My review of Justin Peck’s new ballet, set to Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo,” is here. It was performed in a program that also included Christopher Wheeldon’s “Mercurial Manoeuvres” and Alexei Ratmansky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Here’s an image from the latter ballet:
Here’s my review of the Jan. 20 and Jan. 22 programs at New York City Ballet, which included six works by Balanchine: Serenade, Agon, Symphony in C, Donizetti Variations, La Valse, and Chaconne. Not bad for two nights at the ballet.
A little excerpt:
“These Balanchine evenings quickly establish the company’s core values: musicality, speed, lightness of touch, spaciousness, style. They also impress upon the audience the vast range of balletic modes in which the choreographer worked…. The ballets are not only worlds in themselves but, taken as a group, they seem to encompass most of ballet.”
Last night was the première of Alexei Ratmansky’s new “Pictures at an Exhibition”—yes, set to that score—for New York City Ballet. And it’s a good one. You can read my review for DanceTabs here.
And here’s a short excerpt: “At the risk of sounding like a broken record, is there a ballet choreographer working today who is more imaginative, more wholly himself, than Alexei Ratmansky? The images that music awakens in him are often weirdly unexpected, and yet one is so thoroughly drawn into the worlds he creates onstage that surprise quickly turns into a kind of amazed fascination.”
New York City Ballet has been going from strength in a series of all-Balanchine programs. I review ballets with music by Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky here. A short excerpt:
“On the Stravinsky program (Sept. 25), Robert Fairchild returned to Apollo…He has relaxed into this challenging role and is now able to take risks, tilting dangerously (and excitingly) off-balance and pushing the tempo to create moments of surprise and wildness. Like the unruly young god he depicts, Fairchild tests his strengths and weaknesses before us on the stage.”
Last week I caught a single performance of Coppélia at New York City Ballet, with Sterling Hyltin in the role of Swanilda and Gonzalo García as her wayward beau, Frantz. It’s easy to see why this comic ballet has remained in the repertory for so long. Délibes’ music is enchanting from start to finish, and consistently danceable. The little pause at the top of the phrase in the “wheat dance”—during which the girls listen to an ear of grain to test whether their boyfriends love them—is so lilting, so charming, and, as an added bonus, gives the dancers a perfect opportunity to perch, ever-so-gracefully, in a balance. And who can resist the rousing mazurka? (If only the NYCB dancers were a bit more lusty in their execution of this folk dance. In their ribbons and boots, they look like very well-mannered and slightly embarrassed kids.)
It was my first time seeing Hyltin in the role of Swanilda. She is a natural comedienne, with big eyes and a long, girlish face that she is not loath to scrunch up into funny expressions. Unlike many ballerinas, she’s not overly attached to the idea of looking beautiful at all times, no matter what the situation. She’s terribly light on her toes; her jumps have a wonderful sparkle. With her extraordinarily linear frame, she can create marvelous angles with her elbows and knees, handy when dancing the role of a girl imitating a doll. But she can also be soft, lyrical, even sexy (as in Rubies and Stravinsky Violin Concerto). Her Swanilda is playful and sweet, without the edge some dancers bring to the role. (I remember thinking Natalia Osipova was screaming at the audience when she danced it.) Meanwhile, García’s Frantz is a handsome, seductive dolt, warm and easy to forgive. And he’s so pretty that one is reminded that this role was once danced by a woman, en travesti.
For the first two acts of his 1974 production, Balanchine enlisted Alexandra Danilova, a famously mischievous Swanilda, to help him create a version close to the one she had danced for many years. But he remade the final act, replacing the allegorical dances (dawn, prayer, the hours) with more abstract solos and ensembles. These are lovely, but I do miss the notion of each dance representing a particular idea, which one hears clearly in the music. The dances for the dolls in the second act, too, are somewhat uninspired, though Austin Bachman managed to make a vivid impression as the melancholy acrobat.
But the best thing about Balanchine’s third act is the fact that the corps de ballet is replaced by twenty-four adorable little girls from the School of American Ballet, a garland of perfect Petipa ballerinas in miniature.
Jenifer Ringer danced her last dance yesterday at New York City Ballet, in a program that combined Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering and Balanchine’s tribute to the British Isles, Union Jack. Unsurprisingly she seemed relaxed, dancing with her usual musicality and emotional transparency. Here’s my review of the show, for DanceTabs.
I’d love to hear people’s memories of her dancing. I’ll never forget a public coaching of Liebeslieder with Violette Verdy. Dressed in rehearsal clothes, under bright studio lights, Ringer and Jared Angle conjured a completely enclosed world in which only they existed. After they finished Verdy said simply, “that was perfect, I have nothing to say.”
For DanceTabs, I reviewed two programs at NYCB, “Just for Fun” (Carnival of the Animals, Jeu de Cartes, and The Four Seasons), and “Tradition and Innovation” (Vespro, Duo Concertant, and Dances at a Gathering). Yes, the company has taken to “naming” its programs, and also to grouping them by theme, which I often find to be problematic–too much of a good thing, not enough contrast. But still, serendipity happens. The seasons’ single performance of Jerome Robbins’ “Dances at a Gathering” turned out to be one of the freshest renditions I’ve seen in a long time. Tiler Peck, in particular, was ravishing as the “girl in pink” (see photo above).
Christopher Wheeldon’s “Carnival of the Animals,” which the company hasn’t done for a while, turned out to be a be a bit of a disappointment. It’s flat, and tries too hard to be funny (without succeeding). But there are some lovely images, like this one, of a mermaid, danced here by the beautiful Lauren Lovette.