The Diamond Project.
From 1992 to 2004, the Diamond Project commissioned 48 ballets by 28 choreographers. This year, the sixth such festival presented seven premieres by established choreographers over the course of the company's spring season.
Some of the ballets deserve consideration for spots in future repertoire. Alexei Ratmansky used music and the suggestion of a story to beautifully describe a modern yet traditional Russia. Mauro Bigonzetti startled with contrasts of light and dark, and Christopher Wheeldon cherrypicked ballet's vocabulary and blended it memorably with the contemporary. The other dances satisfied in some ways, stretching the limits of the company either physically or artistically, but were not as successful. Jorma Elo's barrage of bravura moves thrilled, but the relentless pace diluted the work's impact, while Martins showed his affinity for musicality in a solid but unremarkable contribution. Eliot Feld's lyrical folly stood in contrast to Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux's dramatically dark, uneven ballet.
Leonid Desyatnikov's score contributed greatly to Ratmansky's intriguing Russian Seasons. Each of the 12 parts, including some sung by mezzo Susana Poretsky, varied in tone and dynamic, at times evoking Philip Glass, a czardas, Stravinsky, a mass. Sophiane Sylve, Wendy Whelan, Jenifer Ringer, and Albert Evans danced the juiciest segments, which displayed a similarly wide-ranging sensibility. Sporting Galina Solovyeva's jewel-toned tunics, dresses, and pillbox hats, the performers alternated ballet with folk, clapping, and foot stamping. At times, they broke character and relaxed into rehearsal mode, sharpening the audience's focus rather than dissipating it. The dancers playfully poked each other or straightened their shirts in unison, as if these gestures were dance steps. Some of the scenes evoked events or their aftermath, but nothing specific. The cumulative effect was like looking back on a year filled with sorrow, whimsy, love.
The sublime silhouette and chiaroscuro captivated Bigonzetti of Italy's Aterballetto, whose stylish In Vento featured the elegant Maria Kowroski and Jason Fowler. Equally dependent gender-wise, she stabilized his raised bent leg, and they clung together in myriad shapes, displaying sinuous lines. Benjamin Millepied's weighty role combined high-flying grand allegro with suavity. Rocking on his tail-bone, his cupped body twisted in wavelets, then unfurled in bold sautes and turns. Millepied, who can appear uncommitted in performances, here looked extremely focused. Bruno Moretti's strong score ranged from contemplative to agitated; Bigonzetti designed the sleek, black-lace leotards.
Premieres by Martins and Wheeldon shared a program. Wheeldon's Evenfall, to Bartok, drew liberally from classical ballet, and yet it felt of the moment. He deployed a corps of 18, including women in tutus--traditional, yet constructed of techy-looking pleated tulle. When he drew on ballet's fundamental vocabulary, he chose its modern traits: clean lines and an aesthetic efficiency. Into the multiscened framework he tossed some nontraditional twists--feet passing through parallel, crossed-wrist arms--but nothing baroque. The summer dawn/dusk lighting contributed to the flesh feel. Wheeldon sampled Swan Lake (he has choreographed a version already) with fluttering hands, shifting walls of dancers, and a Greek chorus. Two of the company's most dashing principals, Miranda Weese and Damian Woetzel, playfully darted and spun, encircled by the corps. Wheeldon makes rudimentary moves look new--when two dancers faced one another, each raised one arm, together forming a perfect fifth position. His choreography is smart and works within the context of the company.
Juxtaposed with Wheeldon, Martins' athletic neo-Balanchine style came off looking somewhat dated. His Red Violin featured John Corigliano's music from the film. The bold yet delicate Jennie Somogyi traced the musical line of the violin. Sebastien Marcovici promenaded and lifted her, with her legs exploding in developpes. Two recently promoted soloists partnered--the charismatic Amar Ramasar and the eye-catching Sara Mearns. But Martins ignored problematic passages that should have been simple to fix, like a low arabesque outside turn, which the dancers fumbled repeatedly.
Feld's Etoile Polaire, a solo to Philip Glass for apprentice Kaitlyn Gilliland, was more a tone poem than a full-fledged ballet. In the opening and closing scenes, silhouette lighting emphasized the youngster's long limbs and fluid extensions with a wealth of spinning movements-bourrees that carved circles, her pointed index fingers setting compass points with each orbit of the stage. However lovely, it felt like a meringue after an ample main course in an all-Feld evening, particularly Intermezzo No. 1, and alongside such dogmatic exercises as A Stair Dance and Backchat.
Two Birds With the Wings of One, by Bonnefoux, marked Bright Sheng's company debut as composer and conductor. His score, which included some feral vocal runs by Lauren Flanigan, provided a dramatic, spare base for a dance with comparable qualities, and presumably the inspiration for the chinoiserie costumes. Sofiane Sylve, an athlete and a bold stage presence, seemed intentionally constrained as she and Andrew Veyette dealt with love, loss, and reconciliation. Alone in a pool of blue light, Veyette underwent a tormented passage to another world when six men entered, lifting and spinning him head over heels. When this movement was reprised at the end, Sylve embraced him rapturously. Sheng's score startled with percussive clatter but included strong lines for individual instruments. What sets this ballet apart--its sketchy Asian scheme--may ghettoize it, for better or worse, when repertory choices are made.
The grand finale of the Diamond Project, Slice to Sharp by Jorma Elo of Boston Ballet, was suitably fireworks-filled and audience-pleasing. Music by Vivaldi and yon Biber laid an agitated groundwork for this ballet that spotlighted maximum physical capability. Joaquin de Luz stole the show. Bursting with exuberance, he whipped through spins like a gyroscope and soared unfettered in grand allegro, eliciting gasps from viewers. Sylve showed her extraordinary flexibility in extensions and a solid center in grand pirouettes in second. Except for an adagio duet with Whelan and Craig Hall, however, the dynamics maintained an eventually numbing, manic pace. Elo seemed tempted to pull out every toy in the box. As for all but a few of the premieres, Holly Hynes designed the costumes; Mark Stanley lit the entire Diamond Project. See www.nycballet.com.
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|Date:||Sep 1, 2006|
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