After two programs featuring new works, it was great to see New York City Ballet classics Saturday, February 3, and last Wednesday.
The Wednesday bill was Classic NYCB featuring Balanchine’s Square Dance and Jerome Robbins’ The Four Seasons.
Square Dance debuted in 1957 with musicians on stage with a square dance caller that called out the steps. Balanchine restaged the piece in 1976 without the caller and with the orchestra in the pit. According to the program notes: “…Balanchine joined the traditions of American folk dance with classical ballet. He felt the two types of dance, though widely different in style, had common roots and a similar regard for order.”
Megan Fairchild and Anthony Huxley were wonderful together Wednesday. They have much in common physically as both are short and compact, with a light, bouncy leaps. Anthony displayed great control in his slow solo with deep, articulated backbends. No big steps in the male solo, but the slow tempo sometimes makes solos more difficult. Megan is a model of consistency; her dancing was filled with energy and confidence in the tricky fast sections.
The final work Wednesday was The Four Seasons, also danced at a high level. Standout performances included Ashley Bouder and Zachary Catazaro in the Fall section. On display were Ashley’s controlled fouetté turns and fast piqué turns. Anthony delivered a quality performance with a solo consisting of nice double double tours. However, his turns in second position were uneven at times. Roman Mejia displayed substantial energy as the jester. Chase Finlay, in the Spring section, delivered a good solo, but was off in several sections, including the final turns to the knee in his solo.
The Saturday performance of All Balanchine No. 2 was mixed, with quality performances of Divertimento No. 15 and Chaconne, but a less than stellar rendition of The Four Temperaments. Divertimento No. 15 was in good form, with nicely timed solos from Indiana Woodward, Unity Phelan, and Ashley Bouder. This piece is a joy to watch; solos generally consist of simple steps, combined beautifully with the Mozart score.
The Corps was particularly strong, dancing in unison throughout the work. It is no surprise that lead dancers such as Megan, Sara Mearns, Tyler Peck, Ashley Bouder are dancing at a high level this Winter season. More uncertain was the dancing of the Corps without the leadership of Peter Martins, who resigned in January. However, in the several performance I have seen this season, Corps dancing has been impressive, dancing in unison. The tight and crisp work of the Corps is a welcome feature this season.
Much less successful was The Four Temperaments, which saw several cast changes due to Sara Mearns’ injury. Sean Suozzi, in the First Variation Melancholic, had the steps down, but was not distinguished. The classic backbends in his solo were drab. Meagan LaCrone’s solo work in the Choleric fourth variation was similar, lacking pizzaz. Russell Janzen was the savior in the work, with solid work in the Phlegmatic section.
Chaconne is set to beautiful music by Christoph Willibald von Gluck with a blue-sky backdrop with clouds. Leads Saturday were Maria Kowroski and Adrian Danchig-Waring (replacing Tyler Angle). The piece is technically straightforward, but requires precision and phrasing to the soft music. Each step is completed with purpose in connection with the others, all with a regal, ethereal demeanor. Maria and Adrian pulled it off nicely as both have the technique and gravitas to command the stage. The male solo consists of standard steps and Adrian, coming back from an injury, performed it well. Maria gave the work life, with gorgeous extensions and ample control. Lauren King and Harrison Coll also had a nice pas de deux, featuring several tricky promenades.
With all of the great NYCB material to work with, it is a shame the company is devoting 12 performances starting Tuesday to Martins’ substandard Romeo+Juliet. The ghastly, brightly colored costumes are the least of the production’s problems. The Martins 2007 version is not up to the classic Kenneth MacMillian version that ABT performs. Although it is lacking in artistic merit, Romeo+Juliet is a commercial success around Valentines Day, with seats filled in the upper reaches of David Koch Theater.