More Damian, Etc.

I’ve had another full weekend of dance and am quite exhausted. Saturday and Sunday days I went to New York City Ballet for, sadly, my last of their programs celebrating Jerome Robbins. Until this season I’d only seen the very major works by Robbins, so it’s been really educational to see the others, although this season made clear why some of his ballets survived better than others.

Yesterday’s program was all set to Chopin (much of it to piano music) and included the famous DANCES AT A GATHERING, which I thought too slow-moving and long (the man needed an editor, big time!) to sustain my attention and one of my favorites OTHER DANCES, similar to GATHERING but much shorter and to the point. Julie Kent from American Ballet Theater, a favorite of mine, guest-starred in this one, with the very handsome Gonzalo Garcia. They were lovely together, and you can see why Julie is the star she is with the little things she does like holding her hands to her heart while regarding the onstage pianist, indicating hearing a beloved tune she just MUST dance to. And third was the comical, slapsticky THE CONCERT in which Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette (fast becoming a favorite of mine) cracked me up so I nearly laughed out loud (naughty in such quiet atmosphere!!!)

Today’s matinee was the long, but far better (imo) THE GOLDBERG VARIATIONS set to Bach. It was long and similar to GATHERING in that it involved many couples, a combination of solos, duets and ensemble work in which the dancers interracted with each other, but there was so much more variation in the choreography, so many surprises — Andrew Veyette and Amar Ramasar doing handstands-cum-somersaults over each other, Andrew lying down and balancing Amar in the air only by his feet, Amar floating bird like above, boys exiting stage together disregarding girls, girls doing the same, playful wiggles of the behind for Andrew and Wendy Whelan, an astonishing series of turning leaps for Gonzalo and Jared Angle — a lot of great, fast, fun, original choreography during both allegro and slower adagio sections that made you keep your eyes peeled for what was coming next. Even costume changes from 18th Century to contemporary workout ballet garb helped keep your attention.

The second one on for today, entitled BRAHMS/HANDEL I didn’t like so much. It was co-choreographed with Twyla Tharp and it just didn’t seem to go anywhere. It made full use of the company and there was a lot of playfulness, mainly by, again, Andrew Veyette, who at times looked like a frog bouncing from one lillypad to another. He’s so cute. I really like him and I’m realizing it’s only partly because he’s such a great dancer who brings so much to the stage. I think it’s also that he reminds me of my cousin who died a couple of years ago. Just in his lightness of spirit, his ability to be funny, and his youthful enthusiasm and boundless energy, the way he throws himself so into everything he does.

Anyway, I have reviews of some of these programs upcoming, so won’t go on anymore here.

On Saturday night, I saw a small ballet company, Christopher Caines Dance Company, at the Rose Theater in the Jazz At Lincoln Center area of the Time Warner building. It was my first time both seeing this company and in that theater, and, man is that space small! It’s a tiny room, almost a studio, and they had little cocktail tables set up surrounded by chairs, for the audience to sit at. I’d sat in that kind of space for a Flamenco production at Baryshnikov’s Performing Arts Center, but never for a ballet performance. When they first began I thought, oh no, this is far too intimate for ballet, but then, when the program got underway, I began to forget my surroundings and became mesmerized by the dancing in a way I don’t think I’ve ever been before with ballet. It was really cool. Anyway, review coming up!

Michelle Vargo, my favorite dancer in the ballet, in a photo by Chris Woltmann, courtesy of Christopher Caines Dance Co.

Finally, I ‘ve managed to upload my pictures of Damian Woetzel’s farewell performance on Wednesday night. I liked best the picture I posted up top because it looks like he and Ethan Stiefel are about to have an intimate moment 🙂 Anyway, here’s the rest of the album. Click on thumbnails for captions. Ethan Stiefel, Paloma Herrera, Gillian Murphy, and Angel Corella were there from American Ballet Theater, and they all, along with all of NYCB went up onstage at the end to join in the confetti storm. Angel and pals sat in the row in front of us (I sat next to Philip and in front of Evan) and I of course I couldn’t stop fixating. I was really nervous and I think it’s because I had just turned in my Angel write-up to HuffPost and then there he was right in front of me. Of course I only said glowing things about him, but it still made me nervous being around him like that. The man is like a human-sized doll, I swear. His skin is like milk, not a single flaw, his hair was gelled up into this almost Elvis-esque do, not a single strand out of place, and his long-lashed eyes, the way they blink open and shut and open and shut … just like a walking baby doll.

Anyway, I feel like everyone’s already said everything about Damian’s farewell, but it was a wonderful show. First on was FANCY FREE, Robbins’s character-driven classic about three sailors on shore leave trying hilariously unsuccessfully to pick up some girls in a bar. Damian danced the cocky one (also known as the Latin, or Rhumba sailor, but I call him the cocky shithead); Tyler Angle was the romantic, and Joaquin De Luz the short, high-jumping guy who tried to impress with his bag of tricks.

Next on was the Rubies section from Balanchine’s JEWELS, the Russian choreographer’s tribute to American jazz and sass. This one was fun because in this ballet there’s a main couple with lots of virtuosic partnering and alternating solos and the program had listed Ashley Bouder and Joaquin De Luz as that couple. But it was actually danced by three different couples, including, in the middle, Damian, partnering sweet Yvonne Borree. It was a nice surprise, and man, did he give his section some real gusto. At one point he went spinning off into the wings, like, in Sir Alastair’s nice simile (in his wonderfully-descriptive and informative review), “an accelerating tornado.”

And third on, was PRODIGAL SON, based on the Biblical story of a boy who tries to go out into the world on his own, only to return to his loving father beaten and nearly destroyed. So much pathos for his very final performance! I think the whole audience was in tears.

Four dance-dazed and star-struck bloggers during intermission! Thanks to Sarah (second from right) for the photo. Also, there’s an event tomorrow night (Monday) at the Jewish Community Center about Robbins. Some NYCB dancers will be performing and there’s a lecture. I can’t go unfortunately, it sounds really interesting. See Sarah’s post for deets or go here.

One Comment

  1. Tonya, thanks for the pics of Damien’s farewell. Ethan and Angel look fantastic in their suits and ties, which I think shows a great deal of respect for the occasion. You know I’m partial to ABT but I’ve always loved Damien and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

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