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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