The snow can blow all it wants in D.C. this weekend, because Wheeldon's The Winter's Tale and The National Ballet of Canada are coming to the Lincoln Center Festival for five performances this summer (July 28-31st).
Over the next few weeks, the night skies will reveal five planets shining brightly simultaneously. It’s a rare occurrence that last happened more than a decade ago. Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter will all be lined up in a row and visible with the naked eye. From now until about February 20th, you should look in the southern sky beginning about an hour before dawn. Venus and Jupiter are almost always easy to spot from the far West Side of Manhattan even with all the city’s lights; so, this should be a quite a striking display of celestial twinkling.
But let’s talk about the celestial twinkling that was hotter than blue blazes last night. New York City Ballet's opening performance of its Winter Season raised the city’s bitter cold temperature several degrees. Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild led a sensational cast of Balanchine’s Who Cares? that included a sparkling Ana Sophia Scheller and a sultry Savannah Lowery. It’s possible that Haglund has never missed a local performance of Peck & Fairchild in this ballet. Back in 2012 when the two opened the Winter Season dancing these same roles, Haglund wrote that “The chemistry between the two was as grand as that of Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly” and again later that week“ Peck and Fairchild were like a spark and accelerant flirting beneath the kindling.” Well, here we are four years later. They’re now married and he has brilliantly re-defined on Broadway one of Kelly’s most famous movie roles with Leslie Caron. Back in 2012, it was all there in the stars for us to read.
The bliss of romance, true love, and passion fired up these two again in Gershwin’s The Man I love. She launched turns joyously and he joined in with his hand to her waist — not so much to steady her revolutions but to make sure that she didn’t simply take-off into another world without him. Their musicality together was on the order of divine. In Fascinatin’ Rhythm, Tiler propelled the phrases forward sending the audience into the balletic equivalent of religious fervor. Meanwhile, The Man seemed to relish being back dancing in front of his home audience. His solo to Gershwin's Liza felt like we were meeting up with an old friend who we hadn’t realized just how much we missed. His dancing was generous, on the mark, and engaging from start to finish.
It sounded like Maestro Litton had the orchestra on a short leash last night. We would rather have heard more big band quality and New York energy than classical refinement in the Gershwin, but that’s our preference. The Bernstein music for Fancy Free sounded polite. The Candide Overture that opened the evening was lovely but restrained. We couldn’t feel Lenny's groove in it.
Joaquin De Luz, Tyler Angle, and Amar Ramasar were fabulous as the sailors lookin’ for fun on a hot, summer night in 1944 New York. Fancy Free is probably Jerome Robbins’ best known stage ballet and, thanks to both local ballet companies who always field great casts, we get to see it here on a fairly regular basis. The Passers-by Georgina Pazcoguin, Sterling Hyltin, and Stephanie Chrosniak showed just the right amount of “experience” in dealing with these guys.
The program opened with a tremendous performance of Martins' Barber Violin Concerto – one of his most inspired choreographic creations. By the way, the orchestra and soloist Kurt Nikkanen sounded glorious in this piece. Megan Fairchild, Sara Mearns, Jared Angle and Russell Janzen (subbing for Ask la Cour) were the ballet and modern dance couples who tangled with one another – comfortable in who they were while needing to change in order to get want they really wanted. We cannot recall a more compelling performance from Sara and Jared in these roles. Their mutual trust and love for one another was evident throughout their PdD.
Okay, let’s get to the grand disappointment of the night which was the new art installation by Marcel Dzama. What a let-down after seeing such great work by the first three artists in NYCB’s annual Art Series. Huge video screens at either end of the promenade flash enough chaos and nonsense to bring on an instant headache, if not an epileptic seizure in those so predisposed. Rotating metal figures are centered on the promenade. Some framed artwork around the perimeter and miniature set models on tables on the main floor offer individual examples of interesting stuff, but there seems to be no concept to this installation. Apparently, it was the artist’s funny bone that drove him to put large polka-dots on the huge statues at either end of the promenade, and it must have been his youthful defiance that made him feel entitled to deface someone else’s longstanding and respected art work. This was a real let-down. The flashing screens are likely to cause people to make fewer trips to the concession stands because it is all so annoying. So, there ya go. Every creative act is not art.
