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New York City Ballet: Walpurgisnacht Ballet, Sonatine, La Valse, Symphony in C
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New York City Ballet: Walpurgisnacht Ballet, Sonatine, La Valse, Symphony in C

- Onstage with the Dancers
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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

Walpurgisnacht Ballet
La Valse
Symphony in C

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, Music Director Designate, Andrew Litton
Interim Music Director, Andrews Sill
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects, Robert Daniels
Manager, Media Relations, Katharina Plumb
Communications Associate, Kina Poon
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 10, 2015 Matinee

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Andrews Sill

Walpurgisnacht Ballet (1980): Music by Charles François Gounod, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Sara Mearns, Ask la Cour, Alexa Maxwell, Alina Dronova, Kristen Segin, and the Company. This is a Balanchine choreographed scene from the last act of the opera “Faust” on the eve of May Day, a dance of wandering souls, joyful revelry. (NYCB Notes).

A deep mauve background and dark pink tutus warm this ballet, with its swelling musical momentum and its spritely solos. Sara Mearns and Ask la Cour appear in white, classical Karinska costumes. Their elegant pas de deux was combined with Ms. Mearns’ solo, to be followed by that of Alexa Maxwell, a member of the corps, who was mature beyond her years. Ms. Mearns danced fully with the music, arms synchronized to Gounod’s tempo. Ms. Maxwell, a surprise artist to watch, was spinning en pointe, evocative of Rubies, but this music was driven, with dizzying dervish.

Figures of four corps dancers on each side of the leads made this iconic Balanchine work both predictably symmetrical and unpredictably dramatic. Hair comes down, tossed like wild horses, before Ms. Mearns leaps onto Mr. la Cour’s shoulders. While on bent knees, Ms. Maxwell and the corps hold arms up, pointing to Mr. la Cour (the sole male in this ballet). What seems destined for familiar fashion is sumptuously stirring. Ms. Mearns has long mastered this genre with aplomb, but, tonight, she was virtuosic. Leading the all-female corps, Alina Dronova and Kristen Segin sparkled.

Sonatine (1975): Music by Maurice Ravel, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Pianist: Elaine Chelton, Performed by Tiler Peck and Joaquin De Luz. This ballet was presented in the 1975 NYC Ballet Ravel Festival. It is about a gentle stroll for two onstage with the pianist. (Program Notes).

Ravel’s Sonatine for Piano is scintillating and oft surreal, tonight performed by Elaine Chelton, pianist. Balanchine’s ballet is interactive on stage, showcasing two dancers and pianist. Joaquin De Luz, ever the chivalrous cavalier, partnered Tiler Peck, ever the effervescent, technically pure ballerina. The gestalt was superb. Ms. Chelton would play an introduction to a stage segment, and Mr. De Luz would walk back to the spotlight, spinning deliriously. Ms. Peck, tonight more subdued and wistful, yet always imbued with warmth, exuded sparks of chemistry with Mr. De Luz. Ms. Chelton brought out the spellbinding tones of the impressionistic piano piece. Those tones lent luminosity to nuanced choreography, such as Mr. De Luz placing Ms. Peck’s arms on his shoulder. This ballet was magnetic and romantic.

La Valse (1951): Music by Maurice Ravel, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Jean Rosenthal, Costumes by Karinska, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Jared Angle, Amar Ramasar, Lauren King, Antonio Carmena, Georgina Pazcoguin, Sean Suozzi, Megan LeCrone, Zachary Catazaro, and the Company.

According to NYCB Notes, the Waltz was "...a dance craze (that) swept across Europe. Although first denounced as immoral, it soon became the most common social dance on the continent and has remained in the repertory of ballroom dancers to this day." Diaghilev originally asked Ravel to write "La Valse" for the Ballet Russes, but then he rejected the work. Balanchine used this work here, but added additional Valses from Ravel. (NYCB Notes).

This has always been one of my favorite Balanchine ballets, and tonight was the second all-Balanchine program I’ve seen this season. La Valse is layered with Ravel’s romantic repertoire of Valses. In fact, the Overture draws the audience into the lush but mysterious score. Tonight’s performance began with eight waltzes, called “Valses Nobles et Sentimentales”. Although Sterling Hyltin and Jared Angle lead the cast, they lead the eighth waltz, with its unearthly, mystical aura. However, it is in Part II that the dramatic focus builds, and Ms. Hyltin danced with spellbinding emotionality. Ms. Hyltin has now developed the theatrical depth to become her character, and she makes the most of every moment onstage, spiritually and physically. In fact, tonight I noted that Ms. Hyltin is the most interesting and vibrant heroine I’ve seen, in La Valse.

In Part II, the dervish, hypnotic whirling begins, like a feverish dream, and Ms. Hyltin is drawn to Amar Ramasar, an aggressive death figure, who dances her to death in a mad, tempestuous whirl. From the moment Mr. Ramasar appears against the black curtains, it is apparent that the gay frivolity of the waltz will catapult into a nightmare. The mood and motion become death-controlled, and Ms. Hyltin is lifted by Mr. Angle’s assistants in black. Zachary Catazaro danced a support role here with persuasive persona, although his partner, Megan Le Crone, was a bit stiff and emotionally elusive. Among the three secondary couples, Georgina Pazcoguin and Sean Suozzi were the most enthralling. Their gestures were detailed, determined, and dynamic.

The stirring score, with whirring wind effects and harmonious harp strings, drove the company into large swirling circles, even still swirling as the curtain fell, all the while around the image of the lifeless Ms. Hyltin, held on high. Kudos to Karinska’s deep pink-black costumes, to Jean Rosenthal’s eerie scenery, and to the Bates-Stanley lighting effects that remain dim and glowing, all at once. And, kudos to Ravel and Balanchine for this always compelling ballet.

Symphony in C (1948): Music by Georges Bizet, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Andrew Veyette, Maria Kowroski, Tyler Angle, Erica Pereira, Antonio Carmena, Brittany Pollack, Taylor Stanley, and the Company. In sparkling Swarovski-crystal-bedecked tutus and tiaras, the stage opens to the First Movement: Allegro Vivo, with soloists and corps a romantic visage to Bizet's resilient symphony. Soon Ashley Bouder and Andrew Veyette, an unbeatable duo, enter, to tiny rhythmic repetitions that reoccur, tonally, each movement. Mr. Veyette exuded delight and daring, and Ms. Bouder, who holds her own with or without partnering, was well matched in physicality and presence.

A high point of this ballet is the Second Movement: Adagio, which requires a strong male partner to carry the female lead in swimming motions across the stage. Tyler Angle was that strong partner. Although he does not exude inherent passion, he has an abundance of inherent skill and style. Maria Kowroski, a frequent partner of Mr. Angle, mesmerized the audience with magical momentum. Ms. Kowroski draws all eyes to her languid sensuality. In the Third Movement: Allegro Vivace, Erica Pereira was partnered by Antonio Carmena, and here the sensuality ended, as Mr. Carmena always appears with a patent smile, posing, rather than persuading. Ms. Pereira would be better served with a more attentive, sensitive partner. Titanic turns and en air twists are showcased here, but charisma was lacking. For the Fourth Movement: Allegro Vivace, Brittany Pollack and Taylor Stanley were sensational on their own, before they are joined by the other three duos and corps. Balanchine's finest choreographic figures and fanciful, full ballet imagery abound here, as the score bounces away with those repetitious rhythms.

Kudos to George Balanchine, on this all-Balanchine evening.

Sara Mearns
in Balanchine's "Walpurgisnacht Ballet"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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