BWW Reviews: Balanchine Has the Last Laugh at New York City Ballet
Wednesday, May 28th, New York City Ballet presented a program bookended by Balanchine. Concerto Barocco articulated propriety and decorum in delicate glances; Jerome Robbin's Other Dances promulgated gentle desire in the pas de deux; Benjamin Millipied's Neverwhere delved into power plays; and Balanchine had the last laugh with the exuberant laissez-faire Who Cares? In each of the four works, the progression of relationships unfolded.
Accompanied by Justin Peck, the busiest man in ballet, Maria Kowroski and Sara Mearns elaborated on the intricacies of position and status in Balanchine's Concerto Barocco. As Mearns took her first B+ position in the opening movement, her fingers twitched in anticipation. Kowroski strode on stage as though on a runway. Kowroski led Mearns and the corps de ballet in piqué after piqué and blistering sissones in petite allegro. Strictly business, Kowroski's gaze and torso drove her body forward. The ghost of Gelsey Kirkland appeared in Mearns' reverent épaulement - softly leading from the heart, gaze uplifted. Peck kept hold of Mearns and Kowroski as they wound over and around the rising and receding wave of the corps. Kowroski ruled as queen in this opening piece, Mearns and Peck as crown princess and prince.
Pianist Cameron Grant accompanied Tiler Peck and Gonzalo Garcia onstage in Robbins' Other Dances. Unrushed, Peck and Garcia's lingering gazes and tender port des bras filled their partnership with both flirtation and melancholy. Robbins deconstructed folk steps in acknowledgement of Chopin's score with flexed feet, skipping, hands on hips, a slap of the floor and tapping of toes. In his solo, Garcia's gargouillade dangled in the air, so natural and free. Together, Garcia and Peck achieved delightful sensuality as he supported Peck in suspended développé turns. Peck's playful sparkle slowly emerged from her winding and unwinding soutenus to the ending lift as her skirt fell over Garcia's head, which she laughingly pulled down even as he stoically continued a blind lift.
Millipied's aptly-named Neverwhere with a Nico Muhly score premiered in 2013. Shafts of light shone down from a blacked out triangle. Dressed in black and aubergine sparkling latex - strapless bubble dresses for Emilie Gerrity, Sterling Hyltin, and Lauren Lovette with body suits for Tyler Angle, Joseph Gordon, and Craig Hall - the brave six attacked Millipied's elastic movement. Supremely classical, Neverwhere also required grounding and weight from the dancers. Millipied's structured movement morphed with the modern aesthetic of rising and falling for a balletic slip 'n slide obstacle course. Lovette and Hall most strongly embodied the movement dynamic. Lovette's arms pushed through the air in rejection of the ethereal for the visceral. Hall's movement matched Lovette's in thrust and sway. What began as a balletic romp turned into an otherworldly rally. Muhly's haunting music kept the dancers spiraling, interweaving their arms and legs together. They embraced the light; left the audience in darkness with only the silhouettes of their bodies in view, their arms raised in a "V" for victory.
The program sailed away with the jaunty Who Cares? A showcase for corps dancers, like the ebullient Ashley Hod, Peter Walker, and Indiana Woodward, Balanchine celebrated the Gershwin songbook. Among the easy come, easy go casual relationships winking by, Ask la Cour with Megan Fairchild (and later Teresa Reichlen) captivated with jazzy nostalgia and romance. Ashly Isaacs' back-splitting battements in attitude were sassily ambivalent. Because, who cares when filled with fascinatin' rhythm and that certain feeling in the sweet and low down?
Photo of Maria Kowroski and Sara Mearns in Balanchine's Concerto Barocco courtesy New York City Ballet