writers on dancing


Weekend Debuts

New York City Ballet
"Theme and Variations", "The Four Temperaments", "I'm Old Fashioned"
Opera House, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC, USA
March 5, 2005 (matinee)

by Alexandra Tomalonis
copyright ©2005 by Alexandra Tomalonis

It's been an uneven week. An exciting "Glass Pieces" Thursday, and a glorious "Divertimento No. 15" Friday; a decidedly less than glorious "Theme and Variations" opening night. Last year, the trouble spot was "Concerto Barocco;" this year it was "Theme." Perhaps Andrea Quinn's conducting, which surely broke a speed record, was partly to blame. Saturday afternoon, she outraced the orchestra for a few seconds, let alone the dancers. But there were too many stumbles, too many falls off pointe, at both performances of "Theme" that I saw to be accidental. The ballet didn't look particularly underrehearsed, just badly underdanced by the corps and soloists. They don't seem to have the technical strength to get through it.

Megan Fairchild and Joaquin de Luz made their debuts in "Theme's" leading roles Saturday afternoon. Both are engaging dancers, and the performance was an honorable attempt, but neither are well suited to this ballet, at least not at the moment. Fairchild may be lovely in the role in a few years, but she doesn't have the strength or the authority for it as yet. She certainly made an all out effort, and her bold sunniness in the finale boads well for the future (and was fun to watch). De Luz has calmed down considerably since his ABT days and seemed to be trying very hard to be an attentive, noble cavalier, but he's considerably shorter than Fairchild when she's on point, and she needs a bigger partner. De Luz is a technical whiz, so it was surprising that he had trouble with the double air turns; he got through them, but through strength of will as much as anything. There's a shortage of classical men in the company now, with many of the male stars nearing the end of their careers, but it's troubling if Benjamin Millepied and De Luz are the best the company can field in this work.

"The Four Temperaments" is going through a generational change as well. Sean Suozzi doesn't bring either depth or extraordinary flexibility to "Melancholic" as yet, but he danced the part clearly. Ask la Cour was an exceptionally musical "Phlegmatic." He's a beautiful dancer, tall and long-limbed without being gangly. He had to reign in his energy for "Phlegmatic," but it was nice to see someone dance the role without being flaccid. Sofiane Sylve was injured and didn't dance at all here; Alexandra Ansanelli again substituted for her (again with Charles Askegard) and although Ansanelli is an excellent dancer, she's an awfully hyperenergetic Sanguinic and seems to miss the point of the role altogether. Teresa Reichlen, with her smooth turns and majestic arabesque, was a terrific "Choleric."

There was a Broadway ballet on each of the three programs ("I'm Old Fashioned" completed this one) and one can't help but wonder if this was a coincidence, the request of the Kennedy Center, or if the company is seeking to change its image. It's hard to believe that the casual theatergoer will pick up the paper and say, "Dear, let's go see 'Thou Swell;' it's to Richard Rodgers and it's got great costumes!" Although the season apparently sold well overall, at several performances the orchestra sides were quite sparse.  Last year, with an all-Balanchine repertory, the performances were near sell-outs.

Despite disappointments and quibbles, on its best nights and in its best ballets—Friday night seems to have been the peak—it was good to have City Ballet back again, and I'm especially grateful that they brought three different programs. For us to see nine ballets in a week is a treat and a novelty. I also appreciated that, even in their less than perfect moments, the dancers presented themselves as adults, as classical dancers, not as Broadway kids as is often the fashion now, and I'm grateful for that, too.

Volume 3, No. 10
March 7, 2005

copyright ©2005 Alexandra Tomalonis


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last updated on March 7, 2005