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Sunday, May 5, 2013

NYCB: All American, All Balanchine

I attended my first performance of the NYCB's spring season yesterday afternoon. The theme for the spring season is "American Music Festival" and yesterday's program was a rather eclectic collection of Balanchine ballets that were set to American music: Who Cares?, Ivesiana, Tarantella, and Stars and Stripes.

Of the four ballets, the one I was most curious about seeing was Ivesiana. It's not a regular in the City Ballet repertoire. It's a rather weird ballet, with three extremely dark, even sinister sections and one section ("In the Inn") that seems more Broadway than anything. As a result the ballet lacks the usual Balanchine cohesion and in fact does seem like a hodgepodge of vignettes set to Charles Ives music, as the title would suggest.

The first section ("Central Park in the Dark") takes place on an extremely darkened stage, and there are these creepy beings who crawl around the place. A man and a woman (danced by the excellent Ashley Laracey and Zachary Catazaro) have a brief, but unfulfilling pas de deux that ends with Laracey crumpled on the floor. Was she raped? Laracey was a stand-out in this brief but haunting part -- she was both ethereal and desperate.

The second part of the ballet is the most famous -- "The Unanswered Question" where a woman (Janie Taylor) is manipulated aloft by four men as she tries to connect with another man (Anthony Huxley). The woman's feet never touch the ground -- she is just contorted into all sorts of poses by these sinister men. The stage is almost completely dark. The ending echoes the ending of Serenade. The part was originated on Allegra Kent. Since I don't have a point of comparison Janie Taylor looked fine, although she doesn't have the Lolita-like sexiness that apparently made Kent so memorable in the roll.

The third section ("In the Inn") is an anomaly -- the stage is completely brightened, and a man and a woman have a brief flirtation before parting. There's a homage to the famous moment in Top Hat where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers shake hands. Amar Ramasar and Sara Mearns were charming but this whole section seemed like it belonged in another ballet. The final section ("In the Night") returned to the dark and creepy tone of the first two sections. I can't say Ivesiana is my favorite ballet, but it was definitely worth it to see this Balanchine rarity.

The afternoon began with Who Cares? I thought Santo Loquasto's new costumes were ugly -- the women are now dressed in pepto bismol pink and bright turquoise costumes, and the men in bright, baggy and ugly blue sweatsuits. The principal women are now in these tight, over-corseted tutus that make me miss the casual look of the old costumes. Abi Stafford made her usual total non-impression in "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" while Ana Sophia Scheller ("Embraceable You") doesn't quite have the easy-breezy relaxed posture this ballet requires.  But Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild predictably brought down the house in "The Man I Love." Their body language is pitch perfect. Their musicality -- impeccable. Their chemistry -- through the roof. I heard more than a few swoons when Peck was carried offstage by Fairchild. Later Peck returned to give a dynamite rendition of "Fascinatin' Rhythm." It's amazing how this dancer can repeatedly perform the trickiest, fastest footwork while giving the illusion that time has stood still.

Megan Fairchild and Antonio Carmena were just a lot of fun in Balanchine's brief but delightful Tarantella. It's a tongue-in-cheek homage to Italian folk dance, but the performers not only have to be excellent terre a terre dancers, they have to exude an irrepressible energy. One of my favorite steps is when Fairchild does a plie with her feet wide apart -- the step has a delightful vulgarity. Carmena sailed through the role with all the required aplomb.



Afternoon ended with Stars and Stripes. The ballet has a cheesiness Balanchine often injected into his tributes to his adopted country. But the steps are fiendishly difficult. I have an Erica Pereira problem -- she's repeatedly cast in high-energy allegro roles when she doesn't seem to have either the stamina or skill for those roles. Her performance in the First Campaign was a perfect example -- she actually lagged behind the corps de ballet. Savannah Lowery on the other hand was brash and confident in the Rifle Regiment, and Daniel Ulbricht predictably wowed the house with his series of double turns in the airs and beats in the all-male Third Campaign. Finally, Ashley Bouder and Andrew Veyette were both excellent in the final campaign. Ashley Bouder's Liberty Bell is a modern classic rendition. She's done it so many times that she now plays with the audience a bit -- she no longer just executes the steps with her usual technical wizardry. She now will occasionally slow down the conductor and tilt her head and give a cheeky smile  at an opportune time as if to say, "Hee. This is fun." This kind of mugging is unusual in the rather severe climate of the NYCB, but the audience eats it up.

What a wonderful company!

