BWW Review: New York City Ballet Spans Hundreds of Years in 1 Performance
On Thursday evening, October 15, 2015, the curtain rose at the David Koch Theater to reveal a colorful stage in the style of commedia dell'arte, vibrant scenery and costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, and lighting by Mark Stanley. The occasion was George Balanchine's Harlequinade, created for the New York City Ballet for the 65th anniversary of Marius Petipa's Les Millions de Harlequin. While this Balanchine ballet premiered on February 4, 1965, its original roots, particularly from commedia dell'arte, were popular in Italy and France from the 16th to the 18th centuries. These comedies were filled with humor, slapstick, and mimicry. Actors wore masks, as did some of the dancers, which became so familiar that they evolved into stock characters, most notably Pierrot and his wife Pierrette; Columbine and Harlequin, who are in love and marry in the second act of the ballet; and the Good Fairy.
The music of Riccardo Drigo is fun, engaging, uplifting, and especially danceable, led by guest conductor, Paolo Peroni. Tiler Peck was perfectly cast, adorable as the animated, cute, flirty Columbine, who repeatedly draws Harlequin in and, with the mores of the time, pushes him away. Joaquin De Luz was an ideal Harlequin with bravura skills. Daniel Ulbright's Pierrot, too, was fun and appropriate, as was Erica Pereira's narcissistic Pierrette. Corps de ballet member, Emilie Gerrity was pretty and lyrical as La Bonne Fee (the Good Fairy). The character role of Leandre, wealthy suitor to Columbine, was played by Guest Artist and former NYCB and ABT dancer, Robert La Fosse, with exaggerated personality, as, no doubt, it was intended.
This second ballet of the evening, Jerome Robbins' N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz, to music of Robert Prince, which was premiered June 8, 1958, by Robbins' Ballets U.S.A, transported us to the mid 20th century. This work, costumed in colorful T-shirts and sneakers with black jeans, seems like a continuation in spirit of Robbins' West Side Story. The dancing was fresh and youthful. The juxtaposition of these two ballets, however, seemed unnecessary, doing nothing to support each other.
Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik