All that Jazz — and all that Kowroski

nycb-jazzNew York City Ballet’s Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar, with the David Berger Jazz Orchestra in the background, in Susan Stroman’s “For the Love of Duke.” Photo ©Paul Kolnik and courtesy NYCB.

nycb-jazz-kowroskiNew York City Ballet’s Maria Kowroski, Joaquin De Luz, and friends in Balanchine and Kochno’s “Prodigal Son.” Photo by and ©Paul Kolnik and courtesy NYCB.

Copyright 2011, 2017 Paul Ben-Itzak

(Editor’s Note: Later the same year as that in which this review was first published, and after 16 years of dedicated coverage by more than a dozen critics of international renown and our championing the company and its dancers in the face of a strike by its orchestra that threatened to shut down the “Nutcracker” season and against fatuous criticism by the New York Times, the DI’s press ticket access to New York City Ballet performances was revoked by the director of its press department, after we criticized the press department for alerting the New York Times to important company news before notifying other media. A recent appeal to the same director, which included an apology, went unanswered. If you’d like to read about current performances of  City Ballet on the DI, as you continue to read about American Ballet Theatre and other companies, contact press director Rob Daniels at RDaniels@nycballet.com . (Be nice.) If we persist, it’s because no one person – be he a hard-working respected veteran press officer or a precipitous editor – has the right to deprive these dancers and this jewel of a company of the type of informed coverage the DI has always provided.)

NEW YORK — Forget what you may have read elsewhere: With Susan Stroman’s semi-new “For the Love of Duke,” New York City Ballet has a run-away hit, that rare jazz ballet which makes ballet dancers look great even as the ballet dancers enhance the phenomenal music, in this case by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Those who complain about clichés in the work, as some critics have done, miss the point, and probably missed Stroman’s transformational Broadway hit “Contact”: The woman knows how to make choreography that connects to this quintessentially American musical form and that, putting it simply, dances jazz — and, in this piece, shows that she knows how to bring out the jazz dancer in classically trained performers, who add a rare quickness, deftness, and dexterity to the mix that jazz dancers don’t always have. Add a textbook lesson in how to interpret an archetypal contemporary ballet role — that of the Siren in Balanchine’s transformational 1929 “Prodigal Son” — such as Maria Kowroski delivered in the ballet which followed the Stroman at City Ballet’s matinee Saturday, and a flawless delivery of the Robbins-Glass urban ballet “Glass Pieces,” and you have stunning proof of a new versatility in this troupe, which well-serves the choreography, when they’re well-served by the choreographers (which was not entirely the case in the Saturday evening performance).

To receive the rest of the article, first published February 8, 2011, subscribers can contact publisher Paul Ben-Itzak at paulbenitzak@gmail.com. Not a subscriber? Subscribe to the Dance Insider for just $29.95/year ($99 for institutions gets full access for all your teachers, students, dance company members, etc.) and receive full access to our Archive of 2,000 exclusive reviews by 150 leading critics of performances on five continents from 1998 through 2015. Just designate your PayPal payment in that amount to paulbenitzak@gmail.com, or write us at that address to learn how to pay by check or in Euros. You can also purchase a complete copy of the Archives for just $49 (individuals) or $129 (institutions) Purchase before February 14, 2017 and receive a second, free copy for the recipient of your choice. Contact Paul at paulbenitzak@gmail.com .

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