Wednesday June 3, 2009 - An all-Balanchine programme at New York City Ballet opening with the pure perfection of CONCERTO BAROCCO. In addition to the excellent work of the three principals, the corps were so impressive - the eight girls could simply be viewed as an attractive functional unit but by focusing on each one individually, their unique personalities shine thru: Marika Anderson, Faye Arthurs, Saskia Beskow, Alina Dronova, Lauren King, Ashley Laracey, Gretchen Smith and Stephanie Zungre. If I could have a single performance from the current season preserved on film, it would be this BAROCCO, just so I could always refer back to their lovely dancing.
In such a framework, the trio of Wendy Whelan, Abi Stafford and Albert Evans glowed all the more radiantly. Abi's clarity of the steps and her evident joy in presenting them to us makes watching her a complete pleasure; she and Wendy are so musically persuasive and their phrasing so refined. When the magnificent Albert steps in from the wing and wafts Wendy into the first of many hypnotic lifts, the spirit soars right up thru the ceiling. This was a beauteous BAROCCO on all counts and I felt it was an honor to be there watching it.
In choosing Bach's Double Violin Concerto in D Minor for BAROCCO, Balanchine certainly did a lot to keep this music in the public ear over the last sixty years. I can't begin to tell you how many times - when I was working at Tower - customers would ask me to help them find "that Bach music that Balanchine used in his ballet...you know which one I mean?"
The Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux was given a near-perfect rendering by Megan Fairchild and Joaquin de Luz with a lyrical opening adagio followed by their solos brimming with virtuosity and charm. All was going well right on thru the coda, with some very prettily floated fouette turns from Megan; but the fish-dives were not smooth. I'm not a big fan of fish-dives anyway and have often wished that a different combination might be used instead at that point.
Above, Gonzalo Garcia and Tiler Peck (in a Paul Kolnik photo from FOUR BAGATELLES) led the cast of DONIZETTI VARIATIONS. Balanchine gives the corps a lot to do in this ballet and they did well; this was a different group from the earlier performance I saw. Tonight Georgina Pazcoguin and Lydia Wellington particularly caught my eye, and Likolani Brown was amusing as the ballerina who steps out of character to shine briefly. The three boys seemed to have beamed in from Bournonville-Land: Giovanni Villalobos, Devin Alberda and Troy Schumacher.
Tiler and Gonzalo look superb together and they immediately made me crave a revival of SLEEPING BEAUTY, for they have all the physical appeal of a storybook princess and prince. Their dancing had warmth and vivacity and they interacted with the corps dancers to fine effect. The music is truly infectuous and several people were humming Donizetti's themes during the intermission.
Above: Balanchine and Stravinsky. STRAVINSKY VIOLIN CONCERTO is featured in Kristin Sloan's video here, with commentary by Yvonne Borree. This ballet looked strikingly fresh and vital tonight and the score received a shining, inspired reading from violinist Kurt Nikkanen with nice touches of irony.There were so many striking individual contributions from the members of NYC Ballet's wonderful corps; Faye Arthurs, Dena Abergel and Vincent Paradiso inevitably drew me to watch them, as they so frequently do.
Maria Kowroski and Sebastien Marcovici gave an exceptional performance of the first pas de deux in which the Kowroski legs were ever-captivating as she moved thru the various seemingly impossible poses. The exceptional fluidity of Maria's long line caused quiet murmurs of appreciation as progressed thru the sometimes athletic demands of the choreography. Later, an air of playful good humour gave Maria's astonishing performance an extra dimension of appeal. Sebastien was wonderful also, his expressive face and awe-inspiring physique managing to build drama into an abstract role. Persistent applause called the couple out for a bow after their duet.
In the opening passage of this ballet, Sterling Hyltin's steel-and-silk dancing was underscored by a touch of feminine vulnerability that gave her performance great appeal. Robert Fairchild continued to pile up laurel wreathes in his remarkable season; may he always dance with such compelling commitment and freshness. In their duet Sterling and Rob's Romeo and Juliet connection could be felt.
I regretted not having planned to see STRAVINSKY VIOLIN CONCERTO more than once this season; both here and in BAROCCO the spirit of Mr. B seemed to hover in the air. Gazing up at the soft-golden glow of the theatre as the lights went down for the final work, I felt yet again what a wonderful place this is to be embraced in the world of music and movement.