BWW Dance Reviews: TSCHAIKOVSKY CELEBRATION, NYCB Season Premiere 1/15
What better way for the New York City Ballet to begin a new season than with a night of Balanchine/Tschaikovsky ballets that highlight exactly what the company has become known for throughout the years? Beginning its 2013 winter season with a four week venture that the company has dubbed a "Tschaikovsky Celebration", I had the pleasure of attending the opening night on January 15th, when a sold out house came out to greet one of New York's most treasured artistic institutions.
You would be hard pressed to select three better ballets than Serenade, Mozartiana and Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 to open the season, since each represents a pivotal point in the Balanchine canon Even in 2013, long after their premieres, the ballets continue to stun us not only with their technical perplexity, but with their insight into the human psyche. I think Balanchine might be surprised to hear this, but all three works on the bill presented us with complex human relationships that, although not spelled out, were quite evident.
Serenade was the first ballet Balanchine choreographed after coming to the United States. It represents a turning point in the evolution of American ballet and is a staple piece in the company's repertoire. Tuesday night's cast featured seasoned principal dancers Janie Taylor, Rebecca Krohn, Megan Fairchild, Sebastian and soloist dancer Ask la Cour Janie Taylor was as delicate and precise as always, though perhaps a bit too timid in her dancing. Showing a true mastery of the Balanchine style, Megan Fairchild was both lovely and energetic to watch in the whirling Russian variation. Both men performed admirably, but neither particularly stood out. This is to be expected in Serenade, a ballet that epitomizes Balanchine's famous quote "Ballet is woman." The true star of this performance was the corps de ballet. In this ballet, like many of his others, Balanchine asks for exceptional technical input from the corps, and they definitely delivered. From the first few notes of music to the final bourres in the Elegy section the corps showed a unity and clarity that was to continue as a theme throughout the evening.
Mozartiana, a late masterwork of Balanchine's, was clean and elegant. Starring the long limbed Maria Kowroski and male principals Daniel Ulbricht and Tyler Angle, the work was well danced by all. Kowroski demonstrated absolute control of her technique and paired her excellent extension and footwork with velvety port de bras that were delightful to behold. Her nuanced performance was artfully tuned; Kowrowski knows just when to hold a pose and exactly which steps to exaggerate or soften. Dancing the Gigue, Daniel Ulbricht performed the turned in, character solo exquisitely. He gave the audience a jovial show while artfully revealing glimpses of his virtuosic brilliance. Angle, a wonderful partner and solo dancer, complemented Kowroski well and performed his many pirouettes with proficiency and grace. Apart from the professional dancers, the students from the School of American Ballet were as well trained as they were charming. Again, it must be noted that the corps work was top notch in this piece.
The evening finished on an elevated high note with Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. In keeping with the Petipa style this ballet paid homage to the imperial Russian style with intricate tableaus and complex directional patterns for the corps, alongside technically demanding variations and romantic pas de deuxs for the principal dancers. Ashley Bouder led the cast and was as breathtaking as ever. Her strength, stamina, and precision are some of the qualities that have contributed to her success as one of City Ballet's top dancers. In keeping with the rest of the night, the corps de ballet sparkled. Their ability to perform as a complete entity was a testament to the company's greatness. Overall, this romantic ballet was a gem to experience. The classical grandeur and subtle hints of plot evident in Concerto were perfectly suited for the tone of the program as a whole, and the piece served as a brilliant finale to a wonderful evening of dancing.
In a company that was designed to have no stars, I must reiterate my admiration for the corps de ballet, To see so many talented dancers working together in such unison is a rare luxury. While the principal and soloist dancers are superlative artists and technically beyond parallel, I would like to observe some further energy and excitement from them in the coming weeks. The evening had its share of slip-ups, both literally and figuratively, but overall provided a highly satisfying evening of dance. As the season continues and the company dives further into the waters of other Tschaikovsky/Balanchine works I can confidently say that I anticipate seeing more outstanding performances that testify to the longevity and luminosity of Mr. Balanchine's art.