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Celebration of landscape

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NEW YORK CITY BALLETNew York State Theater, Lincoln Center. (212) 870-5570. Season runs through Feb. 26.

NEW York City Ballet has been starting its fall/winter season with a special gala before heading into 45 performances of "The Nutcracker" until the end of the year.

This first-night gala on Tuesday was described as "An American Music Celebration," and, naturally featured American composers, namely John Adams, John Cage and Robert Prince.

The only novelty was the world premiere of a duet by Albert Evans to Cage's music, "In a Landscape." The score had an immediacy that caught Cage, influenced by Schonberg and Satie, before he submerged into electronics.

Handsomely danced by Wendy Whelan, who was impeccably partnered by Philip Neal, the strikingly original, at times pleasingly bizarre, choreography made much of Whelan's beautiful sinuous, tendril-like arms, but also, more interestingly, her elbows. There's a first.

The rest of the program had a welcome, strongly danced revival of Peter Martins' pulse-hitting "Fearful Symmetries," to its insistently pounding Adams music, and a repeat, better rehearsed than earlier, of Jerome Robbins' 1958 "N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz."

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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