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CHOREOGRAPHER FELD’S TALENT, WEAKNESS DISPLAYED BY NYC BALLET

This article originally appeared in the Culture section of Bloomberg News on May 1, 2006.


May 1 (Bloomberg) — Silhouetted against a backdrop of galactic light, Kaitlyn Gilliland, a New York City Ballet apprentice, manipulates her long, pliant body like a goddess murmuring an incantation. Endlessly, she turns on point and stretches into the empty space; she sinks to the ground, still reaching skyward.


Her hypnotic solo, “Etoile Polaire,” is set to parts of the haunting music Philip Glass made for the film “North Star.” The dance by Eliot Feld, which premiered Friday, launched New York City Ballet’s sixth Diamond Project, a festival of new choreography.


The coming weeks of the company’s season, which runs through June 25, will showcase seven dance makers: Mauro Bigonzetti; Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux; Jorma Elo; Eliot Feld; Peter Martins; Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon.


Feld, one of the most promising choreographers of the 1970s, made this reiterative sort of solo frequently in the disappointing mature years of his career. Most often, his essays in echolalia were created for Buffy Miller, a female dancer who served as his muse.


Although the form grew tiresome — indeed, exasperating — through overexposure, Miller was convincing in it. Gilliland, at 18, doesn’t have what it takes: the concentration, the control, the projection and the sexiness.


Discouraging Solo


Even at this early stage of her development, Gilliland’s performance in more suitable assignments has proved she’s headed for great things. But in this piece she looks like a brave adolescent trying to remember the counts.


The premiere of “Etoile Polaire” was part of an all- Feld evening — a New York City Ballet first. It was imbedded in a segment of four small pieces, among them another discouraging new solo, “Ugha Bugha.” Here Wu- Kang Chen, a vivid dancer from Feld’s Ballet Tech, gyrated pointlessly, making his own percussion from clattering tin cans attached by wires to his tights.


Two works created in 2004 for Mandance, a recent Feld project, added to the unwelcome evidence of a huge talent that has inexplicably failed to thrive. “Backchat” and “A Stair Dance” are both gimmicky pieces that deliberately stymie their dancers with a hostile terrain.


“Backchat” presents three men scaling and splaying themselves across a free-standing wall. It evokes, with some homoerotic implications, the despair and incipient violence of inner-city youth. In terms of dance, though, it’s simply self-thwarting.


Bouncy Crew


“A Stair Dance” has blither intentions, assigning a quintet of performers to five, five-step flights. But, all too typically, Feld has this bouncy crew repeat short phrases like a bunch of obsessive-compulsives.


The program also included a revival of Feld’s “The Unanswered Question,” an inscrutable affair to Charles Ives music created for NYCB’s 1988 American Music Festival. The evening was redeemed by the company premiere of an early, justly beloved ballet, “Intermezzo No. 1.”


The sextet, choreographed on Feld’s first company in 1969, is fresh and effortlessly inventive. Set to Brahms piano pieces, it provides an intimate view of youthful romance and friendship.


The dancers appear alternately as devoted couples and as a group. Their movement is rapturous, sometimes gently funny or poignantly awkward.


Love’s Vagaries


“Intermezzo” makes ballet seem natural, like an emanation of spirit. Shedding their customary high-gloss professional finish for this unfamiliar style, the NYCB dancers did a beautiful job. In the ecstatic lifts and swooning falls, they looked, rightly, like real people subject to the vagaries of love.


Even if this dance were the only one to survive from Feld’s output, it would still guarantee his place among the most gifted choreographers of our time.


© 2006 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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