Wednesday September 26th, 2012 - When we're feeling down, music, dance, art and nature become sources of solace and ways of leaving our troubles behind, at least for a span of time. Tonight an all-Stravinsky programme at New York City Ballet served as a surprising means of escape. While the ballets are all thrice-familiar Balanchine-Stravinsky masterpieces, the dancing as well as the unusual sensation of freshness being found in the scores drew me out of myself for a while.
There were several cast changes this evening, with dancers scheduled for one ballet shifting to a different one to replace injured colleagues. It all turned out well in the end, though I was sorry not to see Abi Stafford dancing.
The ballets look sleek and vital, and Kurt Nikkanen's playing of the STRAVINSKY VIOLIN CONCERTO is always a pleasing experience. Curtain up, and there is Janie Taylor with the four boys. She does all the steps and port de bras that every woman who has ever danced this role have done, but her personal mystique is so intriguing you feel you've never seen the ballet before. Then each of the other three principals make their entree, and we're off. I loved Sebastien Marcovici's large-scale movement and his steady partnering. Robert Fairchild moves with incredible vitality; he and Janie are a great match-up in their pas de deux. Rebecca Krohn has one of her most congenial roles here; she was superb and she put me in mind of some of my earliest experiences with the leotard ballets, when the great ballerinas who knew Balanchine personally danced these roles. So good to see Faye Arthurs in a brief featured role, and the corps de ballet were looking spiffy with several appeasing faces and forms among their number.
I'll always remember my first encounter with MONUMENTUM/MOVEMENTS; it was at a Sunday matinee in the 1980s. I was going to a 4:00 PM Kathleen Battle recital at Alice Tully but I took a standing room spot for the NYCB matinee and just watched the opening ballet. Helene Alexopoulos danced the leading role; I adored her, and I was so fascinated by the way the dancers broke ranks and re-arranged themselves between movements.
Tonight, the magnificent Maria Kowroski took the stage with her two cavaliers - Ask LaCour and Sebastien Marcovici - and it was a really impressive performance. Maria sculpted her long limbs gloriously into improbable shapes, ideally punctuating her phrasing on the music. The men gave her perfect support, and the audience gave the three a warm reception as they stepped out to bow. The Gesualdo score in particular stood out with burnished radiance in an evening of fine playing from the pit; Daniel Capps was the conductor here.
Although Autumn is approaching, it felt like Spring as Megan Fairchild and Chase Finlay took the stage for DUO CONCERTANT. This partnership, so thoroughly captivating in LIEBESLIEDER last season, gave this Balanchine classic a youthful glow. Chase is becoming - or maybe we should say 'has become' - quite the dashing cavalier, and when Megan ignited a manège of swift pirouettes, all seemed right with the world. Their joint allegro dancing was perfect, and in the slower and more tender passages of the ballet, the two dancers had just the right feeling of intimacy. Arturo Delmoni and Susan Walters were the musical duo.
Is there a more iconic image in all the Balanchine canon that the curtain-rise diagonal that opens SYMPHONY IN THREE MOVEMENTS? But we only have seconds to savour it before Daniel Ulbricht comes sailing onstage and bursts into a series of fantastical leaps. Tiler Peck joins him in this rousing passage of tucked-up bounces. (And it's time yet again to commend Tiler's vast range and her contagious joy of dance). Savannah Lowery and Adrian Danchig-Waring danced vividly as is their wont, and the pas de deux with its oddly appealng melody was very well-danced by the delectable Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar. Amar received a screaming bursts of applause at his curtain calls, and he deserved every bit of it.
That opening diagonal and the 'melting' of it at the end of the ballet's first movement showed us some of our current corps beauties. A very strong group of demi-solistes kept the opera glasses darting madly whenever they were onstage: mesdamoiselles Brown, King, Laracey, Pazcoguin and Smith and their cavaliers Alberda, Dieck, Laurent, Peiffer (long time, no see) and Schumacher.
The house was far from full though there was considerable enthusiasm all evening. But it is so sad to see the 4th Ring gallery empty and gaping forlorn: that is the place where I and (I am sure) thousands of others first experienced the Balanchine/Stravinsky ballets. And if new generations are to be lured in, these seats at realistic prices are the place to do it.
STRAVINSKY VIOLIN CONCERTO: Taylor [replacing Hyltin], R. Fairchild, Krohn, Marcovici [replacing Ramasar]
MONUMENTUM PRO GESUALDO: Kowroski, la Cour
MOVEMENTS FOR PIANO & ORCHESTRA: Kowroski, Marcovici
DUO CONCERTANT: M. Fairchild, Finlay
SYMPHONY IN THREE MOVEMENTS: Hyltin [replacing A. Stafford], T. Peck, Lowery, Ramasar [replacing J. Angle], Ulbricht, Danchig-Waring