writers on dancing

The DanceView Times, Washington, D.C. edition

NYCB in DC - Last Day & Look Back

New York City Ballet
Opera House, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, D.C.
March 7 (matinee and evening), 2004

by George Jackson
copyright © 2004 by George Jackson
published 8 March 2004

The audience favorite among New York City Ballet's three programs for Washington was Jewels. Applause was louder, longer and more frequent. Even Emeralds, which of the work's three treasures can be the most elusive to grasp, engaged the public. There was new casting on this visit's last day, both at the afternoon performance conducted by Andrea Quinn as on Friday, and in the evening when Maurice Kaplow held sway in the pit.

The two ballerina roles in Emeralds make many similar demands—finesse, attention to detail that mustn't become fussy, subtle musicality, romance that's understood but understated. In this first ballet of the Jewels triptych, it helps the audience if these women look distinct. Rachel Rutherford and Pascale van Kipnis didn't. One had to remind oneself which was which if sitting at a distance, as much of the house does. Apart from that, one couldn't complain about either. Rutherford understood that she was the more forward of the pair, that unlike her sister she sometimes took her male partner by the hand and led him. Throughout, it was fun to watch her interact with him. He, Stephen Hanna, is bright and seems to be learning the rigors of partnering quickly. Already at the evening performance he was a notch wiser than at the matinee and enjoying himself more. In the gestures variation, Rutherford's arms and shoulders enunciated each syllable clearly while giving the entire statement a melodic flow. I suspect that despite being fine boned and not tall, she projects well into far reaches of the house.

Van Kipnis accepted her partner's support as if by right, which gave their perambulation a calm and contemplative power. He, James Fayette, is an accomplished partner though he no longer fits well into tights. Skillfully throughout Emeralds, van Kipnis modulated her attack depending with whom and with how many of the 16 other dancers she was interacting.

Antonio Carmena came to the fore as the male soloist in the trio. Like his companions, Amanda Edge and Carrie Lee Riggins, he entered brightly but distinctly junior to the two leading couples. Edge and Riggins retained their ranking, even in the intriguing septet patterns George Balanchine has devised towards the end of the ballet. Carmena, however, grew in importance. This is partly built into the role and the result of the ballet master's decision to position him at the center, between Hanna and Fayette, when all three men are dancing. But it was also due to him. Carmena proved with his bounding quality, clarity, and energy-to-spare that his claim to be first citizen was just. It is unusual for a plotless Balanchine ballet to end with a male focus, but the final image in Emeralds is down yet up—the three men begin to kneel but then their arms scoop and open to light from above. All in all, from soloists to the 10 women of the corps, these two performances of Emeralds had true value.

Fun can be had with Rubies when it is danced lightly and sharply! Miranda Weese sparkled in the quirky ballerina role, afternoon and evening. She has a way of being her own person and yet as inseparable from her partner as Pierette from Pierrot. And, what delicious wickedness Nikolaj Hübbe brings to Pierrot. He wasn't quite up to some of the bravura. In the afternoon more than at night, the four other men—Kyle Froman, Adam Hendrickson, Aaron Severini and Daniel Ulbricht—could have outdistanced him in the follow-the-leader game. Still, Hübbe showed the steps and what they mean. You may sigh, but you don't feel cheated.

There was alternate casting for the single female role. As usual, someone tall and leggy was put into the part, and the matinee's Savannah Lowery was the type as much as Teresa Reichlen in the evening (Reichlen had also danced the opening performance, see the Friday review). Lowery makes the single likeable, almost cute, as well as kooky. She didn't suggest the character's inherent aristocracy that Reichlen somehow evoked.

Diamonds had a glow Sunday afternoon with Friday's cast led by Maria Kowroski and Philip Neal. Sunday evening the large corps de ballet didn't differ, but the central couple was danced by Darci Kistler and Charles Askegard. The corps sections have always been, going back to the premiere, decorative at best and redundant at worst, seeming just filler to give the principals a rest. That the corps serves to catalyze, reflect and refract what the principals do, I hadn't seen until the Kirov company acquired Diamonds. Sunday's corps was decorative. Kistler started the adagio—at 9 minutes probably ballet's longest— moving cleanly but carefully. She kept steps mostly small, expansiveness indicated in the arms when necessary. Looking mature but not unglamorous, she seemed to be dancing for the audience and herself. There was no sense that this adagio was a conversation with Askegard, though he was certainly at work. Before the halfway point, Kistler began to loose form. Some steps lacked control, others just looked deflated. She finished the performance, undoubtedly with much help from Askegard, but there were cuts. Neither she nor he danced a variation.

Too bad that this particular Diamonds came as the coda to a largely successful Washington season, the first in 17 years. Here, the company tried dancing every work on the program at full throttle, which often it doesn't do at home. Jewels has yet to receive worthy sets. Peter Harvey's new ones aren't the worst, with the one for Rubies rather OK. In the women's costumes for Serenade, those pale blue variants on the romantic tutu, missing is the darker panel of blue Karinska inserted at the front of the skirt. It had the effect of a shadow. That's a small thing, like giving Rouault's Prodigal Son sets their full due, but NYCB should be our standard.

Other NYCB in DC reviews:
Opening night triple bill, March 3, 2004, by Alexandra Tomalonis
Second program, March 4, 2004, by George Jackson

Jewels, March 5, 2004, by Alexandra Tomalonis
The Great American Dancer, March 6 (matinee) by Alexandra Tomalonis

To read our coverage of the New York Season, click here; you'll be taken to the last review in the series, with links at the bottom of the page to the other reviews.

To read a series of articles by Leigh Witchel on the George Balanchine Foundation's Interpreters Archive Project sessions, in which the creators of many of Balanchine's leading roles coach young dancers in those roles, click here.

Photos, by Paul Kolnik:
First:  Miranda Weese and Stephen Hanna in Emeralds
Second: Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette in Emeralds
Third: Alxandra Ansanelli and Damian Woetzel in Rubies.
Fourth: Maria Kowroski and Philip Neal in Diamonds.

Originally published:
Volume 2, Number 9
March 4, 2004

copyright © 2004 Alexandra Tomalonis




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