BWW Review: NEW YORK CITY BALLET PROGRAM A at Kennedy Center
One of the finest ballet companies in the country is in town this week at the Kennedy Center for two programs that feature the work of some of the world's most famous choreographers.
New York City Ballet's (NYCB) programs are always a fun and accessible experience for the audience - meaning you don't have to be a dance connoisseur to appreciate them. The stories and the music in each of their pieces always make for a great evening out, and Program A was no exception.
Esteemed choreographer George Balanchine co-founded NYCB. He was also one of its founding choreographers so starting the evening off with his Square Dance seems like a good and natural choice. With music by Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi as conducted by Andrews Sill, the best way to describe piece is sort of a challenge between the men and women with alternating movements. In between the ensemble movements there is some really fine solo and duet work from principal dancers Megan Fairchild and Chase Finlay.
Balanchine's choreography shows off exactly why NYCB has survived for so many years. This piece is almost 60 years old, yet still appears as fresh as ever. When your product is that high-end, your company will have longevity.
Next on the program is Balanchine's Tarantella. This is a fun two-hander that features the energetic and rousing performances of Erica Pereira and Spartak Hoxha. There is no pretention with this one. It's just two dancers with tambourines having a whole lot of fun. The music is by Louis Moreau Gottschalk and is reconstructed and orchestrated by veteran Broadway orchestrator Hershy Kay. Kay also collaborated with Balanchine on Gershwin's Who Cares and Sousa's Stars and Stripes. Andrew Litton conducts the NYCB orchestra is for this and the rest of the program. The piece features a big solo piano section performed by Susan Walters.
Next up is the most serious piece on the program and it's a DC premiere. Odessa features the music of Leonid Desyatnikov and choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. The story deals with Jewish gangsters in Odessa after the Russian Revolution. The featured dancers are Ashley Bolder, Sterling Hyltin, Sara Mearns, Tyler Angle, Joaquin De Luz, and Taylor Stanley. The story is haunting to be sure, and Mark Stanley's dim and ominous lighting adds to the somber feel of the piece. Solo violin is a big thing in Russian music and, in this case, Concertmaster Arturo Delmoni is the featured artist.
Nothing says Americana like Aaron Copland's Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes. It is famous for a number of reasons. The original choreography by Agnes DeMille is legendary and many companies use it when presenting this piece. You might also know the "Hoedown" theme from a series of commercials for the National Beef Council. Its tagline was "Beef, it's what for dinner."
Sometimes throwing out the original choreography of a ballet can be suicidal, particularly when it is by someone as famous as Agnes DeMille. Choreographer Justin Peck has done the impossible and put his own stamp on this classic. The modern dance clothes (by Reid Bartelme, Harriet Jung, and Peck) as opposed to old west costumes and Peck's modern choreography helps bridge the old time feel of Copland's music with today's sensibilities.
Peck keeps the original fifteen men to one women ratio intact as well. In this case the woman is Tiler Peck who has a striking presence onstage and is one of the best ballet dancers I've seen in quite a while. If you saw her in the musical Little Dancer a few years back, you know she is a triple threat meaning besides being an incredible dancer, she can sing and act equally as well.
The third episode, "Saturday Night Waltz," features the two Pecks (not related) dancing a duet in perfect harmony. The ensemble rings out the program full tilt in "Hoedown" with short features within the movement including a nice feature by Daniel Ulbricht.
For an evening that's sure to please even the most skeptical about ballet theatergoer, check out New York City Ballet in the Opera House at Kennedy Center this week. Program A is pretty incredible and I imagine Program B is also. Broadway World will be there and I hope you will consider being there too. The music is great; the dance is top notch; and you should never miss an opportunity to see a company with so much history behind it.
Running Time: Two hours and five minutes with two intermissions and a brief pause.
New York City Ballet's Program A has remaining performances on June 10, 2017 at 7:30 and June 11, 2017 at 1:30. Performances take place in the Opera House at the Kennedy Center which is located at 2700 F Street, NW Washington, DC. For tickets, click here.