BWW Reviews: NYCB Presents Four Balanchine Masterpieces
George Balanchine is commonly referred to as the father of neoclassical ballet. His vision allowed him to see another side of the art, and his works ushered in a paradigm shift that would affect it forever. By stripping his
ballets of their plots and trappings, Balanchine exposed the raw beauty of movement and made dances that were about dance and little else.
Famous amongst these innovative ballets are a number of works in which the dancers perform in simple practice clothes. These pieces epitomize the neoclassical ideals that Balanchine realized within his works. The stark simplicity of the dancer's costumes set upon a bare stage force the viewer to focus primarily upon the movement. Four of these 'black and white' ballets made up a wonderful program presented as part of City Ballet's Fall season.
The night began with one of my favorite ballets. The Four Temperaments is considered by many to represent the height of neoclassicism. The work combines athleticism and off centered movements with pure classical
technique to a remarkable score composed by Paul Hindemith for Ballet Society's (NYCB's predecessor) premier in 1946.
Though a personal favorite, Temperaments was the weakest dance in the program. A lack of cohesion within the corps de ballet alongside a sense of timidity in the performance of some of the variations detracted from the power of Temperaments. Flawed as it may have been, this ballet still held many wonderful moments. Ana Sophia Scheller and Jared Angle looked spectacular dancing the Sanguinic pas de deux, and Ask la Cour brought a sense of drama and superb technicality to the Phlegmatic variation. The star of this ballet was unquestionably Theresa Reichlen as Choleric. She whipped off a series of daringly tight turns and managed to balance off center movements and whacked out extensions with a sense of composure and absolute control. There was one arabesque balance in particular that was utterly breath taking; the lines of her body were
seemingly endless as she balanced effortlessly en pointe after a complicated turn sequence.
Episodes followed the Four Temperaments. Originally part of collaboration with the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1959, this ballet was executed expertly. The challenging work was performed in beautiful synchronicity by the corps de ballet and each soloist dazzled within the ballet. Janie Taylor shone brightly in Episodes. Her dancing combined a clear attention to classical form with a vague sense of drama and driving athleticism that epitomize neoclassicism.
The next Black and White ballet in the program was Duo Concertante, a strikingly intimate ballet. It features two dancers onstage alongside a violinist and pianist. Unlike most ballets, the dancers relate directly to the
musicians, spending time standing inert behind the piano listening to the music. Sterlin Hyltin and Robert Fairchild are two of City Ballet's strongest dancers, so it should come as no surprise that the two looked fantastic in Concertante. Her lines were superb, his turns phenomenal. The couple projected a trust and connection that were perfectly suited for this deeply personal work. The sections of the piece where the dancers remain still can be a bit off putting to the average ballet goer, but this piece is remarkable for displaying the strongest dancing of the evening.
The program concluded with the liveliest ballet presented, Symphony in Three Movements. Symphony in Three, set to Stravinsky, deviated from the night's theme in that three of the soloists danced in leotards of varying shades of pink ,but one can easily forgive this when considering the high caliber of dancing onstage. This energetic work was a perfect selection to conclude the evening. NYCB veteran Tiler Peck gave a marvelous performance, and the corps (particularly the men) danced superbly and with an unwavering adherence to musicality.
It's hard to criticize a top notch company performing ballets they specialize in. What is there to say about Balanchine's most riveting works danced by some of the world's most accomplished dancers? Primarily, that the company is continuing to do the ballets justice. In a time tragically long devoid of Balanchine's presence, the New York City Ballet highlights why these works are undeniable treasures. As refreshing as this is, it must be said that the dancers performing these roles aren't the same soloists we've grown accustomed to seeing at Lincoln Center, but part of a new and younger generation that are certain to continue the company's legacy
into the coming years.