We have a newly renovated theater that completely justifies all the sucking up that had to be done to get the money for it. Unlike many of the renovations currently underway at Lincoln Center, the changes made inside the former New York State Theater were improvements that now make the theater experience more inviting and comfortable. No designer was allowed to run amuck and damage a classic structure in order to practice his own dull brand of genius.
The seats accommodate spreading butts and while not exactly “hip chairs” are more conducive to a graceful sit-down. The two aisles running through the orchestra level create dozens of coveted aisle seats that will surely draw more subscriptions. The restrooms are “wow” with new gray marble and lighting that makes everyone look beautiful.
The orchestra pit is a spectacular work place with elevator floor and its own special theatrical lighting that spotlights the musicians when called for as it did last night when the New York City Ballet Orchestra opened the gala evening with a glorious Sleeping Beauty Waltz. The waltz played to a filmed tribute that fast-forwarded the months of renovations and the enormous skill and craftsmanship of the workers. Watching the electricians thread the intricate wiring was like watching a seamstress weave sequins into a costume.
The dancing began with Ashley Bouder, Wendy Whelan, Joaquin DeLuz, Gonzalo Garcia and Benjamin Millepied leading a spirited performance of Concerto DSCH backed up by a corps of obviously happy dancers costumed in sweet potato pie and cranberry sauce colored outfits by Holly Hynes. Whelan and Millepied, who were in over-creamed spinach green, delivered a delicious pas de deux stuffed with the ingredients and seasoning that years of chef experience yield.
Guest artists Aurelie Dupont and Mathias Heymann of the Paris Opera Ballet performed the Rubies pas de deux which was not, how you say, c’est si bon. Not their fault. They didn’t understand it, and quite frankly, neither does Peter Martins. Rubies is supposed to be about the boy - not just any boy - but a boy in the mold of Edward Villella. Over the decades, Rubies has – through compounding misinterpretations and wrong emphasis – evolved into being about the girl - the girl with “attack,” the girl with blazing speed, the girl who dances explosively and dares to fall down, the girl who swizzles like a too-fruity martini. Maybe Rubies will be restored to its 1960s integrity when and if Robert Fairchild is given a crack at it and Martins has the wherewithal to ask Villella to help this enormously talented dancer. It really all depends on how deep Martins’ respect for Balanchine runs and whether it runs deeper than the vein of his own I-can-do-it-all ego.
Now to the turkey.
Haglund thought that the concept of Peter Martin's new ballet Naïve and Sentimental Music was promising. All of those principal dancers on stage at once was enticing. Many are easily identifiable as naïve in that they are magically intuitive when it comes to music and movement: Jennie Somogyi, Jenifer Ringer, Abi Stafford, Robert Fairchild, Philip Neal and Joaquin De Luz. Others are sentimental and reflective: Darci Kistler, Maria Kowroski, and Chuck Askegard. But this dance was like chewing the same gum over and over again. It didn’t just lose its flavor; it became distasteful. How many times can someone chew the same gum? If you’re Martins, apparently about 80 times. However, Haglund can and will now say something nice about the piece in the Spirit of Thanksgiving: It wasn’t as bad as Aszure Barton’s 1 of 3 last month at Avery Fisher Hall.
The choreography was a series of Valium-inspired pas de deuxs that were mostly unimaginative but sought to pay reflective homage to Balanchine and Robbins. The music, John Adams’ composition of the same name, had very little appeal for the human innate sense of rhythm. It sounded more appropriate for a movie score.
The pairs of dancers did their best with what they had. Haglund will never complain about seeing Jennie Somogyi or Jenifer Ringer on stage. It is an all too rare pleasure. But Martins’ latest offering is a turkey. He’s got to do better. These dancers deserve better.
Haglund is glad he attended the gala but has to award this uncomfortable Pump Bump because he wonders if Martins' choreographic light bulb will ever go on.
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