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New York City Ballet: Jock Soto's Farewell Event

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 19, 2005
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
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New York City Ballet: Jock Soto's Farewell Event

New York City Ballet
(NYC Ballet Website)
(See Other NYC Ballet Reviews)

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children's Ballet Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn
Marketing, Managing Director, Rob Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Siobhan Burns

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 19, 2005, Matinee

Jock Soto's Farewell Event

Today's matinee at NYC Ballet was a moment in history, as Jock Soto, Principal dancer, retired after 25 glorious years with the Company. Mr. Soto's longtime and recent partners were included in this farewell event, which included five brief or excerpted ballets, some created just for him, by five different choreographers. Some in the audience, such as this critic, clutched a handkerchief throughout the matinee, as Mr. Soto, his partners, and the Company energized each other and their loyal balletomanes with gusto and generosity of spirit and soul. The final curtain included many opportunities for Mr. Soto to absorb the endless accolades with seemingly thousands of red roses tossed onstage, with a dozen or so exquisite floral presentations from his partners and Peter Martins, Artistic Director, and with many minutes of sparkling confetti, floating with delicacy, equal to Mr. Soto's most sensitive moments, in After the Rain, so a propos.

West Side Story Suite (excerpt, "Dance at the Gym", 1995): (See February 2, 2005 Review). Music by Leonard Bernstein, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Irene Sharaff, Original Book by Arthur Laurents, Co-Choreographer: Peter Gennaro, Guest Conductor: Paul Gemignani, Performed by Benjamin Millepied as Tony, Nikolaj Hübbe as Riff, Jock Soto as Bernardo, Jenifer Ringer as Anita, Faye Arthurs as Maria, and the Company as The Jets, Their Girls, and The Sharks, Their Girls. Mr. Sondheim began his career as a lyricist with West Side Story in 1957 and then with Gypsy in 1959. His theatrical mentor was Oscar Hammerstein. (NYCB Notes).

With more than a hint of Jock Soto's Latin dance skills, his Bernardo was steamy, sexy, and sensational. The "Dance at the Gym" episode includes fragments of most of Bernstein's memorable music, and Jenifer Ringer, in her frequent role as Anita, Bernardo's girlfriend, played up to the day's festivities in a frolicking frenzy. Nikolaj Hubbe as Riff and Benjamin Millepied as Tony kept the edge off the usual gang tension, as this dance showcased Mr. Soto in Jerome Robbins' robust and rare Mambo motif. Mr. Soto glowed with joy.

Barber Violin Concerto (1988): (See May 26, 2004 Review). Music by Samuel Barber (Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 14), Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by William Ivey Long, Lighting by Jennifer Tipton, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Solo Violinist: Arturo Delmoni, Performed by Darci Kistler, Charles Askegard, Ashley Bouder, and Jock Soto. Barber, usually considered a classicist, moved into a contemporary motif with his "Violin Concerto", with its dissonance and starkness. This work includes melodic movements as well as a rapid scherzo. (NYCB Notes).

Peter Martins' choreography was designed for Jock Soto in modern dance motif, white tights, bare chest, barefoot, partnered here by Ashley Bouder, also barefoot in a slip of white, and joined onstage by Charles Askegard and Darci Kistler in white silky ballet costumes. Shifting patterns of stark angularity and frenetic camp showcase Mr. Soto's partnering of Ms. Bouder in carefully created slow, sharp imagery, as well as his partnering of Ms. Kistler in contrasting modern ballet genre. So, too, does Mr. Askegard partner Ms. Kistler in traditional ballet figures and patterns, as well as Ms. Bouder in some racing and racy passages. It is an incredible loss to the ballet community not to see Mr. Soto again in such a performance. I do hope he will return, from time to time, for participation in such a ballet as this.

