NEW YORK CITY BALLET OPENS THEIR WINTER SEASON WITH MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM & GERSHWIN

New York City Ballet opened their Winter 2010 season last week with rotating performances of Balanchine’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a two-ballet program of his Who Cares?, set to Gershwin music, and Peter Martins’ Naive and Sentimental Music.

I LOVED Who Cares?! (photos above — of Robert Fairchild and Sterling Hyltin, and of the whole cast — by Paul Kolnik.) I’d only ever seen the pas de deux before and didn’t even realize the whole was comprised of a whole slew of Gershwin songs, some danced by the ensemble, some by only the women, others by only the men, with solos and pas de deux mixed in. I particularly loved Tiler Peck’s duet with Robbie Fairchild in The Man I Love. She has such a clean, beautiful line and she’s so expressive and so engaging. She can make a story out of anything. And of course Fairchild is always the perfect romantic male lead :) Crowd went wild over his and Ana Sophia Scheller’s duet to Embraceable You as well as Scheller’s My One and Only solo. Such a fun ballet — I’m going back for more this week.

Also shown in that program was Martins’s new Naive and Sentimental Music, set to John Adams’ score of the same name. I wrote about that ballet when it premiered here and posted pics of it here. Seeing it again evoked a bit of Balanchine’s Jewels, particularly the lovely lyrical white section (my favorite) and the sexy red.

One little thing I have to say: this ballet was created on and is danced only by principals but Adrian Danchig-Waring danced in last week’s production as well, and he is still a soloist (I think he may have been replacing Amar Ramasar, who must be injured because he was replaced a few times over the week…) Anyway, I realize NYCB is top heavy at the moment, but I think Danchig-Waring definitely needs to be next in line for a promotion!

And earlier in the week I saw the best EVER cast of  Midsummer Night’s Dream. I finally got to see my Gonzalo Garcia as Oberon 😀 (photo above by Paul Kolnik, of Garcia as Oberon and Darci Kistler as Titania). I’d missed him in this role at the end of last season. He did very well – -not only with the dancing — particularly that crazy fast scherzo — but also, and less expected for me, with the acting. I thought he’d be a sweet, glowingly endearing Oberon, but, no, he was a pissy, demanding fairy king — just as much as Andrew Veyette last season (cutely pissy and demanding though!) He wanted Titania’s servant boy and he wasn’t letting her say no to him. Only thing regarding the dancing — his legs don’t seem to be as flexible as they once were. It seems like he may have injured an adductor muscle, or else he’s built up so much thigh muscle or something — but his legs when he jumps are not making perfect splits. But his upper body is so fluid and graceful and he exudes such charm that he’s still the perfect lyrical male dancer nonetheless.

Titania was the beautiful Sara Mearns (headshot by Paul Kolnik — a new headshot for her, right?)– and she was the best Titania I’ve personally seen. Oh she’s such a beautiful dancer! She throws herself so fully into every move she makes. If Garcia is the ideal male lyrical dancer she is the ideal female – they were so perfect together.

And I’m so glad Stephen Hanna is back at NYCB (still annoyed with the Billy Elliot directors for not making good enough use of him on Broadway). He was Titania’s cavalier and his pas de deux with Mearns was the best Titania / Cavalier pdd I’ve ever seen. He’s so big and strong — which certainly amps up the romance factor — and his numerous tour jetes just have so much power. Honestly I often get bored during that pdd and just want Oberon to return, but not with Hanna’s cavalier!

And new to the cast of human characters who get their hearts messed with by a mischievous Puck (Troy Schumacher) was Janie Taylor, as Helena. She is another one who excels at story dances, always delving into a character and making clear to the audience what’s going on in her mind. She’s pathetically, endearingly funny from the time she enters the stage all forlorn over Demetrius, to her being completely bewildered by Lysander’s sudden attraction to her, to her searching the forest madly for Demetrius, to her cat-fights with Hermia, etc. She really brought out the humor.

In the section where I was sitting, there were at least three large groups of people you could tell had never seen the ballet before — nor likely the play; they didn’t seem familiar with the story. But they were laughing hysterically throughout the whole thing and were really awed by the dancing, and by some of the tricks (like Puck’s being pulled up to the ceiling via harness at the end). That’s when you can tell with a story ballet that the cast really brought it to life, when the newcomers are enthralled.

5 Comments

  1. Tonya.. thank you so much for all your posts! I love to read and keep up with the dance world! I look forward to reading more! :) p.s. I really want to see NYCB this winter season!

  2. Geez, I wished I could have seen “Who Cares” starring Robert Fairchild, Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck and Ana Sophia Scheller. I've never seen “Who Cares” but I can imagine it is a fun dance to perform. Gershwin's music calls for fast-paced, jazzy movements and it made perfect sense for Balanchine (?) to choreograph such a piece. Robbie and Tiler, with their jazz dance background, probably felt they were in their element. Kathryn Morgan was originally scheduled to perform the pink girl part, but needed more time for her foot to heal. Can't wait to see her back! BTW: LOVE the Paul Kolnik photos!

    Though I'm not as interested in plot ballets, Midsummer Night's Dream sounds enchanting. I saw Stephen Hanna in Billy Elliot and I agree with you, Tonya, that his part dumb down his ballet capabilities. If I was the choreographer, I would have had the Swan Lake section just the grown-up Billy.

    As far as the NYCB roster being top-heavy, four principals are slated for (very sad) farewells in June: Yvonne Borree, Philip Neal, Albert Evans, and Darci Kistler. Since five soloists were promoted in October, I don't think NYCB will be promoting any dancer soon (even though there are a couple of soloists who are most definitely worthy).

    Despite mixed reviews from critics, I do want to see “Naive and Sentimental Music” because of the last Martins/Adams collaboration, “Hallelujah Junction”. I noticed that Nilas Martins only performed it when it premiered in November and has been out of the cast since.

  3. Oh, yeah, I saw Who Cares? with the same cast… Amazing! There was a moment after Peck spun into the wings from a solo when the audience had to pause, just to process what we'd just seen and to pick our jaws up off the floor, before clapping enthusiastically. Fairchild seemed absolutely assured and at ease in the role, and it was by far my favorite performance by Scheller. More of that, please!

    I mostly like Naive and Sentimental Music, but I didn't think this was a flattering pairing for it. It is (IMHO) kind of long, both as a whole and in parts, and is extremely packed and busy. That stood out more in comparison to the elegant, focused pairings and clean ensemble work in Who Cares? I think Hallelujah Junction, which Lesley mentioned and I heart, would actually make a better match (esp. with Ulbricht as the Man in Black).

    Anyway, here's to a strong start to the winter season!

  4. I want to see “Who Cares”! UG sometimes I don't like living in the middle of nowhere..

    By the Way is Robert Fairchild related to Morgan Fairchild

  5. SwanLakeSambaGirl

    I don't think he is, but I'm actually not sure. There's another dancer in NYCB named Kathryn Morgan (and Robert has a sister named Megan Fairchild) and sometimes I accidentally merge them and create a dancer named Morgan Fairchild!

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