Former soloist with New York City Ballet, Christopher Wheeldon retired from dancing with the company last spring. He has since been selected by NYCB as first choreographic artist-in-residence. The appointment was certainly justified by his "Polyphonia," which premiered on Jan. 4 at the New York State Theater, as well as his "Mercurial Man-euvers," presented last season as part of the year 2000 Diamond Project.
Wheeldon's latest work is in 10 sections, with the lead couple being Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. The six other dancers involved in the performance were Jennie Somogyi, Edwaard Liang, Jennifer Tinsley, Jason Fowler, Alexandra Ansanelli, and Craig Hall.
The work was so rich in originality that it would seem impossible to take in every inventive detail in an initial viewing. Several visits would seem essential, as well as pleasurable.
Among the lingering images were those of Whelan and Soto in some coruscating adagios. In one, Whelan managed to climb up to Soto's shoulders with the phenomenal ease of a cat climbing a tree.
Exits and entrances were achieved, as opposed to balletic configurations where the ballerina is almost invariably carried aloft in one basic position. In one exit, Whelan was carried upside down while her legs seemed to imitate the opening and closing of scissors.
In "Tempo di Valse," Jennie Somogyi and Edwaard Liang performed a smoothly paced, ingenious take-off on a waltz.
Alexandra Ansanelli, Jennie Somogyi, and Jennifer Tinsley were winning in "Invention, 1948," a trio that consisted mainly of contra movements to each other.
Jason Fowler and Edwaard Liang sparkled in the "Vivace Energico." Also notable were the opening and closing scenes by the entire cast, with the conclusion in particular featuring sharp angularity of arms, which formed a picture of rather amusing opposition to the fully rounded, traditional positions of classical ballet arm movements.
The choreographer utilized music by composer György Ligeti as accompaniments. Ligeti is considered a modernist, but that doesn't mean a raucous score. His music is light and melodious by comparison to some of the scores conceived by many of today's composers. As played by pianists Cameron Grant and Alan Moverman, the Ligeti music falls quite gently on the ears.
Costumes by Holly Hynes, all in a rich purple shade, consisting of a modified bathing suit pattern for the ladies and tights from neck to ankles for the men, were admirable for the freedom with which they allowed the dancers to perform the intricate choreography.
"Square Dance," which was seen on opening night and repeated on the Jan. 6 matinee, had Yvonne Borree again leading, this time partnered by Sébastien Marcovici. His support of the ballerina was just as astute as that exhibited by Peter Boal on Jan. 2, with a bit more warmth added by Marcovici.
"Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," was the ballet from Richard Rodgers' 1936 musical "On Your Toes." It has been presented by NYCB as a separate entity, with dialogue, since 1968.
In the ballet, Russian dancer Morrosine plots with a gangster to eliminate the young Hoofer Phil, since the Russian fears that the young dancer is usurping his position as premier danseur with the company. What is more, Phil has created a modern ballet in which he dances the leading role. The plot has the Hoofer meeting Strip Tease Girl in a low dive. They fall in love. The jealous Big Boss, who has aimed his gun at the Hoofer, accidentally kills the girl.
Although she is supposed to have died, she manages to hand Phil a note advising him of Morrosine's plot to kill him and telling Phil to keep on dancing until the police, who have been notified, arrive. Morrosine's scheme is foiled when the police rush in. Wild? You bet! But great fun.
As Morrosine, Adam Hendrickson presented an hilarious characterization of the conceited premier danseur. His Russian accent added to the farcical aspect of the role.
For a dancer who is far from being a tap star, Philip Neal did better than all right as the Hoofer. Heléne Alexopoulos, who is always at her best in a jazzed up role, made a bright Strip Tease Girl.
The brothers Kurt and Kyle Froman portraying Bartenders, Stuart Capps as the Gangster, and Antonio Carmena, Ryan Kelly, and Aaron Severini as Policemen, all added rib tickling dimensions to the ballet.
Eliot Feld Premiere for NYCB
Eliot Feld has created a new ballet, "Organon," with a cast of 63 dancers, for the New York City Ballet's winter season. The ballet premiered on Tuesday, Jan. 23, and it will be repeated three more times: Thursday, Jan. 25, and Saturday, Jan. 27, at 8 pm, and Sunday, Jan. 28, at 3 pm. "Organon," performed to organ music by J.S. Bach, is Feld's second ballet for NYCB; his first was "The Unanswered Question," created in 1988 to music by Charles Ives.
MOMIX Returns to the Joyce
Moses Pendleton's "MOMIX" will celebrate its 20th anniversary season with a return to The Joyce Theater for three weeks, Jan. 30-Feb. 18. Included will be the world premiere of Pendleton's new work, "Opus Cactus," as well as the return of popular favorites "MOMIX in Orbit" and "Passion." "Opus Cactus," which will premiere on Feb. 2, features 10 dancers and an eclectic score.
Pendleton was one of the founders of Pilobolus Dance Theatre. He began to work outside of Pilobolus in 1980, and has since contributed his choreography on the international scene.
Performances are Tuesday through Friday at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 pm and 8 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm and 7:30 pm. There will be a 10 am student show of "MOMIX in Orbit" on Feb. 8 and 10 at 2 pm. All tickets are $38, available by calling (212) 242-0800.
Food for Thought
The Food for Thought series is a benefit to support neighborhood food distribution programs and aims to increase social awareness and participation while building arts audiences. This benefit performance/canned food drive collects non-perishable items and presents a wide range of choreographers.
Performances: Jan. 26-28, at 8:30 pm, at the Danspace Project, St. Mark's Church, Second Ave. at East 10th St., NYC. Admission is $5 with two cans of food, or $10. Reservations: (212) 674-8194.