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Sunday, October 16, 2016

NYCB's Fall Season Wrap Up

Veyette and Bouder in Stars and Stripes
And so it's a wrap: NYCB ended their fall season with a dispiriting amount of collateral damage: Adrian Danchig-Waring, Tyler Angle, Taylor Stanley, Lauren Lovette, and Brittany Pollack are all out with injuries. In a company with less depth these injuries would be devastating --however, NYCB currently has such talent in all levels of its roster that the flow of the season and the quality of the performances continued uninterrupted.


I saw several remarkable performances this season: both casts of Jewels featured awesome performances by Tess Reichlen. As Tall Girl in Rubies her technical security was an aphrodisiac. Her control of her deep, squatting pliés and unsupported arabesque penchées was in itself sexy. She was so remarkable as Tall Girl that one never wanted her to dance anything else in Jewels. But the next day she proved her worth as bar none the finest Diamonds girl I've ever seen -- beautiful, elegant, restrained, remote, but with an aura of strength and determination. Russell Janzen was right behind her, assisting her, showing her off. It was a beautiful partnership. Ashley Laracey was lovely in the "walking" role in Emeralds -- she's another soloist who's dancing like a principal now.

Ashley Bouder returned to the stage after what might be the world's shortest maternity leave. And wow! Welcome back! Bouder is one of those dancers who adds so much vigor to performances. She and Andrew Veyette brought the edge back to Rubies -- these were two tough birds. No cutesiness there. These two were also delightful as Liberty Bell and El Capitan in Stars and Stripes. They have such a fun partnership -- you can tell that there's 100% trust between them and they bring out the best in each other. Veyette wowed the crowd with his high leapfrog jumps and Ashley Bouder reclaimed a role that's been associated with her for years. For good reason. She still has all her jumps and spirit and a triple fouetté to top things off in the coda. Unfortunately getting to Stars and Stripes also meant enduring the execrably dull Thou Swell, one ballet that really needs to find a retirement home, along with most of Peter Martins' other choreographic efforts.

Megan Fairchild's irresistible Apricot, photo @Paul Kolnik
The end of the season was anchored by two superlative (if wildly different) casts of the double bill Dances at a Gathering/Firebird. Same ballets, but with the different casts, you might as well have watched two different ballets.

Cast 1: Joaquin de Luz (brown boy), Amar Ramasar (green boy), Jared Angle (purple boy), Chase Finlay (blue boy), Joseph Gordon (brick boy), Tiler Peck (pink girl), Sara Mearns (mauve girl), Megan Fairchild (apricot girl), Lauren King (blue girl), Ashley Bouder (green girl)

Cast 2: Gonzalo Garcia (brown boy), Chase Finlay (green boy), Robert Fairchild (purple boy), Zachary Catazaro (blue boy), Harrison Ball (brick boy), Sterling Hyltin (pink girl), Rebecca Krohn (mauve girl), Megan Fairchild (apricot girl), Lauren King (blue girl), Sara Mearns (green girl)

DAAG is such a deceptively delicate ballet. One moment of self-conscious mugging or awkward "folk-dance" and the spell is ruined. Although Cast 1 had their wonderful performances (Ashley Bouder's Green Girl, Megan's Apricot Girl, Joseph's Brick Boy) I thought Cast 2 was better able to maintain that mood as a whole. This is mostly due to the Brown Boy of Gonzalo Garcia. The Brown Boy anchors the ballet, and many of his iconic moves (flicking his forehead at the end of his first solo, or touching the stage near the end of the ballet) can seem affected and unconvincing in the wrong hands. Garcia's sincerity set the tone for the entire performance. Joaquin de Luz's Brown Boy is all shiny slickness. He dances the steps with more panache but the hard sell grates after an hour.

NYCB now has two equally fine Pink Girls. Tiler Peck and Sterling Hyltin are as different as chalk and cheese -- Peck is stoic, Hyltin is more the flirt. Peck has such a strong core that she's mastered those difficult lifts and you never see her maneuvering or adjusting -- her technique is that secure. Hyltin is better at the smaller, simpler moments of the ballet --for instance, her beautiful bourrées look like tiny heartbeats. She's also a more responsive partner -- her partnership with Robert Fairchild brought out the most in him -- that gorgeous duet that starts with the simple hand-holding and then drawing the rainbow-in-the-sky still brings a lump to my throat.

Other shout-outs: Chase Finlay continues to grow in this ballet (as both Green and Blue).  He was always handsome. Now his dancing has weight and real presence. Megan Fairchild's Apricot might be her finest role, period. The role shows off her two best traits -- her sense of humor and her fastidiousness. She's funny, she's cute without being cutesy, and most of all, her sense of timing mean that all the jumps, throws, and catches, bring down the house. Jospeh Gordon and Harrison Ball continue to be the most promising corps members. Their brick boys were both stellar. Ashley Bouder's debut as the quirky, partner-less Green Girl was had masterful timing with the music and enough irony to make this brief role count.

Reichlen as Firebird, photo @ Paul Kolnik
NYCB this season paired DAAG with Firebird.  Balanchine's abridged version of the famous Stravinsky score is not Mr. B's finest hour. This version lacks the richness of Fokine's work. I enjoy the Chagall designs and Robbins' choreography for the monsters more than Balanchine's contributions. It nevertheless remains a good star vehicle for many ballerinas, from Maria Tallchief to Gelsey Kirkland. Teresa Reichlen and Ashley Bouder took turns with Firebird. I saw them both -- they're both remarkable. Huge jumps, commanding presence, great energy. But Reichlen was more majestic, more exotic, did more with her long arms, was just more the mythical creature that a prince would want to follow. Both amazing ballerinas though.

Things to look forward to for the rest of the season: new debuts in Nutcracker. Corps members Joseph Gordon, Harrison Ball, Indiana Woodward and Unity Phelan continuing to grow in soloist roles. Ashley Bouder reclaiming even more of her repertory. A new work by Alexei Ratmansky in the spring -- his works for NYCB have become modern classics, and there's reason to believe he'll continue his excellence.

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