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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
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New York City Ballet: Liebeslieder Walzer, The Red Violin, Evenfall

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 20, 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 City Ballet: Liebeslieder Walzer, The Red Violin, Evenfall

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, Marketing and Communications, 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
May 20, 2006

The Diamond Project: The Diamond Project is the sixth such festival of new works, with seven choreographers, from unique international backgrounds, presenting new ballets. Tonight's program features new works by Peter Martins, Ballet Master in Chief of NYC Ballet, and Christopher Wheeldon, Resident Choreographer of NYC Ballet.

Liebeslieder Walzer (1960): (See May 5, 2004 Review). Music by Johannes Brahms (Opus 52 and Opus 65), Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by David Mitchell, Costumes by Karinska, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Pianists: Richard Moredock and Susan Walters, Singers: Nancy Allen Lundy, Ryan MacPherson, Jennifer Rivera, Jan Opalach, Performed by Darci Kistler, Kyra Nichols, Miranda Weese, Wendy Whelan, Tyler Angle, Charles Askegard, Nikolaj Hübbe, Nilas Martins.

I had never before seen both Parts I and II of Liebeslieder Walzer, so I was unprepared for the actual change of costume and partial scene change, all heavenly and classically surreal. Two of Brahms' song cycles serve as the score for two pianos and four voices, with the women in long, peach taffeta off-shoulder gowns in Part I, followed by long, violet tutus in Part II. The men remain in white tie and tails. Karinska's costumes and David Mitchell's scenery are sumptuous and detailed, and this ballet could easily fill its own program, perhaps with panel discussions on Brahms and salon dances. The four couples seem mildly interested in "changing partners" and very focused on returning to their original objects of desire.

A variety of emotions run rampant, but, luckily, unrequited love does not take hold, as togetherness thwarts anxiety, and the reality of the salon serves as the public exterior of relationships. The private interior of relationships seems pictured in the fantasy of the Part II ballet genre, toe shoes replacing heels. Darci Kistler and Charles Askegard were stunning and poignant, mature and impassioned. They showcased the years of partnered repertoire, between the two seasoned principals. Kyra Nichols and Nilas Martins were exceptionally well suited, as Mr. Martins was ultra-attentive and ultra-chivalrous. His muscularity enabled Ms. Nichols to be lifted and tipped exotically and effortlessly.

Wendy Whelan, partnered by Nikolaj Hübbe, looked utterly joyful and genuine, and this, too, was a great match. Ms. Whelan possesses the versatility requisite to her wide variety of roles, without and with edge. This role clearly had no edge, but rather effervescence and ecstasy. Miranda Weese and Tyler Angle were the biggest surprise, a new duo, and their partnering was refreshingly resplendent. The scenery, of enormous French windows that open to the evening, was fully open in Part II, as the stars descended for the dreamlike effect. Tireless pianists, Richard Moredock and Susan Walters, and equally tireless singers, Nancy Allen Lundy, Ryan MacPherson, Jennifer Rivera, and Jan Opalach, were a concert on their own. Kudos to all.

The Red Violin (2006): Music by John Corigliano (Concerto for Violin and Orchestra), Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Carol Divet, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Violin: Kurt Nikkanen, Performed by Jennie Somogyi, Sébastien Marcovici, Sara Mearns, Amar Ramasar, Sterling Hyltin, Andrew Veyette, Tiler Peck, Sean Suozzi.

I am quite familiar with this score and with the composer, having reviewed The Red Violin at the Philharmonic this year, as well as a new choral work by Corigliano; plus, of course, having seen The Red Violin on film. I was most excited to hear the solo violin passages again, aptly performed tonight by Kurt Nikkanen, but in a manner that did not overwhelm the dance.

With the men in sleeveless, casual grey, and the women in silky, short-skirted costumes of red, yellow, purple, and blue, the dancers, mostly new soloists and corps, brought the energy level to an all-time high. Jennie Somogyi, as the "red violin", partnered by Sébastien Marcovici, was stunning and swift. Mr. Marcovici was in rare form, with the requisite tension and excitement that this concerto inspires.

Perhaps the other three women were the chamber ensemble, spinning and leaping to and fro, sometimes evocative of Mr. Martins' recently choreographed Friandises. With elegant arm extensions, dynamic turns, and percussive wildness of music and dance, Mr. Martins has created another exceptional work, something to see again and again. Amar Ramasar and Sara Mearns, both newly appointed soloists, took the stage by storm. But, it was Sterling Hyltin, in yellow, who captivated the attention in her instantaneous spins and charged performance. Tiler Peck, Andrew Veyette, and Sean Suozzi completed the persuasive team with adagio and allegro movement. Kudos to Peter Martins.

Evenfall (2006): Music by Béla Bartók (Piano Concerto No. 3), Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Piano: Cameron Grant, Performed by Miranda Weese, Damian Woetzel, and the Company.

Christopher Wheeldon has designed another "must-see-again" ballet, and his choreography literally forms diamond shapes and imagery; perhaps, even the platinum prongs that hold the diamond in place, as men stand behind bent tutus with arms opened wide. These tutus, gray and later blue, are sharply designed by Holly Hynes for edgy effect that blends well with the Bartók concerto. Nothing frilly here. In fact, Wheeldon's spare use of space and tight ensemble figures gives the work riveting fascination. As grayness melts to blue, evening falls, and Miranda Weese and the ever dynamic, Damian Woetzel, lead this new ballet in its abstract, but classical motif.

With twelve women and six men, in addition to Ms. Weese and Mr. Woetzel, the work unfolds with Balanchine-like concepts, of symmetry and simplicity, and Evenfall draws the viewer in, where there is no emotion to analyze, but, rather, kaleidoscopic shapes to mesmerize. There was so much to absorb, visually, that I intend to listen to the Bartók score again, having been lulled by the Gestalt. This work was not filled with lightning, but mostly with languor. Occasionally there is staccato and sensation in the score, but the matching choreography transitions smoothly and sensitively. Kudos to Christopher Wheeldon.

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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