Sunday, January 20, 2013
Serenade opened the program. This moody iconic Balanchine masterpiece is surprisingly fragile -- in recent seasons I've seen stale, mistake-ridden performances that sucked all the magic out of the ballet. New blood was needed for this ballet, and we got new blood this season. Sara Mearns made her debut in this ballet's lead, Waltz Girl, and she was magnificent. Grand, over-the-top, exciting, and musical as only she can be. She used her grandly expressive, pliant back and larger frame to suggest an inner passion whose mysteries could not be unlocked. She was joined by Ashley Bouder (also making a welcome return) who absolutely sailed through the Russian Dance with her trademark dynamic jumps, sharp attack, and (unusual for the NYCB) more than a little bit of old-fashioned showboating. Megan LeCrone as the Dark Angel seemed muted next to Bouder and Mearns, but that's typical for a corps member making a big soloist debut at the NYCB -- they often are shy, and need more experience to grab the audience's attention. Jared Angle may not be the most exciting dancer, but he's a sensitive partner who was content to let the women of the ballet shine. Adam Danchig-Waring cut a dark, slightly sinister figure that gave this ballet that extra bit of mystery. The corps was sharper than I've seen them in a long time in this ballet. No sloppy mistakes tonight. Everyone was just on.
Mozartiana also had a fresh cast as well -- Sterling Hyltin and Chase Finlay. Hyltin has really developed as a dancer. She used to exude a sort of fresh prettiness but not much excitement. She's now a dancer of considerable beauty and style. The great thing is Hyltin didn't try to emulate the serious mysticism of previous Mozartiana interpreters. That's not her. What she did do was bring a sense of lightness and joy to the whole ballet. Her bourrees were silky and fast, her bearing regal but not intimidating. The petit allegro steps that mark her extended pas de deux were executed with not only accuracy, but a great sense of playfulness. Chase Finlay's was also making a debut as her partner and while he still has a tendency to make some sudden, awkward stumbles, mostly he and Sterling were a beautiful pair. Anthony Huxley was quite wonderful in the rather weird role of the Jester. I still think Mozartiana isn't one of Balanchine's stronger offerings -- it was designed as a vehicle for Suzanne Farrell, and like so many Farrell vehicles, it hasn't aged that well.
The evening ended on a bang with the absolute kick-ass (no other way to describe it) performance of Teresa Reichlen in Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #2 (also known as Ballet Imperial). This fiendishly difficult role held no terrors for Reichlen, who sailed through the tricky steps of her several solos without a trace of fatigue. Her tall, imperious presence suggested a Queen. I'll remember her fearless series of fouettes towards the end of the ballet -- she ended them on a very open fourth, simply stunning to watch. Her partner was Tyler Angle, who didn't quite steal the show the way Reichlen did but again, was absolutely musical and a sensitive partner. Ana Sophia Scheller in the second soloist role was strong, professional, but something about her carriage still bothers me. Her upper body is very stiff, and she has a tendency to hold her neck forward at an exaggerated angle. The demi-soloists Lauren King and Brittany Pollack were both striking and attention-grabbing, as was the entire corps de ballet, who seemed to follow Reichlen's lead in sailing through the entire ballet without so much as a sweat.
This is off-topic, but it's kind of hard to write about ballet right now without mentioning that like the rest of the world I'm absolutely horrified by the vicious attack on Bolshoi Artistic Director Sergei Filin and wish him a recovery, and that the perpetrators of this horrible crime are brought to justice.