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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
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New York City Ballet - Chopiniana, Prodigal Son, Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 27, 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 - Chopiniana, Prodigal Son, Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2


Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Asst. to the Ballet Master in Chief, Sean Lavery
Orchestra, Music Director, Andrea Quinn
Managing Director, Marketing, Robert Daniels
Manager, Press Relations, Siobhan Burns

New York State Theater, Lincoln Center
Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
(See Other NYC Ballet Reviews)

Roberta Zlokower
January 27, 2004

Chopiniana (1972): Music (Nocturne, 2 Valses, 2 Mazurkas, Prelude, Grande Valse Brillante) by Frédéric Chopin, Choreography by Michel Fokine, Staged by Cynthia Gregory, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano: Nancy McDill, Performed by Students of the School of American Ballet (See SAB Workshop Performance) Likolani Brown, Lauren King, Sara Mearns, Tyler Angle, Maya Collins, and Olivia Lavery. The first Chopiniana was danced in 1908 and then re-staged by Diaghilev in 1909 in Paris under the title, Les Sylphides. Chopiniana was the first plotless ballet that George Balanchine experienced, and he re-introduced it in 1972 with practice clothes and a blue backdrop, instead of long, tulle dresses and a woodland backdrop. (NYCB Notes).

I have seen Chopiniana performed as Les Sylphides, with the original tulle dresses and woodland backdrop, some years ago, by other Companies, and it was an evocative and ethereal work. This version, with simplified backdrop and practice costumes, has a different feel, and the concentration is on the choreography, not the romantic and textural context. Nancy McDill performed these piano works with poise and passion, and the young School of American Ballet dancers followed her tempo and mood with uncompromising grace and gazelle-like leaps that equaled, if not surpassed, the choreographic expectations designed by Fokine, and later by Balanchine, for his plotless re-creation.

There was no dream-like ambiance here, but rather exciting and energetic elevation and elation. This work, originally staged by Alexandra Danilova, and later staged by Cynthia Gregory, a prima ballerina in her own right, has the satisfying fusion of a solo piano concert of Chopin's exquisite dances with the remarkable interpretation of Fokine, Balanchine, Danilova, and Gregory. Kudos to Nancy McDill for her flawless performance that matched the dancers' momentum.

Prodigal Son (1950): Ballet in Three Scenes: Libretto by Boris Kochno, Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Choreography be George Balanchine, Décor by Georges Rouault, original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrea Quinn, Performed by Peter Boal as The Prodigal Son, Darci Kistler as The Siren, James Fayette as Father, Adam Hendrickson and Sean Suozzi as Servants to The Prodigal Son, Dena Abergel and Pauline Golbin as The Sisters, and the Company as Drinking Companions. Balanchine, the 24 years old and Diaghilev's last Ballet Master, choreographed this work three months prior to Diaghilev's death. Rouault created the décor, and this ballet was premiered in 1950 for NYC Ballet. (NYCB Notes).

With the original scenery of Georges Rouault (See Bio) and Prokofiev's haunting score, at times reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, Peter Boal and Darci Kistler gave the NYC Ballet audience a performance to remember. The utterly amazing bravura partnering, with the slithering Siren gliding down, across, and through the limbs of The Prodigal Son, the charismatic passion between these two Principals, the stark and forgiving Father, performed by the very theatrical James Fayette, the athletic and engaging duo of Adam Hendrickson and Sean Suozzi, all combined to rivet the audience in silence, throughout this pulsating work.

The pure physicality and muscularity, effortlessly exhibited by Mr. Boal and Ms. Kistler, was worthy of accolades, and the dark dramatic effects of Prokofiev, Rouault, and Mark Stanley's low lighting added just the right melodramatic mood to this ballet in three scenes. The entire Company performed this modern, percussive piece with perfection.

Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 (1964): (See May 31, 2003 Review) Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky (Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Major), Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Gary Lisz, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Maurice Kaplow, Piano: Susan Walters, Performed by Jennie Somogyi, Charles Askegard, Teresa Reichlen, Amar Ramasar, Rachel Rutherford, Jonathan Stafford, Jennifer Tinsley, and the Company.

The NYC Ballet audience was treated tonight to two piano works, and Susan Walters performed this Concerto in the orchestra pit with Conductor, Maurice Kaplow, as her fingers danced with the dancers. This bright and airy work in tones of peach, white, and blue/green pastels, featured the effervescent Jennie Somogyi, who seemed to mysteriously disappear at the end of the final movement and did not appear for curtain call. Hopefully, she was not injured, and her virtuosity was vital throughout the entire Concerto, as she dynamically and daringly alternated with Teresa Reichlen to fly or fall into Mr. Askegard's arms.

Charles Askegard has brilliant technical skills, yet there seems to be a level of audience connection that is lacking in his recent performances. He relates with attentive theatricality to his partners, but does not seem connected to his ballet fans, as are some of the other male Principals and Soloists of the Company. A bit more charisma would help propel him to bravura ballet-speak. Kudos to Susan Walters and Jennie Somogyi for propelling this piece with sensational sensuality.

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