Tuesday, January 10, 2012

'Ocean's Kingdom' Springs From Unexpected Pedigree

New York City Ballet principal dancer Amar Ramasar and Company in "Ocean's Kingdom." Photos by Paul Kolnik.


bound to be a certain amount of buzz when a member of The Beatles (Sir Paul McCartney) is commissioned to write a score for a major ballet company (New York City Ballet) by its savvy choreographer-director (Peter Martins).

Add to the excitement the commissioning of a fashion-forward designer, also the composer’s daughter (Stella McCartney), to create the costumes. Then the new ballet (“Ocean’s Kingdom”) becomes an event!

“Ocean’s Kingdom” premiered in September and is on the program for 19 Jan., 21 Jan., 24 Jan., 27 Jan and 29 Jan. Afterward, it goes into the repertory at the David H. Koch Theater. It is PMcC’s first ballet and PM’s 80th or so. The libretto is in four movements, and PMcC’s book has a plot since this is a story ballet. (See rehearsal video at http://www.nycballet.com/company/viewing.html)

Amar Ramasar, Sara Mearns, Robert Fairchild and Georgina Pazcoguin in "Ocean's Kingdom."

In Oceans’s Kingdom, Honorata (Sara Mearns), a princess of the briny deep cavorts with her handmaidens, led by Scala (Georgina Pazcoguin). Meanwhile, King Terra (Amar Ramasar) enters with his thugs known as “Terra Punks.” This invasion is also the occasion for some very nice and vigorous male-partnered movement. Prince Stone (Robert Fairchild), King Terra’s younger brother, is a lover not a warrior; he falls in love with Honorata.

Prince Stone (Robert Fairchild) and Honorata (Sara Mearns) share a tender moment in "Ocean's Kingdom."

The costumes, as designed by SMcC combine standard balletic garb – leotards, short skirts – with modern flourishes. For instance, Honorata and her crew are draped in flowing fabrics, some nicely suggestive of fish, while the Terra Punks have tattooed fabric for their costuming. King Terra wears a mohawk crown.

RF is a debonair leading man. His duets with SM are fluid (pardon the pun), but it seems as if there is always something on the stage to distract: King Terra with one of his henchmen at the back, the rising earth projected from a screen; in the second movement the colorfully zoot-suited “Drunken Lords” (Anthony Huxley, Allen Pfeiffer and David Prottas.) As for AR, a dynamic and intelligent dancer who can be very funny as he was in Susan Stroman’s “For The Love Of Duke” (See http://www.bit.ly/x3ubui), he is misused and under utilized as King Terra.

If the music in the first movement is big and portentous, with strains that sound as if they came from the movie “Exodus," the opening of the second movement is poppy and full of pep. The lightheartedness offers a chance for some comic relief as embodied by the “Drunken Lords” and the energetic sea creatures, including the “Exotic Couple” (Megan LeCrone and Craig Hall) whose dancing and costumes are lively with plenty of zing.

New York City Ballet choreographer Peter Martins, composer Paul McCartney and principal dancer Sara Mearns greet the audience after a performance of "Ocean's Kingdom."

Honorata and Prince Stone no sooner seal their love with a duet than King Terra sweeps in to capture her. She is thrown into a dungeon where she writhes. GP’s melodramatic remorse over Scala’s part in betraying her mistress to King Terra undermines the excellence of her dancing.

There is a happy ending though, when Prince Stone with Scala’s help, frees Honorata from King Terra’s fortress at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth movement. The lovers return to the ocean amid a grand processional.

“Ocean’s Kingdom” is a pleasant ballet, easy on the eyes and ears. However, this fine cast deserves more challenging material.

Visit http://http://www.nycballet.com/ to learn more about “Ocean’s Kingdom” and the New York City Ballet season.

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