musical: Ballet NY.
Mae G. Banner
Egg, Feb. 24
George Balanchine’s children are everywhere. Former principal
dancers with his New York City Ballet now lead companies from
Miami (Edward Villella) to Seattle (Peter Boal) and most major
cities in between. What this means for ballet in America is
that audiences get to see exactingly trained dancers performing
Balanchine’s brilliant choreography. Definitely, it’s a win-win
So, it’s no surprise that Balanchine’s kicky Who Cares?
(1970) was the delight of the program danced last Friday at
the Egg by Ballet NY, a chamber ballet company founded in
1997 by former NYCB principal Judith Fugate and her husband
Besides co-directing Ballet NY, Fugate works with the George
Balanchine Trust to stage the master choreographer’s dances
with companies around the world. She knows the moves, but
more important, she knows how the dance should feel and flow.
This was happily apparent in Who Cares?, which provided
a snappy finish to a program of self-consciously modern ballets
by three mid-level choreographers. In Who Cares?, Balanchine
fused the glitter of show-biz and the soulfulness of George
Gershwin’s tunes with the cut-crystal clarity of classical
Ballet NY’s dancers, especially the seductive Fidel Garcia
and the vibrant Elysia Dawn, really got it. They rode the
music like a sleek limousine, letting it carry them to jazz
heaven. Garcia was flawless in the duet “The Man I Love,”
danced with a somewhat perfunctory Bonnie Pickard. He had
all the angles, the eagerness, the suavity the role exudes.
Later, in his watch-chain twirling “Liza” solo, Garcia did
the spins and turns from deep inside the dance.
Dawn, in hot pink, skipped up the “Stairway to Paradise”,
neatly bopping off those joyous jumps and slides, giving us
the extra pleasure of seeing Balanchine danced on a smaller
stage than usual.
Everyone had a chance to shine in Who Cares? Anitra
N. Nurnberger and Benjamin Lester projected a teasing charm
during “Embraceable You” and Dawn coltishly linked wrists
with Alec Donavan on the title song. The fling ended with
all three couples spinning in unison to “I Got Rhythm.”
The program opened with now and again (2005) a grim
dance to music of J. S. Bach and an electronic soundscape
by Dietrich Krueger. The dance was an incoherent patchwork
of convoluted partnering and gnarly group passages on a dark
stage framed by four many-legged stools to which the dancers
retreated after their strained duets.
There were interesting moves, such as a man lifting a woman
with her chest to his, then letting her legs spiral out behind
her, swiveling from the knees. But, there was no overall shape
to the dance.
(2005) by Helen Heineman to a nicely hyped-up Cajun two-step
score by Arnold Dreyblatt was a well-shaped, if bitter, duet
that began with Lindsay Purrington and the smooth Garcia circling
each other warily and ended with them going their separate
ways. They developed a sensuous chemistry through the driving
heart of the dance as she did easy splits and backbends in
his arms, always projecting a feeling for the dance club mood
of the piece.
Stanton Welch’s Orange (2001), to oboe concertos by
Vivaldi, is considered a signature dance for the seven- member
company. In the Paul Taylor mode, three couples danced sportively,
like nymphs and satyrs at play in a verdant forest. Orange
presented pleasant stage pictures—tilted heads, arced arms,
giddy spins—and an air of springtime freshness.
Group passages and duets were carefully, almost academically,
contrasted. The women lifted their long, split orange chiffon
skirts delicately as they promenaded. At its best, the partnering
had a tension that belied the sweetness of the music and gave
some depth to the surface playfulness.
I liked the third duet (Purrington and Donovan) best. Truly
musical dancers, they made the most of each phrase, transcending
Vivaldi’s pull toward the mechanical.
There is a place for chamber ballet companies amid the giant-sized
companies that fill the big stages, especially when they can
give us a Balanchine close-up. Later this month, the Egg will
host another pocket-size troupe, North Carolina Dance Theatre,
directed by Balanchine alumni Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia