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New York City Ballet: Ballo della Regina, Morgen, N. Y. Export: Opus Jazz

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 19, 2006
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023

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New York City Ballet
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New York State Theater
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New York City Ballet: Ballo della Regina, Morgen, N. Y. Export: Opus Jazz

New York City Ballet

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children's Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn
Managing Director, Robert Daniels
Associate Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns
Press Coordinator, Joe Guttridge

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center
(See Other NYC Ballet Reviews)

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 19, 2006

Ballo della Regina (1978): (See January 11, 2005 Review). Music by Giuseppe Verdi, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Ben Benson, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor: Fayçal Karoui, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Benjamin Millepied, Amanda Edge, Glenn Keenan, Carrie Lee Riggins, Ana Sophia Scheller, and the Company. Verdi's score was original ballet music for Don Carlos, but cut from the opera. It's a series of variations. (NYCB Notes).

With pale pink costumes, the five female dancers, led by the charismatic Ashley Bouder, and the one male dancer, Benjamin Millepied, in pale teal, all against a pastel, impressionistic backdrop of peach and teal, dance in solos and ensembles to Verdi's sumptuous score. The corps creates interesting figurative formations, with signature Balanchine choreography, but it is the lead duo here, Mr. Millepied and Ms. Bouder, who command constant attention. Tonight, Mr. Millepied seemed to have an extra bounce and aggressive attitude, and Ms. Bouder, as always, played to her audience with glances, an extra kick here, an extra spin there. They added solo and duo flourishes for this fanciful, fluttery, flowing ballet. Kudos to Guest Conductor, Fayçal Karoui, for keeping the orchestra as sparkling as the dancers.

Morgen (2001): Music by Richard Strauss (Songs for Soprano and Orchestra), Choreography by Peter Martins, Scenery and Costumes by Alain Vaes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Soprano: Jessica Jones, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Darci Kistler, Jenifer Ringer, Charles Askegard, Sébastien Marcovici, Nilas Martins. Richard Strauss was known for tone poems and operas, with the illustration of life's constant struggles. Soprano, Jessica Jones, a graduate of Houston Grand Opera Studio, also attended Curtis Institute and Juilliard. She has performed with leading orchestras and opera companies. (NYCB Notes).

In this writer's opinion, Morgen is Peter Martins' finest and most riveting ballet. I did not want this work to end. Against tall columns in a classical garden, one couple after the other, and then with a shift in partners, emerges into the garden, either a lone male or lone female, and rapture resounds, with some of the most effortless lifts and long, flowing costumes (Kudos early in this review to costume designer, Alain Vaes) ever seen on this stage. There are other works in the NYC Ballet repertoire that are similar in structure and style, but nothing quite like this. All the passion is positive, all the emotion ethereal, all the movement magical. Andrea Quinn kept the orchestra and the soprano just in time with the dashing and daring, to and fro, amidst the columns and greenery. As always, Mark Stanley's lighting was quintessentially scintillating.

Darci Kistler is yet in sprightly form, just as rapid en pointe, backwards and forwards, a dancer's dancer. Ms. Ringer exudes energy and confidence, bounding with abandon. Sterling Hyltin, a dancer to watch, threw herself into the air with amazing aerobics, always landing in some man's arms (There were sequentially three). Charles Askegard, a pro of a partner, seemed to lift and carry his women like clouds (There were sequentially three). Sébastien Marcovici, one of the most theatrical and princely figures, was dreamlike and daring, always attentive, always engaged. Nilas Martins, who remains one of the most interesting and enticing male principals in the company, was obviously thrilled to be part of this woodsy adventure, and I loved the way he lurked against the column, a figure in the shadows.

Morgen is a must-see-again ballet, and do try to catch this cast. Richard Strauss' poems, sung by Jessica Jones, a soprano with lyrical fluidity and soaring musicality, was well chosen to showcase this score. Kudos to Peter Martins.

N. Y. Export: Opus Jazz (2005): Music by Robert Prince, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Costumes by Florence Klotz, Scenery by Ben Shahn, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Performed by The Company. This work was first performed in Spoleto, Italy, in June, 1958, by Jerome Robbins' Ballets. The choreography is illustrative of "the drives and ÃŽcoolness' of jazz steps". Robert Prince wrote music for Robbins and for Broadway. (NYCB Notes).

With Ben Shahn's backdrops, contemporary, jazzy art, brightly hued sweaters and sneakers, matching black tights, and Robert Prince's cool, cool music, Broadway meets art, meets ballet, and meets the NYC Ballet corps, a buoyant young grouping of enthusiastic, fun-loving (just look at Amar Ramasar's expressive face), and athletic dancers. Each Shahn backdrop brought a new page to the score, a new dynamic of music and motion, a new choreographic twist. There were times that I thought this was West Side Story Suite, with signature Robbins finger-snapping, jumping, bent-low footwork, with ensembles of teens and twenty-somethings, merging and separating in "gangs" of moving shapes and colors. No tension or trouble in this dance, but still, for a moment, I imagined Sharks and Jets.

Rachel Rutherford and Craig Hall, in Passage for Two, had just the right element of detached self-involvement and attached mutual attraction to make this motif work. The Entrance: Group Dance, Improvisation, and Theme, Variations, and Fugue all brought this corps ensemble into colorful, then white/black contrasts in rhythm, mood, and imagery. Florence Klotz' costumes with Jennifer Tipton's lighting enhanced a delightful and driven dance.

New York City Ballet's Ashley Bouder and Benjamin Millepied in Ballo della Regina
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet's Sterling Hyltin and Sébastien Marcovici in Morgen
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet's Rachel Rutherford and Craig Hall in N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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