BWW Review Celebrating the Legacy of BALANCHINE: THE CITY CENTER YEARS
In conjunction with the landmark 75th anniversary season of the New York City Center, the performances of Balanchine: The City Center Years honor George Balanchine, one of the greatest choreographers of American 20th century ballet. Mr. Balanchine is most widely known for co-founding the New York City Ballet with Lincoln Kirsten in 1948, at the City Center. It was there he developed some of his most iconic ballets that have made an impact in dance across the globe. In an unprecedented international tribute, the series featured some of the world's greatest ballet companies- all accompanied by the New York City Ballet Orchestra. Sunday, November 4th closed the celebration with performances by The Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Paris Opera Ballet, and The Mariinksy Ballet.
The program opened with one of Balanchine's early works, The Four Temperaments performed by The Joffrey Ballet. He was inspired by the medieval belief that human beings are made up of four different humors that determine a person's temperament. Each temperament is associated with one of the elements: earth, air, water, and fire. There were four variations to the piece, each with its own distinct style. To me, the element of air was represented by high jumps and an upward focus, fire in the heat of a lovely duet, earth with movements aimed downward, and water was illustrated by helping things grow.
Next was the Diverissement Pas de Duex from A Midsummer Night's Dream performed by the Paris Opera Ballet. As a child, Balanchine was an elf in a production of the show in St. Petersburg, which was the source of inspiration for this work. The dancers moved with such grace and soft movements that it was just mesmerizing. The following dance was Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux performed by The Mariinsky Ballet. Tschaikosky had composed a pas de deux for Act III of the Swan Lake score. The section was created later than the rest of the music. It was not published in the score and not available when Marius Petipa choreographed his famous Swan Lake ballet. Many years later, the complete Swan Lake score was discovered. Balanchine asked and was granted permission to use the "lost pas de deux" to for his own choreography. It was very exciting and the dancers were stunning- particularly the male dancer. He was very athletic as he did a number of complicated yet spectacular leaps and jumps. There were some moments where it was if he were being held by a piece of string as he glided across the stage!
The program concluded with Symphonie Concertante performed by American Ballet Theatre. Here, there is a close relationship between the dancers and the music. The two lead dancers' movements correspond with the solo instruments- the violin and viola. I absolutely loved it! I couldn't take my eyes off the stage. It was a perfect example showcasing the choreographic genius of the great George Balanchine.
The New York City Center continues its anniversary season with a number of special engagements such as the 2018 Annual Gala Presentation of A Chorus Line, the 60th anniversary of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater- the cultural ambassadors to the world, the 50th anniversary of the beloved Dance Theatre of Harlem, and an Encores! Production of High Button Shoes with choreography by Jerome Robbins. In addition to all this, for the first time in history, City Center has mounted a series of visual art commissions by conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner, architect-artist Jorge Otero-Pailos, and photographer Nina Robinson in celebration of the 75th anniversary including a special rotating archival exhibition throughout the City Center lobbies for the duration of the season.
For more information about the 75th anniversary of the New York City Center, please visit their website at www.nycitycenter.org.
Photo Credit: Paul Kolnick