|Fairchild in some of his best roles at NYCB|
First things first: the Balanchine triple bill of Square Dance/La Valse/Cortège Hongrois showed that the state of the union of NYCB is strong. Square Dance is in good hands with the allegro technicians of Megan Fairchild/Anthony Huxley. La Valse is trickier -- it can become a cheesy Halloween horror show. But with Sterling Hyltin as the simultaneously delicate and demented socialite and Justin Peck as a hovering, creepy Death, that wasn't an issue. Cortège Hongrois is not top-drawer Balanchine -- it's heavily derivative of both Petipa's Raymonda and Balanchine's earlier takes on Glazunov's score. Raymonda remix, basically. Sara Mearns and Tiler Angle were fine as the classical couple (the role taps into Mearns' imperiousness, which is one of her best qualities) but more surprising was the vigor with which Georgina Pazcoguin and Ask La Cour danced the "folk" czardas.
But Balanchine's a genius. We all knew that. More uneven was the "Here/Now" mixed bill of Wheeldon's Liturgy/Polyphonia, Ratmansky's Odessa, and Justin Peck's The Times Are Racing. The Wheeldon works were set on Wendy Whelan and have not aged well -- all the gynecological maneuvering of female limbs is tiresome. Liturgy was just dull, Polyphonia not much better. Unity Phelan and Zachary Catazaro (newly promoted to principal) tried and they made gorgeous shapes but these let-twist-Wendy-into-a-pretzel-500-times-in-30-minutes works belong in the ballet dustbin. Ratmansky's Odessa remains an odd, elusive ballet. Is it a dark, violent view of male-female relations, or is it a lighthearted boys-loses-girls-boys-gets-girls fairy tale? The violence between the couples has been toned down, the romance turned up in this revival. And in the midst of all this Megan Fairchild has quietly become an excellent Ratmansky dancer, so able to "get" the composer's offbeat humor. She and Daniel Ulbricht made perhaps the most famous moment in Odessa (the "dream" sequence where she's held aloft by a swarm of guys who eventually become rough and sinister) the right mix of surreal and disturbing.
|Stanley and Applebaum, photo @ Michael Kirby Smith|
|Preston Chamblee and Taylor Stanley in Not Our Fate, photo @ Andrea Mohin|
More charming was Gianna Reisen's Composer's Holiday rookie effort. Reisen is an SAB grad and only 18 years old. It shows off two extremely talented apprentices, Gilbert Bolden and Roman Mejia, and two talented junior corps members, Emma von Enck and Christina Clark. The costumes by Virgil Ab-doh were pretty tutus for the girls and dapper black suits for the men. The music by Lukas Foss was mildly jazzy. The piece was lighthearted, with fun body drops for women and a few witty parodies of Balanchine motifs. The most memorable was when a male dancer walked to the edge of the stage to pull a girl onstage, only to find himself dragging several girls in a very Balanchine-like daisy chain. Was it great? No, but it was fun.
The most interesting work of the night was Lauren Lovette's sophomore choreographic effort. Last season's For Clara was a pleasant surprise. Now with her second piece Not Our Fate (inspired by a poem by NYCB corps member Mary Elizabeth Sell) Lovette is already displaying two important virtues in a choreographer: the ability to pick of piece of music that is responsive to dance (Mark Nyman's pulsating score reminds one of Phillip Glass), and willingness to push dancers outside their comfort zone. The duet between Preston Chamblee and Taylor Stanley is an interesting take on same-sex partnering -- Chamblee is obviously the "male" and he partners Stanley completely like he would partner a ballerina. Supported finger pirouettes and fancy lifts and the whole nine yards. Stanley while being partnered danced on ballerina-like high demi-pointe. The duet between Ask La Cour and Olivia MacKinnon was actually more gender neutral, with many contemporary poses that suggested neither traditional male or female roles. Ask La Cour can often be stolid but Lovette brought out an intensity in him. The piece was occasionally overwrought but it held interest. Lovette is a more interesting choreographer than she is a dancer and I look forward to her next works.
|Pulcinella, photo @ Andrea Mohin|
|Fairchild and Hyltin, photo @ Andrea Mohin|
Having said that, it was a beautiful performance. Actually the whole afternoon was wonderful. Teresa Reichlen and Russell Janzen gave a very different interpretation of Cortège Hongrois -- Reichlen is elegance personified. Whereas Sara Mearns powers through steps, Reichlen glides like Elsa from Frozen. Lovely. I'm not a fan of Sara Mearns in La Valse -- she dances it well but I prefer the fragility of Sterling Hyltin. Ashley Bouder absolutely hit Square Dance out of the ballpark. She's one of the few ballerinas who is able to really articulate the gargouillades with clear swings of both calves. Taylor Stanley was not chopped liver either.
Then the lights came up to the piano and violin, and Robbie and Sterling transported the audience in a heart-meltingly tender Duo Concertant. Hyltin has a way of bringing out the most in her male partners -- I remember a Dances at a Gathering where Fairchild (Brown Boy) was struggling technically. Then the Brown Boy and Pink Girl (Hyltin) danced together and all the struggles melted away and it was so beautiful. You could tell how long Hyltin and Fairchild been dancing together from the natural way Sterling rested her head on his shoulder and in how much their bodies mirrored each other. The final image of Fairchild in the dark, with the spotlight dimming for the final time was bitter-sweet and a testament to how Balanchine knew how to end ballets like no other choreographer. Of course afterwards came the flowers, the confetti, the cheers. Fairchild looked happy, like he was eager to start the next stage of his career.
Here are the curtain calls:
|Robbie, Sterling and the signed program|