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New York City Ballet: Concerto Barocco, Russian Seasons, Episodes

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 10, 2006
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023

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New York City Ballet
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New York City Ballet: Concerto Barocco, Russian Seasons, Episodes

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
June 10, 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 a new work by Alexei Ratmansky, Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Concerto Barocco (1948): (See February 2, 2006 Review). Music by Johann Sebastien Bach (Double Violin Concerto in D Minor), Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Violinists: Arturo Delmoni and Kurt Nikkanen, Performed by Rachel Rutherford, Miranda Weese, Nikolaj Hübbe, and the Company.

Nikolaj Hübbe was more than busy in this brisk, buoyant work, as he partners both Rachel Rutherford and Miranda Weese, two strong, stylized performers, plus eight corps females. Bach's Double Violin Concerto was literally engrossing, as both Mr. Delmoni and Mr. Nikkanen shared the spotlight. The lead dancers made the most of this elegant score, and the white costumes of the females shone brilliantly against the deep blue backdrop. Mr. Hübbe has poise, presence, balance, and rapturous partnering techniques, all of which served him well with the ten females that connected or inter-connected with him, during Balanchine's stunning interpretation of this classical masterpiece.

Russian Seasons (2006): Music by Leonid Desyatnikov, Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Costumes by Galina Solovyeva, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Violin Soloist: Arturo Delmoni, Mezzo-Soprano: Susana Poretsky, Performed by Jenifer Ringer, Sofiane Sylve, Wendy Whelan, Alina Dronova, Georgina Pazcoguin, Abi Stafford, Albert Evans, Antonio Carmena, Adam Hendrickson, Amar Ramasar, Jonathan Stafford, and Sean Suozzi. Leonid Desyatnikov takes recordings and text from "Traditional Music from the Russian Lake District" and creates four concertos, each having three movements. He uses string orchestra, solo violin, and female voice, while exploring life experiences in this composition. (NYCB Notes).

Alexei Ratmansky, whose Bolshoi Ballet was reviewed here last season, was invited this season to participate in The Diamond Project. Tonight's production of Russian Seasons, with its dissonant score of four concertos, three movements each, with Russian folkloric and human life experience motifs, was truly mesmerizing. Ms. Solovyeva's costumes, supervised by Holly Hynes, are solid, silky, and glowing, with each couple in its own color. At times the ballet is evocative of Russian boot-stomping and clapping, and at times I sensed a nod to Ratmansky's fellow Russian, Balanchine, especially in uplifted arms and lyrical leaps.

Mr. Ratmansky was afforded the crème de la crème of the City Ballet principals and soloists, and Wendy Whelan and Albert Evans, in orange and then wedding white, plus Sofiane Sylve and Jenifer Ringer, had internalized this music with expressive physicality. Ms. Whelan is especially striking in debut ballets, expressing her own excitement in the introduction of each new work. Mr. Evans literally glowed, as did Ms. Ringer, both muscular, seasoned performers. The remaining soloists and corps were equally radiant, with Amar Ramasar and Adam Hendrickson notably sparkling.

Arturo Delmoni, on solo violin, and Susana Poretsky, mezzo-soprano, met the challenge of this lengthy and complicated 12-part score. The theatrical elements, like the masks of comedy and tragedy, added texture and depth to this must-see-again ballet. Kudos to Alexei Ratmansky, and kudos to the twelve performers, plus Maurice Kaplow, Mr. Delmoni, and Ms. Poretsky.

Episodes (1959): (See January 29, 2006 Review). Music from the orchestral works of Anton von Webern, Choreography by George Balanchine, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor: Benjamin Pope, Performed by Abi Stafford, Arch Higgins, Teresa Reichlen, Jason Fowler, Jennie Somogyi, Albert Evans, Sara Mearns, Charles Askegard, and the Company. Balanchine was enthusiastic about Webern's music, which he felt left "the mind free to 'see' the dancing". Martha Graham originally choreographed for Balanchine "Episodes I", danced by her Company and four NYCB dancers, but this section has not been presented since 1960. (NYCB Notes).

This atonal, fragmented work can by hypnotic, but in a good way, as one loses oneself in the spell-binding von Webern score. Benjamin Pope, a British composer and conductor, kept the orchestra taut, as the music unwound. The most fascinating partnering occurred in Five Pieces, Opus 10, with Teresa Reichlen and Jason Fowler, two long-limbed soloists, who should be seen together more often. In fact, Mr. Fowler, recently promoted, has perfected his focus and presence. Abi Stafford and Arch Higgins buoyantly led six corps dancers in Symphony, Opus 21, while Jennie Somogyi and Albert Evans (fresh from his lead in the previous work) led five female corps dancers in Concerto, Opus 24. The Ricercato, with fourteen female corps dancers, was led by Sara Mearns (a star rising like lightning) and the ever-capable Charles Askegard.

Kudos to Mark Stanley for his incandescent lighting, replete with magical spotlights.

Wendy Whelan in New York City Ballet's Russian Seasons
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Jennifer Ringer in New York City Ballet's Russian Seasons
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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