NYCB Balanchine Greatest Hits, September 22 Review

The Saturday evening All Balanchine New York City Ballet program contained some of Balanchine’s greatest hits, with four important works: Concerto Barocco, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, and Symphony in C.

Concerto Barocco, set to Bach’s double violin concerto, began as an exercise by Balanchine for the School of American Ballet and performed by American Ballet Caravan on its tour of South America, according to the Balanchine Trust website. “Later it entered the repertory of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. In 1951, Balanchine permanently eliminated the original costumes and dressed the dancers in practice clothes, probably the first appearance of what has come to be regarded as a signature Balanchine costume for contemporary works. On October 11, 1948, Concerto Barocco was one of three ballets on the program at New York City Ballet’s first performance.”

The most interesting aspect of Concerto Barocco is the patterns of the moving parts of eight Corps dancers. All are onstage throughout the work and clad is simple white leotards with short skirts against a plain backdrop. The piece opens with four dancers in two lines and throughout the work, the Corps dancers form intriguing formations onstage while performing rudimentary steps, transitioning to the next pattern. In one section, the Corps forms an X and bourrées in unison. In another segment, the dancers stomp in unison en pointe. The Corps is critical in this work as there are flowing arm movements and pointe work, in synch with the lovely Bach score. The women danced in unison; from my lofty perch Thursday, I didn’t see any segments where the dancers were not in synch or where the symmetry was compromised. Even in the pas de deux, the Corps plays a major and integrated role as the principals weave between Corps dancers.

The architecture of the Corps provides a backdrop for lead dancers Teresa Reichlen, Abi Stafford, and Russell Janzen, who is almost a secondary figure. The three danced with distinction.

Harrison Ball made his debut in Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux with Ashley Bouder. His solos were fine, with a unique finish to his pirouettes in fifth position rather than going to a knee as is customary. I’m not sure if that was planned or it just worked out that way. His coupé jeté manége was dull, with little flair or split on his jumps. In general, he did not display much extension on his jetés or arabesques. Ashley has this role down, with great phrasing and control. The video below at 6:10 and especially at 6:25 shows her beautiful control with the music. A wonderful performance from Ashley.

The Aria I pas de deux with Sara Mearns and Taylor Stanley was the highlight of Stravinsky Violin Concerto. Taylor’s strength is black and white neoclassical works and he displayed confidence partnering Sara Mearns.

The quality of Symphony in C was mixed throughout the four segments with a great First Movement from Tiler Peck and Joseph Gordon. Joseph is quickly becoming the best male dancer at NYCB, dancing with great flair. Tiler displayed great musicality and phrasing, with impeccable arm and wrist movements, with perfect timing to the iconic Bizet score. In the Second Movement, Maria Kowroski was gorgeous with dramatic extension on her penchés and arabesques. On the downside, Tyler Angle saved her on an extension in second position and she struggled on a turn section. The Third Movement featured Indiana Woodward and Sebastian Villarini-Velez, dancing with great energy (see the Instagram post below). Villarini-Velez was particularly impressive with a great line. Indiana had spunk, but had low jumps into the ground. In the Fourth Movement, Erica Periera struggled on several turns.