BWW Reviews: ALL BALANCHINE: Hear the Dance Italy. The Warmth of Tuscany in February
In the bitter cold of mid-February New York City Ballet's delightful "All Balanchine: Hear the Music, Italy" program is a harbinger of spring. The evening is divided between Square Dance and the two act Harlequinade. The works are absolute and contrasting approaches to Italian culture. The first piece is a stunning homage to renaissance control and balance; the second is a vivacious study of the cartoonish Commedia Dell'Arte tradition.
Set to the music of Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi, Square Dance is a plotless composition which bases its resonance entirely on dancer execution. With its minimalist design by Mark Stanley, a fully lit bare stage and flat blue background, the piece is exhibits the quality of action in the dancer's uninhibited form. Square Dance is mathematical in precision and fluid in execution. The soft pointe work from the women, including principal Ashley Bouder, is mercurial in a fashion rarely seen outside of modern dance. The pas de deux between Ms. Bouder and soloist Anthony Huxley is an engaged play as each performer enacts choreography worthy of its own solo were the partner to be removed. The composition is complex in its atmosphere through Anthony Huxley's elegant modernist solo. His adagio display presents elegant control through fluid shifts in weight and a deep but not strained melancholy.
The composition on the stage is highly neoclassical. Center stage often serves as a division for stage left and right to mirror itself. The exactness of this by City Ballet's performers is uncanny. This performance is as though Vetruvian Man decided to celebrate what makes him human. Under the subtle remarks of Vivaldi and Corelli's music, an intangible vitality is exhumed in this athletic, yet maturely stunt free ballet.
Contrasting the delicate lacework of Square Dance, Balanchine's two act Harlequinade, set to music by Riccardo Drigo, is composed in vibrant chalk pastel. In Harlequinade the charming Harlequin (Joaquin de Luz) pines for the beautiful Columbine (Tiler Peck). However, Columbine has been promised by her father, Cassandre (David Prottas), to Leandre (Robert La Fosse), a wealthy, if grotesque, suitor. Harlequin, with the aid of La Bonne Fee (Emilie Gerrity), fights off Cassandre's hired hands Les Sbires and takes her hand in marriage. Harlequin and Columbine marry as La Bonne Fee presents Harlequin with a new small fortune and the community celebrates. Other characters include Pierrot (Daniel Ulbricht), the naive servant of Cassandre, and Pierrette (Erica Pereira), his wife.
The set, designed by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, has all the imperfect charm of a handcrafted set model brought to scale. His set and costumes fill the stage with their jarring bold color. The first act's simple dramatics are more charming than clever. The stock characters extend their individualities in the choreography. The near spring loaded leaps and pirouettes of Joaquin de Luz as Harlequin are simply astonishing. The broad strokes of Daniel Ulbricht as Pierrot, in contrast with the more pointed gestations of Erica Pereira as his wife, forge beautiful chemistry. Emile Gerrity gracefully undertakes the sole romantic form in La Bonne Fee. Dressed in hilarious full Commedia masque and bouffon style costuming, Robert La Fosse successfully presents some of Commedia's crasser elements.
Balanchine's inspiration is taken mostly from the choreography of Petipa, who copied took it from the Harlequinade tradition, an offshoot of Commedia Dell'Arte. Perhaps in this second act the source of inspiration, is too far gone to be bathed in genuine warmth. The work's vibrancy and broad humor can still tickle the soul, but the natural warmth which might have been so tangible fifty years ago has been replaced with a sense of historic dance tradition. The two works placed side by side show a yin and yang contrast to Italian heritage. Near mathematical study is contrasted with popular comedy, and it is clear there is still comedy in the study and study in the comedy. Photo By: Richard Termine