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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
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New York City Ballet - Valse-Fantasie, Zakouski, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, MusagÃ(r)te

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 24, 2004
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 - Valse-Fantasie, Zakouski, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Musagète


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
Manager, Press Relations, Siobhan Burns

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center

Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 24, 2004

Valse-Fantasie (1967): Music by Mikhail Glinka, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Richard Moredock, Performed by Ashley Bouder and Tom Gold. Glinka is best known for his operas, "A Life for the Tsar" and "Ruslan and Ludmila". Balanchine danced as a student in the latter opera and directed and choreographed it in 1969. (NYCB Notes).

This brief piece, with the energetic and exciting Ms. Bouder in pink tutu and the usually virtuosic Mr. Gold in gray and white leotards (who, although somewhat restrained, still achieved height and elegant form in his leaps and extensions), was uncomplicated and refreshing. Glinka's music is rapturous, and this partnership would have gone the extra step with some chemistry between the two. A pas de deux with no connection is parallel dance. Richard Moredock brought out the finest of this lovely score.

Zakouski (1992): Music by Sergei Rachmaninoff (Vocalise), Igor Stravinsky (from opera Mavra), Sergei Prokofiev (Cinq Melodies, No. 4), and Peter I. Tschaikovsky (Valse-Scherzo), Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes b y Barbara Matera, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Violin: Kurt Nikkanen, Piano: Cameron Grant, Performed by Yvonne Borree and Nikolaj Hübbe. "Zakouski" is the word for hors d'oeuvres in Russian. This work covers the emotionality of the four short works by four Russian Composers. Rachmaninoff eventually made his home in the US and performed in concerts and recitals and recordings in this country. (NYCB Notes).

The minute the curtain rose, with Mr. Nikkanen and Mr. Grant at the left stage with violin and piano, with brilliant mauve colorings in the costumes of the perfectly paired duet of Ms. Borree and Mr. Hübbe, and with the exotic music of Vocalise, one of my favorite Rachmaninoff works, I was mesmerized and could not write or turn my eyes from the stage. Mr. Martins has created a brilliant work here. Ms. Matera's costumes in pinks, blues, grays, and lavenders, with Mr. Stanley's evocative lighting, delivered a visual invitation to romance and reverie.

Mr. Hübbe and Ms. Borree performed solos and duets to the four Russian works, with some signature Russian leg slapping and humorous motifs. Ms. Borree has grown this season into a serious and magnetic Principal, with theatricality and sensual style. She engages the audience, looking straight forward, seeming to wink and play, thoroughly enjoying her performance. Mr. Hübbe is a treasure, with charisma, bravura technique, and attentive, masculine partnering that entertain and entrance both audience and ballerina. Zakouski is one work that must be revisited for its texture and rhapsodies.

Kudos to Mr. Nikkanen and Mr. Grant for extraordinary musical interpretations.

Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972): Music by Igor Stravinsky (Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major), Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor: Paul Mann, Solo Violinist: Kurt Nikkanen, Performed by Yvonne Borree, Nilas Martins, Wendy Whelan, Jock Soto, and the Company, including Saskia Beskow (Danskin Spokesperson). This was an ensemble of four of the most talented and charismatic Principals in the Company, and they performed in stark effect, with black/white leotards for the men and black for the women in a variety of choreographed groupings. Mr. Nikkanen re-appeared in featured violin accompaniment, and his mastery of the score enhanced its intensity and edginess. Mr. Mann is dynamic.

Mr. Soto mesmerizes his audience with his consistent charisma and animal presence. He is sometimes like a prowling panther, at once in focused muscularity and motion. He was well partnered with Ms. Whelan, whose body is almost superhuman in flexibility and strength. There were upside down figures and lifts with daring timing and trust. At one point, Mr. Soto and Ms. Whelan hovered like two herons, with outstretched wing-like arms, bent over the stage, figures in prey. Ms. Borree, fresh from the previous pas de deux, had switched from rapturous to riveted choreography and became a new performer with a new partner, the ever-attentive and sensual Mr. Martins.

The final Capriccio showed off the stunning capacity of these soloists, as well as that of the Company in chiaroscuro imagery. Kudos once again to Mr. Mann and Mr. Nikkanen.

Musagète (Premiere): (See June 19, 2004 Review). Music by Johann Sebastian Bach and Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Choreography by Boris Eifman, Scenery and Costumes by Slava Okunev, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Piano: Elaine Chelton, Violin: Arturo Delmoni, Oboe: Randall Wolfgang, Performed by Robert Tewsley, Alexandra Ansanelli, Maria Kowroski, Wendy Whelan, Stephen Hanna, Nilas Martins, Benjamin Millepied, and the Company.

This ballet, dedicated to George Balanchine, as part of the 2004 Balanchine Centennial, is homage to the Maestro's transformations of Russian ballet from the 19th to the 21st centuries. This is a ballet about Balanchine's world, his personality and achievements, not a dance biography. Mr. Eifman has won numerous international awards, such as The People's Artist of Russia. (NYCB Notes).

Tonight I was magnetized to the stage, with a new perspective on this newly commissioned work by Boris Eifman. The soloists were flawless, the music was potent, and the sets were surreal, characteristic of simplicity, yet elegance. Mr. Tewsley had completely immersed himself into Balanchine's persona, and Mr. Eifman's visual imagery of angst and longing was illustrative of the artistic process. To have amassed the expansive repertoire that is now signature Balanchine, the choreographer/dancer/teacher/leader had to have obsessed in his creative process, sometimes on music and dance and sometimes on love and loss. Mr. Eifman says, "…I became…fascinated by the personality of the choreographer, was unable to free myself from this spell." (Program Notes).

The one confusing moment seemed to be the introduction of Mr. Martins and Mr. Millepied so late in the work, as part of the ballet quotation of Balanchine's classic Theme and Variations. It was, however, a nice surprise, once more, like an added flame on a rare dessert. Ms. Ansanelli, Ms. Whelan (fresh from the very demanding, earlier work), and Ms. Kowroski were especially effective in their re-creations of Balanchine's lovers. I had a flashback to an art exhibit some time ago that juxtaposed Picasso's work, as it grew through relationships with nine women in his life. Here Balanchine related to his muses and met his potential for powerful ballets and endless accolades.

Kudos to Boris Eifman. Kudos to George Balanchine on this final week of his Centennial Birthday.

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