"Who Cares?" preceded by "Pas Glazunov" & excerpts from "Apollo" & "Nuevo Tango"
A Tribute to Igor Antonov
Studio Theater of the Richmond Ballet
September 10, 2011
by George Jackson
copyright 2011 by George Jackson
Igor Antonov's career as a danseur began in the Ukraine, is concluding in Virginia and has included considerable years in Germany. Trained in the Soviet Union's Vaganova curriculum at Kiev, Antonov won fans dancing for companies he joined - Donetsk Ballet, Richmond Ballet, Duesseldorf Ballet and again Richmond - as well as for companies that invited him to guest. His director at Richmond, Stoner Winslett, decided to start her 2011/12 season with a pair* of programs that are retrospectives of Antonov's choice roles. Initially the idea seems to have been to cast him in a different one or two of these parts at each performance during the September 8 to 18 run. However, Antonov demurred and chose instead to say goodbye in the same work on each occasion - George Balanchine's "Who Cares?". It pleases him to see the company's younger men, whom he has helped to rehearse and coach, do the other dancing.
It certainly seems that each of Antonov's three muses (delicate Maggie Small for "The Man I Love", confident Valerie Tellmann for "Embraceable You" and sensual Cecile Tuzii for the title number "Who Cares? ") relishes his attentions. Tuzii places her head on Antonov's shoulder so cozily at the very start of their duet, that this image persists alongside their more voluptuous moments together. For his solo ("Liza"), Antonov is elegantly agile, adding a dash of Apollonian daring and authority to his dancing's classical clarity and syncopated playfulness.
The version of "Who Cares?" we see is neither the concert abbreviation nor the big one New York City Ballet usually dances but a special edition for the occasion. It starts with 8 ladies together with 5 gentlemen in "Strike Up the Band" and continues with the ladies in "Somebody Loves Me" and the gentlemen in "Bidin' My Time". Now come Antonov's three duets. The ballerina solo which follows each duet isn't danced by Antonov's partner in the duet but by another lady so that more of the company can take part in Antonov's farewell; Lauren Fagone , Shira Lanyi and Cody Beaton are the solo ladies. For the finale, "I Got Rhythm", everyone is on stage, even Antonov's cover for the main role, Phillip Skaggs. This unusual casting is fully in accord with the bittersweet spirit of the occasion and of Balanchine's intent.
Of "Apollo" there was the young god's major solo and his duet with Terpsichore. Skaggs is a tall, Nordic and well built Apollo. Although not yet ideally pliant, he led and was led aptly by Tellmann's Terpsichore through Apollo's engagement with his favorite muse. The choreography, even excerpted, is astonishing. More predictable were two other items. From "Nuevo Tango" by William Soleau to Astor Piazzolla music, came a rather tame duet (Laura Fagone and Thomas Ragland) followed by a men-and-barstools ensemble (with Ariel Rose, Thomas Bettin, Samuel Lariviere and Dylan Keane as the additional men). "Pas Glazunov" by Malcolm Burn was a gently classical duo with Maggie Small and Fernando Sabino.
The program had begun with a documentary film about Igor Antonov, from his student days (impressive leg work) through a clip from his last "Apollo" (in 2009) to his thoughts today. He will continue to teach and coach for Richmond Ballet and its school, plus do occasional mime parts. For the end of this farewell run of performances, in addition to dancing "Who Cares?", Antonov has choreographed a "very Russian" solo for himself. ###
*The alternate program consists of an excerpt from Stoner Winslett's "Echoing Past", the "Black Swan" pas de deux, "Who Cares?" and parts of "Apollo". Jerri Kumery staged the Balanchine choreography; "Black Swan" is from Nicolas Beriozoff's production for Richmond of the Petipa/Ivanov "Swan Lake".