NYCB Season Opens With Balanchine Classics

New York City Ballet opened its winter season with all Balanchine classics, with Friday consisting of works to Tschaikovsky and Saturday evening to Stravinsky. Friday presented Serenade with Megan LeCrone/Sara Mearns/Tiler Peck/Jared Angle/Aaron Sanz as leads. The last time I saw Serenade was Miami City Ballet at the City Center Balanchine celebration in October. NYCB performed the work at a higher level and greater consistency, with fine performances from Sara and Tiler. Serenade is always a joy with a soothing score with a blue-toned theme. It was Balanchine’s first original work created in the U.S., created as a lesson in technique for School of American Ballet students, with unexpected touches such as a student falling in frustration and a late arriving dancer. Tiler danced with great energy and buoyancy on her leaps while Sara was effective in the Dark Angel role. Megan showed great emotion, but her extensions were forced at times.

Maria Kowroski, Tyler Angle, and Daniel Ulbricht were in good form in Mozartinana. Daniel’s experience in the Gigue solo was apparent as he danced the role with great clarity with rapid footwork. Maria’s long arabesque and classic line served her well in her solo work, danced with great grace. I just wish she would show more joy in her face as she evinced a strained quality. Tyler’s partnering and solo work were well done.

Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 rounded out the Friday program with a stellar performance from Lauren King, danced with great confidence. Ashley Bouder and Joseph Gordon were leads and were also impressive, with Ashley demonstrating great timing. The work is regal and grand in the Petipa and Saint Petersburg tradition. The work consists of a lead couple, two supporting couples, and 22 Corps with classic basic steps throughout. Corps members form various patterns around the leads, sometimes producing a diagonal pattern, triangle, or lines, resulting in an engaging architecture.

NYCB and Tschaikovsky

Apollo, Abi Stafford, Sterling Hyltin, Gonzalo Garcia, Lauren Lovette

Saturday evening continued the Balanchine theme but with Stravinsky scores. In Apollo, Gonzalo Garcia made his NYCB debut in the lead role with Abi Stafford making her debut as Polyhymnia. Sterling Hyltin danced the Terpsichore role and Lauren Lovette was Calliope. Overall, the work was fine, but nothing was distinguished or noteworthy. Gonzalo lacked fire in his debut, although his dancing with Sterling Hyltin was done with great emotion. Sterling navigated the tricky double turn with her finger to her mouth, which is a challenge for some. The highlight of Apollo was Lauren as Calliope, Muse of Poetry, danced with great authority and feeling.

Agon featured young dancers with two making debuts, Russell Janzen and Sara Adams. The work was very tight with great clarity. Noteworthy was Russell and Miriam Miller in the iconic Part II Pas de Deux, filled with constant tension. The two handled the tricky parts well, such as her supported deep penché, while Russell went to the floor supporting Miriam as he was on his back. This work fits Peter Walker well as he moved with intensity. Emilie Gerrity was also on the mark handling the delicate balances in the Second Pas de Trois with Harrison Coll and Andrew Scordato providing support.

I was skeptical of the casting with no seasoned dancer on the bill. However, with Lydia Wellington, the young cast (one Principal Dancer, four Soloists, three Corps members as lead couples) put together a compelling Agon. If this performance is a guide, NYCB is on solid footing in future Balanchine classics.

Taylor Stanley: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Gia Kourlas of the The New York Times had an odd profile of NYCB Principal Dancer Taylor Stanley last week. As a Principal Dancer at a major company dancing innovative works, he seems to be in an enviable spot. However, he is unsure of his path in the dance world and at NYCB and is portrayed as a tortured soul. It is a daily question of whether he will stay at NYCB, having been exposed to alternative dance forms such as the Gaga movement language in which practitioners are given instructions to open themselves to physical sensations, according to the article. As the 1980’s rock band The Clash posed, Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I have a mixed view of Taylor’s dancing. He is quite effective in more modern works such as The Runaway but he struggles in more classical works. In the Swan Lake Pas de Trois in 2015, his dancing dancing lacked authority, with subpar entrechat six and double tours, with wobbly pirouettes (click for my review).

The article discussed at length his debut in Apollo which was last Tuesday. I did not see it, but reviews were mixed. Haglund thought it was dull while the New York Times’ Brian Seibert wrote that Stanley represents the “God of our Time”, praising his “gender-fluid quality.”