Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Beauty, Beast, and Balanchine

It's high ballet season at Lincoln Center. Pretty amazing that on any given day, for the last half of May anyway, there might ostensibly be 5000+ people simultaneously watching ballet within a couple of square acres of Manhattan. Crazy, right? Notes on last week, when I saw NYCB's All Balanchine program and ABT's Don Quixote.

ABT's Don Quixote, May 16, Met Opera House
Paloma Herrera. Photo: Gene Schiavone

Bear with me while I descend to clichés: it starred Beauty (Paloma Herrera as Kitri) and the Beast (Ivan Vasiliev as Basilio). Herrera's cool charm and elegant lines nicely balanced his kangaroo-like jumps and leaps. Her center was clearly spot-on that night as she sustained ridiculously long, watch-checking balances. And no one can extend a leg in second and present a perfectly arched foot with such care.  

Vasiliev adds scissor splits to jetés, does three revolutions in the air instead of the standard two, holds Herrera overhead on one hand while  relevé-ing on one foot... things that have no terms because no one else does them. It's bizarre and sensational, but it pushes male ballet beyond the limit, and that's exciting if not always beautiful. They're an unlikely pairing, but that also makes for an interesting, quirky dynamic.

Veronika Part and James Whiteside danced the second featured parts of street dancer Mercedes and toreador. He is well-suited to this juicy, if brief, morsel of ham, with its taut-bow lines and bang-bang rhythms. She looked happy to be in this midi skirt-swishing role, less stressed out than she can while bearing the full weight of primary leads. Part also danced the Queen of the Dryads, magisterial, Amazonian, and elegant, in full tutu.  

NYCB's All Balanchine program, May 13, Koch Theater
The selection of repertory showcased the depth of corps members and soloists.
Lauren Lovette and Anthony Huxley in Raymonda Variations. Photo: Paul Kolnik
Raymonda Variations (1961) featured Lauren Lovette, clean and sparkling, with Anthony Huxley, technically a perfectionist, if slightly bloodless; could benefit from partnering work.

In The Steadfast Tin Soldier (1975), Erica Pereira and Daniel Ulbricht made the most of this mostly syrupy fable saved by a poignant ending. The part of a toy soldier suits Ulbricht—physically superhuman, but whose facial expressions can lack nuance. Good to see Pereira, a victim of the "lost soloist" syndrome.

Le Tombeau de Couperin (1975), a b/w leotard ballet inspired by the intricate interactions of Baroque dance, which could also be read as square or folk dance. Comprising two "quadrilles" of 16 corps members who perform four movements—it feels like work to watch, after a time, and one can only imagine the effort that went into choreographing it—but there's a warmth and graciousness to it that resists the affect of modernism. 
Le Tombeau de Couperin. Photo: Paul Kolnik

As I've likely written before, Symphony in C (1947) is the big test of major companies' depth, skill, and musicality, and among my favorite high classical Balanchine works. 
  • 1st movement: an injured Andrew Veyette was replaced with Zachary Catazaro to partner Tiler Peck. While Catazaro looks the part of a swain, he needs polishing and partnering rehearsal; all in due time.
  • 2nd movement: The luminous Teresa Reichlin glittered extra brightly with the relatively new crystal-encrusted costumes. Tyler Angle is a consistently brilliant, suave partner, but that seems to mean that he is cast with the taller, often more difficult to handle women, rather than those of a more suitable relative height (as is his similarly-skilled brother, Jared). A pleasant problem, indeed.
  • 3rd: Hey, there's the elusive Gonzalo Garcia!, dancing with corps member Ashly Isaacs, in the danciest section. They treated the lilting rhythms fairly lightly but suited one another well. 
  • 4th: This section is really more like half a movement, but it's always a pleasure to see Taylor Stanley's technical confidence and charisma; here he danced with Ashley Laracey, featured more and more often, with reason.
This week brings "Classic Spectacular," a mixed bill at ABT including La Gaieté Parisienne, and Jewels at NYCB.

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