Friday, February 3, 2012

Big Art at New York City Ballet

Maria Kowroski in Firebird. Photo: Paul Kolnik.
Where else but a museum might you see work by both Marc Chagall and Erté? At New York City Ballet, of course.

Firebird, choreographed by Balanchine in 1949 to Stravinsky, was revived in 1970 with new sets and costumes by Chagall, and group "creature" choreography by Jerome Robbins. I'm guessing that the intoxicating sets and zany costumes are the primary reason for its occasional revival, as the dance itself feels like a secondary concern. The title role was set on Maria Tallchief and last week, another Maria—Kowroski—performed it. As many admirable traits as MK has, being fiery is not chief among them. She certainly fulfills the predications of being hypnotic, powerful, and birdlike, but I missed a tangible passion. Ask la Cour, in an awful costume, and Savannah Lowery, weighed down by yards of satin, performed the two other perfunctory leads.

Concerto in G Major (Robbins, 1975) goes down like the Necco wafers (created in 1847!) that seem to have inspired Erté's costume and set palette, which is so complimentary to Ravel's sweet music. Sterling Hyltin danced with Adrian Danchig-Waring, a pleasing pair of tensile and muscular strength. Last week, I saw Kowroski partnered by Tyler Angle in this dance, for a plusher, more mature rendering of this somewhat bland, but perfectly agreeable, confection.

Passion was ample in Balanchine's Tarantella, with Megan Fairchild and Joaquin de Luz. They both danced this gala bonbon with boatloads of gusto, exuding real, contagious joy above and beyond their considerably refined technique.

The highlight on this January 31st program was seeing Sara Mearns and Teresa Reichlen in Mr. B's Concerto Barocco. Reichlen's cool, alabaster remove balanced the fierce, barely-contained abandon of Mearns. Justin Peck danced the fleeting male lead admirably, what with its punishing string of eight consecutive lifts. With Danchig-Waring also in a lead role, it's gratifying to see a new generation of stars evolving amid the long-shadowed legacies of NYCB's artistic collaborators.—Susan Yung

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