After the NYCB gala the previous evening celebrating fashion in ballet, the company did an abrupt turn Wednesday with minimalist “Black and White” Balanchine works set to Stravinsky. Dancers were clad in plain black or white leotards, with the biggest fashion statement of the evening in Symphony in Three Movements in which three lead women deviated from the norm with simple red/pink leotards.
Nice to see NYCB back at full strength after several Principal Dancers took leaves to pursue various projects over the past several years: Tiler Peck (Little Dancer musical); Robert Fairchild (An American in Paris musical); Megan Fairchild (On the Town musical); and Ashley Bouder, with the most important project of all-maternity leave after giving birth to a baby girl in May. She returned Friday, appearing in Vienna Waltzes.
Wednesday evening showcased Balanchine works set to Stravinsky, giving a great tutorial in basic Balanchine themes: plotless short ballets, “Ballet is Woman”, great speed of steps, a beautiful combination of movement and musicality, and simple steps without circus bravura (for more discussion on key Balanchine characteristics, see my post Balanchine Basics). Opening the evening was Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972). Devoid of any frills with a bare blue background and dancers clad in black and white leotards, the piece allows for the focus on simple movements to a beautiful whimsical score. The work featured two couples, Sterling Hyltin/Robert Fairchild and Rebecca Krohn/Amar Ramasar with a cast of eight women and men. The 23-minute work featured various combinations of the two lead couples and eight women and men, constantly changing in patterns: four men and a lead woman; four women and a lead man; four women and a lead woman; and four men and a lead man. The steps were generally simple and contemporary, allowing for a focus on the relationship of the music and choreography together with a celebration of symmetry and geometric patterns.
Duets followed with Rebecca and Amar filled with dramatic gestures and Sterling and Robert hitting various acrobatic poses. After the duets, all of the dancers performed a geometry lesson with recurring patterns, mostly in groups of four. No dramatic finish here, just the group in an informal pose as the curtain fell.
Monumentum pro Gesualdo (1960) and Movements for Piano and Orchestra (1963) are both short-about 10 minutes-with Teresa Reichlen and Ask la Cour in both works. Monumentum has 12 couples in addition to the leads. The Stravinsky music was soothing as the couples moved in and out of the action in interesting patterns featuring stage wide diagonals consisting of the female corps. Movements had six women in addition to the leads to more a modern, discordant Stravinsky score. Like many Balanchine ballets, the lead male doesn’t do much, except partner, with a few elementary steps to break up the duets.
Megan Fairchild and Anthony Huxley were on the mark in Duo Concertant (1972), with a happy upbeat pas de deux in which the dancers interacted with violist Arturo Delmoni and pianist Nancy McDill on stage. The work is all about relationships-between the two dancers and between the dancers and musicians-showcasing a wide range of emotions from joy, humor, to sadness as a result of loss. The piece had a sense of humor; in one section when he offered his hand to her, she shaked her head “No” and laughed at him. The footwork was very fast and they kept up with the rapid tempo. Anthony’s rapid single tour section in which he threw singles in rapid succession was fine although not the best I’ve seen; Megan was energetic in her piqué turn section. Megan displayed a joyful, exuberant demeanor throughout. The piece ended in near darkness as she walked away, then returned. Their hands embraced, lit dramatically by a single spotlight.
The final piece was Symphony in Three Movements (1972). Daniel Ulbricht and Ana Sophia Scheller were exciting in the opening movement. Scheller was very limber, almost kicking herself in the head on an arabesque. Daniel is one of my favorites and I love watching his controlled and high jumps.Tiler Peck, deviating from the theme of the evening in a pink leotard, was particularly noteworthy with rapid piqué turns and energetic leaps; she tired me out watching her. She was partnered well by Taylor Stanley. Savannah Lowery, coupled with Andrew Scordato, was fine but sometimes abrupt with forced movements in her solo.