Monday, October 1, 2012

NYCB—The Great Partnership

Sebastien Marcovici and Janie Taylor in Orpheus. Photo: Paul Kolnik
The fall New York City Ballet season began with a week of Balanchine’s “Greek trilogy”: Apollo, Orpheus, and Agon. I’d never seen Orpheus (1947), and there’s a reason—it’s not his best. There isn’t much dancing. Sebastian Marcovici had the title role; he did a lot of dramatic gesticulating and standing. Janie Taylor was Eurydice; at least she had some more movement to express her ill-fated pleading and coaxing. Jonathan Stafford, menacing as the Dark Angel, was saddled with a proboscis-studded headpiece. And otherwise, there were a lot of fright-bewigged furies with tacky faux-seashell bikinis, designed, shockingly, by the usually sublime Isamu Noguchi. Some of his set elements, however, were lovely, such as the glowing, earthbound stones that shone faintly through the scrim as they ascended, transforming into heavenly bodies.

Busy? Sebastien again, in Agon with Maria Kowroski. Photo: Paul Kolnik
Apollo was in fine shape in a cast led by Chase Finlay, who seemed born to dance the role, at least in its wide-eyed, headstrong, young interpretation. The muses were danced by Maria Kowroski, Teresa Reichlen, and new principal Rebecca Krohn, all relatively tall and magnetic, yet Finlay—elegant and economical in his movement—held his own. Kowroski and Reichlen also danced in Agon (subbing for Whelan and Bouder). Kowroski, who danced the Pas de Deux with Amar Ramasar, was more than electric ever, her reliably impressive technique infused with urgency. As excellent as she and Reichlen are, it would have been nice to see two different principals in Agon, what with more than a dozen female principals from which to choose.

The black & white program was blue chip Balanchine-Stravinsky, the sweet spot for NYCB. Leading off with Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972), Krohn—cool and noble—danced with Sebastien Marcovici, looking gallant and energetic; the sly, riveting Janie Taylor paired with Robert Fairchild, one of the jazziest, most improvisational men. Three short ballets comprised the second act. Kowroski and Ask la Cour danced Monumentum Pro Gesualdo (1960); she partnered with Marcovici in the twin piece Movements for Piano and Orchestra (1963). Again, Kowroski looked phenomenal; she seems to have discovered a renewed focus to go along with her under-trumpeted fundamentals and sublime physical gifts. In the perennially charming Duo Concertant (1972), pianist Susan Walters and violinist Arturo Delmoni performed onstage as Megan Fairchild and Chase Finlay alternately observed them and danced. When Finlay offered his hand to her, the coy first shake of her head before agreeing made me love Balanchine even more. Charming humor in ballet is rare.

Chase Finlay and Megan Fairchild in Duo Concertant. Photo: Paul Kolnik
Symphony in Three Movements (1972) is a big, fast, kinda crazy ballet featuring three primary couples and some incredible stage geometry (the opening scene diagonal line of white-clad women is on the season’s poster). Daniel Ulbricht barrelled onstage as only he can; the equally buoyant Tiler Peck joined up with him as they swapped leaps and he lifted her in splits. Sterling Hyltin (who danced with Amasar) excels at allegro; her small frame seems to better deal with fast steps without losing pace or clarity. The statuesque Savannah Lowery is often cast in “Amazon” character roles in which she excels; she was paired somewhat incongruously with the athletic yet refined Adrian Danchig-Waring, who continues to look more relaxed in featured roles.

There’s a section toward the end, after a section break, when the music's pretty much just a strong drum beat. You realize how modern Stravinsky was, how his music was the perfect complement to Balanchine’s equally modern ballet, and how neither the dance nor the music dominated in their collaborations, but supported one another while being completely unique. It's surely one of the great artistic partnerships ever, vibrant and fresh at NYCB.

No comments: