Pacific Northwest Ballet at City Center


Pacific Northwest Ballet is and should always be welcomed in New York. It has a long history with the works of George Balanchine, so what better way to present its opening program than with three classic Balanchine works. Although we have seen these ballets millions of times in New York, what balletomane doesn't like to shop, compare, argue or discuss?

Concerto Barocco, that great ballet set to Bach's Double Violin Concerto, opened the program, and I can say with honesty that it works better on the smaller City Center stage than on Koch stage. The dancers don't have to worry about getting to their places on time and can actually relax. Plus the intimacy of the stage perfectly renders the ballet's supreme exposition of agile feet at work. Although it is easier to spot the ballet's mechanics and maneuvering, it is also easier to just sit back and delight in the ballet's cool and bracing atmosphere. Was there ever a ballet that is seems so serene yet is something of a killer for the dancers?

Barocco presents other challenges. At the Koch it seems as if the dancers are not on the music, but behind it. This undermines the entire ballet and makes me wonder if the ballet is not rehearsed properly or if the dancers just can't mark the music. This, luckily, was not the problem at this performance. Laura Gilbreath, the lead dancer, and Lindsi Dec, the female soloist, show how the close coordination between choreography and music adds new layers of meaning: intimacy, elation and tranquility. This is what Balanchine referred to as "seeing the music." Most times we don't see it.

Barocco's pas de duex in the second movement posed a problem for me. Gilbearth's physique and line did not match that of her partner, Batkhurel Bold. Gilbearth is tall and lean, Bold is shorter than his partner a somewhat stocky. What should be physically symmetrical became distorted and unbalanced. Perhaps I was hoping to see a dancer who complemented his partner. But partnerships in ballet rely not only on temperament, but physique. Here a different male partner would have been useful.