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The DanceView Times, New York edition

A Splendid Four Temperaments

Divertimento No. 15/Stabat Mater/The Four Temperaments
New York City Ballet
New York State Theater
New York, NY
May 8, 2004

by Mary Cargill
copyright © 2004 by Mary Cargill
published 10 May 2004

Arlene Croce once wrote that Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15 was famous for not being danced well. It is an incredible technical challenge, with fast, delicate footwork, quick changes of direction, and very tricky partnering. It must also be gloriously classical, formal yet warm, precise yet gracious. I’m afraid its current performances are only increasing its fame. By and large, the dancers were concentrating on the steps, with no real connection to each other or to their partners, and slack arms for the women and sloppy feet for the men were all too common.

Robert Tewsley, new to the role, however, danced with an understated dignity; he has real classical nobility. Rachel Rutherford, too, had a radiant delicacy and impeccable line that transcended the steps. Ashley Bouder has technique to burn, but she combined it with precision—everything is in harmony when she moves—and a wonderful musicality, and shaped her solo beautifully.

Peter Martins’ salute to the great SAB teacher Stanley Williams, Stabat Mater, followed. (It is curious that a memorial to a ballet teacher would be set in a classical ruin, but that is probably not an editorial comment.) The music, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, was gloriously sung by Amy Burton and David Walker, but it is not really danceable. And indeed, there was very little actual dancing on the stage, just a great deal of lifting and wafting. It was certainly theatrically effective, with softly lit ruins and Botticelli dresses for the women, and got a committed performance from the six dancers (Darci Kistler, Yvonne Borree, Miranda Weese, Jock Soto, Nilas Martins, and Benjamin Millepied), but choreographically it tends to amble.

Not so the final ballet, Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, which received a by and large splendid performance. Unfortunately, it did not begin well. Faye Arthurs, in her debut in the first theme with the elegant Jonathan Stafford, danced with a fine astringency, but oversold her extensions (at one point the audience gasped), completely distorting the shape of the choreography. Amanda Hankes, who debuted in the second theme, restored decorum with her elegance and witty timing. Jennifer Tinsley’s third theme is one of her best roles; she is both angular and soft, both sharp and flowing.

Peter Boal, who has danced rarely this season, was Melancholic. If he doesn’t do another thing, he has made his mark. It was a profoundly moving performance, intense yet impersonal, weighted yet soaring. Watching it was almost like being inside someone’s soul.

Wendy Whelan and Charles Askegard caught much of that same vivid impersonality in Sanguinic. They were not just two people dancing wonderful steps together, they were an abstraction of pure feeling. Whelan seemed almost to exist in another element, related to air, but somewhat denser and more iridescent. Albert Evans, as Phlegmatic, gave an unusual depth to his role. The insouciant ease of his final lilting dance seemed hard won, and his opening backbends and crouches could have picked up where Melancholic left off. There were glints of sadness in his opening—he stood with his hand on his hip as if waiting for a partner who never came. It was an extraordinary performance by that very under-used dancer.

Teresa Reichlen, who made her debut as Choleric, is not under-used, but she did seem a bit under-rehearsed. She made a blazing start, had an awkward slip, and seemed to retreat into her diffident pretty ballerina persona; she needed much more force. But of course, the three other temperaments have had years to develop their glorious versions, and the audience saw great performances in a great ballet.

First:  Divertimento No. 15; from left: Stephen Hanna, Yvonne Borree, Abi Stafford, Alexandra Ansanelli, Robert Tewsley, Rachel Rutherford, Ashley Bouder, Arch Higgins. Photo:  Paul Kolnik.
Second:  Peter Boal in "Melancholic". Photo: Paul Kolnik.

Originally published:
Volume 2, Number 17
March 10, 2004

Copyright ©2004 by Mary  Cargill



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The Autumn DanceView is out:

New York City Ballet's Spring 2003 season reviewed by Gia Kourlas

An interview with the Kirov Ballet's Daria Pavlenko by Marc Haegeman

Reviews of San Francisco Ballet (by Rita Felciano) and Paris Opera Ballet (by Carol Pardo)

The ballet tradition at the Metropolitan Opera (by Elaine Machleder)

Reports from London (Jane Simpson) and the Bay Area (Rita Felciano).

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last updated on January 11, 2004