NYCB’s theme Thursday was Music Director’s Choice, curated by newly appointed Music Director Andrew Litton. The evening honored three American composers whose works had a major impact on his career: Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, and George Gershwin.
Broadway sounds dominated the evening starting with Fancy Free, Jerome Robbins’ 1944 classic set to the Bernstein score (Ballet Theatre premiered the work; NYCB’s debut was in 1980 with Peter Martins, Bart Cook, and Jean-Pierre Frohlich as sailors). The last time I saw the work at Koch Theatre was in the 2014 ABT fall season with Herman Cornejo, Cory Stearns, and Marcelo Gomes. Thursday’s cast of Daniel Ulbricht, Joseph Gordon (making his debut in the role), and Andrew Veyette were adequate, but lacked the nuance, authority, and pizzaz that ABT consistently delivers in this work. Joseph, as the second sailor, was not animated and, as the third sailor, Andrew lacked the Latin touch during his Latin swivel-hip segment of his solo.
Who Cares? is a delightful Broadway-inspired work set to 16 Gershwin pieces composed between 1924-1931, orchestrated by Hershy Kay. The Balanchine piece, which premiered in 1970, featured Sterling Hyltin, Amar Ramasar, Ashly Isaacs, and Savannah Lowery (replacing Megan LaCrone) in the Thursday performance. It was a nice performance from Ashly and Savannah as they were very expressive and energetic in this jazz/ballet fusion work. Savannah danced passionately in her solos, demonstrating great speed and precision in her pointe work with nice, rapid piqué turns to the frenetic music. Ashly complemented her well, with equally energetic work featuring controlled fouetté turns.
Amar’s talents are well suited in Who Cares? as he showed great charm and vigor. Who Cares? is not the most athletic work, but incorporates ballet/jazz movements requiring expressiveness to connect with the audience. He was up to the task, delivering a nice solo to the sassy/whimsical Liza score. Sterling and Amar showed great passion and enchantment in the romantic The Man I Love segment.
Peter Martin’s 1988 Barber Violin Concerto is creative, meshing modern and classical dance. It features a modern dance couple (Georgina Pazcoguin and Jared Angle-originally played by David Parsons in 1988) and a classical couple (Teresa Reichlen and Russell Janzen). The classical segment is regal and a bit dull, with a recurring arabesque to a turn in second position. In the most interesting segment, the classical and modern couples were mixed up. Georgina, displayed great vigor in her debut in this role, as she constantly hectored and teased the classical Russell in a disjointed and fascinating final segment.