NYCB All Balanchine Review, January 19

The NYCB All Balanchine bill Thursday featured classics Allegro Brillante, Swan Lake, and The Four Temperaments. There were several cast changes as Megan Fairchild was out with the flu as reported on her Twitter feed, causing cast changes throughout the program.

Allergo Brillante (1956) is a wonderful work, a celebration of simplicity with a lead couple (Sarah Mearns and Tyler Angle) supported by four women and four men to the soothing Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 3 score. The work is cheerful and uplifting, filled with playful moments. Another theme is the symmetric patterns created by the dancers in this 16 minute piece that focuses on speed and clarity of movement rather than big steps. For example, a large X pattern created by the four men and women corps dancers; a square created by four dancers in the corners of the stage with Sarah in the middle. Symmetry among dancers, flowing arms, simple steps such as arabesques, jeté entrelacé, grand jetés permeate the work. As leads, Sarah and Tyler were effective in the partnering segments, moving in synch. Sarah’s dancing had a nice flow, although her turns were strained at times.

The neoclassical, black and white classic The Four Temperaments (1946) set to music by Paul Hindemith served as a nice contrast to the classical Allegro Brillante, demonstrating Balanchine’s great range. According to the repertory notes, Balanchine choreographed the piece for the opening program of Ballet Society, the forerunner of New York City Ballet and is one of his earliest experimental works. “The ballet is inspired by the medieval belief that human beings are made up of four different humors that determine a person’s temperament. Each temperament was associated with one of the four classical elements (earth, air, water, and fire), which in turn were the basis of the four humors (black bile, blood, phlegm, and bile) that compose the body.” An individual’s temperament is determined if one element dominates. The ballet has four variations reflecting these principles: Melancholic (gloomy), Sanguinic (headstrong and passionate), Phlegmatic (unemotional and passive), and Choleric (bad-tempered and angry).

Ashley Bouder, The Four Temperaments

Ashley Bouder, The Four Temperaments. Click for more photos.

The work is innovative, filled with quirky, interesting movements, with off-balance lunges and weight shifts adding to the unpredictability of the work; I find the third variation in the opening Theme segment interesting-danced by Megan LeCrone and Aaron Sanz-with recurring partnering segments consisting of turns in plié. Definitely a contrast to the classically themed Allegro Brillante. Anthony Huxley was expressive in the morose Melancholic variation with six female dancers. He was anguished as he interacted with the other dancers, until his slow exit with an exaggerated arched back as he walked backward off the stage. Ask la Cour was in fine form in the Phlegmatic third variation. His arms flowed effortlessly, an important characteristic in this section, although Adrian Danchig-Waring really owns the role with his dominating presence. Ashley Bouder was the highlight of the piece, dancing Choleric with reckless abandon. Her solo featured precise movements on tempo featuring rapid, almost violent chaîné turns. Her jumps were powerful, forceful and with purpose. She was clearly on a mission to capture the essence of a bad-tempered angry individual.

Balanchine’s Swan Lake (1951) is based on Lev Ivanov’s choreography for Act II, using music from Acts II and IV, the lakeside acts. Swan Lake may have been the reason for the packed house, with some seats occupied in the lofty fifth ring. Teresa Reichlen and Russell Janzen were the leads, replacing Sara Mearns and Jared Angle. Teresa is a great Odette, with her long arabesques, elongated arms with a line that stretches forever, and supple neck. Russell is a steady partner, giving Odette plenty of attention and support. However, his solo was bland and undistinguished, with adequate double cabriole derriére, cautious double tours to a lunge in which he cheated substantially on takeoff, producing about a turn and a half in the air. His solo work is a work in progress.