Sunday, February 3, 2008

NYCB Traditions Review

Wow, this past week has been a little crazy. I know, I say that all the time...and the truth is, it always seems to get a little more crazy each week. Something new comes up or more work is added or whatever...

Anyways I FINALLY got to finish my review of NYCB's performance last Sunday of Prodigal Son, etc etc. It should be up on ExploreDance soon, but see below...

Something new this week: I'm starting to choreograph for this group of NYC public high school kids. It's a long story how I got the opportunity and I promise to write about it soon, but starting Wednesday I have to put together a piece for 30-odd students who haven't had much dance training...some of whom are almost the same age as me! It should be an interesting experience...I'll post about it as it happens.

Anyway...the review:

New York City Ballet has already had a whirlwind Winter Season, and it has only just begun. The “Traditions” program on Sunday, January 27 was one of the best I’ve seen in some time now. The three ballets, all dating back to some of the earlier days of the company, showed off the technique and improvement of young talent.

Opening with Balanchine’s “Square Dance” seemed appropriate in following the theme of “Traditions.” The neo-classical style that epitomizes Balanchine’s ideas for American ballet makes this piece stand out. With choreography influenced by folk dance moves, the dance features sections for just the males, just the females, and various united sections. Sunday’s cast was led by the charming Megan Fairchild, filling in for Abi Stafford, and the demanding Nikolaj Hubbe, who will retire from the company on February 10. Between Fairchild’s sparkling footwork and Hubbe’s expansive presence, the stage was livelier than any traditional square dance.

The following work exemplified another side of Balanchine’s mastery. “Prodigal Son” is a story ballet based on the biblical parable and was originally made for Segei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes in 1929. Debuting in the lead roles on Sunday were Daniel Ulbricht and Teresa Reichlen as the Siren.

Ulbricht wowed the audience the moment he stepped onstage. Though he is quite short compared to other dancers of his rank, his first jump reached a height few others achieve. A gasp from seemingly the entire New York State Theater audience proved his ability to grasp attention, but it is more than tricks that make an artist successful in such a role. He truly commanded emotion in the final scene of the ballet, as he struggled, pain and suffering read loud through his body, to attain the embrace of his father, played by the noble Johnathan Stafford. Ulbricht’s touching inhabitance of the role was only partially met by Riechlen, who danced the Siren role with a lovely, sultry quality but did not own it as strongly as her petite partner.

The program concluded with an entirely different mood in Jerome Robbins’ “The Four Seasons.” More of an amusing spectacle than either the clean ballet or deep story that preceded, the piece is filled with bright, creative costumes and interesting lighting.

“Winter” is a cutesy number for the corps de ballet girls, joined by a fluttering Sterling Hyltin and her two partners, Sean Suozzi and Christian Tworzyanski. “Spring” is a much calmer section, led by an elegant pas de deux performed by Sara Mearns and Jared Angle. In a still different tone, “Summer” gives the impression of intense heat. Rebecca Krohn stood out for her technique, but it would be interesting to see her in a more upbeat role to see her play more to the audience. The final season, “Fall” was a rather showy rendition for Ashley Bouder and Benjamin Millipied. Bouder’s double fouettes were impressive, and her confidence onstage ran wild in the role. Antonio Carmena’s lead part was reminiscent of Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and his playful character was enjoyable.

The colorful finale of the ballet culminated an afternoon of outstanding dancing. After seeing this program it is no secret why the New York City Ballet’s Tradition has continued year after year.

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