Janie Taylor Debuts in Millepied’s “Why Am I Not Where You Are” Etc.

I’ve been remiss in my New York City Ballet posts! Last week I saw two programs: one featuring three dances to three different violin concertos – Peter Martins’s Barber Violin Concerto, Robbins’ Opus 19 / The Dreamer, and Balanchine’s Stravinsky Violin Concerto. And the other program was another in the “See the Music” series but was also dedicated to Santiago Calatrava, who designed sets for all three of the ballets performed – Benjamin Millepied’s Why Am I Not Where You Are (pictured above, photo by Paul Kolnik), Christopher Wheeldon’s Estancia (pictured below, photo also by Kolnik), and Mauro Bigonzetti’s Luce Nascosta, all of which premiered last season and which I wrote about here, here, and here.

Calatrava was in the theater, and after encouragement by Peter Martins, he rose and took a bow.

Then, as with the first “See the Music” program, before the performance began, the orchestra pit rose and conductor Faycal Karoui gave a humorous little explanation of various parts of the Thierry Escaich score from Millepied’s Why, the first ballet performed.

These explanations are really interesting to me, I have to say. I only took one classical music class in college and now wish I’d taken more. Karoui talked about how there were four main parts to the score: a waltz, a tango, a disco, and a final climactic part, and he talked about the differences in tempo between them, and between them and a typical waltz, tango, etc.. He also talked about how the ballet has a central male character (danced very well by Sean Suozzi – in top picture, being carried by the group of men), and how you can hear that central character’s theme – or voice – throughout each section of the music. But the voice changes with each section: at first, he’s shy and mysterious (and his voice in the first section is portrayed by a violin solo), then as the orchestra grows sharper and stronger in the second, tango, section, so did the character, etc.

When we got to the “disco” section (it sounded nothing like disco to me but just slightly more mechanical and percussive than the preceding sections), Karoui really began rocking out as he led the orchestra. It was like he was actually dancing in a disco, and I nearly cracked up. I’m not sure if that’s what he normally does down in that pit – if he regularly starts to embody the music literally like that, or if he was just being a goof for the audience. He didn’t seem to be hamming it up at that point, though – oddly – so who knows. Anyway, he is very entertaining and I find his musical explanations very educational as well. What more can you ask than to be both entertained and educated, right?

Anyway, Janie Taylor debuted in the Millepied. She was supposed to have debuted when the ballet did last season but she was out with injury and so Kathryn Morgan had filled in. Character-wise I thought she played it the same as Morgan. Except with Morgan it seemed to have a West Side Story feel to it; with Janie it was darker and more La Valse-like. Both were tragic, but in a different way; Kathryn’s character seemed more innocent. Anyway, this was my second time seeing the ballet and it grew on me. It’s very dramatic, not a dull moment in the whole thing, and you’re really on the edge of your seat, both because of the intensity of the music – maintained throughout each section – and the dramatic story of the poor innocent guy who’s drawn into another world by his enchantment by this ethereal creature, only to get trapped and ultimately destroyed, along with her.

To me, Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar, with their bravura roles, largely stole the show – I think I remember thinking the same last time. She with those crazy fast chaine turns all around stage that almost make you sickly dizzy, and he with his virtuosic leap sequence – they are kind of the sinister characters, seducing Suozzi but also the audience.

Then came Estancia, and it was my first time seeing Ana Sophia Scheller and Adrian Danchig-Waring (pictured above) in the leads. I’m not a huge fan of this ballet – well, I like the ensemble sections, particularly the dancing and taming of the “horses” – but I nearly fall asleep during the middle, romance part, where city boy wins country girl over. I think it’s just the choreography in that middle section (that I found relatively bland) that slows it down – along with the music – but I liked Scheller and Danchig-Waring just as much as the first pair of leads – Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle. In fact, they seemed to fit the roles a bit more. Scheller reminded me of the main character of Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo and there was something more sweetly, playfully tomboyish about her look than Peck’s. And Danchig-Waring perfectly suited the city boy trying to woo her. He acted his part very well. And his movement is always very sharp. Andrew Veyette and Georgina Pazcoquin as the horses who are eventually tamed, were fabulously entertaining.

