Thursday February 26, 2009 - Music-lovers could attend the current New York City Ballet programme entitled 21st Century Movement and have a fine time even if they were not particularly interested in dance. The way the progamme has been devised, we have a pleasing mixture of Vivaldi (above) with a dash of Biber; then John Adams, Britten and Shostakovich all very well-played by the ballet's musicians under the direction of Faycal Karoui. And in the Adams, the two pianists actually take the stage, seated at their grands in softly-lit spaces above the dance floor.
New York City Ballet has a long history of making music visible and with dancers like these, it's something to behold. In Jorma Elo's SLICE TO SHARP the music of Biber and Vivaldi gives a Baroque resonance to some very contemporary movement. And in an astonishing performance tonight, Joaquin de Luz set off a chain reaction which reverberated thru the entire evening. He was on fire, dancing with such precision and such a daring sense of bravado. Ana Sophia Scheller matched him in brilliance and fearlessness of approach and the entire cast seemed to be giving an extra bit of dazzle in response to Joaquin's generous, perfect performance.
I've often hoped to see SLICE re-capture the thrill of its premiere and tonight came very, very close. Craig Hall, dancing first with Teresa Reichlen and then with Wendy Whelan, was a powerful force and the two women are brilliantly set off by his astute partnering. Both these women and Maria Kowroski were at their most compelling, floushing in the tricky steps and the sense of risk. Ask LaCour's spacious style looks great here, especially in his duet passage with Maria K. In yet another performance to bolster his impressive credentials this season, Robert Fairchild's intensity and his complete command of Elo's vivid gestural style made his performance outstanding.
The duo-piano John Adams score used by Peter Martins for HALLELUJAH JUNCTION is played with pulsating energy by Cameron Grant and Richard Moredock; the composer's subtle relentlessness carries thru even under the adagio. Fresh casting of the leading roles made this a must-see performance. Sterling Hyltin danced with elegant pliancy and just a touch of sexy. Her flashing swirls of turns around the stage had a shimmering velocity. Gonzalo Garcia has one of his best roles at NYCB to date here (along with his OPUS 19/THE DREAMER)...Gonzalo looked "to die for" and he danced with smoothness and strength and partnered Sterling with assurance. Daniel Ulbricht thrived on the complicated combinatons and zooming airborne feats of the man in black, his energizing spirit winning the audience's delighted cheers. Again the eight young dancers who perform a series of fast-paced duets gave the ballet an extra dimension, reminding us how lucky we are to have a corps that includes names like Pereira, King, Zungre, Pollock, Schumacher, Applebaum, Peiffer and Prottas. Bravi tutti!
Benjamin Britten's SIMPLE SYMPHONY has inspired choreographer Melissa Barak to create a ballet of the same title that is perfectly magical. Juxtaposed against the darkly luminous Adams/Martins ballet, Melissa offers a bevy of ballerinas in fanciful tutus and three cavaliers who set a classic tone. Sara Mearns, Jared Angle, Ana Sophia Scheller, Tiler Peck, Sean Suozzi and Tyler Angle makes Melissa's imaginative response to the music look sumptuous - especially in the triple adagio - while the very attractive sextette of corps girls weave patterns which remind more than one viewer of Balanchine's LA SOURCE. This ballet reveals more nuances with each viewing and is one of the most purely enjoyable offerings at NYCB in recent seasons.
Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Concerto #1 gave Christopher Wheeldon the framework for his engagingly patterned MERCURIAL MANOEUVRES and here again dancers we hadn't previously seen in this ballet took the stage. Tiler Peck, who has had such glorious and wide-ranging successes this season added more lustre to her credentials with her impressive debut here, and Adrian Danchig-Waring's exceptional physique and his blend of poetry and athleticism was something to behold. Joaquin de Luz polished off his evening with yet another dazzling tour de force. Kathryn Morgan, Erica Pereira and the corps keep Wheeldon's ballet looking really fresh.