Monday, May 23, 2011

En Pointe!: 'For the Love of Duke' Has That Swing

New York City Ballent dancers Tiler Peck, Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar in “For the Love of Duke.” Photos by Paul Kolnik.


Stroman, that Broadway babe who’s won Tonys for both choreography and directing, uses the full vocabulary of ballet in “For the Love of Duke.”

After its premiere in the winter season, New York City Ballet once again brings her ebullient vision to the stage at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater.

The limited run of “For the Love of Duke,” from Wednesday through Sunday (25 May-29 May), is appropriately placed in a Broadway-themed program with George Balanchine’s classic “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” and Jerome Robbins’ equally timeless “West Side Story Suite.”

A snazzy two-part dance, “For the Love of Duke,” pairs a spirited new “Frankie and Johnny … and Rose” dance story with “Blossom Got Kissed,” created for the 1998 season. SS, Tony-nominated for her direction of short-lived "The Scottsboro Boys" (See review at:, explores the juncture between jazz and ballet, making great use of both styles.

New York City Ballet dancers in “West Side Story Suite.”

Although she throws in a lot of jazz/Broadway into the mix with the piece, “For the Love of Duke,” set to the music of Duke Ellington, is definitely all dressed up in ballet slippers with plenty of exciting variations for those thrilled by watching arabesques, jetes and ballerinas on their toes.

Amar Ramasar dances the caddish Johnny with verve, enthusiasm and good humor. As his Rose, Tiler Peck is alternately affectionate and aggrieved.

AR and TP partner with a sweetness that is set off by the toughness Sara Mearns brings to her Frankie. SM twirls in handsomely on her toes, surprising the illicit lovers and herself. AR shows fine comic skills in his pantomime of the two-timer caught.

In New York City Ballet's “Blossom Got Kissed,” a wallflower becomes a rose.

Blossom (Savannah Lowery), a wallflower in a puffy blue tutu, tries to keep up with the cool kids and flappers. They dance her away and step around her, finally carrying her to the on-stage bandstand. There she encounters The Musician (Robert Fairchild), a nerdy leading man. RF is a matinee idol of the Cary Grant in “Bringing Up Baby” school. He dances The Musician with an awkward charm.

A quibble, though both parts of “For The Love of Duke” are a delight: The transition between the older piece and the new one, while cute, is a bit ragged. It’s not clear exactly why “Frankie and Johnny … and Rose” is a companion piece to the original “Blossom Got Kissed.”

Visit to learn more about “For The Love Of Duke”

A Sparkling, Shiny, Glittering Pop Quiz

New York City Ballet dancers try on "Jewels" again next month.

1) Which Fifth Avenue emporium inspired George Balanchine to create his full-length ballet “Jewels?”
a) Harry Winston
b) Tiffany & Co.
c) Van Cleef & Arpels
d) Cartier

2) Select the three gems represented in “Jewels”:
a) Sapphires
b) Emeralds
c) Rubies
d) Diamonds
e) Onyx
f) Amethyst

New York City Ballet gives six performances of “Jewels” between 2 June and 11 June at the David H. Koch Theater.

Visit to learn more about “Jewels” and for answers to the quiz.

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