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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Spring Season Diaries, part 4: DSCH Debuts

Now iconic final pose of Concerto DSCH
This week was all about Ratmansky. At ABT, the entire week was devoted to Ratmansky: a new work entitled Serenade After Plato's Symposium, revivals of his Shostakovich Trilogy, plus his Firebird (which, if Misty Copeland was cast, was sold out) and Seven Sonatas. I must be a very bad balletomane because I didn't manage to catch any of these works. I did, however, manage to catch two NYCB performances that ranged from the classics (Serenade) to modern classics (Ratmansky's Concerto DSCH) to the awful (Wheeldon's American Rhapsody).


May 20 - Second cast of the NYCB program of Belles Lettres/Mothership/American Rhapsody/Concerto DSCH in which there were no less than four debuts in Ratmansky's modern classic. Not much to say about Mothership or American Rhapsody.  They had no cast changes and time has not improved them. Wheeldon's work is even slicker and emptier on second viewing. Robert Fairchild has now resorted to more desperate jazz hands mugging, and Tiler Peck still looks like she's doing her taxes.

Belles Lettres had two intriguing debuts: Indiana Woodward and Kristen Segin took over for Ashley Laracey and Lovette. Both Woodward and Segin aren't the stereotypical NYCB corps girls: they're both petite and exude a soft romanticism rather than wholesome energy and athleticism. They were both exquisite. The ballet overstays its welcome and the clichés (four waltzing couples, women loosening their hair, a lone jester-like figure) are annoying, but the music is beautiful and Peck's steps are always watchable. And with these new casts, there's always someone intriguing from the corps to watch.

Harrison Ball and Indiana Woodward a few years ago, Photo @ Paul Kolnik
Even though there was only one Ratmansky ballet on the program, he dominated the evening. Concerto DSCH's invention and wit simply highlighted the weaknesses of the three other choreographers on the program and actually, it highlights some weaknesses in Ratmansky's other efforts. I'm convinced that a century from now, the one ballet guaranteed to still be a staple of the repertoire from Ratmansky is DSCH. Ratmansky really creates a world in 22 minutes -- a world where there's a brief but noticeable jealousy between the blue girl and the green girl, and a playful, bromantic rivalry between the two blue boys. As with all of Ratmansky's best works the world he creates seems timeless -- this community will continue to dance after the curtain drops. DSCH with an almost brand new cast looks fresher and more imaginative upon each viewing, and it brings out the best in its dancers.

Sterling Hyltin and Adrian Danchig-Waring made their debuts as the "lyrical' green couple. They were beautiful, but we knew they would be. The partnering was stellar. Hyltin has that light, sparrow-like body that makes all those twirling lifts fly, and Adrian pulling Sterling in those circular glides around the stage were as smooth as ice skating -- no bumpiness whatsoever. Their second movement was a master class in adagio dancing. But then again, we knew these roles would fit them like a glove.

The more interesting debuts were the blue boys. Those two roles have so many pitfalls that a double debut must have been nerve-wracking. Joseph Gordon and Harrison Ball (still both in the corps) knocked it out of the ballpark. They're very different dancers -- Apollo vs. Dionysus. Even though Ball is technically shorter than Gordon, Ball is the Apollonian dancer with his long stretched lines and double tours that emphasized the elegant straight line and closed fifth position landing rather than the power and height of the jump/rotation. Gordon is an explosion of energy with incredible ballon and speed. The most beautiful part of the ballet was when they partnered each other -- it was like Apollo and Dionysus finally joining up and meeting in the middle. Brittany Pollack as the blue girl was charming, but she couldn't match the energy of the two boys. Congrats to NYCB for putting together such a wonderful run of Ratmansky's masterpiece.

Hyltin and Fairchild in happier times, photo @ Andrea Mohin
May 21 - Program on paper looked great. Serenade, Hallelujah Junction (one of Martins' few watchable ballets), Duo Concertant, Western Symphony. In reality though the performance showed classic signs of end of season fatigue. Western Symphony was low-energy except for Andrew Veyette, Serenade was sloppy. Tiler Peck made a strong debut as the Russian Girl in Serenade but the overall vibe of the evening was one where things didn't click the way it should have. I won't go into all the ways the performance was disappointing, but just zero in on one particularly depressing sight: the once gorgeous, toned, all-American charmer Robert Fairchild struggling to make it through Duo Concertant.

Fairchild/Hyltin were always a magical couple in this 20 minute gem. They were puppyish, energetic, and just flat out adorable. Fairchild in those days exuded such a wide-eyed romanticism that made this piece special. I remember seeing them in this (and other Stravinsky ballets like Apollo or Violin Concerto) and back then I would have said Fairchild would go on to have the greater career. Hyltin was always fresh and beautiful but in her early years as principal she was slightly generic. Whatever the case was, if these two were cast, I knew that once that piano and violin were playing I'd be taken to a happy place.

Tonight Hyltin was still sweet and charming, but the former dream Duo has become a nightmare. Fairchild did become a star -- on Broadway. His return to NYCB full time has not been an easy transition. Fairchild's classical technique has eroded to the point where his whole body looks misshapen -- he hunches his shoulders or fusses with his hands, but his line is horrendous, like a Bob Fosse parody. He's not overweight, just incredibly out of shape. Muscles bulge out irregularly. Maybe a lot of off-season conditioning can fix that. Harder to replace will be his spirit. This boyishly romantic dancer is now grim and joyless. He looks miserable out there and it's miserable to watch him.

Anyway, he's departing soon for the London production of An American in Paris. The ending of Duo Concertant seemed like a fitting farewell to Robbie Fairchild, the classical ballet dancer. The spotlight dims on the two dancers. They try to find each other in the dark. They do, but then lose each other again. Curtains.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Ivy,

    Previews for An American in Paris in London begin on March 4, 2017 (for an opening on March 21, 2017). So, Robert Fairchild will probably dance in the NYCB fall season, the Nutcracker, and maybe even a few weeks of the NYCB winter season before leaving for rehearsals in London.

    Larry

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    1. I doubt he'll be there for the Winter Season. He might do Nutcracker season and some ballets in the fall season. But I'm just saddened by the erosion in his technique. He used to be such a strong dancer.

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