New York Theatre Ballet

April 23, 2004

New York Theatre Ballet

Florence Gould Hall

New York, New York

April 23–24, 2004

Reviewed by Clive Barnes

Tantalizing in prospect: Four modern classics and a world premiere make an impressive slate, particularly when one of the classics was the New York premiere of Frederick Ashton’s 1930 Capriol Suite. The other pieces were George Balanchine’s 1951 À la Françaix, Antony Tudor’s Judgment of Paris, John Taras’ Designs With Strings, and Marco Pelle’s Solitude.

However, disappointment took virtually relentless hold at the first rise of the curtain. These ballets—perhaps excepting the Tudor—were so poorly performed that they became shadows of themselves, only dimly recognizable through the mediocrity of the dancing.

The company is celebrating its twenty-fifth year, but this often highly praised troupe seems to exist in the shady area of pickup. As I recall, only two of the twelve dancers appeared with the company last year. That turnover may explain certain failings of style and even technique.

Capriol Suite was a remarkable ballet for a 25-year-old choreographer who had been dancing only since he was 19. Composer Peter Warlock’s Capriol Suite, like Ashton’s later choreography, followed Thoinot Arbeau’s sixteenth-century manual on dance quite closely, with all its galliards, pavanes, and serene jollity.

Like the original for Ballet Rambert, this version has only four couples, and pleasingly accurate copies of the original William Chappell costumes. Unfortunately, it was danced with more puppy-dog eagerness than style—the dancers bounced when they should have bounded, looked forlorn instead of poetic. And their technique could not carry the choreography. The same was true of that charming trifle À la Françaix. Marina Eglevsky seems to have accurately reproduced the choreography, but as for the dancers, the promising young Steven Melendez was no André Eglevsky, and Melissa Beaver and Danielle Genest were similarly, as Shakespeare has it, “o’erparted.”

Anyone who recalled 1948 original, or even later incarnations, would surely have been disappointed with Designs With Strings. Only the stalwart New Zealand-born dancer Tobias Parsons stood out, as he did during the entire evening.

The less said about Pelle’s execrable Solitude, the better, so I will say nothing. However, the evening did end with an acceptable performance of Judgment of Paris, with its choreography meticulously staged by Sallie Wilson and its three sad tarts danced with much of the right weary élan by Beaver, Kathleen Byrne, and Byers herself.

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