Review: NEW YORK CITY BALLET PROGRAM A at Kennedy Center

The New York City Ballet delivered a stunning display of artistry in the milieu of neoclassical ballet.

By: Jun. 09, 2023
Review: NEW YORK CITY BALLET PROGRAM A at Kennedy Center

Growing up with the New York City Ballet (NYCB)nearby during my high school and college years (as they had their summer residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs), I was thrilled to turn around many years later to see the Kennedy Center present an evening of some of the New York City Ballet’s most beloved ballets.

Founding Choreographer and acclaimed ballet teacher, George Balanchine was showcased with the lively Square Dance, the classic yet highly syncopated Concerto Barocco and the wry and exciting Donizetti Variations.  The renowned choreographer and former Co-Ballet Master in Chief Jerome Robbins was represented with the lovely Afternoon of a Faun.

The tradition of American folk dance was subtly aligned with classical ballet as the initial offering –Square Dance ---was danced with skill and finesse by the ballet dancers of the ensemble. The precision of the dancers was highlighted by the music of composers Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli. Megan Fairchild danced the principal ballerina role with ethereal delicacy and charm.  Principal Dancer Joseph Gordon danced with firm control and an engaging air.

Afternoon of a Faun based on Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune was a sensuous and wistfully glimmering delight.  Set in a  modern dance studio---this bewitching ballet soared with evocative deep blue tinted large windows and skylight (scenery by Jean Rosenthal) that conveyed the feeling of a moist membrane or a psychological journey into the fever dream of the erotic subconscious.  Two young lovers meet and connect in an erotic reverie that choreographer Jerome Robbins has etched with a nuanced and knowing eye.

Unity Phelan as the principal ballerina who enters the studio to find the awakening man (Joseph Gordon) is a wonder to behold as she practices at the ballet barre and throws her head back in abandon. Joseph Gordon beautifully calibrates the tension between abandon and control in his movements. Little wonder that this ballet is so often performed.

Concerto Barocco is a choreographic triumph by George Balanchine as the emphasis is on pure dance movement--- this was aligned beautifully with ten female ballet dancers impeccably dancing in syncopation to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The two principal ballerinas, Isabella LaFreniere and Mira Nadon, danced with a lively seeming spontaneity (which is only achieved through the strenuous effort that one never sees except in a rehearsal space---that is why they are so marvelous, the effort seems effortless). The one male in the piece, principal dancer Russell Janzen, danced with classic athleticism combined with the balletic intricacy which added so much to the spirit of the composition.  First violin by Oleg Rylatko and second Violin by Ko Sugiyama shone in this Double Violin Concerto in d Minor.

The Donizetti Variations was an engaging ballet that was choreographed to a fine sheen by George Balanchine.  Set to the music of composer Gaetano Donizetti (from the opera Don Sebastian), the entire ensemble of dancers danced with technical verve while costumed in colorful costumes by Karinska.  Principal ballerina Tiler Peck was astounding in her bravura command of the technical virtuosity required for her solo moments dancing onstage.  Principal Dancer Roman Mejia seemed to be possessed of a magnetic inner fire as he leapt across the stage. Ms. Peck and Mr. Mejia had palpable chemistry together.

Conductor Andrews Sill conducted with sensitivity and nuance as the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra played with aplomb.

The New York City Ballet delivered a stunning display of artistry in the milieu of neoclassical ballet under the artistic direction of Jonathan Stafford, the associate artistic direction of Wendy Whelan, and the Music Direction of Andrew Litton.

Running Time: Two Hours and four Minutes with two intermissions.

The New York City Ballet performs through June 11, 2023 at the Kennedy Center located at 2700 F Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20566.

Photo Credit: Unity Phelan and Joseph Gordon in Jerome Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun. Photo by Paul Kolnik.


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From This Author - David Friscic

David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college.  He is thrilled to be worki... David Friscic">(read more about this author)


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