Posts Tagged ‘Sebastian Marcovici’

Lifting Ballerinas

Monday, May 7th, 2012

By Rachel Straus

Have you ever wondered what it would take to partner a female ballet dancer? The May 6 matinee at New York City Ballet was an excellent primer for anyone considering this question. In each of the four works from the All (Jerome) Robbins program, at the former New York State Theater, the male lead rarely left the side of his ballerina.

Robbins’s In G Major was a case in point. In the pas de deux section to Ravel’s eponymous composition, Tyler Angle lifted Maria Kowroski at least 25 times. In the end, Angle walked off the stage with Kowroski in a six-o-clock split, her head almost touching his. To create this pose, Angle benched pressed the tall ballerina above his head. Because of the pleasing geometry of Kowroski’s long line, and the ease of her form, my eye naturally moved to her. But it was Angle underneath who made this vision airborne—and magical. At the last moment, Angle’s arms looked like they were going to fail him. Fortunately, the stage wings were steps away.

Besides Robbins’s The Cage (1951), about a tribe of man-eating insect women who destroy one of their prey (Craig Hall), Robbins’s other ballets on the program showed the influence of Balanchine’s neoclassicism. In the Night (1970), In G Major (1975) and Andantino (1981) are plotless ballets. They feature a relationship, or relationships, between a man and woman, which is expressed through a pas de deux. Balanchine expanded classicism through the partnered duet. His lifts were far more complex than his predecessors Petipa, Fokine, and Massine. They didn’t just go up and down. They traveled. The woman changed poses in mid air. The lifts often began and ended in full-bodied motion. In Robbins’s three ballets, Balanchine-style partnering is evidence. The women sail through the sky like birds (and occasionally like fighter jets). The men below them propel their wings.

Of the male leads from In the Night, to music by Frédéric Chopin as performed by Nancy McDill, Robert Fairchild and Sebastian Marcovici stood out for their convincing portrayals of men in adoration of their women. While Fairchild played the young lover to Sterling Hyltin, Marcovici danced the steadfast companion to Wendy Whelan’s vexed, ambivalent character. Marcovici’s lifts expressed the unswerving nature of his love. While she thrashed and pulled away from, Marcovici carried Whelan aloft through her psychological storm. Their pas de deux was the highlight of the afternoon.

Back in 2007 a documentary about the recently retired New York City Ballet principal dancer Jock Soto was aired. Called Water Flowing Together, it contains a memorable scene in which the virile Soto is crumpled in a corner of a studio. With tears of exhaustion, Soto talks about how his arms ache. He says he doesn’t have the strength to lift another ballerina. Yet Soto wasn’t angry or resentful. He expressed exasperation with his ability to continue to make partnering look effortless, to make lifts symbols of the transcendent power of love.

The men of City Ballet, and male ballet dancers everywhere, may not have to dance on the tips of their toes or to suffer the same degree of competition as female dancers, but their job is no less easy. They literally carry certain ballets. Balanchine said “ballet is woman,” but ballet without men would strip the art form of humanity, and of its fundamental expression of being there for another.

A New Apollo: Chase Finlay of New York City Ballet

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Rachel Straus

There is no better way to anoint a rising City Ballet male star than to award him the title role in Balanchine’s “Apollo.” On May 5 corps dancer Chase Finlay hit the big time, receiving curtain calls and roars of applause. The 21-year-old looked like a young Nordic god (much the way Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins did when he first appeared as “Apollo” in 1967). With a Martins-style majesty, Finlay subsumed his new role. Seated and gazing at his dancing Muses—Terpsichore (Sterling Hyltin), Polyhymnia (Tiler Peck) and Calliope (Ana Sophia Scheller)—Finlay captivated in stillness as much as in his boldly vigorous movements.

Beyond Finlay’s debut, Thursday’s programming felt celestial. Beginning the night were the Balanchine-Stravinsky masterworks “Monumentum Pro Gesualdo” (1960) and “Movements for Piano and Orchestra” (1963). Though these short ballets were made three years apart, they became side-by-side companion pieces. While “Monumentum” features choreographic lyricism and equilibrium, “Movements” traffics in cubist asymmetries. In the latter work, the building blocks of classical vocabulary (plie, tendu, fifth position) are interrupted in transit. Spiral movements are forced into right angles. Despite a lack of narrative, principals Maria Kowroski and Sébastian Marcovici plied a psychologically complex relationship. Neither intimates nor strangers, they danced like two people in a coolly impassioned debate. With hands flexed, they seemed to end their conversation at an impasse.

Photo: Paul Kolnick

But getting back to Finlay. More should be said about this “Apollo,” which appeared second on the program. In Balanchine’s 1928 ballet, the young god’s moment of benediction comes when his muses perform a unison triple handclap. Then the women open their palms for Apollo to rest his head. When Finlay stood and laid his brow, he looked absolutely relieved, having passed through the work’s most iconic moments. They include the instance when Finlay extends his arms skyward like Michelangelo’s “Vitruvian-Man,” echoing the string instruments’ sonic force. Performing this gesture convincingly requires a Nietzsche-like approach to the self. (“The world itself is the will to power – and nothing else! And you yourself are the will to power – and nothing else!”)

Hopefully, Finlay’s ability to embody youthful absolutism will be confined to the stage. Recently French Vogue featured Finlay half naked in Bruce Webber’s photos. Of equal interest, but of a less salacious sort, is the dancing of principal Sterling Hyltin. Her musical responsiveness and love of moving make her appear triple her size. As Terpsichore, Hyltin was bodily electric.

Another hair-on-arm raising experience were the performances of Balanchine’s “Four Temperaments.” (1946). Seen on May 5 and May 7, the casting was powerfully good. Jennie Somogyi’s dancing in “Sanguinic” possessed a boxer’s controlled strike and the elegance of a leopard in full lope. Gonzalo Garcia’s solo in “Melancholic” was velvety phrased and gravely projected.

With 11 Balanchine works selected for opening week, the choreographer’s triple passion for movement abstraction, minimalist costuming, and modernist music was revealed. Called “Black and White,” the series was not a bit monochromatic. Like a spring awakening, the dancers bloomed with color and energy.