New York City Ballet opened its winter season on Jan. 2 with Balanchine's "Scotch Symphony" and "Square Dance," as well as Jerome Robbins' "The Four Seasons."
In "Scotch Symphony," performed to three movements of the Mendelsson score, Balanchine managed to interlace vigorous Scottish folk dances with echoes of romantic ballet. Lonely Highlander meets Sylphide only to lose her, as men from a regiment keep them apart. But they always manage to find each other, amid some Highland flings.
Forget the original "La Sylphide," which has come down to us from the romantic era, and had a tragic ending. The lost Sylphide of "Scotch Symphony" is eventually reunited with her beloved, and the ballet concludes with happiness extant, what with most everyone managing the Scottish balletic combinations with panache.
The company's veteran ballerina, Kyra Nichols, left lasting impressions. She not only captured the spirit and finesse of the legendary ballerinas from a bygone era, but her total expressiveness and musicality were unmatched.
Janie Taylor led the Scottish dances, but seemed a bit too frail for the vigorous movements called for. Charles Askegard was Ms. Nichols partner, and he was completely concentrated on displaying her as the rare jewel she is. He also contributed admirable solos.
I couldn't help wishing that a course in watching and studying Nichols would be mandatory for young dancers. Numerous dancers today are too concentrated on technique and bravura. They can't be faulted, as they are only acceding to the demands of some ferocious balletomanes, and ballet audiences generally. What Nichols possesses in abundance—artistry, nuance, and subtlety—could be a source of inspiration for them.
A "Square Dance" to the music of Corelli and Vivaldi? Who could have believed that Balanchine was influenced by the spirit of American folk dance?
In the original production, seen in 1957, there was a caller involved, stressing steps in his vernacular. For example: "Keep your eyes on Pat (Patricia Wilde). Her feet go wickety-wack." This was his way of describing the varied batterie performed by the lady. The caller continued utilizing square dance terminology for familiar ballet movements, and it turned out great fun.
Balanchine described his intentions as follows: "The American style of classical dancing, its supple sharpness and richness of metrical invention, its superb preparation for risks, and its high spirits were some of the things I was trying to show in this ballet."
Without a caller, you won't be aware of square dance per se, but you will manage to catch some square formations in strictly balletic form that are dazzling.
Usually, the men are called upon to perform spectacular feats. On opening night, however, the lithe and lovely Yvonne Borree sailed through some of the most difficult solos ever conceived by Balanchine for a ballerina. The solos performed by Peter Boal were more subdued, but nevertheless penetrating.
Giuseppi Verdi not only wrote some of the greatest operas, but he was also a master at composing ballet scores for his creations. Jerome Robbins drew the music for "The Four Seasons" mainly from Verdi's opera "I Vespri Siciliani," adding a few selections from Verdi's ballet music from "I Lombardi" and "Il Trovatore."
The first scene, "Winter," immediately sets the drolleries, what with snowflakes shivering in the wind attempting to warm themselves. When their queen enters, far from welcoming her when she attempts to warm up alongside of her subjects, they kick her away and as much as indicate that she ought to get lost. What a way to treat royalty!
Carrie Lee Riggins as queen and Arch Higgins and Alexander Ritter as the fierce winds stimulated the risibilities.
The sublimely lyric "Spring," led by Jennifer Ringer and Philip Neal, formed a contrasting welcome of seasonal pictures. Heléne Alexopoulos and Kipling Houston were effective in the languid yet sensual "Summer," particularly in some of the exotic serpentine arm movements by Alexopoulos strongly reminiscent of the Orient.
Tiny Benjamin Millepied managed to capture the "Autumn" section as the mischievous faun bounding into the dancers and soaring endlessly. Wendy Whelan and Adam Hendrickson also contributed startling solos.
"The Four Seasons" is one of Robbins' most joyful creations, truly a ballet that offers something for everyone.
92nd St. Y Free Fridays at Noon
The 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center continues offering its free Fridays at noon, informal performances by established and emerging choreographers, in Winter/Spring 2001. A relaxed discussion with the artists follows each performance. Admission is free. All events take place from 12-1 pm in Buttenweiser Hall, on the second floor of the 92nd Street Y.
The creations of Katherine Longstreth, Lacy James, and Belinda James will be seen on Jan. 19. On Feb. 2, Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company, Lynn Parkerson, and Jordan Fuchs will hold forth. Feb. 16 will see the works of Hope Clark, Satoshi Haga, and Nancy Zandora.
On March 16, the Y will offer an open session of the final day of a two-week-long workshop for professional dancers led by noted choreographer Sean Curran.
Inner Landscapes Dance Theater
The Inner Landscapes Dance Theater collective will present a series of new works, Jan. 18-20, at Merce Cunningham Studio, 55 Bethune Street, NYC. Performance times are Thursday and Friday evenings at 9 pm and Saturday evening at 8 pm.
The program, titled "Exit In," will feature works by four choreographers: Nomi Bachar, Deborah Bailay, Colin Carew, and Kathryn Sullivan. Actress-dancer Mary Watkins will be the performer in the Sullivan piece.
Inner Landscapes is an artists' collective in which each member creates works using individual styles in addition to various media. According to founder Bachar, Inner Landscapes members share the common goal to present works that depict human experience, and events that lead to an inner transformation.
All tickets: $15, TDF vouchers accepted. Reservations: (212) 579-3797.