February 9, 2013
The entire Northeast was hit with a nasty blizzard last night, and today's performance at the NYCBallet was categorized as a "snow day," meaning anyone with a ticket could exchange for a spring season performance if they couldn't make it due to the weather. I looked at the spring calendar, realized that I had tickets to everything I wanted to see, and decided to put on my snow boots and brave the snow and slush on my way to Lincoln Center.
The theater was very sparse, no doubt due to the weather, and before the curtain a depressing series of announcements were made. The Winter Season of the NYCB is a season notorious for injuries and this has been no exception. Sara Mearns reinjured herself, Jonathan Stafford, and Wendy Whelan are all out with injuries, and I'm starting to dread the pre-curtain announcements because every performance I've been to has had a few last minute pre-curtain announcement of a replacement. This is really NYCB code for "we've just had a dancer who's injured in the wings and can't go on." In other words, "ouch." Today, there were announcements of replacements for Abi Stafford (Symphony in C), Sebastian Marcoivici and Adam Danchig-Waring (both for Symphony in Three Movements).
Nevertheless the show must go on and go on it did. Western Symphony is to be honest probably the weakest of Balanchine's "Americana" ballets (the others being Stars & Stripes and Who Cares?). The kitsch/dancing ratio is a bit too high for my tastes, and you have to be careful of casting. The ballet really needs larger-than-life powerhouses who can muscle their way through all the allegro dancing. Rebecca Krohn (first movement) is not that kind of dancer. She's a somewhat somber adagio dancer without the strongest technique, and she looked totally lost onstage trying to wriggle her behind. She also is one of those dancers who constantly seems to be grimacing when she dances -- not okay for this ballet. Taylor Stanley, however, was making his debut in the first movement and took to the role like a duck to a pond. The second movement showed an improvement -- Megan Fairchild isn't my favorite dancer, but her doll-like, quicksilver style was at least well-suited to the ballet. Nice Italian fouettes. Finally, in the famous Rondo, Robert Fairchild and Ashley Bouder really took control of the stage and said "This is how the ballet should be danced." Fairchild has that combo of all-American boy and powerhouse dancing that made him a natural for the part. His bow-legged "cowboy" pirouettes were awesome. And Ashley made mincemeat of the "Tanny" part, and stormed through the difficult backwards diagonal where the ballerina has to remain on pointe the entire time while switching her free leg between an arabesque and a high developpe. Ashley doesn't have the long legs of Tanny, but she can dance the hell out of this role. Bravo to her.
Next on the program was Symphony in Three Movements, a ballet I for some reason haven't seen in maybe 5 years. Last time I remember not caring for it at all. I found the Stravinsky score bombastic and unlikable, and thought the whole ballet lacked the eroticism and playfulness that is typical of Balanchine/Stravinsky collaborations. This afternoon was a whole different story. I found the military-style formations of the corps fascinating. They stand in one huge diagonal across the stage, like a wall of soldiers. At other times they crouch, as if in the trenches. I still find the soloist parts in the first movement kind of random -- there are three girls who wear varying shades of pink leotards, and they breeze on and offstage. Tiler Peck was as usual superb in the pepto-bismol/pony-tail role, as was Daniel Ulbricht as her partner but their roles are really too short to make much of an impression. The more rewarding role went to Sterling Hyltin, who danced the second movement adagio with Amar Ramansar. Hyltin is a dancer I'm liking more and more. She made her debut in Martins' Romeo + Juliet 10 years ago (hard to believe!) and was quickly fast-tracked to principal and given some of the plummiest parts. For many years I found her pretty but non-descript and her dancing just okay. Not anymore. From the moment she stepped onstage I could see that her legs, once rather floppy, are now toned and muscular, and she attacked the role with gusto. Her pique turns around the stage were fast and secure, and she brought an element of playfulness in a ballet that is quite severe in mood. (She did the same for another "severe" ballet, Mozartiana, earlier this season.) The pas de deux with Amar Ramansar had the right touch of aloofness. The two dancers are onstage together but they never seem to really connect. At several points one blocks the eyesight of the other. As I said, Symphony in Three Movements still isn't my favorite Balanchine but I definitely now find it to be an interesting, mysterious ballet.
Next week is the Sleeping Beauties. Can't wait!