The crush was unbelievable, even for a matinee performance by the New York City Ballet. Once situated in the promised land of superb front and center seats, the relief was palpable. Four selections for the afternoon were enough of a draw to fill the house, but when isn't it that way? Plus, there were plenty of children to get grounded in the rites of dance (Dare we wish?) to become life-long supporters and appreciative audiences for the arts.Carousel (A Dance):
Premiere November 26, 2002, Music by Richard Rodgers, Arranged and Orchestrated by William David Brohn, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor, David Briskin, Major Grant from the Geoffrey C. Hughes Foundation, Performed by the Company, Featuring Tiler Peck, Damian Woetzel, Amanda Hankes, Craig Hall, Rebecca Krohn, Jonathan Stafford. Carousel
is the type of introductory icebreaker in a program that is sure to be popular on many levels. Of course, the beloved musical Carousel
, is just that – musical. The songs are memorable and melodious and singable. The plot, though predictable, engages, because who doesn't love lovers and even better, tragic lovers? Mostly, the lyrical score is danceable and permits broad characterizations of the innocent girl just awakening to love and the macho carnie worker who woos her.
As in a dream distantly remembered, is the motif of the carousel, with circling dancers and a symbolic merry-go-round, represented by the performers holding brass poles. How awkward to manipulate, how Freudian, and how well they managed! Like an opposite magnet, Billy draws and simultaneously frightens Julie. He is head over heels for her in a cartwheel. In their courtship dance of approach avoidance, they are innocently unaware (she is so fresh and ingénue) of where their desires will lead them. She rushes off stage and he pursues her, his destiny. Damian Woetzel was athletic and breezed through the part, being much more romantic and genuine than the original conniving roustabout character full of his own bombast. Tiler Peck showed the proper degree of reticence and interest, in her portrayal of a girl whose love is just awakened. Ethereal creature that she is, playing "young" may not be as difficult as for some. Still, there was acting to be done in her part and she conveyed the naiveté appropriate to her character.Tarantella:
Premiere January 7, 1964, Music by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Reconstructed and Orchestrated by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine (The George Balanchine Trust), Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor, David Briskin, Piano Solo, Nancy McDill, Featuring Megan Fairchild, Joaquin De Luz.
Pity the much-maligned spider whose bite is blamed for causing people to dance frantically until they die. Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz gave a realistic interpretation of a couple inflamed with a compulsion to dance ever faster until what? They whip themselves into butter? They beat their tambourines into bits of metal shards? This really happened! Little jingles littered the stage from all the enthusiastic accompaniment the well-matched pair gave their accessories. These two performers matched each other solo for solo, performing ever faster and with greater passion, all the while somehow avoiding a misstep on one of those pieces of deconstructed tambourines! If ever there was a performance in synchronicity with the music and choreography, this was it. Had Ms. Fairchild and Mr. De Luz in their graphic costumes of black, white, and wine, fallen dead on the stage having danced themselves to the point of expiration, it would not have been a shock. Tarantella
with its spice and sexy teasing was the perfect counter point to the romantic sweetness of Carousel
.Symphony In Three Movements:
Premiere June 18, 1972, Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine (The George Balanchine Trust), Lighting byMark Stanley, Conductor, Fayçal Karoui, Performed by the Company, Featuring Sterling Hyltin, Adam Hendrickson, Jennie Somogyi, Amar Ramasar, Abi Stafford, Adrian Danchig-Waring.
A dance piece in three parts that is purely about movement and the artists who dance the combinations, this composition was a perfect collaboration between Balanchine and Stravinsky. Reportedly, the sections of the symphony were conceived independently of each other to be used in separate films. However, that didn't work out, and, since nothing good should ever go to waste, ergo, ballet goers instead of movie attendees reap the benefit.
With a little color coding of black and white tights and tee shirts to differentiate the groups, and pastels to identify the principals, the ensemble wove through complex patterns that at times resembled underwater swimming or tribal worship. Clean lines and energetic movement to go, follow, lead, regroup, a visual breath mint of dance to freshen and lighten the way one perceives ballet, all best characterize Symphony In Three Movements.I'm Old Fashioned:
Premiere June 16, 1983, Music by Morton Gould based on a theme by Jerome Kern, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Florence Klotz, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Conducted by Maurice Kaplow, Performed by the Company, Featuring Ellen Bar, Tyler Angle, Jenifer Ringer, Jared Angle, Sara Mearns, Stephen Hanna, Film segment produced by Ann Eisner with the title design by Dan Perri, The production was made possible by a gift from the Kathryn and Gilbert Miller Fund, Inc.
Ain't love grand? Walking the walk, or dancing the dance, so to speak, of romance puts one in the right frame of mind for love to happen. Once again, a large screen projection, so common these days in theater as to be de rigueur
, was the fascinating thread between the inspiration for this lush Jerome Robbins dance
, the dancers and the audience. Suggested by a sequence from the delicious pairing of Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth in You Were Never Lovelier
, the performers watched that inimitable pair dancing their number as we, the audience, watched them. The audience as camera's lens, telescoped layers into the performance(s) in a benignly voyeuristic way.
Reprising the humor in the movie, the dancers clapped and directly addressed the orchestra with a hand clap echo of a bit of percussion. Then, reprising a quick step in variation, the partners turned, hopped, looking as though they were about to fall, and repeated to let us know they were just playing with us. To end, the three darling couples turned to the screen, waved goodbye as "The End" flashed and then waved farewell to the audience.
Robbins replaced self-importance and grandiosity with cleverness, giving the dancers permission to play with the conceit of being watchers who are themselves watched. The consummate skill of the dancing is understood. First comes mastery, then follows the right to be amused with the requirements of form. Let us remember that humor shows intelligence, and that is very sexy.
Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
New York City Ballet Orchestra
Music Director, Fayçal Karoui
Principal Conductor, Maurice Kaplow
Resident Choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon
Jennie Somogyi and Amar Ramasar in NYCB's Symphony in Three Movements
Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik
Megan Fairchild and Joaquin de Luz in NYCB's Tarantella
Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik