Balanchine x 6

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.”

Teresa Reichlen in Serenade. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Teresa Reichlen in Serenade. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

The continues through March 1.

Bringing Balanchine Back

Teresa Reichlen in Movements for Piano and Orchestra. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Teresa Reichlen in
Movements for Piano and Orchestra. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

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.”

Ballets about Ballet: Les Sylphides and Theme and Variations at ABT

The opening tableau in Les Sylphides. Photo by Gene Schiavone
The opening tableau in Les Sylphides. Photo by Gene Schiavone

At the Saturday matinee, ABT presented a program consisting of Fokine’s Les Sylphides, Stanton Welch’s Clear, and Balanchine’s Theme and Variations. The most interesting aspect was seeing the contrast between Sylphides and Theme. Two sumptuous works about the nature of ballet itself. I reviewed the show here.

A short excerpt: “In many ways these two works illustrate what we think about when we think about ballet. The first is a vaporous homage to the aura of mid-nineteenth century works like La Sylphide and Giselle. The latter, a luminous affirmation of the classical style, specifically the high classicism of the Russian Silver Age and its exemplary ballet, Sleeping Beauty.”

Edward Villella, Unplugged

Edward Villella at a café in his new 'hood, Hamilton Heights. Photo by yours truly.
Edward Villella at a café in his new ‘hood, Hamilton Heights. Photo by yours truly.

Edward Villella is back in town, unbowed by his Miami City Ballet experience and ready to begin the next chapter of his life. I sat down with him recently at a café around the corner from his Hamilton Heights brownstone to talk about his life in dance, Balanchine, his experiences in Miami, and his plans for the future. You can read the interview here, in DanceTabs.

The Return of Sylvia

Margot Fonteyn in Sylvia in 1952. Felix Fontayn, Royal Opera House Archive
Margot Fonteyn in Sylvia in 1952. Felix Fontayn, Royal Opera House Archive

ABT is performing Frederick Ashton’s pseudo-classical fantasy “Sylvia” this week. It’s a marvelous ballet, taken on its own terms. Full of stylish detail, tender scenes, and ravishing music, it is also completely silly and over-the-top, with more than a whiff of the music-hall.

Here’s my review of the June 26 cast, which included Roberto Bolle and Polina Semionova. And a little excerpt:

“The designs are intentionally old-fashioned, quaint, many-layered, full of drapery and chiaroscuri that turn the stage into a lavish popup book. The first tableau, a sylvan glade with a stony outcrop, reveals a little bridge in the background and a three-tiered fountain topped by a statue of Eros. The statue later turns out – surprise! – to be a dancer slathered in white body paint. The second act takes place in a kind of orientalist fantasy-land, Cairo by way of the the Moulin Rouge.”

Jeune Fille en Fleur: The Blossoming of Lauren Lovette

Lauren Lovette became a member of the corps de ballet at New York City Ballet only two years ago, but her star has been steadily rising ever since. With her sparkling eyes, delicate sensuality, and the quiet sense of joy that suffuses  her dancing, it’s hard to miss her, even when she’s at the rear of the stage, which happens less and less frequently. On Monday, she received the Clive Barnes (dance) Award, a prize that singles out young performers who reveal extraordinary promise.  (Rob McClure won the award for best young actor.) The timing seems just right; Lovette will début in the role of Sugarplum on Dec. 23, an event not to be missed (she’ll dance it again at the matinée of the 28th). She’s only twenty, and I’ll wager we’ll be seeing more and more of her. Over the past few seasons, she has illuminated the stage in various roles, from the introspective solo in Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia to the sensual, playful pas de deux in Balanchine’s Rubies, and even a throwaway part in Susan Stroman’s For the Love of Duke. Here are a few photos of her, all by Paul Kolnik.

With Anthony Huxley in Rubies. (All photos by Paul Kolnik.)
With Anthony Huxley in Rubies. (All photos by Paul Kolnik.)
In the quiet solo in Wheeldon's Polyphonia, where she drew us into her world.
In the mesmerizing solo in Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, where she drew us into her world.

At the time of her début in Polyphonia, I wrote: “A few days ago, when Sara Mearns performed the role, she seemed to expand, radiating energy outward; Lovette, instead, pulled us into her private world. She repeated a phrase, rising quietly on pointe and raising her leg, and then began to add gestures, a scooping up of the hands, a turn with the arms held aloft and then lowered into a kind of prayerful gesture. She accelerated slightly, she slowed down. Her fingers sparkled with life. She drew attention to every detail of the choreography and made us see it anew. In other words, she not only danced it beautifully, but made it her own.”

With Chase Finlay, again in Polyphonia.
With Chase Finlay, again in Polyphonia.
Here she is in Stroman's For the Love of Duke.
Here she is in Stroman’s For the Love of Duke.
And here, in Balanchine's Serenade, when she was still at the School of American Ballet.
And here, in Balanchine’s Serenade, when she was still at the School of American Ballet.

There’s a video of her in Peter Martins’ Mes Oiseaux here. She’s the one with the bangs.

At the awards ceremony on Monday Lovette, who seemed slightly overwhelmed by her nervous excitement, spoke touchingly of her colleagues, the art of dance, and her sense of wonder at her own good fortune. The event was organized by Barnes’ widow, Valerie Taylor-Barnes, whom I recently interviewed for DanceTabs. She first met the critic when she was a dancer with the Royal Ballet. Fifty (!) years—and various wives—later, they married. Ms. Barnes has quite an eye; recent award-winners include Isabella Boylston (of ABT) and Chase Finlay (of NYCB).

For  updates, feel free to check out @MarinaHarss on Twitter. And I’m eager for your comments!