Just saying – if that was a final salute to a role yesterday, it was one that the Balletomane Brigade will never forget. To be clear, we have no information to the effect that it was Maria Kowroski’s final Symphony in C. But the ballet is not slated to be performed during the 2017-2018 season (nor is Jewels) and our Maria is at the most delicate and precarious stage of her career. Her instrument may allow her to decide when and how to depart or it may not. Perhaps though, there is a crafty plan afoot to persuade Maria to stick to her discipline so she can stick it out for 2018-2019 - assuming that both Symphony in C and Jewels will reappear. It would certainly be a crime if these ballets were kept in storage while common riff raff from contemporary wannabes littered NYCB’s great stage.
Haglund agrees that it is important for NYCB to build new work into its repertory, but – and this is a but bigger than Beyonce’s – it has to be incredible world class art that is good enough to stand along side Balanchine’s. If it’s not good enough, then NYCB shouldn’t keep torturing the audience with it just because it is recent work. The new works should earn their places in the repertory, not ascend and replace Balanchine’s works because they have cultivated obnoxious media attention. If NYCB believes that it can force people to watch its new works (after the premieres) by taking away or severely reducing Balanchine’s works, then they should do some re-thinking.
The works on yesterday's program were 61, 71, and 70 years old. People still flock to see them; dancers still adore dancing them and dream of the day when they will dance a lead role; audiences still gasp at their beauty. This has been going on for 61, 71, and 70 years now. Does NYCB think it’s going to suddenly stop and they need to have trendy new work to replace it? That’s what Pillsbury thought back in the 1970s when it came up with Wiener Wrap. (We have to create something new and different to bolster up our refrigerated biscuits and keep us going. Wiener Wrap will be the next big thing!) Today one of Pillsbury’s top selling products is still its basic refrigerated biscuit which celebrates its 66th birthday this year. Where’s Wiener Wrap these days? It doesn’t even make the list.
The lesson here is for NYCB to be careful not to put Wiener Wrap on stage. In Haglund’s view, the next four weeks of the spring season contains a lot of it, sadly.
Back to yesterday's matinee –
What a treat it has been this week to watch Tiler Peck grow to Sequoia heights in the ballerina role of Allegro Brilliante. By the time she finished her fourth performance of the week on Sunday, she had achieved Hyperion status. There are those who will debate that assertion by sniffing that she takes musical liberties that Merrill Ashley would never dare to during Balanchine’s time. But who really knows what Balanchine might have created if Tiler had come along in his time? He seems to be inspiring her from afar – enough to make us think that this is Balanchine’s time whether he is with us or not.
Tiler’s breadth of musicality and daring inspired her demi-soloist couples as well. Sara Adams, Megan Johnson, Meagan Mann, and Lydia Wellington have never danced as freely and as luxuriantly as they did on Sunday. Their partners – Devin Alberda, Daniel Applebaum, Aaron Sanz, and Andrew Scordato – were as gallant and precise as could be. If those arabesque lines and cabrioles from Aaron Sanz and Daniel Applebaum become any more brilliant, we may need to start wearing protective sunglasses at their performances. Both men, along with Andrew Scordato, danced energy-draining demi-soloist or principal roles in all three ballets yesterday and did so magnificently.
In The Four Temperaments, Scordato was paired with Lydia Wellington in the First Theme, Applebaum with Lauren King in the Second Theme, and Sanz with Ashley Laracey in the Third Theme. Maturity becomes all of these dancers. A sense of “getting the steps right” has been replaced with the higher obligation of “doing the steps justice.” It’s a realization that comes at different points in dancers’ careers, and when it finally does come, it is most gratifying for the viewer to see.
We can’t say that Sunday's casting of the other principal roles in The Four Temperaments will ever be at the top of our list, but we can say that the performances were serviceable. As Haglund grew a little bored, he imagined the dancers with cat whiskers. It helped pass the time.
