NYCB Spring Gala with SEVEN DEADLY SINS Premiere

Here are some photos, all by Paul Kolnik, of Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s play-ballet, The Seven Deadly Sins, which premiered last night at New York City Ballet’s Spring gala performance. Above is Patti LuPone, who guest-starred with the company (performing the singing role of course!) and Wendy Whelan, who danced the lead. The top photo is from the “Prologue” of the play-ballet (or ballet chante as the program calls it).

This is from the second part: “Pride”: Patti LuPone and cabaret dancer ensemble.

Also from “Pride.” Wendy Whelan is in the middle.

And this is from sixth part, “Lust,” probably my favorite over all. Craig Hall and Wendy Whelan are the dancers in the photo. Craig Hall and Sara Mearns (who danced the role of “Latina Diva” in the “Anger” section, and who I don’t have a picture of unfortunately), most stood out to me, as well as Vincent Paradiso as the Count in the “Greed” section. I think those dancers most stood out – at least Mearns and Paradiso – because they seem to have some kind of acting training. Maybe they don’t, maybe they’re just natural actor-types, but the more actor-ly you are, I think the easier this kind of role would be. Wendy Whelan said in an interview with Roslyn Sulcas in the New York Times that she was used to expressing herself with her body and her lines, that she was used to Balanchine’s dictum “don’t act, don’t think, just dance,” and that she found this kind of role challenging. As much of a NYCB star as she is, and as stunning as she is in Wheeldon and Balanchine’s more modern, angular-lined ballets, I just wonder if she was mis-cast for something like this.

Which isn’t to say that she didn’t dance very well last night. She danced a really beautiful pas de deux with Craig Hall, which is what made “Lust” my favorite section. And LuPone sang in a gorgeously powerful voice. The dancing was all superb. But something just didn’t work to me.

Balanchine choreographed the original Seven Deadly Sins, set to libretto and score by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, in 1933. The Balanchine version was revived in 1958. According to the Times article linked to above, both the original version and revivals received very good reviews. Since the Balanchine version appears to be largely lost now, and Peter Martins wanted to revive the ballet, he commissioned new choreography from Taylor-Corbett.

Maybe it was that the new choreography didn’t really express the story, which follows Anna, a woman whose various life experiences each represent one of the sins. It wasn’t really a full story, but one composed of scenes, each of which dramatized a sin (and LuPone and Whelan portray different aspects of Anna). But, I didn’t feel the scenes always worked well at doing that. For example, in my favorite section, “Lust,” I thought the Hall/Whelan bedroom scene was really beautiful, very romantic, but nothing said lust, as in sinful lust, to me. I almost felt like Whelan’s Anna had a loveless relationship with her husband, danced by Allen Peiffer, and she was really in love with Hall, and her leaving her husband and running into Hall’s arms was an urgently needed escape.

In my other favorite section, “Anger,” Sara Mearns is a kind of sexy, but rather humorously so, Copacabana dancer. She gets angry at Whelan’s Anna for something – I’m not quite sure what – maybe Anna stole her lover or took over Mearns’ role as head diva, drawing too much attention to herself…  Anyway, Mearns twists her face into a look of utter anger, then points at Whelan, who runs off crying and is then stripped down to her underwear by a group of men. But I thought it was done rather cartoonishly. So it was more funny and cute to me than a dramatic representation of the tragic consequences of anger.

In the “Greed” section, a count and a senator vie for something and end up in a duel, both of them getting killed. But it didn’t have any tragedy or pathos to me. Instead, it felt a bit like Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth, which made me want to giggle – probably the fact that it was Paradiso playing the role of the Count.

I don’t know. I guess I was expecting something with more tragedy and pathos and weight, and I felt like I saw a version of Slaughter on Tenth but without a through story-line. Maybe that was the intent. I’m going to see it again over the weekend, and maybe my opinion will change.

Did anyone else see it yet? I’m interested to hear what others think. Has anyone seen the Balanchine version?

After intermission,

— here’s my photo of the promenade – Balanchine’s Vienna Waltzes was performed beautifully.

Photo by Paul Kolnik.

All of the dancers were very good, but I particularly liked Megan Fairchild and Joaquin DeLuz in the fast-footed, playful scene in the forest, “Fruhlingsstimmen,” and Maria Kowroski and Charles Askegard in the last, beautifully ballroom-y section, “Der Rosenkavalier.”


  1. I always learn something reading your dance reviews, in this case, about Lust and Anger. It surprised me that Anna (Wendy) lacked visceral interest in any of the Deadly Sins, rather like she was an observer. I attribute that to the fault of the staging, not to the dancer.

    Lust was going to be my favorite scene viewing the program beforehand, as Craig and Wendy are the NYCB pair I look forward to seeing the most. There is a shared strength and vulnerability that reminds me of Jock Soto and Heather Watts in the 1980’s and early 90’s.

    I was struck by the irony of Patti LuPone lugging the suitcase around the stage. In Evita, Eva Peron (LuPone) sends Juan Peron’s mistress packing, leaving her with “Another Suitcase in Another Hall”. Patti’s powerful, distinctive voice sounded much like Eva Peron last evening.

    Regarding Vienna Waltzes, I was impressed by the power, precision and self-assurance of Ana Sophia Scheller. I cannot wait to see her in more leading roles. Tyler Angle is suited to any choreography (I saw the Thursday evening performance). The confident, elegant but playful waltz of he and his partner almost floated above the rest.

    • Hi Steven – thank you for your thoughts on the ballets. I forgot to mention Ana Sophia Scheller. Yes, I really loved her too in Vienna Waltzes. I wasn’t in love with the choreography in that section – those jumps into second position looked awkward, but I still thought she did a fabulous job. She has really been growing on me the last couple seasons.

      I never saw Evita, unfortunately. That is ironic about the suitcase! I saw Seven Deadly Sins again over the weekend and am still thinking about it… I liked the same two sections I liked the first time around – Lust and Anger. Overall, I felt the same way as I did the first time, though my understanding of some of the scenes improved. I’m still trying to put my finger on exactly what I felt didn’t work about it though…

  2. Tonya – thank you for the compliment. I am not much into Facebook or Twitter, so I don’t catch the regular tweets by Ashley, Avi, etc. on the behind-the-scenes look at the performances. Instead, I read your blog regularly. You combine dance knowledge with dance appreciation in a way that allows everyone’s opinion to count. And, you are very timely in your reviews.

    Having lived in Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia (regularly attending dance performances in all 3 cities) before coming to NYC in 1984, I am still in awe of the fact that the finest examples of classical and modern dance can be mine for as little as a $20-$50 ticket on any given night. Eventually, all dancers join us spectators in enjoying the infinity of the art form. Meanwhile, I will root on Gillian, Ashley, Tyler and Lauren Lovette and so many other superbly talented dancers.

  3. Tonya, Steven was right! In the second picture, LuPone does look a little “Evita”-esque, while in the first pic it looks like she’s channeling Mama Rose! The “Suitcase” reference was awesome.
    It’s going to be hard to find someone who saw Balanchine’s original of “Sins” but, Dance Magazine online has a wonderful blog post from Allegra Kent, who danced the lead role with Lotte Lenya (spelling?) back in the day. She goes into quite a bit of detail, you might find it interesting to read it and compare with what you saw opening night. Cheers!

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