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New York City Ballet

Tribute to Broadway: 'Fancy Free', 'Who Cares?', 'West Side Story Suite'

by Colleen Boresta

May 26(m), 2013 -- Koch Theater, New York, NY

Even though New York City Ballet’s American Music Festival officially ended on May 19th, the May 26th matinee performance features music by Americans George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.

The afternoon begins with ‘Fancy Free’. ‘Fancy Free’ was the first collaboration between choreographer Jerome Robbins and composer Leonard Bernstein. It is the story of three sailors on leave in New York City during World War II. They are, of course, looking for fun and women. ‘Fancy Free’ is as fresh today as when it was first performed in 1944. The jazzy score by Bernstein fits Robbins’ choreography perfectly.

As the three sailors Joaquin De Luz, Robert Fairchild and Andrew Veyette have great chemistry. They are very believable as close friends. De Luz is all high-flying energy as the first sailor. As the dreamy second sailor Robert Fairchild is just perfect. Veyette’s rumba dancing third sailor does not have the Latin flair of American Ballet Theatre dancers like Jose Manuel Carreno and Marcelo Gomes but he nails all the moves producing a sexy comic dance. Gretchen Smith and Tiler Peck are very good as the two girls the sailors fight over.

The second work on the program is ‘Who Cares?’ It contains choreography by George Balanchine and is set to sixteen George and Ira Gershwin tunes. The first segment of this ballet is danced by ten female corps dancers and ten soloists – five girls and five boys. ‘Who Cares?’ really comes to life when the soloists perform duets to songs like “Somebody Loves Me” and “That Certain Feeling”. All the young dancers are equally good.

Then the lights dim and the second part of ‘Who Cares?’ starts. This section of the piece has often been compared to Balanchine’s ‘Apollo’. There is one man and three women. Each of the women dances once with the man and once by herself. Then the man gets to do his solo. ‘Who Cares?’ concludes with the entire company dancing to “I’ve Got Rhythm”.

Amar Ramasar’s pas de deux with a luminous Steling Hyltin to “The Man I Love” is just exquisite. He also dances with the briskly witty Ashley Bouder to “Who Cares?” and the sweetly demure Teresa Reichlen to “Embraceable You.” Reichlen seems a little tall for Ramasar, especially when she goes on pointe.

 

 

As already mentioned, the principals each dance a solo. Ashley Bouder stands out for her musicality and spot on phrasing as she skips to “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise”. Teresa Reichlen is really more an adagio dancer and her solo to “My One and Only” lacks the needed sharpness. Sterling Hyltin shows off her incredible speed in her “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” number. Her steps are definitely more precise than when I saw her dance this solo on May 11th. I don’t think Hyltin is quite up to the level of Patricia McBride or Tiler Peck but she’s getting there. Amar Ramasar reminds me of a young Gene Kelly as he dances to “Liza”.

I still can’t stand the new costumes for the female corps dancers and soloists. Fortunately they don’t detract from the glorious joy that is George Balanchine’s love letter to New York City.

The program ends with Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story Suite’. It is a modern Romeo and Juliet story, with Puerto Rican gang members (the Sharks) as the Capulets and white gang members (the Jets) as the Montagues. Tony is the best friend of Riff, who is the leader of the Jets. Tony falls in love with Maria, whose brother, Bernardo, leads the Sharks. The Jets and the Sharks get involved in a rumble and Bernardo kills Riff. In despair over the death of his closest friend, Tony kills Bernardo. This version of ‘West Side Story’ ends on a hopeful note. The Jets, Sharks and their girls all dance together to the music of “Somewhere”.

‘West Side Story Suite’ is a vigorous ballet which highlights male bravura dancing. Chase Finlay is a very young, idealistic Tony. The way he bounds toward the sky in his “Something’s Coming” solo is both touching and exuberant. Andrew Veyette leads the Jets with his virtuoso dancing. His voice, however, is merely okay. He does not sing “Cool” nearly as well as Nikolaj Hubbe or Damian Woetzel did, but they are both retired from NYCB.

The ladies also help make ‘West Side Story Suite’ memorable. Georgina Pazcoguin is a triple threat – great dancing, great singing, great acting. All flashing limbs and glorious attack,

Pazcoguin belts out a droll and cynical “America”. The ladies accompanying her are very good. Lauren Lovette’s Maria is artlessly pure.

As always, I find my eyes welling with tears during the “Something” finale. The blend of Leonard Bernstein’s music and Jerome Robbins’ choreography conveys me to that special “place for us.” I hope New York City Ballet continues to dance ‘Fancy Free’ ‘Who Cares?’ and ‘West Side Story Suite’ for many years to come.

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