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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Not to miss: the NYC Ballet at the Kennedy Center this weekend

Charles Askegard and Maria Kowroski in Fearful Symmetries/Paul Kolnik

If you are lucky, you may still be able to buy tickets for the ballet Saturday or Sunday. Maybe both. They are worth it.

The music is utterly captivating, and I did not even stay for the finale, West Side Story* which means the value far outweighs the cost to get in.

As a matter of fact, the music by George Gershwin (Who Cares?) and John Adams (Fearful Symmetries) put out by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra under the spirited direction of the New York City Ballet's Clotilde Otranto was so splendid the music could have stood alone without grace on the stage to illustrate the notes. (Elaine Chelton was the pianist for Gershwin, and she may have been the woman who joined the dancers on stage at the end of Who Cares? to receive audience appreciation.)

The dancing for the first two acts (Gershwin and George Balanchine, choreographer, and Adams and Peter Martins) was not traditional ballet but a welcomed change of pace, moderate jazz ballet and some ballet waltzing, always attractive.

The evening's performance began with a medley of Gershwin tunes performed against a silhouetted outline of New York which changed color and lights, depending upon which of 16 numbers was played. The ballerinas seemed a mite off in the first two pieces (Strike Up the Band and Sweet and Low Down), outperformed by their male counterparts, flashing by in silvered sequined (or so they seemed from the chandeliers) costumes with bow ties, who were tighter and fewer in number, thereby reducing stress and increasing ease of symmetry.

By the third selection (Somebody Loves Me), the loved ballerinas had settled down and were in stride and more confident, like horses out of the gate. (Sorry!)

Without question the audience's Number One Gershwin favorite was the lonely and haunting, The Man I Love, danced passionately under "moonlight" by Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar, who possessed the honors in all three final Gershwin duet selections and one solo requiring a male dancer. The chemistry between these two was undeniable (even from "on high") to be envied by all who seek the link.

Teresa Reichlen from Clifton, Virginia, is one of the company's principal dancers, and she performed beautifully with Ramasar to Embraceable You and in a solo, My One and Only. Another ballerina deserving especial mention was Ashley Bouder who danced solo to I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise and with (who but?) Ramasar in Who Cares?

But my favorite of the night was Adams's Fearful Symmetries, a crashing buildup filled with tension and horns and percussion which grew louder and louder like a coming train wreck just ahead, and no end in sight. (And no seat sleeping for the weary.) It was absolutely magnetic, a modern Alfred Hitchcock, creating and softening friction but one of my two seatmates did not care for it. (Oh well, who can please all? It pleased me, and I am rushing out to buy the CD right this night. )

The male and female dancers in oranges, pinks, and rosy reds on the bare stage (save shadows) added final touches on a delightful evening of solid entertainment. Just close your eyes and soar into that good night.

*You've attended a production one too many times, haven't you? For me, my last time with West Side Story was a traveling stage production in Nashville about 10 years ago. I still cannot bear to hear one note of the music. Who needed it anyway to have a good time Thursday? Not me.

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