Boal & Company
McCarter Theatre Center
Princeton, New Jersey
October 3, 2004
© 2004 by Dale Brauner
Boal is a very busy man these days. He is an inspiring teacher at the
School of American Ballet by day and star dancer at the affiliated New
York City Ballet by night. He has been performing with a small group during
his time off from NYCB and recently was tapped to lead a major American
company. And after the Suzanne Farrell Ballet was forced to cancel its
entire fall 2004 tour, including its visit to Princeton University’s
McCarter Theatre Center, Mr. Boal stepped forward, snapping up the engagement
and providing this New Jersey suburb a chance to see world-class ballet
on its own stage.
Suzanne Farrell had intended to present her company in a program of duets
taken from works by her mentor, George Balanchine, to celebrate his centennial
this year. It was a program shown only in Washington D.C. in December
2003, so the event was eagerly awaited by many further north. Mr. Boal
brought together a troupe for a season this March at the Joyce Theater
of contemporary fare of Twyla Tharp, William Forsythe, Marco Goecke and
John Alleyne. He has remained busy since the end of the New York City
Ballet spring season, performing the Paul Taylor solo from Balanchine’s
“Episodes” at Jacob’s Pillow and at New York’s
City Center and has emerged as the leading candidate for the soon-to-be
vacant position of artistic director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in
Mr. Boal, who also has performed with Farrell’s company over the
years, retained Tharp’s “Pergolesi” from his recent
engagements while revisiting Balanchine’s “Apollo” and
adding “Pavane,” “Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux” and
the pas de deux from “Chaconne,” also by Balanchine. The dancers
were culled from friends and neighbors—NYCB senior principal dancer
and Princeton Resident Kyra Nichols, American Ballet Theatre’s principal
dancer Marcelo Gomes, Suzanne Farrell Ballet stalwarts Chan Hon Goh (a
principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada), Ben Huys and Bonnie
Pickard (replacing Natalia Magnicaballi), as well as former ABT soloist
The program opened with “Pergolesi,” a solo made in 1993 on
Mikhail Baryshnikov. The style is quintessential Tharp-on-Baryshnikov—lots
of little shrugs, amusing leaps and centered turns. The choreography was
the type Mr. Baryshnikov routinely turned into a monologue of great interest.
In lesser hands, it can be precious. Mr. Boal is one of the great classicists
of our time and the choreography sits less well on him. That’s not
to say he is without the personality required, but that his personality
grows out of his understanding of form. Still, clad in his cream-colored
Isaac Mizrahi pants and sweater, Mr. Boal pattered about appealingly,
much to the delight of the mostly full house, which laughed openly at
Tharp’s usual fillips of head bobs, shimmies and shuffles set to
several orchestra pieces by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (the music was
Nichols—that most musical of dancers—was given an on-stage
pianist (uncredited in the program) for her performances of “Pavane"
and "Chaconne.” “Pavane” was made on Patricia McBride
for the 1975 Ravel Festival at NYCB. It was considered a slight work,
light on steps and heavy on atmosphere. But on the right dancer, it can
be very moving. Danced by a woman in white, the ballet is performed to
"Pavane pour une Infante Defunte (pavane for a dead princess)"
and Balanchine just barely hints at a woman grieving. She carries a long
bolt of chiffon, which she sometimes wraps around herself as a shroud
or cradles on her arms like an infant. At other times, she raises it up
and runs defiantly. Ms. Nichols, using her years of experience, revealed
the full emotional richness of the short work.
The opening pas de deux of “Chaconne” also evokes a dream
world, that of Orpheus and Euridice in an abstract work from 1976. Like
“Pavane,” the woman is in filmy chiffon dress with loose hair.
Here, partnered by former NYCB soloist Ben Huys, Ms. Nichols floated and
swam over the earth.
"Tschaikovsky pas de deux," sandwiched in between "Pavane"
and "Chaconne," received an uneven performance. Ms. Brown started
each of her solos with the snap and alertness that marked her work at
ABT, but she appeared to lose strength at the end of each section. Mr.
Gomes brought the audience to attention with high scissor leaps and multiple
turns that came an ever-so-slow conclusion. Unfortunately, the flying
fish dives that end the ballet were botched as well.
program closed with “Apollo.” Mr. Boal has been one of the
leading interpreters of the leading role in this seminal ballet, created
in 1928 and performed here in the truncated 1979 version. The 38-year-old
Boal first performed the part when he was 23 and has had years to develop
various approaches to the role. On this occasion, he settled for a looser-styled
Apollo. The shorter version, which omits the prologue, can make it harder
to indicate Apollo’s journey from callow youth to god. Mr. Boal’s
protagonist was more like a Hamlet who learns to shed his indecision.
He started off unsure of himself, trying this move and that with his lute.
But by the second solo, after seeing his muses (Mss. Goh, Brown and Pickard)
perform, he gained vision and understanding.
Ms. Goh was light and jazzy as Terpsichore, Ms. Brown, recovered from
the unfortunate "Tschaikovsky," was a striking Polyhymnia, and
Ms. Pickard was properly dramatic as Calliope. The crowd gasped in awe
at the “swimming” section and the “sunburst” ending
of Apollo and appreciated the chance to experience top-flight dance outside
of New York City.
by Paul Kolnik):
First and third:
Peter Boal in Balanchine's "Apollo."
Second: Kyra Nichols in Balanchine's "Chaconne."
Volume 2, No. 38
October 11, 2004
©2004 by Dale Brauner
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
Kathrine Sorley Walker
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