17 comments:

  1. Thanks for the wonderful Sonnambula clip on Parterre: nothing like Callas and Bellini for divine music!

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  2. I LOVE YOU HATERS. YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT DANCE BUT YOU LOVE TRASHING ERICA PEREIRA. IO KNOW HER FAMILY AND I ALSO KNOW HER. SHE HAS DEDICATED HER ENTIRE LIFE TO GETTING WHERE SHE IS AND YOU PEOPLE LOVE TEARING HER DOWN. I GUESS YOU KNOW TALENT WHEN YOU SEE IT. AND I GUESS PETER MARTINS DOES NOT KNOW TALENT. I GUESS THAT IS WHY HE CAST HER AS AN APPRENTICE TO DANCE THE ROLL OF JULIET IN HIS PRODUCTION OF ROMEO AND JULIET. ERICA IS A WONDERFUL DANCER WHO'S ONLY FAULT IS LOOKING 15 YEARS OLD. PLEASE DO ME A FAVOR IF YOU HAVE NOTHING NICE TO SAY ABOUT HER SAY NOTHING. BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT YOU AND VIPA ON BALLET ALERT KNOW ABOUT DANCE NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. Um, I don't moderate comments on my blog but abusive comments will be removed after the first warning.

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  3. I am not trying to be abusive just stating the facts. I have known for some time that there are certain people on ballet alert WHO LOVE BASHING Erica Pereira ever since she and Katy Morgan came up in the company. No matter what Erica and Katy did the bashing was constant towards Erica. These were 2 totally different dancers who would tell you they admired each others skills. But every time they were dancing the bashing was thrown in Erica's direction. NOW THAT Katy is gone due to health issues she had the bashing continues. Enough already as i stated i know the family and i know Erica since she was a little girl. I know the scarifies she and her family have made fro her to get to where she is. And i know these abusive comments made by a few who know nothing about dance and Erica are very hurtful to her and her family. You know she is someones daughter and someones child. So i ask you would you like it if your daughter or son was in the arts and were bashed like this wonderful dancer has been. I think not!!! Enough said like i stated before if you have nothing nice to say then say nothing. You really have no idea how deep the wounds go when you bash someones life long dreams.

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    1. I have no personal vendetta against Erica Pereira. I just find her dancing to be lacking. This is my private blog, and I can say whatever I want.

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    2. What is she lacking in your opinion? I'm sure you have danced yourself to make such a BOLD STATEMENT. Please enlighten me

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    3. I think she's miscast. She's a sweet, lyrical dancer and she's repeatedly cast in roles that require a lot of fast demanding allegro footwork and powerful jumps.

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    4. Now thats funny have you see her do Tarentella? That requires extremly fast footwork. I have seen her do that many times with Daniel and she nails it every time. As far as her jumps your way off base. She gets more hight out of her jumps than other girls in the company. If you need some pictures from the NYCB collection of some of her jumps let me know I will be glad to email the to you. Also symphony in 3 she had an extremly fast part I am sure if she could not do the foot work Mr Martins would not put her out on the stage.

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  4. Longtime NYCB Ballet FanMay 6, 2013 at 8:36 PM

    I was at the performance and I completely agree with you about Erica Pereira. She just doesn't have 'what it takes' for a part like that.

    I believe the part was created on Allegra Kent in 1958, when Kent was 20. She was then a daredevil dancer, not unlike Bouder today. (Check out the Playhouse 90 film of Nutcracker where she dances Dewdrop and you'll see what I mean.) Pereira is simply not in that league. I saw her SPF in 2011 and she was....not good. She is being given every opportunity to develop and I just don't see her as ballerina material.

    Agree with you about Abi Stafford.

    I thought Megan Fairchild was....OK. But I keep seeing Patty McBride in my mind's eye and maybe that's not fair.

    Re: Bouder....I have something of an issue with her and it's not flirting with the audience, which Farrell and McBride did in their heydays. It's that she lacks a mature feminine allure, which Liberty Bell absolutely requires. Perhaps she will develop it - I hope so. I am rooting for her.

    It is good to see the company dancing well.

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  5. Longtime NYCB Ballet FanMay 6, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    PS to above. I also agree w/you about audience reaction to Peck and Fairchild. I was in tears. What a lovely partnership; I hope it survives their marriage!

    Peck is the best dancer we have right now, I think. She can do it all: jazzy contemporary ballet, classical, romantic.

    I would love to see her Giselle.

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  6. Thank you NYCB fan. As for Erica's super fan, one more comment and all comments will be moderated from now on.

