‘The Suzanne Farrell Ballet Program B’ at The Kennedy Center by Colleen Sproull

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet Program B is a splendid night of Balanchine that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat in anticipation of what type of ballet you will see next. The first movement, Divertimento No. 15 is classical perfection, every ballerina’s dream. Mozart’s Divertimento No. 15 in B-Flat, major K.287 is broken into five segments: Allegro, Theme and Variation, Minuet, Andante, and Finale.

Holly Hynes’s costume design distinguishes the principal and soloist women (Elisabeth Holowchuk, Nancy Richer, Natalia Magnicaballi, Violeta Angelova, and Heather Ogden) in lavender pancake tutus with a criss-cross design and the lovely Corps de Ballet women with absolutely perfect lines and extension (Jane Morgan, Amber Neff, Katherine Gibson, Jordyn Richter, Melanie Riffee, and Amy Saunder) in lavender pancake tutus with tiny floral print.

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet in ‘Divertimento 15.’ Photo by Rosalie O’Connor.

J. Russell Sandifer’s romantic cool blue lighting accentuates the action. No set pieces are necessary, as the beautiful spatial designs and fast footwork are shown off by the elegant lighting. The three men, Emanuel Abruzzo, Ian Grosh, and Pavel Gurevich are wonderful partners to the women and shine in the spotlight with their incredible strength, agility, and height on the numerous leaps they soar through. I couldn’t look away during this entire piece full of brilliant expression and played soulfully by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.

Prodigal Son is a glorious storytelling movement with grand costumes and scenery (after the design of Georges Rouault, courtesy of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Pacific Northwest Ballet) and suspenseful music by Sergei Prokofiev. Suzanne Farrell herself and Paul Boos were the répétiteurs. Michael Cook is the Prodigal Son who stirs an array of emotions dancing his heart out, expressing the complex journey of the storyline, as the audience is intently involved. His clever confidants are Ian Grosh and Andrew Shore Kaminski. Nine men with bald heads and gladiator-like garb make up the drinking companions (Emanuel Abruzzo, Peter Doll, James Folsom, Aaron Hilton, Dylan Keane, Jordan Nelson, Evan Reynolds, Ted Seymour, and Oliver Swan-Jackson). They performed several feats that made me gasp, including lifting the scenery pieces while Cook danced over them.

The low lighting enhances the dark mood (designer J. Russell Sandifer). The choreography is intense and sensual as the Prodigal Son is enticed by the stunning Siren (Natalia Magnicaballi). Magnicaballi is a daring, versatile dancer who commands the stage and invites her prey with pleasure as the Siren. She is intertwined with Cook and lifted in complicated ways throughout the dance, and she always has a steady stream of consciousness going, which makes her even stronger. Simply mesmerizing.

The most touching moment for me is when the Prodigal Son returns, is greeted by the two sisters (Jane Morgan and Jordyn Richter), and climbs into the arms of his loving father (Pavel Gurevich). There is such passion in this piece, the essence of human nature, raw laid out before you – impossible to resist.

For the final movement of the evening, if you saw Program A you’ll be delighted to recognize Slaughter on Tenth Avenue as it appears in Program B. I was sitting on the opposite side of the theater during Program A and I have to say, this was a delightfully different experience seeing the action from the stage right angle. Music by Richard Rodgers (from the musical On Your Toes, 1936) has a jazzy, upbeat swing. The dancers (many of the above mentioned dancers along with Cleopatra Avery, John Michael, Miriam Ernest, and Melissa Reed) all revel in dancing this choreography and bring their own flair and fun. Elisabeth Holowchuk (Strip Tease Girl) is wickedly entertaining.

One of my favorite moments is when she becomes a beautiful ragdoll after she is shot by the Big Boss (Michael Cook) and is carried in a tender embrace by Hoofer (Kirk Henning). Henning tenderly cares for her and then has an energetic brawl with Cook. The two work brilliantly together with the fight choreography. This ballet left me with a feeling of good humor, a perfect way to end the evening.

Elisabeth Holowchuk and Kirk Henning in ‘Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.’ Photo by Rosalie OConnor.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, including two intermissions.

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet Program B plays through tomorrow November 11, 2012 at The Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater- 2700 F Street, Northwest, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online, or call the box office at (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324.

Review of The Suzanne Farrell Program A by Colleen Sproull on DC Theater Arts.


  1. I think everybody deserves to know the “Strip Tease Girl” in the picture is actually Natalia Magnicaballi; Elisbeth Holowchuk was her alternate, in the other cast, and may well have danced in the performance Colleen Sproull saw. (For that matter, I believe John Michael, not in the company list, was cast in the walk-on part of the Gangster, hired to shoot the Hoofer. In a Balanchine ballet? Yes, and I’m not giving away the ending!)


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