Symphony in C apparently is not taking well to the idea of being mothballed for all of next year. She made quite the spectacle of herself yesterday, “You’re going to miss me because you know I am the most beautiful of all.” Well, she certainly was yesterday. The remarkable and ever exquisite Corps de Ballet and demi-solists were led by Megan Fairchild & Chase Finlay in the First Movement, Maria Kowroski & Tyler Angle in the Second Movement, Alston MacGill & Harrison Ball in the Third Movement, and Brittany Pollack & Taylor Stanley in the Fourth Movement. Chase had a more even performance than earlier in the week but he is quite off his game this season. Megan, who had to miss her first performance of this ballet this season, was in fabulous form. Crystalline clear feet and legs, graceful upper body, and no pushing at the audience helped to make this a beautiful afternoon for her.
Maria and Tyler were simply dazzling in their elegance and grace. Signature suppleness and royal refinement were evident throughout their dancing, whether together or as soloists. The linear relationships of their limbs was a geometric heaven. While Maria has never been known as a virtuosic pirouetter – the length of her legs makes that all but impossible – she managed the very fast sequence of two unsupported double pirouettes in the finale as well as ever and as well if not better than Sara Mearns earlier in the week. Ditto for the series of fast supported double pirouettes where the working leg opened first to the front, then to the side, then to the back. At least we saw the shape of the extended working leg and foot each time - something that Sara was unable to show us in either of her performances.
Alston MacGill, who danced the Third Movement for the fourth time during the week, finished with a skilled and confident performance opposite Harrison Ball. Thank goodness Harrison is finally throwing some hints to the audience that he actually enjoys performing. Brittany Pollack and Taylor Stanley gave the Fourth Movement a big jolt of electricity. All four principal ladies got their acts together for the finale. They found their ensemble coordination and precision which gave the final moments of the ballet its brilliance.
The matinee was such an extraordinary afternoon of dancing; it almost felt like a closing performance to the season. In some ways it was. That was the last of the Balanchine repertory pieces until fall. Only a week of Midsummer Night's Dream remains, and it is preceded by four weeks of ballets commissioned over the past 30 years – most of which do not even hold a candle to Balanchine's works. It's not going to be a happy time for balletomanes or for those who count tickets sold.
The HH Pump Bump Award, a First Position Award with diamonds from the House of Borgezie ($250k with Haglund's discount), is bestowed upon Tiler Peck and Maria Kowroski for their incomparable performances in Allegro Brilliante and Symphony in C.
Member presale began today for NY City Center's concert production of Brigadoon starring Robert Fairchild, Kelli O'Hare, and Steven Pasquale with choreography by Christopher Wheeldon. Only six performances November 15-19.
Public ticket sales begin on April 27th at 2pm.
Ain't gonna miss this no way no how.
What is there left to do but hail Maria Kowroski after one of her most glorious adagios in Symphony in C last evening as NYC Ballet opened its spring season with a blessed all-Balanchine program that included Allegro Brillante and The Four Temperaments. We’ve used up all of the adjectives for Maria over the years. This role and her Diamonds role from Jewels make us all but forget that she is also one of the most honest interpreters of Balanchine's black & white ballets such as Agon and Stravinsky Violin Concerto as well as a stunningly beautiful dancer in a white tutu. But last night, who really expected Maria to alight the stage and dance as well as she did a decade ago? Will this year, her 23rd, be her best ever? Last night suggested it might.
Rather than gearing up like it was the beginning of the spring season, she simply took off from where she left off with her incredible Slaughter on Tenth Avenue that closed the winter season. And if she bent a penche arabesque or two past 180 degrees like she might as the Slaughter showgirl, well, she’s earned the right. Those most beautiful of all beautiful limbs were steady and strong without resorting to any showy flexing of muscles that the less accomplished must resort to in order to get their attention.
We owe more than a nod to Tyler Angle for his flawless partnering of Maria. He knew where he would be needed even before she did. Here’s hoping that we get to see this pairing in Diamonds this summer.
