BWW Review: NEW YORK CITY BALLET Carries on with Panache Following Martins' Resignation
As reported on Broadwayworld.com and elsewhere in December 2017, the New York City Ballet Board of Directors appointed an interim artistic team in the wake of the leave of absence and subsequent resignation of longtime NYCB Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins following accusations against him of sexual harassment. Fortunately, as evidenced at the Koch Theater in Lincoln Center on the afternoon of February 10th 2018 by a first-rate performance of a program called "Classic NYCB", the company has carried on with panache under the leadership of the team, which is listed on the playbill as Ballet Masters Jonathan Stafford, Craig Hall, and Rebecca Krohn, and Resident Choreographer Justin Peck. While the dance world holds its collective breath in anticipation of the appointment of Martins' successor, the troupe founded in 1948 by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirsten is clearly in no danger of losing its world-renowned reputation for excellence.
The opener of the matinee, Balanchine's "Square Dance" to music by Corelli and Vivaldi, immediately chased the chill of a dank and drizzly winter day in NYC. We were treated to the 1976 iteration of Mr. B's amalgamation of American folk dance and his neoclassical version of ballet. Regarding the work, which premiered in 1957, Mr. B. wrote, "The American style of classical dancing, its supple sharpness and richness of metrical invention, its superb preparation for risks, and its high spirits, were some of the things I was trying to show in this ballet." He did indeed succeed, and at the February 10th matinee Megan Fairchild dazzled with her sharp technique and abundant charm. Taylor Stanley, stepping in on presumably short notice as Fairchild's partner, did a creditable if slightly nervous job of replacing Anthony Huxley. The corps was clean and confidant, both in executing the steps and in weaving the choreographic patterns that are quintessential Balanchine trademarks.
Next up in a completely different vein was "Oltremare", a 2008 ballet by Mauro Bigonzetti to a score by his frequent collaborator Bruno Moretti. A program note explains that the work "depicts the journey toward a new life with both its struggles and adrenaline-rising anticipation." The word "oltremare" is Italian for "beyond the sea". Although largely poignant and brooding, the choreography also has buoyant and even boisterous moments during which the dancers seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely as they were temporarily released from the more constrained demands of ballet. Did the artistic team purposely schedule this work about the difficulties and eventual joys of immigration because of the current political brouhaha on the topic? Perhaps.
With hijinks as well as pageantry, Jerome Robbins' 1979 "The Four Seasons" to magnificent melodies by Vivaldi was the perfect ending of this very satisfying program. The choreographer, known for his inimitable wit, starts with Winter during which the ladies in white tutus shiver and knock their knees. Robbins then moves on to the joyous rebirth of Spring with costumes by Santo Loquasto in shades of green that call to mind the emergence of new leaves on once barren trees. Lighting by Jennifer Tipton shifts the scene beautifully from one season to the next, here and elsewhere. Kudos to ballerina Sterling Hyltin for a superb performance as the female lead in this section.
Following Spring, Summer bursts onto the stage with all the seductive heat of a flourishing romance. Then Autumn arrives to dance a bawdy bacchanal, after which the entire cast returns for a rousing finale. Small wonder that this work has been a favorite for decades!
NYCB's Winter Season continues with Peter Martins' "Romeo & Juliet" from February 13th through 23rd; a program called "Stravinsky and Balanchine" from February 24th through March 4th featuring four of the famous collaborations between the composer and the choreographer; and a program called "Here/Now" from February 24th through March 3rd with ballets that "celebrate ballet today and what the future may hold". If you're in or near NYC, don't miss this chance to see for yourself that NYCB is not only holding its own but thriving!
Photo by Paul Kolnik