Partners and Shadows:
New dancers in the Stravinsky ballets

"Agon," "Monumentum Pro Gesualdo," "Movements for Piano and Orchestra," "Duo Concertant," "Symphony in Three Movements"
New York City Ballet
New York State Theater
New York, NY
January 19, 2007

by Leigh Witchel
copyright 2007, Leigh Witchel

Balanchine and Stravinsky, names that go very well together. Balanchine made masterpieces to the music of several composers, but give him Stravinsky’s to work with and it raised the odds. NYCB’s current repertory program celebrating the two artists’ “eternal partnership” contained five ballets in a range of moods and styles, but not quality. And one Balanchine/Stravinsky evening barely scratches the surface. For added variety, NYCB introduced some dancers new to roles this week.

The company led off with the crown jewel of the partnership, “Agon”. As accomplished and familiar as Wendy Whelan and Albert Evans are in the main pas de deux, they weren’t the main source of excitement. Even in Balanchine’s day, cast changes in “Agon” were infrequent because of the rehearsal time needed. Three new men went into solo parts. 

If we’ve lost Peter Boal to Seattle, we haven’t lost his shadows. Sean Suozzi, Tyler Angle and Adrian Danchig-Waring were all taught by Boal at SAB. Suozzi, who has also worked with Boal in Boal’s own chamber ensemble, went into his teacher’s role in the first pas de trois. Suozzi’s attack is more violent than Boal’s; it brought to mind Edward Villella, an earlier proponent of role. Suozzi’s performance was syncopated and forceful but with depth and intelligence, relishing the soft-shoe flavor of the combinations. He still pushes too hard, but maybe in a few performances he’ll stop trying to show us that he gets it. Angle looked well-paired with Danchig-Waring, two finely-bred young attendants in the second pas de trois with Teresa Reichlen. Reichlin was daring and aerial: long and sharp, but flickering as a flame. Angle is the one who looks as if he may be the replacement for Peter Boal in five years. He has the talent, presence and elegance; the main difference is that Angle is less reticent, and — here lies the danger — less modest.

Supporting Suozzi in the first pas de trois, Ellen Bar and Rebecca Krohn look good together visually but dance quite differently. Krohn is angular, bracing and astringent, where Bar is lush and soft. Both were also in major roles in other ballets; Krohn making her debut this week in “Monumentum pro Gesualdo.”  She’s already done “Movements for Piano and Orchestra” and performed both for the first time on Tuesday. Krohn is a “Movements” dancer rather than a “Monumentum” dancer. She gets “Movements” and showed us its pretzel logic, but her performance in “Monumentum” didn’t have the angelic quality needed to convey the ballet’s atmosphere of paradise at twilight. The two works, when paired and danced by one dancer as Farrell did, require a ballerina who can span both worlds. Perhaps Krohn can learn; it’s less in the body than in the soul.

In “Duo Concertant,” both Nikolaj Hübbe and Yvonne Borree gave their best in a vivid, exceptional performance. It must have been carefully gauged yet seemed utterly uncontrived in this most touchingly contrived of pas de deux. Even the conceit of listening while standing behind at the piano, something that stymies many a dancer, seemed to be done with complete ease and comfort and transitioned from listening to dancing as naturally as breathing. Hübbe’s performance was almost macho in its authority, and it made Borree even more playfully feminine. When he offered his hand to her in the Gigue and she refused, he showed a flash of anger — a reaction I haven’t seen from anyone else. She actually enjoyed it, and then relented victoriously. 

Jared Angle made his debut this week as well in “Symphony in Three Movements”, a massive ballet that combines modernism with Busby Berkeley-like production numbers. The older of the Angle brothers squired Jennie Somogyi in the central pas de deux; elegance seems to be a family trait.  He’s a clean, unaffected dancer and a strong partner who makes ballerinas look good.  His ascent to principal rank took longer than it should have because of injuries; one hopes that the company will handle both brothers with care.  As the first soloist couple onstage, Ashley Bouder and Tom Gold had an “Anything You Can Jump, I Can Jump Higher” contest. She won. Arch Higgins and Ellen Bar were the last couple. Like Krohn, Bar is in the crop of new soloists needing to find an expanded repertory to suit their rank.  Bar is the more versatile of the two, probably because of her glamorous air; Krohn is more specific. There’s plenty for her to do as well, it just lies in a narrower segment of the repertory. Under the baton of new music director Fayçal Karoui, the orchestra, particularly the horns, was up to its old tricks.

Volume 5, No. 4
January 22, 2007

copyright ©2007 Leigh Witchel

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