In the First Movement of Symphony in C, Ashley Bouder and Chase Finlay were mismatched: she of unwavering stability and shine; he of uncertainty and less than sharp technique. Alston MacGill and Harrison Ball danced the Third Movement without any big issues although Alston blew out those tricky pirouettes in the finale. She will have to mature before she becomes believable in that big sparkly tiara. Brittany Pollack and Taylor Stanley led the Fourth Movement with fine brio. We’ve missed so much of Brittany’s dancing in the past year due to injury; it’s a little disappointing to hear that she’s going to take time off from NYCB for the Carousel Broadway gig.
In the final section when the four leading women lined up to do their pas de bourrée en tournant with that little fouette renversé, our veterans – so different physically and so different as dancers – were able to match each other brilliantly in the timing of the working leg. Our younger ballerinas allowed their working legs to swim to the second position, arriving some where around the 1.25-1.5 count instead of on the 1. We’re hoping for a better result on Sunday.
Tiler Peck and Andrew Veyette polished off Allegro Brillante as though they were famished and could not devour its challenges fast enough. (The tempo was a little like a Sunday afternoon stroll, though. Tiler is at her most astonishing when she has to chase the tempo instead of pushing it.) The dancers may have been tempted to chomp down every delicious bite of Balanchine, since after this week, there will be four long weeks without even so much as a morsel.
The demi soloist women (Megan Johnson, Meagan Mann, Sara Adams, and Lydia Wellington) quite outdid themselves in precision and energy. The men (Devin Alberda, Daniel Applebaum, Cameron Dieck, and Andrew Scordato) were fine also, with Applebaum’s growing strength and confidence flattering his always crystalline lines.
All five sections of The Four Temperaments was a joy to watch but it was a little strange to see Choleric (Teresa Reichlen) as icy cool and calm while Sanguinic (Sara Mearns with Jared Angle) looked like a limb-throwing temper tantrum. Ask la Cour in Phlegmatic was as placid and articulate as always, but when did this section become all about the four women back-up dancers? Answer: when Ashley Hod, Emily Kikta, Claire Kretzschmar, and Isabella LaFreniere took over. What an interesting contrast their stalking attitudes made with the lead dancer’s calm demeanor. Each one of these women had such a powerful stage presence that it was hard to look away to watch Mr. Phlegmatic. We were so happy to see Isabella dancing so strongly following her absence last winter due to injury. Speaking of missing due to injury, we are hoping that Adrian Danchig-Waring will be back on stage soon.
Gonzalo Garcia’s Melancholic was respectable but he doesn’t cover space the way other interpreters do. The Theme section, danced by Lydia Wellington & Andrew Scordato, Lauren King & Daniel Applebaum, and Ashley Laracey & Cameron Dieck, was in the hands of the experienced — all of whom made their parts greater than the sum of the steps.
The HH Pump Bump Award, Giuseppe Zanotti’s stiletto with magic straps, is bestowed upon Maria Kowroski for her brilliance in Symphony in C.
Ruthie didn't miss very many of Julio Bocca's performances during his decades with ABT. Haglund became fast friends with her when we kept showing up in the same side box at the Met Opera House. Under five feet tall and in her 80s with the energy and sass of a 20-year-old, she would go to the stage door every night to greet Julio and tell him how happy his performance had made her. Occasionally she encountered him near Fairway's on the Upper West Side where they both lived and she would be floating on Cloud 9 weeks later.
Years after Julio retired, Ruthie's eyes still lit up when his name was mentioned. "There will never be another Julio," she would say with a tinge of sadness. "He was one of kind."
When we met at Carnegie Hall for a Hvorostovsky or Jonas Kaufmann recital, she was eager to re-live Julio's performances and lament his retirement. She had all the videos and even limited edition photos by Nancy Ellison who probably photographed his career the most and the best.
Ruthie passed away a few years ago. But tomorrow night at the Tribute to Julio Bocca at Lincoln Center on the occasion of his 50th birthday, she will be looking down from the Sixth Ring to applaud this beloved artist. She wouldn't miss it for the world.
