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Richard Penberthy
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New York City Ballet - Wrung Wry

by Richard Penberthy
May 20, 2006
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023

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20 Lincoln Center
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New York City Ballet
Liebeslieder Waltzer, The Red Violin, Evenfall
"Liebeslieder Waltzer" led the evening. Brahms music and formal attire bring to mind New Year's Day PBS broadcasts from Vienna. The singers, Nancy Allen Lundy, Jennifer Rivera, Ryan McPherson, and Jan Opalach were onstage, along with two pianists, Richard Moredock and Susan Walters, at the single grand piano. Musicians and dancers wore black tie and ball gowns in ivory silk. Part I was performed to the series of waltzes in Opus 52. The swirling waltzes are beautiful, but the Balanchine tartness is refreshing 䴋 a dash of bitters, the tartness between couples, lifts that refuse to take floor-length ball gowns into account. There is humor and a subtle wryness. The curtain falls for a pause, and Part II brings the waltz series from Opus 65. Dancers return to the stage in long tulle ballet skirts for a less encumbered performance. And, as the ballet draws down one or two couples leave while others continue to dance. They eventually all return to the stage in formal attire to hear the musicians render the last waltz.

The second ballet of the evening was Peter Martins's "The Red Violin," a new ballet produced as part of the Diamond Project and premiered at the Spring Gala on May 10. There are bright, short dresses for the women, scarlet, fuchsia, aqua, and gold, and drab garb for the men. Four couples dance with conviction, and the ballet is undeniably entertaining but it doesn't fare well following Balanchine's choreography. The comparison is unkind. John Corigliano music has multiple climactic moments (a fatiguing number of them) with loud percussion and blaring brass, but the dancers seem to simply continue whatever combination they've been already performing. It is puzzling.

The last ballet, also part of the Diamond Project, was a new Christopher Wheeldon, "Evenfall," performed to Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 3, played by Cameron Grant. It is a ballet most remarkable for experiment and edgy partnering, yet somehow it manages to be as beautiful to watch as the Liebeslieder Waltzer. The costumes relate to evening, in charcoal or pearl gray. The music is embracing. There is a completeness to the concept and the choreography. Perhaps these two ballets are perfect bookends to the evening ‰¥ã accomplished choreography that dares as well to be wry. Frustratingly, in the midst of fulsome, satisfying all-out ballet, choreographic dissonances intrude. Among the strange images here is one that involves the very opposite of grace. Dancers in tutus assume the ‰¥ùwalking bear' position, addressing the audience, so that the arms and backs of the ballerinas are simply trapezoidal; the danseurs stand behind them and continue or shift the overall outline shape by moving their own torsos and arms. It is interesting but‰¥Ï. So much of this dance is elegant, yet some of it seems a satire. It is difficult to quite figure the recipe - how much is experimentation and how much is gentle mockery.

Nilas Martins, Kyra Nichols, Tyler Angle, Miranda Weese, Darci Kistler, Charles Askegard, Wendy Whelan, Nikolaj Hübbe in NYCB's Liebeslieder Walzer
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Rachel Piskin, Damian Woeztel and company in NYCB's Evenfall
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Jennie Somogyi and Sébastien Marcovici in NYCB's The Red Violin
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik
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