Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bravos to Lincoln Kirstein and New York City Ballet for 42 spectacular years at SPAC and counting!

New York City Ballet ends SPAC season
BY Janet Loudon Special to The Post-Star
Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2007
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The New York City Ballet, the only dance company in the world with a summer home, closed its 42nd Saratoga Performing Arts Center season on Saturday evening. The final section of "Jewels," with Wendy Whelan and Philip Neal, outstanding in "Diamonds," brought down the curtain to a standing ovation.The season's programming was a well balanced selection by the company's leading choreographers.Balanchine's "Square Dance," "Apollo," "Serenade" and "Stars and Stripes" underlined the diversity and the timeless quality of his works.Jerome Robbins' "Dances at a Gathering" looked as enthralling as it did when it premiered in 1969, before most of its current cast was born. Robbins' rarely seen "Dybbuk," was a sharp view distilled from another facet of his complex mind. A Robbins Festival is planned for next year, the 10th anniversary of his death.
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"Romeo and Juliet," Peter Martins' colorful full-length ballet, was well-received by SPAC's audience. Premiered in New York in May, the ballet is still settling in and should be even more dramatic next time around. Giving Juliet a rooftop instead of a balcony was innovative" but too peculiar. The sword fighting and love duets were electrifying, as was the stunning Prokofiev score.Christopher Wheeldon, City Ballet's resident choreographer, came through with not one but two new ballets, and both are gems. "The Nightingale and the Rose" gave Wendy Whelan her most poignant role since the Swan Queen. Her extraordinary portrayal of Oscar Wilde's selfless nightingale was the season's most memorable performance. Bright Sheng's lovely commissioned score was an auspicious debut for City Ballet's new composer in residence. "Carousel (A Dance)" to Richard Rodgers, was blissful. It had but one performance at this year's gala. Please, powers-that-be, bring this little treasure back next year in the regular repertory.Wheeldon ends his residency with NYCB in 2008 and is already rehearsing for the debut of Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company in August at the Vail International Dance Festival whose new director is Damian Woetzel. This will be followed by two weeks at City Center in New York in October.There is a sea change going on at City Ballet these days with some longtime favorites exiting and a group of young dancers being promoted out of the corps and into the soloist and principal ranks unusually fast.In recent months, Kyra Nichols retired after the longest career of any ballerina in City Ballet's history and Miranda Weese left for Seattle to work with Pacific Northwest Ballet. This winter. Nikolaj Hubbe retires to become Director of the Royal Danish Ballet. Damian Woetzel is also likely to retire before SPAC's 2008 season.New principal dancers are Sterling Hyltin, Jonathan Stafford, Daniel Ulbricht and Andrew Veyette. New soloists are Robert Fairchild, Craig Hall, Seth Orza, Tiler Peck and Ana Sophia Scheller.
Once again, the ballet season had more than its share of rain. On the plus side, advance sale of tickets rose by several percent. Overall, though, there were many evenings of modest attendance. Matinees fared better. Official figures will be released soon.Instead of hoping against hope for dry weather, SPAC needs to face off against the rain gods and come up with a way to designate rear amphitheater seats for the lawn crowd in the event of rain. A built in rain check that guarantees a dry seat, even if it is off to the side, couldn't hurt.The near catastrophe of almost losing the ballet in 2004 must never be forgotten. In a climate of dwindling attendance for all arts performances, SPAC has to be ever alert to all opportunities to get word of the ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra residencies to a wider geographic area. Families in the immediate area, who haven't discovered ballet, must be won over to give it a chance. Former NYCB dancer Robert Weiss calls "ballet's overriding concern, beauty." Weiss contends that "beauty translates into a certain kind of goodness, a certain kind of morality" that people really need even when they don't know they need it.With all that is being done so well by SPAC's new administration under President Marcia White -- new seats, fresh paint, picnic packs, pre-performance lectures by experts -- SPAC's ballet seasons have missed an opportunity to revitalize marketing methods. Stale TV and radio commercials should be replaced by a clever and persuasive new campaign. Getting the most articulate and personable dancers before the cameras is another thought.Plans are already underway for the New York City Ballet's next season at SPAC. Thank you, Lincoln Kirstein, and happy centennial year. If you had not thought of the idea of bringing a young man named George Balanchine to America to fulfill your vision of a new American ballet, there would be no New York City Ballet today.
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Monday, July 16, 2007

Why is SPAC not giving New York City Ballet more publicity?