The Scottish Ballet brought a chamber-sized touring group of mostly principal dancers to the Joyce Theater this week in a program that both distinguished the company from the typical fare served up by Joyce visitors and also showed that they could not resist faddish content.
The Sunshine Cinema at 143 E. Houston Street (btwn 1st & 2nd Aves) will screen the Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty next Tuesday (April 11) at 7PM. Marianela Nuñez is Aurora; Vadim Muntagirov is Désiré.
More good news: Sunshine will show the RB's Jewels performance from last week on Tuesday, May 23rd at 7PM. The cast includes Sarah Lamb, Steven McRae, Marianela Nuñez, Thiago Soares, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Laura Morera, Valeri Hristov, Ryoichi Hirano, Melissa Hamilton.
The Joffrey Ballet’s gala performance on Thursday night was the type of program that those who remember the company from its New York years would associate with it. The three part program of Bells by Yuri Possokhov, Body of Your Dreams by Myles Thatcher, and Fool’s Paradise by Christopher Wheeldon was two-thirds successful. The Wheeldon piece, made during his Morphoses days, was choreographically weak, pretentious, and ridiculously sentimental. The audience was asked to treat a bunch of nothing like it had world importance. On the other hand, Possokhov and Thatcher each put something new on the New York stage that was handsome and unique.
Thatcher’s Body of Your Dreams was set to Dutch composer Jacob ter Veldhuis's piano and spoken urban-cool mash-up soundtrack. It was just the type of cheeky, hipster, trippy dance that Robert Joffrey would have loved. The soundtrack is comprised of snippets of infomercial type script about miracle products to eliminate cellulite or love handles, lose weight, and achieve the body of your dreams. (Take a listen and see if you don't agree that it harks back to the days of Deuce Coup, Panoramagram, etc.) The dancers responded to it with contemporary exer-dance type movements with some tricky ballet thrown in. Would Haglund like to see this danced by any company other than the Joffrey? Nuh uh. But it is a perfect fit for this company’s historically youthful, dare-to-be-different personality. We know the Joffrey can dance serious classical ballet as well as most anyone, but the dancers can also kick back and throw some tongue-in-check nonsense out on stage and make the audience adore them.
What an improvement this dance was over Thatcher’s Polaris that New York City Ballet danced in the fall of 2015. Polaris looked like the choreographer was trying desperately to fit into the contemporary ballet culture – that culture that so many of us despise for its dullness and pompous sense of self-importance. Here, he was daring to be different without resorting to the tastelessness or offensiveness that today’s ballet wannabe-choreographers stoop to exploit – when they’re not pandering to some critic’s personal agenda. We’ve placed Thatcher’s false start with NYCB aside, and we’re ready to see more of his work – hopefully at The Joffrey.
The highlight of the evening was Yuri Possokhov’s Bells set to seven piano compositions by Rachmaninov. From the first steps, we felt like we were in the hands of a master dancemaker – someone who understood composition, dramatic arcs, musicality, and how to convey emotion through movement. There was no story to this ballet, but it was very much about life, love, and loss. An exquisite PdD by Georgian couple Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili was the centerpiece of the ballet, but the other couples (Anastacia Holden & Yoshihisa Arai, April Daly & Fabrice Calmels, Jacqueline Moscicke & Graham Maverick, and Joanna Wozniak & Aaron Renteria) were given quite beautifully composed dances that made you feel the music up and down your own muscles.
The HH Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon Yuri Possokhov for his beautiful Bells. We can’t wait for his production of A Hero of Our Time which will be presented by Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema on April 9th. We are definitely ready to see more of his work.
Despite the unevenness of the choreography brought to Lincoln Center on this visit, The Joffrey Ballet did not disappoint with its dancing. Why this company has waited so long to return or hasn’t yet turned up at SPAC during the summer is a real mystery and is our loss.
