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Maria Kowroski: a momentous ballerina.

What makes New York City Ballet corps dancer Maria Kowroski a momentous ballerina, and not just the ballerina of the moment? It's nothing new for young dancers to burst on the scene and win audiences over with speed, technical brilliance, musicality, and charm. What marks the twenty-year-old native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, as special are qualities a ballerina doesn't usually attain until she reaches artistic middle age.

Granted, Kowroski puts her incredibly long legs to good use, particularly in the Balanchine repertoire. In her debut in Swan Lake last spring, she thrust one leg up behind her in anguish as her Swan Queen lowered her torso in a parting embrace with Igor Zelensky's Prince Siegfried. But she understands that ballet is not just a leg game. When she made her debut as Titania in Balanchine's Midsummer Night's Dream, her arms languorously rose and fell. She does not just carve space, she sculpts it. In Symphony in C she was patient and calm, dancing the delicate, slow second movement. She has also triumphed in sophisticated dramatic roles; in Prodigal Son, she was a worldly, regal, sensuous, and dangerous Siren.

What was most remarkable about watching Kowroski's five debuts last spring was that they did not seem like first-time performances [see Reviews, page 95]. Like Roy Hobbes, the title character of the Bernard Malamud baseball novel who comes out of nowhere and performs like a seasoned star, Kowroski is a "natural."

Kowroski was the talk of the critics last spring. Bury some young artists in praise, and it might entomb them at their current level. Kowroski, however, says the early praise-she has been in the company two years-will not go to her head. "I'm actually the opposite," she says with a hearty laugh. "The more attention I get, the more I feel like I have to work harder." Where she needs work, Kowroski says, is in technique. "I have a hard time with that because my feet are kind of big, and my legs are hyperextended, so sometimes I have a hard time moving fast. Sometimes I watch tapes of the performances, and I see so many things I need to work on."

Suki Schorer, who taught Kowroski at the School of American Ballet for two years (she previously danced and studied with Charthel Arthur's Grand Rapids Ballet), confirms that the dancer is a quick study. "Sometimes you can correct a dancer, but they don't get the message," Schorer says. "She gets the message, and can put it into her body. Also, she has a good natural instinct. She seems not to be thrown by whatever roles she is given."

Kowroski is not always as confident as her assured presence onstage indicates. She got the jitters last spring after learning she would perform Terpsichore in Apollo. "The ballet itself is so beautiful, every time I watch it it brings a tear to my eye. I was really worried, because I wanted it to go well. I didn't want to mess it up. So I just let the music take over.... The music tells you [what] it should be like." Indeed, musicality may be Kowroski's greatest asset, the quality which makes her seem other-worldly. And, the musicality seems to come easily to her.

Not everything is that easy. Asked which of her roles have been the most challenging, she answers: "I find the more classical the hardest." With Swan Lake and Prodigal Son, she says, the character takes over. But "in Symphony in C there's really no place to hide. You're just a dancer."

Schorer inverts that last phrase to offer perhaps the most simple analysis of this new ballerina. "She doesn't playact and be the super ballerina," Schorer says. "She just dances."
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Ben-Itzak, Paul
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 1996
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