Chiaroscuro (1994): (See February 19, 2003 Review). Music by Francesco Geminiani, Edited by Walter Kolneder, after Arcangelo Corelli's Op. 5, No. 12 (Concerto Grosso, La Follia), Choreography by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Artwork by Michael Zansky, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Performed by Jock Soto, Miranda Weese, Jennie Somogyi, Pascale van Kipnis, James Fayette, and Tom Gold. Ms. Taylor-Corbett calls this highly charged work a tribute to Mr. Soto. The ballet is a play on light and shadow, due to the fast/slow movements between Mr. Soto, three women, and two men. Geminiani was known for his contrapuntal technique and harmony. He is known for virtuosic compositions. (NYCB Notes).

Lynne-Taylor-Corbett originally choreographed this work for Jock Soto, as he exhibits his attentive partnering and athleticism in characteristically charismatic fashion. Tom Gold literally leaps into Mr. Soto's arms, between male-to-male partnered dance and the cross-stage transporting of Mr. Soto's female partners in effortless lifts. Jennie Somogyi danced with dizzying spins in a refreshing re-appearance, as she has been on medical leave for some time. Miranda Weese and Pascale van Kipnis crystallized the light/dark imagery with angularity and aplomb. James Fayette was, as always, a powerful and possessed presence. But, it was Mr. Soto today, who seemed more and more explosive with magnetism and emotion, as time flew by.

After the Rain (excerpt, 2005): (See January 30, 2005 Review). Music by Arvo Pärt, Spiegel im Spiegel (1978), for violin and piano), Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Violin: Arturo Delmoni, Piano: Richard Moredock, Performed by Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. Christopher Wheeldon is a former NYC Ballet soloist and is NYC Ballet's first Resident Choreographer. "After the Rain" is Mr. Wheeldon's eleventh ballet created for NYC Ballet. (Program Notes).

The audience barely breathed during today's final performance of this sensual, surreal second half of Christopher Wheeldon's recent work, dedicated to this very duo. Jock Soto and Wendy Whelan, in scant, pale costumes, took extra time for the embraces and backward lunges, intertwining bodies in horizontal and vertical figures, and languorous, liquid movement. Both dancers and audience wanted this moment to last beyond possibilities. It was a truly public view of a truly private goodbye. When Mr. Soto's hands twisted down, like falling rain, my handkerchief was ever present.

Union Jack (excerpt, 1976): (See May 1, 2005 Review). Music by Hershy Kay (Adapted from Traditional British Music), Music commissioned by New York City Ballet, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Performed by Jared Angle, Wendy Whelan, Jason Fowler, Damian Woetzel, Alexandra Ansanelli, Albert Evans, Yvonne Borree, Jock Soto, and the Company as Royal Navy, and by Maria Kowroski and female Company as Wrens. "Union Jack" was designed by Balanchine as a tribute to the British heritage of America in the Bicentennial year of 1976. With Scottish military marches, British Music Hall entertainment, British Navy jigs, and Royal Navy drills and hand flags, Union Jack is Balanchine's ballet gift to a national historical moment. (Program Notes).

With no more than a pause, both Jock Soto and Wendy Whelan, along with Maria Kowroski, Jared Angle, Damian Woetzel, Jason Fowler, Albert Evans, Yvonne Borree, Alexandra Ansanelli, and the Company suddenly shifted mood and motif to British marching music and royal flags, painted sailing vessels, short navy skirts, long navy pants, collars, ties, and hats. Mr. Woetzel caught the energy of the event with soaring leaps and lightning spins and kicks, while Mr. Evans utilized his theatrical skills with a decidedly devilish humor. In the final hand flag signaling, dancers purposely misplaced some of the flag angles to lighten the festivities. With Mr. Soto front and center, Ms. Whelan's face could be seen slightly to his rear. Perhaps this persuasive partnership will be seen onstage again, given a bit of luck.

Andrea Quinn, Maurice Kaplow, and Paul Gemignani kept the orchestra finely tuned and timed for these five ballets, all so different, and all featuring the departing and dynamic Jock Soto. Kudos to Jock Soto and NYC Ballet for such a well-organized and enchanting, farewell event.

NYCB's Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto in After the Rain
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Jock Soto's farewell performance of Union Jack
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Jock Soto's farewell bow
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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