Like a gust of fresh air, The Joffrey Ballet blew into Manhattan last night swirling up fond memories of itself. It may have been gone from its city of origin for two decades, but it has never lost its New York accent. Of course, this was not the same Joffrey that left Manhattan for Chicago in 1995 while fighting for its financial survival. Different dancers, different artistic director, and different mission mold it today. When it left, it had few full-length ballets – a wonderful Joffrey/Arpino Nutcracker, John Cranko’s much-admired Romeo and Juliet, that crazy Billboards – in its repertory which was mostly sustained by choreography of its founders who had their fingers on the pulse of American culture and who made the country’s heart beat faster by acquiring ballets by Twyla Tharp, Laura Dean, Charles Moulton, and important restorations such as The Green Table, Parade, and The Rite of Spring. Today’s Joffrey Ballet is a thriving hot bed of creativity in wondrous Chicago where the company has slowly been increasing its trove of full length ballets to include such gems as Ashton’s Cinderella, Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow, and John Neumeier’s Sylvia.
Being absent from New York for so long made the company’s visit seem like a first for many balletomanes, some of whom seemed amused by Haglund's own high anticipation of the company’s return home. They jest at scars that never felt a wound, as the line goes somewhere in Act II when Romeo points out to Mercutio that he doesn’t understand what Romeo is going through because Mercutio has never been in love. No jesting the morning after, however. Last night, the Joffrey dancers were utterly brilliant in their dancing and artistry, and their discipline honored their founders. It is next to impossible not to love this company no matter what it is doing on stage. (Haglund recalls the pleasure from many decades ago of watching the dancers sit on bleachers and hand-pass yellow Nerf balls at lightening speed.) Their energy, hot steam under pressure, combined with a monkish technical discipline has always made this company unique.
The evening length Romeo and Juliet by Krzysztof Pastor which the Joffrey Ballet has brought for its visit unfortunately doesn’t succeed in breaking new ground in ballet or as an updated interpretation of Shakespeare’s play. Three acts set in the 1930s, 1950s, and 1990s, respectively, come off mainly as a production gimmick. The choreographer’s vocabulary, which was rich in battement-enveloppé-to retiré, grand jeté en tournant in attitude, Grahamish and post modernist arm dancing and head swivels, was initially pleasing in its virtuosity but soon became tiresome when it did little to advance the drama. It certainly was not the language of the 1930s, 1950s or 1990s. While we could appreciate the choreographer’s message that the type of strife that Romeo and Juliet encounter repeats itself generation after generation, his message was conveyed more through costuming and cinematic effects than through choreography. However, even the costuming was problematic: the men wore pedestrian pants with jazz shoes while the women were in skimpier clothing with pointe shoes.
Usually, weak choreography coupled with unrealized concept will serve as a fatal flaw for an evening of ballet. But last night, there were performances of depth that made the evening worthwhile. As Lord Capulet, Fabrice Calmels dominated the stage in his tuxedo with tails whenever he appeared . His character’s authority was embedded mostly in his posturing, particularly in his long arms which conveyed the long arm of the Capulet law present in each of the three time periods. His character’s PdD with daughter Juliet in which he attempted to force her to choose a husband among a select group of men was the scene of this ballet that was most convincing and heartfelt.
As Juliet, Christine Rocas gave an honest account of her character’s dilemma. Her lovely feet and leg lines stretched our interest long past the expiration date on the choreography. Temur Suluashvili was a convincing Tybalt and looked like he could have stepped right out of Robbins’ West Side Story. Rory Hohenstein as Romeo danced the contemporary choreography with emphatic devotion, but could not overcome its insignificance. Yoshihisa Arai as Mercutio had the meatiest role in the ballet in terms of dance and drama. If he perhaps exhibited more showman quality than most of the company, he certainly had all of the technical skills to back it up.
Tonight’s gala program will include repertory pieces by Wheeldon, Possokhov, and Thatcher. We are especially interested in Yuri Possokhov’s contribution since his choreography entitled A Hero of Our Time is on tap for the Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema’s next transmission on April 9th.
The HH Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon Fabrice Calmels for his fierce portrayal of Capulet.