writers on dancing


Hail and Farewell

“The Four Temperaments”, “Polyphonia”, “Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3”
New York City Ballet
New York State Theater
New York, NY
May 17, 2005

by Mary Cargill
copyright ©2005 by Mary Cargill

The evening’s performance seemed like an end and a beginning, as Peter Boal and Jock Soto shared the stage with the New York debuts of Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz in the “Theme and Variations” section of “Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3”. Boal’s Melancholic in “The Four Temperaments” was, as always, flowing, profound, gripping, and moving, not least because it may very well be the last time many in the audience saw it. Boal danced with an impersonal and restrained dignity, combining power and control. It was a distillation of aspiration and defeat, without histrionics or gratuitous emoting. Albert Evans as Phlegmatic and Teresa Reichlin as Choleric both had Boal’s combination of clarity and restraint, though the rest of the dancers seemed to feel the steps needed tarting up, and approached the choreography like they were auditioning for a Forsythe ballet and weren’t very happy about it. This hard-edged tinge made the sublime and soaring aspiration of the finale fall a little flat.

Christopher Wheeldon’s “Polyphonia”, to piano music by György Ligeti, is a spare, dense leotard ballet, first danced in 2001. The opening is striking, with four couples forming ominous and intriguing shadows on a dark backdrop. The dancers then break up and dance in various combinations. There is a sprightly duet for two men (Andrew Veyette and Amar Ramasar), a sparkling one for Jennifer Tinsley and Ramasar, and a moody solo for Alexandra Ansanelli. But for me, some of Wheeldon’s inventions seem a bit too self-consciously quirky, especially in the partnering he devised for Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. It seemed to exploit their physical gifts without extending into metaphor; after “The Four Temperaments”, it seems that with Balanchine, put one man on a stage and you have a story, while with more recent chorographers, put one, two, or ten people on stage and you have a gymnastic competition.

Balanchine had more than ten people on stage for his expanded version of “Theme and Variations”, renamed “Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3”. The homage to Petipa of the final section was augmented by romantic swoopings in various other styles—bare feet, slippers, as well as point shoes. The opening “Élégie” was danced by new soloist Ask la Cour and Ellen Bar. La Cour was more dramatic than usual—the role usually has “dreamy anonymous poet” written all over it—and, though it may not be exactly what Balanchine intended, it matched the dramatic sweep of the music. Bar, too, was much more present than the luminous, unobtainable mist Carla Körbes has portrayed so eloquently, but she was equally moving.

Megan Fairchild, a small but beautifully proportioned dancer, made her New York debut in the “Theme and Variations” section with Joaquin De Luz, a small and not so well proportioned dancer. De Luz danced cleanly and elegantly; he had explosiveness without excessive showboating. But he lacks the pure line and gracious proportions that the role, a distillation of all the noble Petipa princes, needs. Fairchild, on point, is much taller than he is, and he simply could not convey the protective warmth that the pas de deux needs. Fairchild negotiated the technical demands wonderfully, with some beautifully musical phrasing and a delicate but precise lightness. She was a bit less successful with the emotional resonances that color the role, but if she is not yet a queen, she is definitely a true princess.

Volume 3, No.20
May 23, 2005

copyright ©2005 Mary Cargill



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last updated on May 1, 2005