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  7. It's your blog do what you wish. I am not a super fan I am a friend of the family. Here is my point Ivy if you have nothing nice to say and I am not just singling out Ms Pereira.If it is any of these talented dancers then say nothing. Because I am positive you have no idea how hard these kids work to get to where they are. And to think that some audience member who most likely never danced in there entire life at this level gets there jollies knocking these kids is nothing but obnoxious and childish.It's your blog do what you wish. I am not a super fan I am a friend of the family. Here I'd my point Ivy if you have nothing nice to say and I am not just singling out Ms Pereira.If it is any of these talented dancers then say nothing. Because I am positive you have no idea how hard these kids work to get to where they are. And to think some audiance member who most likely never danced at this level if at all is getting there jollies by bashing these kids is obnoxious and childish. Now I'm sure you will delete this so do as you wish

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    1. If you wish to run a blog where nothing negative is said about any dancer, then you are free to start one of your own. Meanwhile I suggest you brush up on your grammar.

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  8. Longtime NYCB Ballet FanMay 7, 2013 at 4:01 PM

    Anonymous - you are being silly. You love Erica, you are a friend of the family - fine. I'm not. Erica Pereira is a professional dancer and the only thing I can do is judge her for her stage performances. I can assure you I have nothing against her. On the contrary I shelled out good hard earned money to see her SPF and I was disappointed. Her SPF was unauthoritative, wan, and downright unclassical. This part was created on MARIA TALLCHIEF and has been danced by many great ballerinas! It was awful to see, at the NYCB, a performance good enough only for a regional company. Same went for her performance last Saturday. She is not yet ready for the part she danced.

    [Parenthetically to Ivy: that Nutcracker performance with Erica's disappointing SPF also featured Ashley Bouder's Dewdrop - which was radiant and wonderful EXCEPT the final bourrees, which Ashley did with surprising clumsiness. I thought so, anyway. Do you want to accuse me of being an Ashley hater? I didn't think so. Great ballet dancers in a great company have to answer to the highest standards, as do opera singers.]

    Back to Anonymous, I have never danced but I do realize how hard dancers work. I admire them all, and I never want to criticize them, but in the the house that Balanchine built nothing less than the best will be tolerated. That's the way Balanchine wanted it.

    Erica is a very sweet, pretty dancer and I'm sure there's a lot of things she might be good in (Steadfast Tin Soldier?) but not the parts I saw her in.

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  9. Well if you saw her do SPF with Anthony Huxley then i know why she did not dance up to your standards. If you knew as much as you claim you would know Anthony dropped he in 2 nutcracker shows when he was her Cavilar. She was always nervous after that dancing with him. If you had seen Erica and Alan Peiffer do the nutcracker together then you would have seen a GREAT performance. Exactly how they preformed in Romeo and Juliet together. I guess you asls did not see Erica and Taylor Stanley do Romeo and Juliet . THEY WERE OUTSTANDING!!!!!!! And another treat is Erica and Daniel Ulbricht in Tarantella a true treat they are perfect together. I was shocked to see below you ONCE HAD KIND WORDS FOR ERICA ONCE SHOCKED!!!!!!!. By the way i look forward to seeing Erica in River of Light and later in May Tarantella.



    The evening ended with a stunner -- Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3. The ballet was originally of course known as Theme and Variations, but in 1970 Balanchine decided to choreograph the entire Tchaikovsky score, with T&V being the grand finale. The first three movements contrast strongly with the tutu-and-tiara final movement -- in the elegie, waltz, and scherzo, the stage is flooded with women in long dresses and long flowing hair. It's all very over-the-top Romantic, but it kind of isn't Balanchine's best choreography -- too many swoony lunges and dramatic running around the stage for my tastes. It's an example of how strong the NYCB's current roster of women is that I was riveted from start to finish, rather than just waiting for T&V. Teresa Reichlen (Elegie), Rebecca Krohn (Valse Melancholie), and Erica Pereira (Scherzo) all gave outstanding performances, and all three ladies were making their debuts in their roles! I particularly loved Rebecca Krohn's soft, understated style and lovely, pliant back. I wish they'd get rid of that scrim for the first three movements -- depending on where you're sitting in the house, sometimes the dancers look blurry behind the scrim.

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    1. So you trash Anthony Huxley to defend Erica? Nice.

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  10. Just stating the facts as I know them. I am not trashing Anthony he is a wonderful dancer. But unfortunately it is what it is. He did drop her in 2 different shows. I am done debating with you. Enjoy the spring season at NYCB. I know I will.

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