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Tribute to Kirstein at City Ballet - Episodes, Tribute, and Vienna Waltzes

by Richard Penberthy
January 27, 2007
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023

Featured Dance Company:

New York City Ballet
New York City Ballet (office)
New York State Theater
20 Lincoln Center
New York, NY 10023

Saturday, January 27, 2007, 8:00 PM Performance
New York City Ballet paid founder Lincoln Kirstein (1907-1996) tribute in the most meaningful manner – with fine performances of three ballets that represent his company's history.

Episodes, first performed at the 1959 homage to Anton von Webern, is a bracing start to the evening. Balanchine carefully and faithfully reads the composer's moods, his staccato patterns and un-patterns of what seem to New Yorkers to be almost irruptions of traffic noise. Faycal Karoui was guest conductor for the von Webern music. Everything in this dance is precise and structurally important – Abi Stafford and Edwaard Liang were the lead couple (of four) in Symphony, Opus 12 – where moment by moment each pair is in a different progression of a sequence. Teresa Reichlen and Ask la Cour danced the Five Pieces, Opus 10, brief vignettes of movement and relatedness without relationship. Concerto, Opus 24, an involved duet (there is a corps of four women) highlighted an emotive language in the fine partnership between Albert Evans and Wendy Whelan. And to the music of von Webern's reading of Bach's "Musical Offering", Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard centered a dance that used a corps of 14 women in alternately symmetrical and in asymmetrical blocks and in either same or unlike gesture.

Tribute, choreographed by Christopher d'Amboise, had its premiere in June 2005, in a School of American Ballet Workshop Performance. This January 27 performance was the NYCB premiere (with pianist Susan Walters playing Bach). Christopher is the son of Jacques d'Amboise on whom Balanchine built many ballets; both the elder and the younger d'Amboise were principal dancers with City Ballet in different eras.

Given this generational history there could be no more appropriate moment to premiere the dance, which will now enter the repertory, than at a tribute to Lincoln Kirstein. It is a strikingly beautiful ballet in eight parts. The skills of the entire cast seem to blossom into the space the choreography provides. A stand-out was Devin Alberda, who danced the first section, a Solo, with verve – he is not yet a principal. He excelled again in the Pas de Trois and the Duo-Gentlemen. The movements are: Solo, Allegro, Pas de Quatre, Pas de Trois, Duo-Ladies, Duo-Gentlemen, Pas de Deux, and Finale. By all and any means make plans to see this ballet.

As if the evening weren't rich enough, the final ballet was Balanchine's Vienna Waltzes. If the first two ballets of the night were studies in black and white and neutrals, these feature Karinska costumes in spades – gowns that glow and colorful military uniforms that exude empire and old Europe, rustics in broad striped trousers and Jiminy Cricket waistcoats, noble gentlemen in cutaways and ladies in silk.

The Rouben Ter-Arutunian scenery steals the show or comes very close, despite wonderful dances and dancers. Just as the ballet represents a century of waltzes, so does the scenery – taking its themes from mid-19th Century landscape painting on through the Vienna Secession movement. The first three dances are performed to waltzes by Johann Strauss II. G'Schichten aus dem Wienerwald (Tales from the Vienna Wood) is performed amidst a grove of very convincing ancient trees, complete with bolls and lichen. But as the couples – including the courting Rachel Rutherford and Nikolai Hubbe – waltz and pass behind the trees, the bark is transparent, of mesh. The stage is mirrored so that the woods look deep and full of dancers. For the next dance, the front row of trees ascends into the foremost fly, the roots forming patterns as the trees disappear (stagecraft is magnificent), and there is more room onstage for the Fruhlingstimmen (Voices of Spring – birdsong), featuring lead couple Miranda Weese and Benjamin Millepied. Explosions-Polka, featuring Sterling Hyltin and Adam Hendrickson as leads, brings on a major transformation of the stage.

The remaining trees ascend, but they take with them - as beautiful back-lit black lace, the roots, the underbrush, even the rocks of the earth - and a ballroom replaces the woods. In Franz Lehar's Gold und Silber Walzer (Gold and Silver Waltzes) Jenifer Ringer and Nilas Martins find romance. The final waltz of the evening is Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier – Erste Walzerfolge (The Rose Cavalier – First Series of Waltzes). In it, Kyra Nichols and Philip Neal join the other principals…and forty in the corps!
Devin Alberda in NYCB's Tribute

Devin Alberda in NYCB's Tribute

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Ashley Bouder and Tyler Angle in NYCB's Tribute

Ashley Bouder and Tyler Angle in NYCB's Tribute

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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