Ballet Tech.

Intermezzo No. 1 (1969): Music by Johannes Brahms (Opus 117, No. 2, Opus 118, No. 2, Opus 39), Choreography by Eliot Feld, Costumes by Stanley Simmons, Costumes supervised by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Allen Lee Hughes, Pianist: Cameron Grant, Performed by Megan Fairchild, Robert Fairchild, Jenifer Ringer, Charles Askegard, Rachel Rutherford, Tyler Angle.

A ballet to Brahms' piano works, expertly played by Cameron Grant, Feld's Intermezzo was entertaining and exuberant, but no match for the Robbins work, In the Night, more passionate and replete with pathos, and originally scheduled for tonight's program, but switched due to dance injuries. Allen Lee Hughes' lighting of brightly colored costumes (by Hynes/Simmons) created luminosity on a blackened stage.

I do prefer seeing Feld works at the Joyce in a more intimate and casual setting. Yet, it was the perfect opening for an almost entire evening of Feld ballets, and the comical hand and head gestures were worth the viewing in themselves, very campy and refreshing. The partnering included a few changes, but Megan Fairchild and Robert Fairchild seemed the most riveting. Rachel Rutherford was eloquent and engaging, as was Tyler Angle, who expands each year in stage presence. Jenifer Ringer and Charles Askegard were seasoned performers, as always.

Backchat (2004): Music by Paul Lansky (Idle Chatter Junior), Choreography by Eliot Feld, Costumes by Camille Assaf, Stage Element by Mimi Lien and Eliot Feld, Lighting by Allen Lee Hughes, Performed by Adrian Danchig-Waring, Craig Hall, Andrew Veyette.

Backchat is another example of a work best seen at the Joyce, where it premiered in 2004. This was the first of two in sneakers (or athletic dance shoes), with three very youthful and muscular male dancers scaling a wall with spikes, hurling themselves up, down, over the wall, into and intertwined with each other, disconnected and then connected, freezing the positions for visual effect. The gymnastic costumes and choreography were mesmerizing, but somewhat evocative of walking on the West Side and gazing at the store space for rock climbing.

Étoile Polaire (2006): Music by Philip Glass (North Star: Étoile Polaire, Ange des Orages, Ave), Choreography by Eliot Feld, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Kaitlyn Gilliland.

Étoile Polaire was the watershed moment of the evening, as Kaitlyn Gilliland, a NYC Ballet apprentice, danced a solo in silhouette, tall and sinewy, taut and surreal, to the hypnotic score of Philip Glass. This new work, created by Feld for Ms. Gilliland and NYC Ballet, was perfectly suited for State Theater, and I did not want it to end. This is truly a "must-see-again" ballet, hopefully once more with Ms. Gilliland, an up-and-coming young artist. In chiaroscuro effect, against a twilight sun, she appeared as a leggy heron, her arms wing-like, with legs supportive and strong. This is an unhurried work, moved by gradual momentum, with increasingly complex choreography and consistent charisma. Kudos to Kaitlyn Gilliland.

A Stair Dance (2004): Music by Steve Reich (Tokyo/Vermont Counterpoint), Choreography by Eliot Feld, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Dedicated to Gregory Hines, Musician: James Baker, Performed by Ellen Bar, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Robert Fairchild, Sean Suozzi, Giovanni Villalobos.

Once again, this piece would best be served at the Joyce, where it premiered in 2004, with the gym suit-athletic shoe motif. An onstage staircase serves as the focal point for the four male and one female dancer, as they create interesting but not compelling steps on stairs. As a tribute to Gregory Hines, I would rather see a dyed-in-the-wool tap creation with more formal costumes and a classier format. Ellen Bar, a new soloist, is a dancer to watch, and she radiates sophistication, no matter the genre. Robert Fairchild and Giovanni Villalobos, apprentice and corps members, were both quite engaging.

Western Symphony (1954): (See February 18, 2006 Review). Music by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by John Boyt, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor, Maurice Kaplow, Performed by Jenifer Ringer, Nilas Martins, Megan Fairchild, Adam Hendrickson, Maria Kowroski, Damian Woetzel, and the Company. Some of the American folk songs in this ballet are "Red River Valley", "Good Night Ladies", and "Rye Whiskey". (NYCB Notes).

This upbeat, electrified, and melodic ballet, with cowboys, showgirls, hats, and ruffles, has something for everyone, with music to remember and coy, charming duets. In the Allegro, Jenifer Ringer raced onstage like a colt in the wind, with Nilas Martins close behind. They make a well-tuned pair, in physique and personality, and Mr. Martins' boyish grins and spins were captivating, as always. He remains one of the most interesting principals to watch, at every appearance. In the Adagio, Megan Fairchild and Adam Hendrickson were sprightly and spunky, and there was nothing "slow" in the meaning of this movement.

Maria Kowroski and Damian Woetzel, back this season with dynamic fervor, ended the ballet with electricity and lightning, at once, in their dance. This is another well-matched duo, and their very seasoned approach added texture and nuance to a familiar and well-loved classic. The company was splendid in this buoyant ballet.

Kaitlyn Gilliland in Etoile Polaire

Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Kaitlyn Gilliand in Etoile Polaire

Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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