Ballet gala draws small crowd
BY Janet Loudon Special to The Post-Star
Published: Sunday, July 15, 2007
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PHOTO COURTESY PAUL KOLNIK Jenifer Ringer and Jonathan Stafford dance in ‘Jewels, ’ a play by the New York City Ballet, in a recent performance. To order copies of staff-produced photos from The Post-Star, please visit http://reprints.poststar.com/.
SARATOGA SPRINGS * The annual Saratoga Performing Arts Center Ballet Gala, a fundraiser for the New York City Ballet, didn ’t draw the hoped-for crowd Saturday night.The black-tie dinner, candlelit lawn picnics, dancing under tents and fireworks have seen diminishing attendance over the years. It may be because the benefit prices are out of reach of the average ballet-goer.Saturday ’s weather was perfect; the ballets were easy to love; it ’s a good cause; and yet, participation was only so-so. This event needs an extreme makeover to return to its former glory.The performance opened with what turned out to be its highlight, “Carousel (A Dance), ” Christopher Wheeldon ’s sentimental and stirring homage to Richard Rodgers.
Using a neo-classical vocabulary, but, as always, taking it forward in new combinations and inventions, Wheeldon has made a little gem of a ballet that deserves a spot in the regular SPAC schedule and not just a one-time performance as an “exclusive ” Gala treat.Wheeldon luxuriates in the “Carousel Waltz ” and two or three songs from the unforgettable score. His lead dancer looks a lot like the musical ’s bad boy, Billy Bigelow (Seth Orza). The girl (Kathryn Morgan) looks more like the little daughter Billy never knew than the girl he married. Read nothing into that.The ballet only hints at the musical ’s characters, if one remembers the show. Wheeldon creates a dreamy montage of carnival roustabouts and their girls - dancing in circles and pairs, spinning and leaping in their colorful costumes, under a string of multicolored lights.The meltingly romantic pas de deux for Orza and Morgan defies a string of complimentary adjectives. Let ’s just say it is not in any way routine. Maybe “perfect ” is the word to consider.The climax of the ballet seems impossible, but there it is.A living carousel of men, each with a girl holding a brass pole perched high on his shoulder, circling the stage, swooping up and down, a merry-go-round of dancing bliss.

PHOTO COURTESY PAUL KOLNIK Yvonne Borree performs during a New York City Ballet play. To order copies of staff-produced photos from The Post-Star, please visit http://reprints.poststar.com/.
The second work, Alexei Ratmansky ’s “Middle Duet, ” to hypnotic music by contemporary Russian composer Yuri Khanon, was another one-off for the Gala.A witty piece, it appeared made for the special expressive abilities of Maria Kowroski and Albert Evans. It was actually created for the Kirov Ballet in 1998.The dancers face each other in a beam of light and execute a series of quirky swerves and loose articulations of their India-rubber joints. Both are elegant, she in a maroon leotard, he in shirt and slacks. A friendly competition of a series of speedy variations has them collapsing to the floor, only to be rescued by a black angel and a white angel, each with one wing.The piece lacked any evil innuendos, so this allusion to good and bad, or perhaps strength and exhaustion, was obscure. Again, this is a pas de deux well worth a place in the regular season schedule.The old Balanchine war-horse “Tarantella, ” with Ashley Bouder and Joaquin de Luz, an Edward Villella look-alike in the bandanna, was fun.
Bouder and de Luz are speed demons with a clean attack, but they seem mostly unaware of each other. They need to develop more of a relationship between the characters.“Aurora ’s Wedding, ” the divertissement scene from “Sleeping Beauty, ” closed the performance.All the other ballets were conducted sharply by Maurice Kaplow.This one was under the baton of Faycal Karouli. The musical pace was often sluggish, particularly in the grand pas de deux, danced by two of the company ’s most reliable stars, Jenifer Ringer and Philip Neal. They were not a disaster, by any means, but the music pulled them down rather than providing support.Among the most sparkling performers were a tiny girl who could not have been more than six years old, and a tiny six at that, Maria Gorokhov.
This itty-bitty Red Riding Hood danced like an old pro, and she could act, too. Quite a feat for a tot in such rarified company. Her wolf, Henry Seth, was a fine partner.Once again, rising - in elevation and in the company - Daniel Ulbricht, one of the court jesters, delivered another scene-stealing performance. His exit into the wings, far off the floor and backward, was heart-stopping.Has the company found a cheerful American superstar-to-be to rival the pyrotechnics of a young Baryshnikov?
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Monday, July 09, 2007

Why is SPAC not promoting the incredible New York City Ballet?

