New Jersey Ballet

Wilkins Theatre, Kean University
Union, New Jersey
October 23, 1999

Reviewed By Karyn D. Collins

When New Jersey Ballet celebrated its fortieth anniversary last season, the unspoken question for many ballet fans in the Garden State was how this little troupe has managed to hang on all these years.

Founded and still headed by former American Ballet Theatre dancer Carolyn Clark, NJB has remained a steady and reliable presence in New Jersey's dance community. While it is the state's oldest dance company, it is the second largest in terms of funding and number of dancers. But while other, younger troupes have grown larger, won bigger grants, gained more national attention, and attracted flashier names over the years, somehow NJB has persevered. Why?

Its focus on ballet's classical repertory, mixed with a neoclassical nugget here or a fluffy entertainment vehicle there, has been key to helping them retain a loyal audience. While following this formula has worked for this fifteen-member troupe, finding good repertory to add, as well as maintaining dancers who can handle the rigors of the existing repertory, has in recent years proven to be the challenge. The troupe's forty-first season opener showed that NJB is working to meet both challenges.

For now, the troupe appears to be having more success in finding dancers (about half the troupe has joined within the last two seasons) than it has had finding new repertory.

That was evident in its performance of George Balanchine's Allegro Brillante. Led by an impressive Julia Vorobyeva and Andrei Jouravlev, NJB's dancers showed how they can dazzle when given a good piece of choreography. This Allegro lacked something in its attack, but there was a welcome warmth and clarity to the performances that more than compensated.

Jouravlev showed off his superb partnering skills, performing with control and quiet finesse. Vorobyeva was equally sparkling in her pas de deux with Jouravlev, but she was shaky in some of the quick passages of pique turns and pirouettes.

The corps de ballet was equally impressive, but this is where the dulled attack showed.

The classical repertory that is NJB's calling card was represented by a dazzling Esmeralda pas de deux by Rosemary Sabovick-Bleich and Konstantin Dournev. Sabovick-Bleich, in particular, is that rare dancer with the technical strength to toss off the tricks like multiple fouette turns, but she has the artistic maturity to bring out more subtle nuances as well.

This performance also marked the company debut of Chinese ballerina Yan Li, featured in the white swan pas de deux from Swan Lake. Unfortunately, Li's Odette was impassive and distant, leaving her gorgeous line as the only element to savor.

The premiere work on this bill, Michael Vernon's Western Sweet, was an uneven bit of puffery dressed up in cowboy boots and Stetsons.

The program was rounded out by the choreographically fussy ensemble work, Verdi Pas de Six, performed by former NJB principal Elie Lazar.

With a solid crop of dancers on board for the season, it appears that the search for good works for NJB will continue to be its major challenge.

Latest Posts


Brandt in Giselle. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT

Skylar Brandt's Taste in Music Is as Delightful as Her Dancing

American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt's dancing is clean, precise and streamlined. It's surprising, then, to learn that her taste in music is "all over the place," she says. (Even more surprising is that Brandt, who has an Instagram following of over 80k, is "in the dark ages" when it comes to her music, and was buying individual songs on iTunes up until a year ago, when her family intervened with an Apple Music plan.)

Though what she's listening to at any given time can vary dramatically, the through-line for Brandt is nostalgia: songs that take her back, whether to childhood, a favorite movie or a piece she's recently performed. Brandt told us about her eclectic taste, and made us a playlist that will keep you guessing:

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

NYCDA Is Redefining the Convention Scene Through Life-Changing Opportunities

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
Courtesy The Joyce

Dance Magazine Chairman's Award Honoree: Linda Shelton

In an industry that has been clamoring for more female leadership, Linda Shelton, executive director of New York City's The Joyce Theater Foundation since 1993, has been setting an example for decades. As a former general manager of The Joffrey Ballet, U.S. tour manager for the Bolshoi Ballet, National Endowment for the Arts panelist, Dance/NYC board member and Benois de la Danse judge, as well as a current Dance/USA board member, Shelton has served as a global leader in dance. In her tenure at The Joyce, she has not only increased the venue's commissioned programming, but also started presenting beyond The Joyce's walls in locations such as Lincoln Center.

What brought you to The Joyce?

That was many years ago, but it's still the same today: It's a belief in and passion for the mission of the theater, which is to support dance in all of its forms and varieties—every kind of dance that you could imagine.

Diversity is so important in dance leadership today. How do you approach this at The Joyce?

Darren Walker said something interesting at a Dance/NYC Symposium, which was that The Joyce is a disruptor. It was nice to hear in that context, because we don't think of it as something new. We didn't have to change our mission statement to be more diverse. We've been doing this since day one.

Is drawing in new audiences and maintaining longtime supporters ever in conflict?

Of course. I call it the blessing and the curse of our mission. We do present more experimental companies that may attract a younger audience. But it's very tricky. You're not going to tell your long-term audience, "Don't come and see this because you're not going to like the music." We've had people walk out of the theater before, but it's a response. It's important to spark those conversations.

What experimenting have you done?

We've tried a "pay what you decide" ticket the past couple of seasons with some of our more adventurous programming. You would reserve your seat for a dollar and after seeing the show pay what you decide is right for you.

Do you have advice for other dance presenters?

Find opportunities to sit with colleagues from around the country. At Dance/USA there's a presenters' council where we come together and talk about what we're putting in our seasons and what we're passionate about. Maybe there are enough presenters to collaborate and make it possible to bring a company to New York or to do a tour around the country.

Also, remember what it's all about: making that connection between what's onstage and the audience. If we can do that, despite every visa issue and missed flight and injury and changed program and whatever else comes our way, then we should feel good about the job we're doing.

To purchase tickets to the Dance Magazine Awards or become a sponsor, visit dancemediafoundation.org.

contest
Enter Our Video Contest