evolving, yet always recycling his noodling, contact improv-based
moves, Bill T. Jones and his 10-member company presented a
concert of mostly new works on Sunday, July 28, at Jacob’s
Pillow. World II, a world premiere; There Were .
. . , a revival; and two dances from earlier this year
all shared a deliberately casual quality and, in their subtext,
a refusal to be defeated.
with his late partner, Arnie Zane, made his mark with quirky
theatrical dances laced with monologues. His choreographic
repertory includes political dances inspired by interviews
with terminally ill people, and comical abstract works danced
to nonsense syllables.
time out, Jones introduced live music performed by members
of the chamber ensemble Concertante, who are recent Juilliard
grads. The players were the best part of World II,
which otherwise became tedious and aimless, badly in need
of editing. The string quartet, dressed in formal white, but
barefoot, performed Gyorgy Kurtag’s dissonant music onstage,
walking among the dancers, who were variously costumed as
gymnasts or youngsters in their Sunday best attending a recital.
playing vigorously, the musicians earn credit for being game
and interesting dancers. In one section, they walk in silence
with their fiddles, pointing the bows downward like divining
the dancers repeat gestures of sssh-ing, nervous bowing, and
scratching their crotches, like jittery kids. These human
gestures give way to elegant moves that show the dancers’
ballet training, but that are subverted by gymnastic belly
slides or push-ups. Another motif is a “model” pose, one knee
raised, one hand to the back of the head, the better to show
off the dancer’s outfit.
set to a Beethoven string quartet, brought its contradictions
into thought-provoking harmony. Germaul Barnes performed a
brilliant solo to the ethereal music of the third movement.
He was the minstrel man in a hall of mirrors, the homeboy
trying to break out of his ballet body. Every joint was flexible,
from somersault to arabesque, from high extension to shimmying
dancers embodied similarly double intentions, making twittering
moves with shucking and jiving bodies that were always off-balance.
Verbum, performed within and around three misshapen
white-painted mirror frames, was coherent in its deliberate
sloppiness, as if the dancers were saying, “I can do high-minded
ballet, but I don’t have to.”
There Were . . . , to taped music of John Cage, evoked
an image of wanderers in an unknown space that might be heaven.
Dancers meet and cross, walking in silence, as the music repeatedly
breaks off. One touches another, but she walks away. They
do a little line dance, à la Mark Morris, but looser and less
formal, then freeze in sculpural groupings. Finally, pairs
of dancers unite in long-held kisses.
this music and these people could not hold together, but they
kept trying. The effect was holy.
II, at 29 minutes, was too long, the closing dance, Black
Suzanne, was too short. The 11-minute piece was performed
by eight dancers and played by Concertante to an excerpt from
a string octet by Shostakovich. Wearing red gym clothes that
were slightly padded, like life jackets, the dancers did dives,
somersaults and spread-eagle lifts. They played tag team and
smacked the floor whooping, as Jones’s dancers do in his elegaic
D-Man in the Waters. But, just as Black Suzanne
began to gather force, it ended.
City Ballet saved the best for last, capping the final week
of their 37th season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center
with three of Balanchine’s finest dances.
Son (1929; revived 1950) returned Thursday, July 25, with
Damian Woetzel as the angry, willful boy, who beat his fists
on his thighs and leapt over his father’s fence in his zeal
to see the wide world.
acts as adeptly as he dances, but, in Prodigal, the
physical action suffices. Woetzel danced all the emotions
of the rebellious boy’s adventure: defiance, curiosity, desire,
wretchedness and penitence. One had to feel pity for this
foolish boy who is robbed by strangers, seduced by a temptress,
and betrayed by his servants.
dance, one of Balanchine’s few narrative ballets, unfolds
to music of Prokofiev. Costumes and décor by Georges Rouault
underscore its biblical desert setting. Originally made for
Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Prodigal is timeless.
Kowroski was the Siren who mesmerized Woetzel with her strange
snakelike movements. She might have been called an evil queen
in her tall Egyptian headdress. She became a boa constrictor,
coiling her legs around the boy and splaying her fingers like
of bald-headed goons are a sinister delight. They roll and
hop, two by two, and swarm over the prodigal in their grotesque
games. When they’ve stripped him of all his goods, they link
arms, back to back, and bobble about the stage like fat junebugs.
Fayette, in a rare character role, is the somber father, who,
when the boy crawls home, has to take him in.
Waltzes (1977), danced perfunctorily at the July 20 Gala,
came into its own in the final week. It’s a full-cast crowd
pleaser with magically changing scenery by Rouben Ter-Arutunian
and glamorous costumes by Balanchine’s Russian émigré colleague,
Karinska. In 50 swiftly moving acts, it lays out the entire
waltz lexicon, gorgeously.
Rutherford and Robert Lyon brought out the youthful innocence
of the romantic opening section set within a moonlit Vienna
woods. Yvonne Borree and Nikolaj Hubbe outdid themselves as
magical creatures cavorting in an enchanted forest.
and knowing Jenifer Ringer, with Charles Askegard, danced
into oblivion in the Merry Widow scene, which is set in the
art nouveau ballroom suffused with light the color of blood
finale Rosenkavalier Waltz teemed with white satin-gowned
women and tuxedoed men, sailing, hopping, and almost flying
across the stage.
the gorgeous to the sublime, NYCB set the audience cheering
with four performances of Symphony in C (1948), made
to Bizet’s music. Balanchine presented this glorious dance
in his first concert at the “people’s theater,” City Center,
in midtown New York. A classical ballet in four movements,
it has remained in the company’s active repertory ever since.
in C is polished to perfection. Every move is inevitable;
nothing is extra. Every woman, from principal to corps dancer,
is the ideal ballerina of a Platonic conception.
Somogyi and Phillip Neal led the first allegro vivo
movement with exact, vivid technique. Jock Soto presented
Darci Kistler as a rare jewel in the adagio on Thursday, but
Wendy Whelan with Askegard made the audience swoon with her
on Friday as she flew low in her partner’s arms in long travelling
lifts that ended on point. First oboist Randall Wolfgang played
the haunting theme that supports Whelan’s ecstatic falls.
of speedy high-flyers, Antonio Carmena with Ashley Bouder,
and, in another cast, Benjamin Millepied with Janie Taylor,
made the air vibrate in the third movement, allegro vivace.
segues into the knockout fourth movement, also allegro
vivace, led alternately by Jennifer Tinsley and Jason
Fowler, and by Pascale van Kipnis and Alexander Ritter. They
stirred the full cast of 50 crystalline dancers in white satin
and jet black into the stage-filling finale that never fails
to astound the audience with its final flourish.
Tuesday’s performance introduced a regional premiere in Robert
La Fosse’s Concerto in Five Movements, made for the
1997 Diamond Project, but never shown at SPAC. La Fosse, who
joined NYCB as principal dancer in 1986, knows his Balanchine.
Prokofiev’s music, Concerto works in the neoclassical
mode that looks good on Balanchine dancers. Two lead couples
dance duets of opposing qualities: Kowroski and Albert Evans
pull apart; Whelan and Soto are drawn together. Extra spice
comes from gymnastic sequences led by Tom Gold with a corps
of eight men, while a corps of 16 women in lipstick-red sleeveless
leotards frames the action with witty moves that resemble
Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements.