New York City Ballet: Robbins, Chiaroscuro, and Sebastien Marcovici

(photo of Jock Soto in Chiaroscuro by Paul Kolnik, borrowed from Ballet Co.)

Methinks with Seth and Nikolaj now gone, Sebastien Marcovici has kind of taken over as NYCB’s hunky male dancer. He shone in two of my favorite ballets from the past week anyway.

(photo by Paul Kolnik, from NYCB site)

I went to City Ballet’s all Jerome Robbins program mid-week and today’s “Four Voices” — featuring ballets by four different choreographers (Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Peter Martins, Alexei Ratmansky, and Balanchine).

Both programs were excellent. My favorite ballet from today was Chiaroscuro by Taylor-Corbett, whom I’d never heard of before but whom I now won’t be forgetting.

It was a beautiful abstract piece in which three male, three female dancers kind of brought to life some lovely violin music. The movement was so musical, so in sync with the instruments, the bodies almost became the violins. And at times the way Sebastien would lift Janie Taylor and raise her legs into the air, one by one, it was like he was plucking violin strings. But it was really sweetly romantic in places as well. At the end, Sebastien fell to the ground and lifted his arms up, like a fallen hero praying for salvation. Philip told me the ballet was made for Jock Soto, for his farewell performance, and I can really see him dancing that role.

Also on today’s program was Martins’s Papillons, set to lively piano music by Robert Schumann and danced spectacularly by Darci Kistler (who did a killer series of chaine turns, first whizzing offstage into the wings, then right back out again moments later, seemingly without missing a beat); Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH (which I wrote about here, and which grows on me every time I see it); and Balanchine’s Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, a lengthy ballet set in the 18th Century at Vienna’s Schonbrunn Palace that’s by turns regal, lyrical and comical, with courtly ballerinas in long cotton candy pink tutus, a princely, high-jumping Andrew Veyette, and a wild feverishly-dancing Hungarian gypsy couple.

My favorites from the all-Robbins program were The Cage (my first time seeing it!) and I’m Old Fashioned, a lovely balletic tribute to Fred Astaire.

(photo of The Cage by Paul Kolnik from NYCB site)

(photo of I’m Old Fashioned by Paul Kolnik, from Ballet Co.)

A large screen is hung above the stage during I’m Old Fashioned, and on it is shown a dance segment from a movie starring Astaire and Rita Hayworth (who I personally like better than Ginger Rogers). Then, dancers then take over the stage, doing a kind of balletic version of Astaire and Hayworth’s steps. Of course ballet is different from Astaire’s ballroom / tap dance combination, so you wouldn’t expect the onstage dancing to be the same as that on screen. But interestingly, Maria Kowroski, who I’m liking more and more, was the only dancer who really came close to bringing Hayworth’s screen charisma to the stage, who was able to take Robbins’s balletic movement and make it classy and charming and showy, Hayworth-caliber. Of course it’s hard for those poor onstage dancers to compete with the, literally, larger-than-life Astaire and Hayworth, and last time I saw this piece, I didn’t want to take my eyes off that screen. But this time Maria made me.

The Cage is Robbins’s version of Rite of Spring; it tells the creepy story of a group of female spiders who kill and eat their male prey. Sebastien danced the prey, and the legendary Wendy Whelan, donning a Liza Minelli-esque wig, the young spider-colony-inductee. Wendy was I think the best I’ve ever seen her. This role was made for her, as she contorts her wiry, seemingly vertebrae-less body into a series of sinuous shapes that are by turns awkward and foreboding, beautiful and loving, and fascinatingly weird. Of course she ends up falling for Sebastien and wanting to save him from her fellow spider women. I saw this program with Ariel, and funny (for me) but I was so focused on the women — Wendy and her combative comrades — that suddenly Sebastien was no longer onstage. I had no idea where he went.

“What happened to Sebastien?” I said to Ariel.

“Oh he died,” she said. “They killed him, and ate him.”

“Oh no!”

“Oh I’m sorry; I know how you feel about him!” she said.


  1. HI! Philip is wrong. Chiaroscuro was created for the Diamond Project in 1994. It is a tribute to Jock. and he did dance it in his farewell performances. Sebastien, while good, was nothing compared to Jock.

  2. Hi Nicole – thanks for commenting. Now that I'm thinking of it, I'm not sure exactly what Philip said — maybe he just said it was created specifically for Jock and then Jock danced it for his final performance. I just don't want to misrepresent Philip 🙂 I wish I would have seen Jock dance this — I'm so sorry I missed it!

  3. SwanLakeSambaGirl

    Thank you so much! Those were some of my favorite parts of the choreography — the “log-rolling” with the legs kind of windmilling out and propelling him over, and that amazing lift at the end! And fun to see the choreographer too working with him as well. Thanks for finding it!

  4. Yesm created for Jock in 1994 (Diamond Project) and included in his farewell programme…

  5. Yesm created for Jock in 1994 (Diamond Project) and included in his farewell programme…

Comments are closed