This little carousel is cute, however. You can see some of the other stuff on this brief vid:
Our first H.H. Pump Bump Award of the season, a Via Spiga gold work of art, is bestowed upon Tiler Peck for her brilliant interpretation of Fascinatin’ Rhythm and The Man I Love.
Here is NYCB's promo vid for Justin Peck's new ballet based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Most Incredible Thing which premieres on Groundhog Day. Very slick and enticing marketing effort. Our fingers are crossed for this overall project and that Phil doesn't deliver a long winter. Also on the program is Christopher Wheeldon's very enjoyable and highly creative Estancia.
Let's get it started, folks. Winter Season begins tomorrow!
We have loved this marketing campaign since Day 1. Illustrator Jamie Lee Reardin's little cat-like faces full of cat attitude and ultra-long skinny-kitty limbs just makes us smile and want to buy tickets to see all these cats jumpin' around. How great it would be if NYCB developed a series of little video cartoons with the dancers' actual voices. "Excuse me, that's my spot at the barre. Meow." "No problem, you can have it back when I'm finished. Meow."
NYCB's Daniel Ulbricht is directing this ongoing series of classes. This Monday's class will be taught by Amar Ramasar. February 8th's class will be taught by Stella Abrera; April 4th's class by Gonzalo Garcia; and June 6th's class by Megan Fairchild.
If you're too late to reserve a spot at the barre, you can still observe the class for free -- also very useful, sometimes more so. Take notes.
As of January 1, 2016, the State Primorsky Opera and Ballet Theater in Vladivostok, Russia has been officially re-designated as the Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre. There is a new beautiful website, still a work in progress, (http://prim.mariinsky.ru/en/) where our very own Joseph Phillips is now a Principal Dancer under the Mariinsky label, banner, and brand. The archive of the company's former identity is still available, too. (http://primopera.ru/splash_page/primorsky_splash_page_en.html).
We could not be more proud.
Excitement is percolating for the debuts of Lauren Lovette, Joseph Gordon, Brittany Pollack, Unity Phelan, and Megan LeCrone in Balanchine's Who Cares? during the second week of New York City Ballet's Winter Season. Gordon is also set for his sailor debut in Fancy Free. What a natural that will be! We hope to see other fabulous corpsmen in that ballet soon, too, – Harrison Coll, for instance, would simply live this ballet beyond life as we know it.
Anyone who has this Friday off can hear the New York Philharmonic freakin' kill Stravinsky's Rite of Spring for $39 (plus service fees) by using the code mat0115 on the website. If you haven't heard the NYPhil and Maestro Gilbert give their love, passion, and respect to this piece of music, you are in for a treat. Concert starts at 11am.
We wish that ABT would can that second intermission for its Sleeping Beauty. Life would be so much easier.
Speaking of ABT's Sleeping Beauty – in the Winter edition of Ballet Review, Alastair Irrelevant is at his most anal in his contribution entitled: Further Annals of The Sleeping Beauty: A Questionnaire in which he literally pesters Alexei Ratmansky, Richard Hudson, and Doug Fullington with written questions firstly designed to plump up the public's perception of the interrogator's own grasp of details but also reveals his proclivity for weaving his opinions within facts to make them also look like facts. It is a good read for what Ratmansky says, but you have to wade through Mr. Irrelevant's gush & slush to get to it.
Canadian born, Brooklyn-based, chess enthusiast, contemporary artist Marcel Dzama will be the featured artist this winter. His installation on the Promenade will be digital in nature and will include a Chess Match Dance Off and apparently an "incognito" appearance by actress Amy Sedaris. We don't necessarily assume that she will show up as the (dancing) Queen, though. That would be disappointingly obvious.
Much of Marcel Dzama's work speaks of dance already; so, it should be great to see how the dancers of NYCB inspire him through collaboration. His work also frequently includes dark, disturbing elements. Let's hope that he doesn't go overboard with that in his costume and set designs for Justin Peck's new ballet based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale The Most Incredible Thing.
The dates of the special Art Night performances on which audience members are given limited edition commemorative souvenirs are February 6 Eve, 11, and 19. Tickets for these shows are $30. Buy now or be sorry. (Actually as of the publication of this post, you can't buy them yet. But keep your eyes open.)
Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema presents Jean-Christophe Maillot’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW on Sunday, January 24th. The cast is as follows:
Katharina, the Shrew: Ekaterina Krysanova Petruchio Vladislav Lantratov Bianca: Olga Smirnova Lucentio: Semyon Chudin The Housekeeper: Anna Tikhomirova
The length is 125 minutes with one intermission. In Manhattan, there are 3 theaters showing THE TAMING OF THE SHREW on SUNDAY JAN 24 at 12.55pm Eastern Time:
Regal Union Square Stadium 14 (850 Broadway at 14th Street) AMC Loews Kips Bay 15 (570 Second Ave) AMC Empire 25 (234 West 42nd Street)
Here's the trailer:
Competing on that Sunday will be New York City Ballet with a fantastic program that closes with Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild in Balanchine's Who Cares? Technically, it would probably be possible to attend both the Bolshoi Ballet's cinemacast and the last part of the NYCB matinee if one woke up Sunday morning with the energy to do it.
We're pretty excited about the first week's cast of Ballo della Regina. Megan Fairchild, Joaquin De Luz, Ashley Laracey, Erica Pereira, Ashly Isaacs, and Lauren King should leave us breathless on Thursday and on Saturday evening.
Don't cry because you finished the nuts. Smile because you had the nuts… -- Mr. Squirrel
Yes, okay, but Squirrel Wisdom is sometimes hard wisdom to follow. Haglund cracked a final unscheduled Nut on New Year’s Eve at New York City Ballet and was delighted with the freshness and good taste delivered by Sugarplum Fairy Lauren King, Her Cavalier Amar Ramasar, and Dewdrop Megan LeCrone. This season Amar has been gallantly escorting several of Haglund’s favorite ballerinas, making each nearly unbearably beautiful. While dancing with Amar thoughout the month, Rebecca Krohn, Stella Abrera, and Lauren King were like the irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind, glistening ornaments that one always hangs safely at the top of the Christmas tree.
For the last four seasons, Haglund has used the Sugarplum Fairy role as an informal gauge of Lauren’s steady progress. Her first while still a corps dancer showed great poise and promise. Her second and third seasons, as a soloist, built upon those elements with new articulation in the feet and preciseness in the limbs. This year, no doubt with the help of strong partnering, her performance moved gradually forward on the continuum with a glowing maturity and a steadiness unfazed by the precarious points in the Pas de Deux. Our Little Prince, F. Henry Berlin, seemed especially smitten with this Sugarplum Fairy, searching for her eyes even while he had little Marie on his arm. We’ll have to keep our eyes on this one.
Megan LeCrone’s Dewdrop revealed her complete and blissful mastery of this difficult role while showing the scope and speed without the grinding effort of it all.
Robert La Fosse may be having more fun as Herr Drosselmeier than anyone else on the stage. Haglund loved watching him throughout his long career with NYCB and ABT but this is like extra icing on the cake. There is something about shadowy lighting that is freeing, isn’t there?
Speaking of shadowy lighting — when our Coffee, Faye Arthurs, fingered her final cymbals and shook her last bells at the audience, there was intense whispering among some nearby men in the audience as they quickly consulted their Playbills.
Haglund finally got to see Harrison Ball complete the Candy Cane role without getting tangled up in the hoop. Great focus with just the right amount of panache. What a pleasant surprise it was to see Emily Kikta back in the Flowers lineup after a long, long injury layoff. Our wish for a healthy New Year to her and to all others struggling with injuries.
Work hard, eat nuts, and you will be rewarded — a Squirrel Quote to live by during the Christmas season and throughout the year.
Our final H.H. Pump Bump Award for 2015 is bestowed upon Amar Ramasar for his generous and noble Cavalier throughout The Nutcracker and his rich artistry throughout the year. Gold goes with everything.
’Tis the season for traveling far and wide in search of the spirit of the Nutcracker. Recently Haglund packed his bags, climbing gear, and Homeland Security ID and cautiously ventured across 8th Avenue to the chaos that awaits all who venture to the other side of 8th Avenue.
First stop was the Land of Silver Spoons & Linings on the Upper East Side for Francis Patrelle's Yorkville Nutcracker which was celebrating its 20th Anniversary. This production always hovers around the top of the list of Haglund’s favorite productions. It is filled with characters straight out of New York's history and should be a school field trip for kids in the city’s school system. They surely won’t learn of the existence of Hamblin and Jane Babcock, Arturo Baldasano, H. Ruthven Pratt, or Colonel William L. Strong in any school class, and yet, these were among the movers and shakers of New York City in 1895. Patrelle has them dancing and shmoozing at a Christmas Party in the Gracie Mansion, today the official residence of the Mayor of the City of New York.
