Mercurial Manoeuvres at New York City Ballet
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This witty and cheerful piece for 21 dancers opens with an explosive male variation — a series of bravura leaps performed to a trumpet solo — that is followed by rapidly shifting ensemble work for a corps of women which materializes from behind gauze panels on each side of the stage. After a quietly mesmerizing pas de deux of unfolding turns, arrested leaps and intricate lifts, the ballet ends with squadrons of dancers flying on and off the stage in ever-changing directions, patterns, and diagonals. An early reviewer compared the work's intricate geometry to the paintings of Kandinsky and Malevich. The score by Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) fell in and out of favor with the Soviet government as the composer's creative development and fortunes were often determined by political events in the Soviet Union. Shostakovich studied at the Leningrad Conservatory, where his work was encouraged by Alexander Glazounov, the Conservatory's Principal. Shostakovich's 1926 graduation piece, The First Symphony, catapulted him to prominence. During the next decade he composed a satirical opera, The Nose (based on a story by Nicolai Gogol), three full-length ballets, and the first of many film scores. Shostakovich, whose work was influenced by Gustav Mahler and Cesar Franck, wrote 15 symphonies (several of them with epic themes relating to the Russian Revolution and World War II), concertos, quartets, operas, and patriotic cantatas. Christopher Wheeldon, a former soloist with New York City Ballet, retired from dancing in May 2000. He was born in Somerset, England, and joined The Royal Ballet in 1991, the same year he won the Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne Competition. In 1993, he was invited to become a member of the NYCB corps de ballet. In addition to dancing, he has choreographed works for New York City Ballet's Slavonic Dances (Dvorak) (1997) and Scènes de Ballet (Stravinsky) (1999), Boston Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Ballet Inc., The Royal Ballet, the Royal Ballet School, and the School of American Ballet. His work can also be seen in the feature film Center Stage (released May 2000). In 2000, Mr. Wheeldon was selected as New York City Ballet's first Artist in Residence.