writers on dancing


Moving Up, Bowing Out

"Square Dance"/"Stravinsky Violin Concerto"/"Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3"
New York City Ballet
New York State Theater
New York, NY
January 12, 2005

by Leigh Witchel
copyright 2005 by Leigh Witchel

One door opens as another closes. Megan Fairchild and Janie Taylor go into “Square Dance” in their first performances as Peter Boal bows out in what must be close to his last. Ms. Fairchild’s Wednesday performance with Mr. Boal (her second) showed healthy development. The role has a lot to teach her about gravity and weight, and she’s learning. Her physical presence was calmer and larger; she’s taking the time in her port de bras and movement to expand to fill the adagio sections. It isn’t consistent yet; she goes blank when things slow down (facial exercises like actors do would help) but she’s starting to be able to take the stage even when she’s doing nothing other than bowing and looks more mature as well. Having Mr. Boal, a master of gravity, as a partner couldn’t have hurt.

On the following day, Ms. Taylor made her debut with Nilas Martins. Ms. Taylor’s performance was, as is usual for her, riskily expressive physically and emotionally more masked. She’s not a calm dancer, nor particularly classical, but that becomes what's interesting about her. Her lines are elongated and untamed; her pas de chats and gargouillades explode to their aerial extensions.

Each performance is an unmarked milestone as Mr. Boal heads into his final seasons. Which “Apollo”, which “Agon”, which “Square Dance” is his last? In “Square Dance”, with its gravely beautiful solo inserted two decades after its premiere, the realization is particularly acute. Mr. Boal’s interpretation of the solo he has danced for going on two decades has become about mortal inevitability. It makes me watch with extra attention to detail, even with a certain nervous obligation. Do I need to remember every detail? How long can I hold on to it? There is a moment at the end of the introverted dance where the soloist breaks the “fourth wall” of the stage, and Mr. Boal comes forward to embrace the cosmos as well as the audience. Time happens to all of us and for a special moment we are let into his secret world to commiserate.

Often, your gaze travels behind the soloists to the corps; both “Square Dance” and “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” offer us a detailed look. The gentlemen in the cast, how many of them did Mr. Boal teach? Each dancer, male and female, has his or her individuality. There is Sean Suozzi’s attack; he’s paying more attention to stagecraft—he now stands onstage legs slightly apart with one leg bent to broaden his presence. There’s Jessica Flynn’s glee and Aaron Severini’s demands on himself—you can see the ones who may never think anything they do is good enough. There are the ones who’ve become bedrock—Pauline Golbin and Amanda Edge, Elizabeth Walker, also teaching at the school or Christopher Boehmer, who’s by now an irreplaceable living history of nearly two decades in the company and still looks as good as the kids. Those named and those not named, we see and appreciate all of them.

All of Wednesday’s ballet’s looked taut and well-performed, including “Stravinsky Violin Concerto”. Of the black and white ballets in her repertory, it suits Alexandra Ansanelli better than Sanguinic in “The Four Temperaments”, her latest addition. Her sense of drama and her physical vulnerability work in the second pas de deux in “Violin Concerto”. Sanguinic fights these qualities; the female lead is a matter of a Shavian Life Force, not a matter of life-or-death. Ansanelli flirts with the audience and the four men in the corps as the ballet begins, but her flirting isn’t vamping; she’s an oblique nymphet. She acts like she doesn’t know the effects she has, or does she? Nilas Martins turned in better performances this week than he has for a while; he looked committed and in better shape as well. Another welcome development. Wendy Whelan and Albert Evans gave expert performances; they have this ballet down cold. Andrea Quinn conducted at a quick, tight tempo; an asset here.

"Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3" had two debuts, Ellen Bar in the Elegy and Sofiane Sylve in the Theme and Variations. Ms. Bar’s tragically beautiful face suits her role and so do her long limbs and large-scale way of moving. She and Stephen Hanna had movie star pathos and glamour in their Affair to Remember. Rachel Rutherford and James Fayette danced the Waltz; this season Ms. Rutherford is adding texture to her roles. Other women in this part have been femme fatales, or fatally co-dependent, pushing the man offstage towards a darkly imagined mutual destiny. There’s a different dynamic between Ms. Rutherford and Mr. Fayette; as her arms move up and down he appears to reach to her waist and gently steady her balance as if the dancing itself were opium. Ashley Bouder and Tom Gold performed the Scherzo; Ms. Bouder with one of her shoulder draperies from her costume accidentally wrapped round her neck quite chicly.

You didn’t need to be at the theater to know Ms. Sylve would have performed with technical precision and no difficulty at all with the demanding material. But beyond the calm and the aplomb, she’s giving more of a performance as well, more port-de-bras and more warmth. Stick her in a tutu and give her ballerina parts and she acts like a ballerina. It was a felicitous and fitting close to a night with many steps in the right direction.

Volume 3, No. 3
January 17, 2005
Copyright ©2005 by Leigh Witchel


DanceView Times

What's On This Week
Index of Reviews
Index of Writers

Back Issues
About Us


Mindy Aloff
Dale Brauner
Mary Cargill
Christopher Correa
Clare Croft
Nancy Dalva
Rita Felciano
Marc Haegeman
George Jackson
Gia Kourlas
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Alexander Meinertz
Tehreema Mitha
Gay Morris
Ann Murphy
Paul Parish
John Percival
Tom Phillips
Susan Reiter
Jane Simpson
Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
Lisa Traiger
Meital Waibsnaider

Kathrine Sorley Walker
Leigh Witchel


The Autumn Issue of DanceView is OUT! (Our subscription link is working again, so it's easy to subscribe on line!)

Robert Greskovic reviews two new DVDs of Fonteyn dancing "Sleeping Beauty" and "Cinderella"

Mary Cargill on last summer's Ashton Celebration

Profile of Gililian Murphy, reviews of the ABT Spring season, springtime in Paris, reports from London and San Francisco

DanceView is available by subscription ONLY. Don't miss it. It's a good read.  Black and white, 48 pages, no ads. Subscribe today!

DanceView is published quarterly (January, April, July and October) in Washington, D.C. Address all correspondence to:

P.O. Box 34435
Washington, D.C. 20043
last updated on January10, 2005