The cast always includes students from several area ballet schools with a majority coming from the very fine Ballet Academy East. Professional dancers take the lead roles – this year Abi Stafford and Adrian Danchig-Waring from New York City Ballet were dreamy as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince – and distinguished community adults take on the roles of the distinguished guests. Everyone has a great time, but it is also very serious business. If the transplant surgery gig ever falls flat for Dr. Myron Schwartz, his dancing martial arts-infused characterization of Hsu Nai Kwang, the 1895 Consul General of China, may help keep bread on his table.
All of the kids are superbly rehearsed, genuinely excited about being on stage, and full of seasonal spirit. Here’s a toast to another 20 years.
Next it was time to search for the F-train to Brooklyn’s trendiest, currently artiest neighborhood – Dumbo – where Gelsey Kirkland’s brand new studio/performance space is located. On weekends, the F-train is never where it is supposed to be. This time we found it lazily chugging along the A/C train line in the West Village and climbed aboard for the quick trip under the East River to a Brooklyn stop just a short walk from the Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center at 29 Jay Street.
We’ve been following the development of the Gelsey Kirkland Ballet and Academy of Classical Ballet for several years. Its rise has been nothing short of miraculous considering the challenges and obstacles that young performing arts organizations in this city face. Every time we return for a performance by this group, we see more and more of the values in the company that we remember in its leader – not just in the leading dancers but even in corps dancers who may possess only modest ability. There is an understanding and joy in getting it correct from the inside out, in being faithful to the art, and in resisting the bloated trends of the times.
In the December 13th 5pm Nutcracker performance, Marie was performed by Dawn Geirling Milatin, a long time protege of Gelsey Kirkland’s and one of the clearest exponents of Gelsey’s values. Swift supple feet, imaginative musical phrasing, radiance, and the ability to vividly convey the story made this one of Haglund’s most favorite interpretations of the season. Cast as her prince was none other than her husband, Erez Milatin, also a company veteran of several seasons. They were living a dream on stage that afternoon and what a joy it was to be able to watch.
Polish and projection were apparent in every level of dancers in this production particularly in the corps ladies who danced the Snow Scene and Waltz of the Flowers. Brooklyn has a fabulous new Nutcracker.
Sunday morning Haglund trudged up to Stamford to check out two of his favorite dancers who were guesting in the Connecticut Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Palace Theatre. Connecticut always delivers on its Nutcrackers. Last year Haglund traveled to New Haven to see Simone Messmer and Adrian Danchig Waring perform with the New Haven Ballet. The year before that he traveled to Westport to see Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews deliver an inspired performance with Ballet Etudes. This year Stella Abrera and Amar Ramasar danced together for the first time in Director Brett Raphael’s 1984 staging for the Connecticut Ballet.
Oh my. My my my my my. What a magical, irresistibly handsome couple these two make. Their limb lines complimented each other, their demeanors meshed beautifully, and their coordination was nearly perfect. It was love at first sight for the audience. Stella, in the pinkest of pink tutus, was beaming with joy and confidence while creating all those glorious shapes and musical moments that we have come to love. Amar worked the smallish stage to its maximum in his variations and was so very generous a partner to Stella. Let’s hope that these two find many more guesting opportunities together.
The Connecticut Ballet has a wide range of skill levels and talent, and all were illuminated their best in this very inclusive production. There was a moment when we couldn’t be sure what two toddler reindeer might do while “harnessed” to the front of the sleigh but the curtain came down on the first act promptly which left that issue to the herders behind the scenes.
Company standouts included Gvantsa Gavashelishvili as a fearless, glistening Snow Queen and Claire Mazza as the sparkling Dew Drop Fairy. We must commend the tiny Red Cross Ambulette Rescue Mice who arrived on the Act I battle scene just in time to cart away an injured baby mouse on a stretcher.
It has been an eventful couple of weeks and, as usual, we haven’t been able to cover all of the Nutcrackers that we wanted. But we were very happy with all that we saw, in particularly, the very original Yorkville Nutcracker that has a special place in our heart. Our HH Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon the many who have dedicated themselves to this production over the years.