Friday January 18th, 2013 - There were some cast changes announced pre-curtain tonight at New York City Ballet. But the annnounced cast for SERENADE remained intact and they gave a lovely, fresh rendering of this immortal Balanchine/Tchaikovsky collaboration.
Over the years, the great ballet roles are passed from generation to generation of dancers; beloved interpretations pass into the annals of memory where they remain very much alive, but - true to itself - ballet never stands still.
Tonight's trio of female leads in SERENADE were as magical as any of their predecessors. Janie Taylor's unique qualities as a dancer give any ballet in which she appears a very special appeal. Mysterious, impetuous and possessed of a singular mixture of fragility and strength, Janie builds this role so persuasively right up to the moment when her fabled hair comes cascading down. From then on, she's in another world altogether. It's really hypnotic to watch her in this ballet.
Megan Fairchild's dancing of the Russian girl likewise 'sings' her music to lovely effect; she dances tantalizingly along that line between girlishness and more womanly qualities, and her technical polish meshes with her ever-deepening artistry for a truly pleasing experience. Rebecca Krohn always looks so beautiful onstage, but especially here where she lets the wafting lyricism of the music give her dancing a spiritual quality.
Balanchine crafted these three female roles so thoughtfully, so that for all the beauty of a sustained arabesque or a flourish of pirouettes some of the most memorable images come when the girls are simply walking or even standing still, resting their heads against the chest of the cavalier. It's definitely a "ballet is woman" piece, yet Sebastien Marcovici and Ask LaCour are handsome towers of poetic strength for the girls. The corps look wonderful - so many interesting personalities - and the score yet again wove its poignant spell under Daniel Capps' baton.
In lieu of the announced Maria Kowroski/Tyler Angle partnership, Sterling Hyltin and Chase Finlay brought their technical finesse and youthful beauty to MOZARTIANA in a performance that developed steadily from the serenity of the opening Preghiera to the lively variations and the demanding partnering of the duet. The varations call for a mixture of energy and charm which the two young dancers displayed to fine effect. Daniel Ulbricht in the courtly Gigue danced with masculine grace, illuminating the steps with his easy technique. The Menuet was given a lovely-lively treatment by Marika Anderson, Amanda Hankes, Gwyneth Muller and Gretchen Smith.
Ashley Bouder's effortless brilliance gave her performance in TCHAIKOVSKY PIANO CONCERTO #2 a particularly exciting edge; she looked dazzlingly pleased to be dancing so fabulously, and her personality lit up the stage and tramsmitted the joy of dance to the audience, who responded to her generous and glamorous performance with waves of applause. Her swift and sure footwork, rippling cascades of pirouettes and spot-on sustained balances swept Bouder to triumph. Originally her cavalier was Jonathan Stafford, but tonight Tyler Angle stepped in and gave a princely performance that was both splendidly danced and beautifully 'acted'. He and Ms. Bouder sustained the ballet's atmosphere - regal and sumptuous but also having a particularly polished kind of energy - to excellent effect. In a pair of dazzling combinations of air turns to the knee, Tyler was thrilling in his speed and accuracy, and he sailed along his diagonal combinations with unfettered buoyancy.
For all the classy technical poise of Tyler's dancing, it was in the splendid opening passages of the second movement that he created the most remarkable impression. In my view, Balanchine crafted no finer moments in any of his vast catalog of work. To the score's most achingly gorgeous melody, the cavalier sends the two demi-solistes into a series of supported arabesques which ripple down the row of corps ballerinas in a magical chain of motion. For this unparalleled visual and musical pleasure I feel so grateful to Mr. B, and tonight to Tyler and the two radiant beauties - Amanda Hankes and Ashley Laracey - who brought this most imaginative choreography to life. If only it could go on and on and on...
Savannah Lowery is looking particularly sumptuous this season and she danced with radiant confidence. Sean Suozzi and Christian Tworzyanski were her cavaliers for the pas de trois. There are many distinctive dancers in the corps now - both men and women - and in this superbly-structured Balanchine masterpiece they all looked wonderful.
SERENADE: Taylor, M. Fairchild, Krohn, Marcovici, la Cour
MOZARTIANA: Hyltin, Finlay, Ulbricht
TCHAIKOVSKY PIANO CONCERTO NO. 2: Bouder, T. Angle, Lowery, Suozzi, Tworzyanski, Laracey, Hankes