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New York Times

Published: January 23, 2009






When Tyler Angle was 12, his family drove from Pennsylvania to see his older brother, Jared, in his debut as an apprentice with the New York City Ballet. The dance was “Union Jack,” by George Balanchine — but Mr. Angle, with apologies to his brother, has no memory of it. What he does remember from that day is seeing Wendy Whelan and Peter Boal perform Jerome Robbins’s “Opus 19/The Dreamer.”

“That’s when it really hit me,” Mr. Angle said. “It was so transcendent. I realized I want to do that.” tyler-angle-in-the-city-ballet-production-of-agone

Now he does. Mr. Angle, 22, began his own apprenticeship in 2003, after studying at the School of American Ballet, just like his brother, who is five years his senior and now a principal. Tyler Angle joined the company in 2004 and was promoted to soloist in December 2007. This season he is appearing in a range of works (including a new ballet by his former colleague Melissa Barak) and seems poised to secure his prominence as one of the company’s leading younger dancers. An elegant performer and an assured partner, he belongs to a rising generation of dancers at City Ballet who know Balanchine only through his ballets.

“If a dancer was touched by Balanchine they were obviously incredibly lucky, but there was also this adulation that went along with it,” said Christopher Wheeldon, the former City Ballet resident choreographer who created a featured role for Mr. Angle in “The Nightingale and the Rose,” alongside Ms. Whelan, and has continued to work with Mr. Angle through his own company, Morphoses.

“There’s hope in a way that these Balanchine ballets will take on a new, almost uncomplicated freshness because they’re being approached really just as works of art in their own without the mystique or aura of the choreographer,” Mr. Wheeldon said. “One could also say they’ll suffer because the choreographer is not around — but a dancer like Tyler, he launches himself into the process of learning and performing a ballet and is totally engaged, and incredibly intelligent.”

Mr. Angle is cavalier regarding the slings and arrows that inevitably come when one dances in such a high-profile troupe and is constantly measured by longtime observers against earlier performers — and often found wanting.

“It’s always harder for the generation right after; they were really in the fishbowl,” he said of the dancers who came into City Ballet around the time of Balanchine’s death in 1983. “That’s the trouble and wonder of being in a company founded by a genius.”

When Mr. Angle was 9, his father surprised him with his first ballet class — after Tyler announced that he had nothing to do — by driving him to what turned out to be the local studio where Jared trained. He became interested only after he found that he was no good at this form, which seemed so effortless to his classmates.

“My body wouldn’t do anything it was supposed to do,” he said. “It really got to me. It was something I felt I needed to conquer.”

That attitude is typical. “He’s always had that,” Jared Angle said, laughing, when asked about his brother’s swagger. “From age 2 on, we always thought he would be a politician.”

This confidence served him well as a developing dancer.

His wry wit and ease with himself translate to beautifully understated confidence and presence; his performances never seem hurried, no matter how fiendish the choreography. The principal dancer Maria Kowroski, a regular partner, described him as “an old soul.” Even in workmen’s boots, jeans and a bulky, toggle-tie jacket he calls his Paddington Bear coat, it is easy to picture Mr. Angle existing in another time. He is drawn to romantic ballets, like Balanchine’s “Vienna Waltzes.”

“I enjoy trying to bring across an idea — maybe more the idea of a character, or a feeling,” he said of such richly perfumed ballets. And, besides, he added, “Who doesn’t love a little gold brocade?”

Brocade or no, Mr. Angle is unburdened by the legacy of Balanchine. He has a wide range of interests, and mentioned Pina Bausch and William Forsythe as the choreographers with whom he would most like to work. Between City Ballet, where he works with a range of choreographers, and stints at Morphoses, he has avoided being typecast. Mr. Wheeldon said that should Morphoses ever become a full-time company, Mr. Angle is at the top of the list of dancers he would invite to join.

Mr. Angle said he has no plans to go anywhere for now, and was rather definitive given his age: He isn’t interested in running a company (“I don’t think I have any of the right qualities”) or choreographing, and he said he would like to retire with City Ballet. When asked what Balanchine would have thought of him, a question that some of those first-generation dancers have acknowledged pondering, Mr. Angle, despite his enduring love for the man’s choreography, didn’t miss a beat.

“Would he have liked me?” he asked. “I have no idea.” He paused, then added with a wicked little laugh, “Probably not.”


Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

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