- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2001

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, winding up 11/2 weeks of local performances this weekend, is potentially one of the most significant artistic projects undertaken by the Kennedy Center.
The dance company's alternating programs feature the work Miss Farrell knows best: the inspired ballets of the late George Balanchine. This afternoon and evening, the company is dancing the stronger program a dazzling display of the choreographer's astounding artistry and range.
This engagement gives eloquent evidence of Miss Farrell's skill at translating not only Mr. Balanchine's movements but her own daring performing style to others. The dancers she favors have a classical purity of technique, but she builds on that to bring forth strong individual performances.
Two of the ballets scheduled today are remarkable visualizations of a central Balanchine theme: the artist and his endless pursuit of the ideal. In Mr. Balanchine's world, that ideal finds personification in a beautiful, unattainable woman.
In the first, "La Sonnambula," a poet becomes entranced with a sleepwalker, a haunting figure whom he longs to possess but who skims across the stage en pointe, ever remote, ever out of reach. At a climactic moment he sinks to the ground, trying to encircle her; unseeing, she steps over his prostrate body. At the stunning conclusion, the fragile ballerina holds him in her arms, carrying him off to another world.
Ben Huys gave an impassioned performance as the poet, Chan Hon Goh was credible in a role that demands more than that, and Christina Fagundes and Momchil Mladenov were the contrasting corrupt and worldly couple.
Mr. Huys has an astounding range, and he has been a mainstay of performances here. He danced three demanding roles with an integrity that made each deeply satisfying on a single night this week.
"Duo Concertant" offers a more intimate, lighter look at this same theme, of a man's pursuit of an ideal woman. By turns tender and playful, it is also virtuosic and ultimately moving. A man and a woman stand, listening to Igor Stravinsky's score played onstage, then move to its rhythms. At the end, on a darkened stage, a spotlight plays on the man kneeling at the woman's feet.
Natalia Magnicaballi, dark-haired and spirited, danced the female role with joyful freedom. The male part was performed alternately by Mr. Huys, Runqiao Du and Peter Boal, who joined the company partway through its run. Mr. Boal, a great classical dancer and principal with the New York City Ballet, possesses a beautiful form, galvanizing energy and keen intelligence that make his every performance an event.
Also included were two abstract Balanchine works usually presented back to back "Monumentum Pro Gesualdo" and "Movements for Piano and Orchestra," both to the spare sounds of Stravinsky and both richly illuminating the music.
They were danced with distinction by Jennifer Fournier, who bears a resemblance to a young Suzanne Farrell, and Mr. Du. Miss Fournier was immaculate and responsive in these contrapuntal masterpieces; Mr. Du, a longtime member of the Washington Ballet, shone with a new, vigorous authority.
"Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" ended the program on a bright note. Again, Mr. Huys brought his dramatic intensity to the role of the hoofer and Miss Fournier was silkily seductive as the Strip Tease Girl. Here and throughout the program, most especially in "Monumentum-Movements," the corps members danced with bright conviction.
A highlight of tomorrow's matinee is "Apollo," one of Mr. Balanchine's seminal works. It features one of the greatest male roles created in the 20th century interestingly enough coming from the choreographer who once said, "Ballet is woman." Mr. Boal joins the ranks of "Apollo's" memorable interpreters in a performance that is intense, riveting and touched with splendor.
The orchestra under Ron Matson's direction has given fine support in rich musical selections ranging from those of Stravinsky to Vincenzo Bellini to Richard Rodgers.
This marks the first time the Kennedy Center has become the de facto founder of a new dance venture. A strong commitment to the Farrell troupe by the center's president, Michael Kaiser, contemplates a long-term association with the company leading to a part-time, even possibly full-time, venture.
Much of what was performed this week was first rate. Not all of it was, but an intermittent company can only go so far. The challenge for the future lies in building a viable company that can absorb and transmit the exceptional vision Miss Farrell has developed from her distinguished career.

Three-1/2 Stars
WHAT: Suzanne Farrell Ballet
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. today and 2:30 p.m. tomorrow
WHERE: Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater, F Street and New Hampshire Avenue NW
TICKETS: $35 to $55
PHONE: 202/467-4600 or 800/444-1324
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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