Suzanne Farrell Company
Natalia Magnicaballi and Matthew Prescott in Balanchine’s
Photo by Carol Pratt, courtesy The Kennedy Center
Suzanne Farrell Company
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC
November 22–27, 2005
Reviewed by Elizabeth Kendall
Three pony-tailed, tulle-gowned girls stand on pointe on a darkened stage, “speaking” with their gloved hands. What are they saying? From the opening moment of the Suzanne Farrell production of Balanchine’s 1951 La Valse the audience was gripped. By the middle we were riveted. The guests in the ballroom had feverishly waltzed; the girl in white had met her cavalier. Then—my companion grabbed my arm—black-clad Death entered at the back of the stage.
A ballet that had been looking vapid on its home company, New York City Ballet, had come brilliantly back to life. And it wasn’t alone. La Source, Balanchine’s 1968 homage to Petipa by way of Delibes, got a delicate reading by the Farrell dancers; Balanchine’s 1972 miniature essay on love and loss, Duo Concertant, became a heart-stopping thing; Clarinade, the master’s 1964 response to a clarinet-and-jazz-band piece, rose from ballet oblivion to an alarmingly saucy sexiness.
Not enough attention has been paid in the dance world to the stager of a ballet, to the final “eye” that calibrates performers, lighting, conducting, tempi; that is, to what Diaghilev did. With the same steps and costumes, one can throw a ballet indifferently onstage, or put it on lovingly.
In the five years of her company’s existence, Farrell has restored the theatrical bite, as well as the musical soul, to many ballets. She’s rescued performers too. This time it was Alexandra Ansanelli and Alexander Ritter, who found, as La Valse’s ill-starred pair, a new level of gravitas. As for Farrell’s own dancers, they seem to give their all, with the old Balanchinian abandon, each time they come onstage. The elegant Natalia Magnicaballi, the vibrant Erin Mahoney-Du, and Matthew Prescott of the blond curls and effortless jumps were especially moving.
This company should be touring. It should be commissioning new work. It possesses what’s not found enough these days in bigger companies: a guiding mind, to whom audiences spontaneously, instinctively, justifiably, give their trust. See www.kennedy-center.org.