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New York City Ballet: Serenade, Mozartiana, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3
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New York City Ballet: Serenade, Mozartiana, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux
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, Dena Abergel
Orchestra, Interim Music Director, Andrews Sill
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects, Robert Daniels
Manager, Media Relations, Katharina Plumb
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 30, 2014

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Clotilde Otranto

Serenade (1948): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Rebecca Krohn, Savannah Lowery, Jared Angle, Ask la Cour, and the Company. Set to Tschaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings”, this was Balanchine's first ballet choreographed in America. (NYCB Notes).

Tonight was a last minute decision, and I bought a ticket in the first ring far front, right over the orchestra. Watching the diminutive, Maestro Clotilde Otranto, was a delight, as if sitting in a tree house, looking down on this conductor, waving her arms in rhythm to lead the expansive array of musicians, all in full view. A huge surprise was catching an occasional glimpse of Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins, standing in the wings at stage edge, watching, maybe sending cues to the Company. Serenade is always a sumptuous ballet; it was Balanchine’s first in his new country, America. I have heard Tschaikovsky’s Serenade played in concert halls, for pure listening, usually with a more robust tempo and style, but, tonight, it was languid, lush, lively, alluring, all at once.

Sterling Hyltin, Rebecca Krohn, and Savannah Lowery were in the women’s lead roles. Balanchine added choreography to evoke a student late for class and a student collapsing in exhaustion. Later, a dancer held at her ankles, upright, over men’s heads, is paraded slowly through the crowded stage. At one point, Ask la Cour is led, blindfolded, at another, Jared Angle joins the drama. Ms. Krohn was the most mesmerizing, with her stunning, leggy posture and intense attitude. In fact, Ms. Krohn imbues her performances with astounding dramatic effect. In the Corps, I was drawn to Faye Arthurs and Peter Walker. Karinska’s blue tulle costumes, in the Bates-Stanley lighting, always fill the stage with spellbinding imagery.

Mozartiana (1981): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky (Suite No. 4, Op. 61), Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Sara Mearns, Anthony Huxley, Chase Finlay, Marika Anderson, Megan Johnson, Emily Kikta, Gwyneth Muller, and students from the School of American Ballet: Esme Cosgrove, Natalie Glassie, Shelby Mann, Rommie Tomasini. Tschaikovsky studied at the Conservatory in St. Petersburg, where Balanchine also studied piano and dance. The original NYC Ballet cast included Suzanne Farrell, Ib Andersen, and Christopher d’Amboise. (NYCB Notes).

I believe this was Sara Mearns’ debut in the lead in Balanchine’s Mozartiana, to Tschaikovsky’s Suite No. 4. Her opening Preghiera, arms in prayerful, circular steadiness, with the female Corps and four students from School of American Ballet in the exact same costume and pose, was breathtaking. Ms. Mearns has a warmth of presence and silky, fluidity of motion that she brings to every role. Tonight was no exception. Other female Principals have been stiffer and more regal in this ballet, yet Ms. Mearns handled it with a smidgeon of personality, always connecting to the audience, even here, with head slightly bowed. Her turns were subtle and smooth. Her partner in the “Theme and Variations” movement was a regal Chase Finlay, who seemed too youthful to match Ms. Mearns, but they danced with aplomb. He was flawless, but not a cavalier. He’d be best cast with an emerging artist, like Lauren King, for example, or Ashley Laracey, both Soloists.

Anthony Huxley danced the Gigue, in a decidedly different style than the propulsive Daniel Ulbricht, who is often cast in the role. Mr. Huxley, while vivacious and impressive, was also understated in personality, reverent, abstract. The four SAB students (whose Director, Mr. Martins was standing stage edge), were persuasively dancing beyond their years. Mr. Martins finds new ways every season to successfully showcase these students and their exemplary training and stage confidence. Conductor Otranto drew bright percussive finishes from her orchestra.

Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux (1960): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Tiler Peck and Joaquin De Luz. This music, not published with the original ballet score, was originally intended for the Act III Black Swan Pas de Deux. It was first found by the Tschaikovsky Foundation of New York and subsequently scored for this pas de deux by Balanchine in 1960. (NYCB Notes).

Continuing the Tschaikovsky theme, the 1960 Pas de Deux was next, featuring Tiler Peck and Joaquin De Luz, two lightning bolts. This duo is seasoned in partnering and filled with pulse and presence at fireworks level. Ms. Peck was sparkling, dancing with prowess and propulsion. There’s chemistry here, but, in the solos, they would come out, one at a time, and literally work to outdo the other. It was like a wild dancing game. Both Principals were electrified, spinning wildly, legs out or legs in, arms up or arms down. The emotional compatibility made this a memorable performance. Seeing this from first ring front was a treat.

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, Performed by Teresa Reichlen, Russell Janzen, Ashley Laracey, Taylor Stanley, Erica Pereira, Daniel Ulbricht, Ashley Bouder, Gonzalo Garcia, 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).

This ballet grows on the viewer, and it was the fourth in tonight’s Tschaikovsky theme. The first three movements, “Élégie”, “Valse Mélancolique”, “Scherzo” are performed with women’s hair loosely down, gowns long and silky, flowing languidly and rapturously. In the “Tema con Variazioni” fourth movement, the lead female is in a stiff tutu, hair up in a bun. The first two movements are also danced behind a scrim, to add to the dreaminess of the motion. Teresa Reichlen and Russell Janzen led the first movement, with a female Corps of six. The music and motion are almost surreal, always sensual. Ashley Laracey and Taylor Stanley led the second movement with a new female Corps of six. This is a duo to watch, individually and as performing partners. They were well-cast.

In the third movement Scherzo, Erica Pereira and Daniel Ulbricht were, as always, well cast, both brightly entertaining. But, the pièce de résistance was the final movement, also called “Theme and Variations”, with a chandelier and Ms. Bouder in a tutu and tiara. Her partner was the charming and warm Gonzalo Garcia. This movement is also a stand-alone ballet, one often performed at Galas and Festivals. Here a twenty-four member Corps ensemble accompanied the leads with illumined poise and energy. Ms. Bouder leaped into Mr. Garcia’s arms, as he lifted her, spun her on his chest, and bent down, both intertwined, creating fancy finales. Kudos to Tschaikovsky, and kudos to Balanchine.

Ashley Bouder in
Balanchine's "Theme and Variations"
from "Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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