“Mozartiana”, “Episodes,” “Romeo and Juliet”
The Suzanne Farrell Ballet
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
November 6, 7, 9 (evening), 10 (matinee), 2013
by Alexandra Tomalonis
copyright 2013 by Alexandra Tomalonis
The Suzanne Farrell Ballet gave Washington a more satisfying week of ballet than it has in the recent past. Even when imperfections of casting or preparation were visible, the overriding impetus of dancing the music – Balanchine’s Golden Rule – made the ballets live. It was a happy week (and sold out at the performances I attended).
What did matter was that both men (Ian Grosh in the Gigue, and Pavel Gurevich in the principal male role), were either a bit overwhelmed (Grosh) or miscast (Gurevich). Gurevich is an interesting dancer, and I’d look forward to seeing him in other roles, but here, the very long legs and Soviet sense of weight and Princely presence made his dancing heavy and slow for a role created for a quicksilver cavalier (Ib Andersen). The sense of conversation between the two partners was also missing; the Theme and Variations was an exchange of solos. In the Gigue, Grosh’s emphatic, geometric arm movements seemed out of key for the role.
And yet, as often happens, Farrell sets the frame of the ballet so solidly that the choreography is clearly visible, and "Mozartiana" is a beauty, good to see again.
“Episodes,” once a terror of a ballet to dance, with a score that seemed dissonant to audiences of 1959 when it was new, one reads, was given an exceptionally clear performance. Like “Agon” on Program B, “Episodes” looked very classical, a refreshing history lesson indeed. Paola Hartley led the Symphony with the rich musicality that marked her performances all week. If Jordyn Richter and Ted Seymour were a bit bland in “Five Pieces,” Elisabeth Holowchuk’s very clean dancing in the Concerto made up for it, and Heather Ogden and Pavel Gurevich brought a dignity and sense of peace to the Ricercata that seemed absolutely right, and was very beautiful to watch. The dancing throughout was very clear without being overstretched and I was grateful to remember what that looked like.
The program closed with a very non-Balanchine, echt-Bejart “Romeo and Juliet,” choreographed by Paul Mejia to Tchaikovsky’s score. The ballet takes place in the tomb scene, in the final moments of the star-crossed lovers' lives, and has original and imaginative moments. Unfortunately, the action is a bit cloudy. The ballet opens with Juliet lying on her tomb, surrounded by a Chorus of shades. Romeo enters and kills himself – and then things become confusing. Tybalt, alone from the other dead in the crypt, comes back to life (or at least moves around). Is it a dream, or a ghost story? He could be Death or Romeo’s ghost at some point. Juliet could be imaging all of this, or it could all be in Romeo’s dead head. Whatever. Both Hartley (Juliet) and Michael Cook, as Romeo in his best role of the season, danced a heartfelt love poem. The ballet ends with everyone in Heaven, represented by what looks like an open, collapsed parachute, which brought the ballet back down to earth.
Photos (both of opening night casts, and both by Linda Spillers):
Heather Ogden Michael Cook and company in "Mozartiana".
Elisabeth Holowchuk and Kirk Henning in "Romeo and Juliet".