Saturday May 30, 2009 - At the ballet with Wei. Aside from the dancing, New York City Ballet are always offering interesting juxtapositions of musical styles in their mixed programmes. Tonight we heard from the great bel canto operatic composer Gaetano Donizetti (above), then from two vastly different 'voices' from the 20th century, and rounded it all off with the full-blown passion of Tchaikovsky.
DONIZETTI VARIATIONS: Megan Fairchild and Joaquin de Luz in Paul Kolnik's photo above. Balanchine used the ballet music from Donizetti's opera DOM SEBASTIAN; throughout much of the 19th century it was the custom - especially in Paris - to have a balletic interlude in a grand opera. Choreographers over the years have mined these musical gems, many of which are no longer heard when the operas are revived since the ballets delay the dramatic action and extend evenings beyond the attention span of many opera-goers.
Anyway, Megan and Joaquin were simply superb as they delivered one volley of fiorature fireworks after another in this ballet which has something of a Bournonville feel to it. Megan's speed, clarity and lightness of touch are remarkable as she whirls thru the combinations with breathtaking agility. Joaquin was a complete joy to watch, his buoyancy and his piquant varying of the speed of his numerous pirouettes eliciting much admiration from the crowd.
A trio of boys - Daniel Applebaum, Vincent Paradiso and Allen Peiffer (handsome devils all) - looked lively and gallant as they squired a bevy of pretty ballerinas thru Mr. B's choreographic patterns. Brittany Pollack had yet another opportunity to shine, and Stephanie Zungre stepped into the charming vignette of the the sly girl who steals her moment in the spotlight. Ellen Ostrom put Wei in mind of Dana Hanson, a ballerina we both liked so much when she danced with the Company (she now teaches at PNB).
HALLELUJAH JUNCTION: Sterling Hyltin, Daniel Ulbricht and Gonzalo Garcia danced the leads in this Peter Martins/John Adams ballet, the score of which is named for a small town in California. Sterling looks super in this ballet where she shows off her long legs to perfection, dressed in white against the black backdrop. Gonzalo and Daniel revved things up with their vivid combinations. Gonzalo and Sterling in their expressive pas de deux and Daniel with his powerful technique and unbounded energy make a strong statement for this ballet, one of Peter's best creations.
The eight corps dancers who perform a series of fast-paced duets in this Peter Martins ballet were again very impressive to watch, both for the speed of their movement and their mastery of the tricky partnering.
A SIMPLE SYMPHONY: In Melissa Barak's very appealing setting of this early work by British composer Benjamin Britten (above), Abi Stafford and Jared Angle led a youthful cast with the girls all in Romantic-style pink creating an image that is both classic and contemporary. Abi and Jared danced joyously thru the music and again made me want to see them together in many other ballets. Melissa's ballet continues to impress for its refreshingly clean structure and its fine identification with the rhythmic patterns of the score. And it's just so visually attractive.
SWAN LAKE: Dancing with Wendy Whelan (above), Sebastien Marcovici made his first appearance in the Balanchine setting of the second act of this classic Tchaikovsky work today. A few seasons back, Sebastien and Jenifer Ringer gave a deeply moving joint interpretation of the Peter Martins setting of SWAN LAKE; Sebastien brought the same intense air of poetic drama to the Balanchine version. In the diagonal passage of his solo where the music shifts to the minor key, Sebastien could not quite bring off the sudden stops into poses which inhibit the flow of the dancing; I've never much liked that part of the solo and it's tough to master. But everything else about Sebastien's performance was fine and the dramatic interaction which he and Wendy developed became quite gripping as the ballet progressed.
Wendy's Odette is so finely-wrought and so musically satisfying but beyond that there is the great fascination of just watching her express this iconic choreography with such delicate nuances etched into the overall dramatic span of her encounter with the Prince. As the music moves them to their inevitable sundering, Wendy and Sebastien seemed to transcend theatrical boundaries and speak to us of the humanity and passion which pulsate thru this music. Wendy's last gesture of touching Sebastien's face before taking leave of him was extremely moving.
Have you watched Kristin Sloan's video of corps ballerina Marika Anderson talking about SWAN LAKE? If not, here it is, with some nice dance footage. The corps made a strong contribution tonight, despite one unfortunate slip-and-fall. Rebecca Krohn and Savannah Lowery were the smooth-dancing, vivid soloists. The all-black swans give the ballet an Edward Gorey dimension. I'd like to see them go back to all-white.