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New York City Ballet: Agon, Fancy Free, Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3
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New York City Ballet: Agon, Fancy Free, Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Fancy Free
Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3

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
February 17, 2012

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Agon (1957): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Wendy Whelan, Sébastien Marcovici, Teresa Reichlen, Sean Suozzi, Savannah Lowery, Craig Hall, Teresa Reichlen, Sébastien Marcovici, Andrew Veyette, Rebecca Krohn, Ashley Laracey, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Craig Hall, and members of the Corps.

In this dissonant and percussive Stravinsky score, expertly conducted by Clotilde Otranto, one could feel the exact timings and movements for twelve dancers, who wear simple black and white costumes. The high point of the evening was the exquisite Pas de Deux by Sébastien Marcovici and Wendy. Whelan. Her dramatic and characteristic legs wrapped around Mr. Marcovici, magnetized and drawn into his space. Ms. Whelan's body surrounded and sculpted a new visual form, reminiscent of an Isamu Noguchi stage sculpture. The other three couples, Teresa Reichlen and Andrew Veyette, Rebecca Krohn and Adrian Danchig-Waring, and Ashley Laracey and Craig Hall, all gave inspired performances.

The orchestral score contained jazzy and dissonant chords on the harp, with full percussion, such as, perhaps, castanets, wooden blocks, and bells, and also wild violins and horns. At times, one duo danced to dissonant horns, and, at other times, one duo would dance to soft, dissonant strings. The score was occasionally reminiscent of Bernstein or Gershwin. The syncopated rhythms generated fascinating choreography, ending with a daring leap into waiting arms. Mr. Danchig-Waring and Mr. Hall created gripping gestures, and at the beginning and end of the ballet, all four male dancers turned their muscular backs to the audience. Each dancer exuded magnetism. Earlier, a trio, Mr. Veyette, Ms. Laracey, and Ms. Krohn, created spinning sensations. Female dancers slid into splits, and Mr. Veyette exemplified some bravura techniques. The choreography is symmetrical and sensational.

Fancy Free (1944): Music by Leonard Bernstein, Choreography by Jerome Robbins, Scenery by Oliver Smith, Costumes by Kermit Love, Lighting by Ronald Bates, Conductor: Andrews Sill, Performed by Robert Fairchild, Daniel Ulbricht, Andrew Veyette, as the Sailors, Stephanie Chrosniak, Sterling Hyltin, Georgina Pazcoguin as the Passers-by, and David Prottas as the Bartender.

After having seen many productions of Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, there is always freshness and energy upon visiting it once again. Tonight, the powerful combo of Robert Fairchild, Daniel Ulbricht, and Andrew Veyette brought yet another fresh take on this timeless work, first staged during World War II. All three Sailors were tornados with beer, as they guzzled and leaped from bar counter to chairs to floor in stormy bravado and bravura excitement. These Sailors change mood and style, each time a female "Passer-by" enters the scene. The first Passers-by, Georgina Pazcoguin, who woos two sailors with her sassy, red pocketbook, was so vital, that I ran out and bought my own red shoulder bag the next day. She gave the Sailors a run for the bag, with huge fits of pique. Sterling Hyltin wooed Mr. Fairchild shamelessly. Her colorful dress and shoes gave Ms. Hyltin a more mature presence than usual. Stephanie Chrosniak, in a lesser role, was sensual and created a lovely walk.

But, it was the three Sailors that drove this short story ballet. They seemed to be improvising the game of tossing of gum wrappers, the ebullient cartwheels back and forth from the bar, and, of course, the competing dances, as two ladies watch, with Mr. Veyette doing the iconic rhumba routine. Mr. Ulbricht pumped his fist in the air, as he guzzled his beer, and Mr. Fairchild was quintessentially debonair. Maestro Sills even paused the Bernstein score now and then in anticipation of theatrical histrionics. There were splits, leaps off the bar, and nose dives onto the bar floor. Even David Prottas exuded an engaging persona as Bartender.

Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 (1970): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery and Costumes by Nicolas Benois, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Guest Conductor: Daniel Capps, Performed by Sara Mearns, Ask la Cour, Janie Taylor, Jared Angle, Ana Sophia Scheller, Antonio Carmena, Megan Fairchild, Joaquin De Luz, and the Company. In 1947, Balanchine produced “Theme and Variations” for Ballet Theater. Tschaikovsky composed Suite No. 3 in 1884, and it was premiered in 1885. Nicolas Benois, son of Diaghilev’s ballet designer, created scenery and costumes for Balanchine. (NYCB Notes).

The first three movements of Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 are “Élégie”, “Valse Mélancolique”, and “Scherzo”, with “Tema Con Variazioni” (“Theme and Variations”) a well-known fourth, usually performed on its own. Each of the first three movements was inspiring and radiant, with “Élégie” most transporting. Sara Mearns and her noble danseur, Ask la Cour, were the beseeching quasi-prince, leaping about with his quasi-princess, among an ensemble of six Corps females, elegantly flowing in their Nicolas Benois gowns. Hair is down in the first three movements, giving this ballet a distinct, ethereal sublimity. Janie Taylor and Jared Angle, in the second movement, were equally theatrical and sweeping, with gorgeous lines drawing the audience to this dream fantasy of royalty as nymphs. In the “Scherzo”, Ana Sophia Scheller and Antonio Carmena were technically playful and propulsive, as the music turns rapid and rambunctious.

The final “Theme and Variations” movement, a stand-alone ballet, shifts the motif and mood from languorous dream to energetic formality, and the percussive, rapid momentum ensues. The short tutus are strikingly contrasted to the swirling chiffons of the previous movements, and the choreography, as well, is structured and ornate. Joaquin De Luz is an artist extraordinaire in the classical genre, and his attentive partnering and bravura dancing were outstanding. Megan Fairchild and Mr. De Luz were compelling in their spinning and jumping. When Ms. Fairchild leaped en air into Mr. De Luz’ open arms, the audience gasped. The corps was rapturous in all four movements. Kudos to Guest Conductor, Daniel Capps, and kudos to City Ballet Orchestra for mastering tonight’s entire program of Stravinsky, Bernstein, and Tschaikovsky with such texture and musicality.

Sébastien Marcovici and Wendy Whelan
in Balanchine's "Agon"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Wendy Whelan and Joaquin De Luz
in Balanchine's "Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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