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New York City Ballet: Episodes, Apollo, The Four Temperaments

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Balanchine: Black & White
The Four Temperaments

Founders, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress, Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Master, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Fayçal Karoui
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects, Robert Daniels
Manager, Media Relations, Katharina Plumb
Assoc., Communications &Special Projects, Caitlin Gillette
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 16, 2011

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Episodes (1959): Music from the orchestral works of Anton von Webern, Choreography by George Balanchine, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Fayçal Karoui, Performed by Abi Stafford, Tyler Angle, Teresa Reichlen, Ask la Cour, Wendy Whelan, Craig Hall, Rebecca Krohn, Jonathan Stafford, and the Company. Balanchine was enthusiastic about Webern’s music, which he felt left “the mind free to ‘see’ the dancing”. Martha Graham originally choreographed for Balanchine “Episodes I”, danced by her Company and NYCB dancers. (NYCB Notes).

Tonight began my fall season for City Ballet at Koch Theater, and the Balanchine Black & White series was enticing. To open the season with Balanchine’s Episodes is to anticipate greatness. The von Webern score, conducted by Maestro Karoui, is intense and textured, with four couples appearing in sequential orchestral works. Abi Stafford and Tyler Angle introduced tonight’s performance in Symphony Opus 21, and this particular segment was lacking in emotional affect. Ms. Stafford danced with some stiffness and casual demeanor, while Mr. Angle added a bit more energy. They did have a six corps ensemble, and it was persuasive and enthused. In the ensemble, Gwyneth Muller and Christian Tworzyanski caught my eye. The work calls for severity, clarity, mastery, and these qualities were exuded by the leads of the second segment, Five Pieces Opus 10. Teresa Reichlen and Ask la Cour are two of the most mesmerizing dancers in the Company. They never disappoint. Ms. Reichlen at one point was upside down, clinging to Mr. la Cour. Both performers have magnetic personas.

In the Concerto Opus 24, Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall maximized the magic with muscular lifts and meticulous momentum. Ms. Whelan and Mr. Hall are seasoned partners in a variety of eloquent ballets, and tonight was a continuation of their stunning virtuosity. They led an ensemble of four, followed by Rebecca Krohn and Jonathan Stafford for the final segment, Ricercata in six voices from Bach’s “Musical Offering”. This slow serene finale, accompanied by a sizeable ensemble, would have been enhanced with a different partner for Ms. Krohn. She dances with intriguing shapes and compelling purposefulness. Mr. Stafford, however, seemed listless and unfocused. Yet, as a whole, Episodes was a handsome introduction to my fall series.

Apollo (1928, Paris: 1951, NY): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Fayçal Karoui, Performed by Robert Fairchild, Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck, Ana Sophia Scheller. Balanchine looked upon Apollo as the turning point of his life, "in its sustained oneness of tone and feeling". (NYC Ballet Notes).

Every time I see Apollo, and it’s been a constant in recent seasons, I see something new, maybe, if I’m lucky, an actual new Apollo. In June, Craig Hall was Apollo at Dancer’s Choice, and tonight it was Robert Fairchild. Mr. Fairchild has a Broadway-esque style and stage manner, at times, and that’s part of what makes him so charismatic. He has dimension, drama, shape, and attitude, and he treats each partner like his Ginger Rogers. Apollo is a youthful ballet, with three muses, Terpsichore (dance and drama), Polyhymnia (sacred poetry and hymns), and Calliope (epic poetry). With perfect casting it can draw the viewer to its literary essence, the young Greek God and his nubile muses. Tonight’s cast was almost perfect, as Sterling Hyltin, Terpsichore, danced with self-consciousness and a tight smile. In contrast, Tiler Peck (Polyhymnia) and Ana Sophia Scheller (Calliope) were filled with natural personality and exuberance. Both dancers throw themselves poignantly into their roles with profound dimension.

Mr. Fairchild was ever so gallant and sensitive, in a masculine and mesmerizing way. Each partner was eager for his attention and touch. As Apollo he cradled their heads and doted on their femininity. In the final moments, with the women’s legs uplifted as a fan, in Apollo’s shadow, the backdrop moon could not have been more transporting. Maestro Karoui once again led the Orchestra in Stravinsky’s score.

The Four Temperaments (1946): Music by Paul Hindemith, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor: David LaMarche, Piano Solo: Susan Walters, Performed by Lydia Wellington, Christian Tworzyanski, Lauren King, Allen Peiffer, Ashley Laracey, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Gonzalo Garcia, Savannah Lowery, Jared Angle, Amar Ramasar, Ashley Bouder, and the Company. The score (solo piano and strings) was commissioned by George Balanchine from Paul Hindemith in 1940. This ballet appeared at the opening program of Ballet Society, now City Ballet. (NYCB Notes).

What a surprise to see David LaMarche in the pit, leading City Ballet Orchestra, a Conductor from across the Plaza. I’ll say right up front that he did a marvelous job, and the Hindemith score that Balanchine had commissioned was a concert in itself, under Maestro LaMarche’s capable baton. Susan Walters was on the piano solos, making this third piece especially spectacular. The opening Theme was danced by Corps, with the exception of Soloist, Adrian Danchig-Waring, whom I’ve seen so rarely of late. He has been missed, as he’s one of the most fascinating dancers in the Company. The “Melancholic” Variation was led by Gonzalo Garcia. Mr. Garcia has grown into a danseur with elegance, balance, poise, and robust charm. He’s a joy to watch, and, in his accompanying ensemble, Georgina Pazcoguin was particularly intriguing. The “Sanguinic” Variation” was led by Savannah Lowery and Jared Angle. They were well matched in temperament and physicality, buoyant and athletic.

The “Phlegmatic” Variation was led by Amar Ramasar, with exceptional energy and intensity. Mr. Ramasar has also grown in recent seasons into one of the most impressive danseurs in the Company. He has many styles, many personas, and many levels of theatricality that he draws from, during his varied performances. As a solo dancer, he rivets the eye. What could be more electric as a closer, than the appearance of Ashley Bouder in the “Choleric” Variation. The male ensemble brought out her flashes of strength and wit, all the while creating a propulsive group finale. Kudos to Maestro LaMarche, tonight’s Guest Conductor, and to Susan Walters, solo pianist. And, kudos to Balanchine and Hindemith.

Robert Fairchild in
Balanchine's "Apollo"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at