“Pas de Dix”, “Duo Concertant”, “Tempo di Valse”,”Agon”
The Suzanne Farrell Ballet
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
November 8, 2013
by George Jackson
copyright 2013 by George Jackson
George Balanchine was fond of comparing choreography to cooking. Seriously, yet with a sense of humor, he likened the programming of a bill of ballets to planning a meal. For one of her two menus this season (Program B), Suzanne Farrell served an all-Balanchine buffet. There were two morsels based on traditional recipes (the Raymonda “Pas de Dix” and the “Waltz of the Flowers” from Nutcracker) plus two nuggets packed with ingenuity (the lusciously lean “Duo Concertant” and the tart “Agon”). Balletomanes complain that such fare isn’t like sitting down to a four act feast of roasted swans. True, Farrell’s Balanchine is more like tasting high-end deli on the run.
The transformation from traditional ballet to innovation is much more thoroughgoing in “Tempo di Valse”. Not only is there cross-hatching and counterpoint in what Balanchine does with the group formations, but Holly Hynes’s color scheme for the flowing tutus of the all-female cast establishes a tone row of colors – different shades of pink. The dozen women of the ensemble are in plain pink, the two soloists wear an intense rose and the leading dancer has a very pale pink skirt and white bodice. These gradations highlight Balanchine’s interweaving of lines. As the leader, Paola Hartley – a short, firm newcomer to the Farrell company – had spunk.
The dancers under Farrell’s direction demonstrate steps to bring out flavors, they phrase astutely to show savory movement textures. Personality is barely suggested in the dancing, relationships remain understated - even in “Duo Concertant”, in which a boy and a girl bond playfully at first. Then a change occurs. Gone is the casual mood, the companionable feeling. He becomes her worshipper and she is transfigured into the beloved one. However, In Friday’s performance an ultimate question remained. Up to the end, Michael Cook and Natalia Magnicaballi had related directly, spurred on by violinist Corey Cerovsek and pianist Glenn Sales. The two musicians, positioned near the dancers, grew ever more fully and passionately committed to their Stravinsky score. Did, though, the two dancers finally transcend themselves? Cook, in particular, seemed to be holding back.
Also in “Agon” the focus was on the steps and the stops, the tidiness and timing. Kirk Henning led Amy Brandt and Jane Morgan in the “polygamy” trio and in the “polyandry” trio Hartley was the center of Ian Grosh ‘s and Matthew Renko’s attention - but the proceedings were utterly platonic. In the duo, Cook’s partnering of Elisabeth Hollowchuck was about ingeniously intense balancing. Sexual fervor seemed far away and nothing about this couple implied they might be “servant and lady”.
Some random thoughts. “Duo Concertant” (officially rehearsed by Ben Huys and Kay Mazzo) has, exceptionally, a good Balanchine role for Magnicaballi. Cook, stylistically fine, isn’t stretching and flexing as fully as he did a couple of seasons ago. Hartley, the newcomer, brings a fresh foreign air into the company. Eating a little deli is a healthy alternative to big, full meals!
Photos, both by Linda Spillers:
Heather Ogden and Pavel Gurevitch in "Pas de Dix"
Michael Cook and Natalia Magnicaballi in "Duo Concertant"