And lastly was Bigonzetti’s Luce Nascosta (picture at left by Kolnik), which I’ve seen now three times and which I like but think is too long. I missed seeing Craig Hall in the middle section that seems to be softer and looser than the other sections, where the movement is more marked by those extreme shapes with the flexed hands, splayed fingers, and angular balances and slides on pointe. Hall seems to have the ability to move in a more undulating, kind of serpentine way than most of the others and it seems to me to suit that middle section well.

In the previous program, I loved Megan Fairchild again as the “modern” dancer in Barber Violin Concerto, and, as always, Gonzalo Garcia as “the dreamer” in Robbins’ Opus 19!

3 Comments

  1. So glad you posted! I go to see NYCB tomorrow and am looking forward to “Why Am I blah blah blah.” I saw Estancia last week and it left me cold after Namouna. Tomorrow includes Chaconne (sp?) and Concerto Barocco. I’ll be so curious to see Janie Taylor dance.

    I do love when you post about ballet and, as you know, you have certainly helped encourage me to check out NYCB, which I am really enjoying (so much so, that Mr. Mockett is going with me tomorrow at the last minute and will therefore be seated two rows back).

    Alastair Maccauley (again, sp?) seems to think that NYCB is re-embracing its repertoire. No clue if this is true. I don’t like this move toward not announcing casting, but I do like the many things offered this season and the attempt to educate the audience.

    Finally, I saw your favorite dancer in the studio yesterday. She is not a tiny girl. I love that City Ballet can showcase so many different kinds of talent. So interesting to watch Tiler Peck and Ashely Bouder at work. Very different dancers. Can’t wait to see them on stage.

    • Thank you so much for your reply, Marie. I’m so glad you like my ballet posts and that you were influenced by my blog to start going to NYCB :) I’ll try to post as often as I can. I hope you and your husband enjoyed the program you saw – I’ll be interested to hear what he thought! Chaconne and Concerto Barocco are two of my favorites!

      Ha, you see everyone at Steps!

      I didn’t realize they weren’t announcing casting on the website? They usually put it up about a couple of weeks ahead, are they not doing that anymore? I’ll have to check. I never thought of it, but for someone who needs to set up childcare, etc., it could be a hassle if they wait too late to announce…

      • I just meant that they weren’t announcing casts for people buying a subscription (sorry–wasn’t clear).

        CB–I need to see it again with different dancers. Hate to be harsh, but this version was posey and unconfident. I was sad.

        Chaconne–had its moments for sure. But the dancers were uneven. Wendy Whelan–no matter what–is a pro and delivered. But the middle section with the “other” pas de deux was so much weaker. I was surprised that the dancer was a soloist. She looked like a student.

        I loved the Millepied. Loved the music, the set and the energy. I didn’t care if the plot was reminiscent of “other” ballets. I thought it worked as a complete piece of theater and dance, though I felt that Janie Taylor needed more direction/character fleshing out to compete with Sara Mearns’ delivery.

        TchPDD with Megan was wonderful!

        I loved going. I wish I could have seen more this fall.

        And, yes, Ashley Bouder is superb. She’s–I think–a very complex personality and you see this in her dance. I mean this as a compliment. She’s capable of finding facets to her “characters” and her dancing. I mean, she’s also great technically, but it always takes more than sheer dance ability to deliver something special to the audience. So interesting to watch her work in class, to attack and reattack something in different ways until it feels “right” and then it always is spellbinding.

        As for my Steps encounters–is it at all helpful if I say that it’s research for the next novel? You know, writing about dance is so hard. Writing about music is hard enough (this passage makes me feel x, that passage feels like y). Dance I think might be even harder because there is a kinetic and visual element. And words, well . . . they can make a girl lumber.

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