A very memorable 'Romeo and Juliet'

By JOSEPH DALTON, Special to the Times Union First published: Sunday, July 8, 2007
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- As the curtain goes up on New York City Ballet's new "Romeo and Juliet," the set practically drips with blood and in minutes a harsh and extended swordfight fills the stage. But graphic violence is only one of many memorable aspects of the evening-length ballet, which opened on Friday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Romance, humor and bravura dancing also abound.
With Prokofiev's monumental score as a template, Peter Martins' choreography and storytelling is remarkably compelling, and the opening night casting was spot-on.
Robert Fairchild and Sterling Hyltin had a palpable chemistry as the leads. The waif-like Hyltin moves with a joyful freedom and displays a rare emotional surrender. Fairchild was at his best when tragedy arrived. His attempt to recreate the pas de deux of Act I with Juliet's lifeless body evoked chills.
Of the supporting cast, the unstoppable Daniel Ulbricht was a spectacular Mercutio, mirthful and highflying.One can hardly complain that he seems to be in every ballet lately. As Tybalt, the goateed Joaquin de Luz had the quiet force of a tank, able to stare down a Montague and create worse damage when armed.
Retired principal dancer Jock Soto returned as Lord Capulet, with Darci Kistler as his wife. They led the court dances of the first act and even these were enjoyable, thanks in large part to Prokofiev and the orchestra led by Maurice Kaplow.
Yet Soto was no mere stage piece. Seemingly out of nowhere he delivered a sharp slap to his disobedient daughter in Act II.
Another surprise came from five adolescent dancers from the School of American Ballet, including a somersaulting tyke. They steal the stage for a brief mandolin dance in Act I.
Per Kirkeby, who collaborated with Martins on the company's "Swan Lake," returns as designer. His drops look as if they are scribbled with sidewalk chalk. A castle-like structure at center stage seems borrowed from "The Flintstones." Except for some fidgety curtains, none of it is ever terribly distracting. Dancing rightfully holds the eye.
"Romeo and Juliet" nearly sold out its extended run in New York City this spring, so it's curious that SPAC hasn't made more of a fuss about it and that the few performances are rather randomly placed during the first and second week. It is absolutely worth seeing. Joseph Dalton is a local freelance writer who contributes regularly to the Times Union.
Ballet review
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs
Duration: Two hours 20 minutes; one intermission
The crowd: About 2,000 devoted fans
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Monday, July 02, 2007

Racino to run Gideon Putnam Hotel and Roosevelt Baths, 7/2/07

News From New York State Office of Parks & Recreation

News from New York State Office of Parks & Recreation
For more information contact: Eileen Larrabee, Cathy Jimenez, 518.486.1868
State Parks Selects Delaware North Companies to Operate Gideon Putnam Hotel, Spa
ALBANY, NY (07/02/07; 1500)(readMedia)-- New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) Commissioner Carol Ash today announced that, after an extensive and careful evaluation, Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts (DNC) has been selected to operate the Gideon Putnam Hotel and Convention Center and the Roosevelt Spa in Saratoga Spa State Park. The DNC proposal calls for Saratoga Gaming and Raceway and DNC Parks and Resorts, to form a new company, Gideon Putnam, LLC, to hold the lease. The Hotel and Spa will be managed and operated by DNC Parks and Resorts.
In announcing the selection, Ash cited the quality of the proposal submitted by DNC, the expected benefits to the hotel and spa, and enhanced services to guests. Among these will be replacements and upgrades of furniture and accoutrements in the guest rooms, renovation of guest room bathrooms, reconfiguration of certain public areas on the first floor to improve visitor services, and extensive refurbishment of the Roosevelt Spa. She also noted DNC’s extensive corporate experience in state and national park hospitality operations, and understanding of the unique requirements and opportunities inherent in a public-private partnership in a park context. In New York State, DNC currently operates concessions at Jones Beach, Robert Moses and Niagara Falls State Parks.
In addition, Ash pointed to DNC’s well-established “green” program that, among many goals, seeks to maximize environmentally sustainable practices through a comprehensive approach that complies with international standards for environmental management.
The other firms that had submitted proposals to OPRHP are Saratoga Gideon Partners and Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Inc., the current operator of the facilities. The existing lease expires on December 31, 2007.
The selection of DNC is the result of a lengthy and thorough solicitation and proposal process extending over several months. The Request For Proposals (RFP) was issued in December 2006, and bids were due on April 30, 2007. Over twenty firms expressed an interest in the project.
After receiving the bids, OPRHP convened a committee of five senior professional staff to evaluate and score the proposals, which included a technical review of the written proposals as well as an evaluation of oral presentations by each bidder. Evaluations and scoring were based on bidders’ relevant experience, expertise and ability to respond to the goals laid out in the RFP. Each proposal was also evaluated on the background and experience of the firm, particularly in a public park environment such as the Gideon Putnam in Saratoga Spa State Park. Additional consideration was based on the financial return offered by each entity, resulting in the selection of the proposal that offered the best overall value to the state.
Following the award announcement, OPRHP and DNC will now enter into lease negotiations. Upon completion of the contract, which is subject to approval by the Offices of the Attorney General and the State Comptroller, the new lessee will assume responsibility for the property. Commissioner Ash noted that all commitments by the current operator for 2008 and beyond would be honored by the new lessee. “We look forward to working with Delaware North to continue the tradition of first class service and gracious hospitality for which the Gideon Putnam Hotel is so well known,” said Ash.