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New York City Ballet Dances to Wynton Marsalis

January 15, 1993

NEW YORK (AP) _ Wynton Marsalis’ dynamite score for ″Jazz″ at the New York City Ballet brims with delight, though Peter Martins’ choreography - though inpired - misses the mark.

Martins created a ballet, not jazz dance.

The first section of ″Jazz″ - called ″Jubilo″ - has elements of New Orleans jazz, swing ballad, wah-wah mutes and more. This was the least effective part of the dancing program.

In ″Tick Tock,″ smooth big-band voicings amazingly come from only 11 musicians.

″Trail of Tears″ began with men silhouetted against the backdrop. Albert Evans, who distinguished himself in a final-section solo, and Jock Soto were thrown out into pools of light.

They danced in place, repeatedly falling to the ground, making a strong statement of suffering. The silhouetted men held threatening poses.

Heather Watts entered for a duet with Soto to a plaintive, not-quite-sweet melody. Then she danced with Evans, matching the dissonant, slow, erotic music.

″Express Crossing″ had dancers stride in to bright music. Marsalis, who didn’t feature himself in this score, took some fast trumpet runs as Melinda Roy and Nilas Martins did sunny duet and solo dancing.

Wendy Whelan and Nikolaj Hubbe danced to ″D in the Key of F,″ music reminiscent of a Billy Strayhorn solo for saxophonist Johnny Hodges.

Whelan looked like a young woman who’s self-conscious about trying to entice a man. Because she’s a little awkward and natural, he’s strongly attracted. Their romantic duet was a high point.

″Ragtime,″ the finale, had strong dancing and interesting solos. Musically, there was some nice growl-mute playing and a hot trumpet.

Martins seemed to be inspired by the music but not always to know how to make dancers move to it.

Marsalis shows mastery of using vocabulary of the past and making it his vocabulary, very much present day.

″Jazz″ will be performed four more times this season.

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