Monday, February 11, 2013

Delving Deeply into Dance

Robert Fairchild kickin' it old school style in Western Symphony. Photo: Paul Kolnik
I don't think any other company in the world does what New York City Ballet does, in terms of breadth and depth (but correct me if I'm wrong). In the 2012—13 season, over the course of 21 non-contiguous weeks of performance, it will have danced 65 different ballets, 39 by Balanchine alone. Even so, most of these Balanchine ballets will be repeats for many viewers. For someone who doesn't follow the company regularly, it might seem strange to want see the same ballets over and over. Is there another art form that's programmed this way? Or that rewards as much?

But when I see a performance of it like yesterday's, of three Balanchine ballets to symphonies, I am reminded of all the reasons I'm a fan. First, Symphony in C (1947) is among my favorite by Balanchine, the iconic ballet of his classical style, like Taylor's Esplanade or Ailey's Revelations. The very different pacing and tone of the four sections as set by Bizet's eminently danceable music. The scale of it, which goes from absolutely epic to intimate. The revelation of the form's royal roots. Balanchine's sheer innovation and poetry—for example, the finale of the second movement, when the man lowers his partner in a slow, reverse death spiral over his knee. The way it proves a company's mettle by its breakneck pace and technical demands. And to showcase a number of talented dancers, many of them young, others the company's standard bearers.

Notebook review of NYCB, Feb 9, 2pm:

Symphony in C
  • First Movement: Ana Sophia Scheller—crisp, radiant, and at home in a tiara; Chase Finlay—sound if slightly tentative
  • Second Movement: Maria and Tyler—gracious, monumental, romantic. They performed the reverse death spiral perfectly
  • Third: Erica Pereira—her small stature is difficult to read from afar; outshone by partner Anthony Huxley—elegant and complete
  • Fourth: Lauren King—radiant; Taylor Stanley—looking princely
Symphony in Three Movements, to Stravinsky
  • A great Balanchine "leotard ballet" from the 1972 Stravinsky festival 
  • Tiler Peck—lively, her usual superlative self
  • Savannah Lowery—radiating warmth and confidence
  • Sterling Hyltin—having a season of epiphanies, at least for me
  • Amar Ramasar—working well with Hyltin this season
  • Daniel Ulbricht—good to see him not trying to push too hard and let an ease guide his natural charm 
  • Andrew Scordato—subbing; showed off his lovely line and precise feet
Western Symphony
  • Choreographed by Balanchine in 1954; music by Hershy Kay. Western Americana Frrrrenchified, with an unforgettable finale featuring the ensemble pirouetting as the curtain falls
  • Rebecca Krohn & Taylor Stanley—she's a tad too tall for him, but they both exude confidence and glamour
  • Megan Fairchild & Jared Angle—nice pairing; Jared always shows off his partner well, and Megan is superb
  • Ashley Bouder & Robert Fairchild—wow, they really played off one another, almost like a competition (which is how Bouder often seems to treat performances), but he looked really charged up, relishing every move and heel kick
Sleeping Beauty begins this week. I'm looking forward to seeing Tiler Peck, Tyler Angle, and Teresa Reichlin in the leads. Five lead casts are planned for the run's two weeks.

Speaking of protean efforts by companies which perform repertory...

As March approaches, so does Paul Taylor Dance Company's season at Lincoln Center. In terms of epic feats of programming and repertory, its annual run is right up there with what NYCB does. It will present 21 (!!!) dances over  three weeks, but its resources are far smaller, with 16 dancers and one very imaginative choreographer. It's mind-boggling to think of the complexity of the logistics necessary to simply put together a schedule, weighing the dancers' requirements and the aesthetic balance of each program. I'll be writing about some of the upcoming season's highlights shortly, and covering the season as it progresses.

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