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

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

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: Dena Abergel
Orchestra, Music Director: Andrew Litton
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects: Robert Daniels
Associate Dir. Communications: Katharina Plumb
Communications Associate: Kina Poon
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 28, 2016 Matinee

(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: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Abi Stafford, Zachary Catazaro, Teresa Reichlen, Jared Angle, Ashly Isaacs, Taylor Stanley, Sara Mearns, Adrian Danchig-Waring, 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 Balanchine “Episodes I”, danced by her Company, with Balanchine’s choreography used for a different section for his NYC Ballet dancers. Originally, there was also a solo for Paul Taylor, then in the Graham Company. (NYCB Notes).

Today’s matinee, the final ballet of Winter Season, was fittingly called “black and white”, referring to Balanchine’s abstract ballets, costumed in black and white leotards, usually against a stark blue backdrop. Episodes has four movements. The first, “Symphony”, Opus 21, featured Abi Stafford and Zachary Catazaro, plus a Corps ensemble. It was good to see Ms. Stafford back, after a leave, and she was spirited and spritely. Ms. Stafford and Corps illustrated high leg lifts and expressive intensity. Episodes, scored to orchestral works of Anton von Webern, is anything but light. Mr. Catazaro was technically in sync, but needs to develop depth and drama. In “Five Pieces”, Opus 10, Teresa Reichlen and Jared Angle wowed the audience with Ms. Reichlen held upside-down, clinging to Mr. Angle’s leg and neck, in his rear shadow. The spotlight stopped and started with pregnant pauses. This second movement was a true matinee highlight. Clotilde Otranto, in the pit, mastered the moment.

Next was the “Concerto”, Opus 24, with Ashly Isaacs and Taylor Stanley leading four female Corps dancers. Both performers are especially suited to this abstract, atonal genre, and the intertwining motion was spellbinding. Finally, Sara Mearns and Adrian Danchig-Waring arrived in the “Ricercata”, with a substantial female Corps ensemble. This movement of the ballet is melodic and classically drawn, focusing on partnered momentum and the striking tonalities.

Agon (1957): Music by Igor Stravinsky, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Teresa Reichlen, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Rebecca Krohn, Robert Fairchild, Lauren King, Devin Alberda, Ashley Laracey, Daniel Applebaum, and members of the Corps.

Teresa Reichlen and Adrian Danchig-Waring (who appears on the heels of the previous work) were among the most mesmerizing in an ensemble of eight. Mr. Danchig-Waring has angular presence, a chiseled profile, and impressive muscularity. Ms. Reichlen is a consistent sophisticate, en pointe, focused as Mr. Danchig-Waring circles her. They present similar motion of the arms, in adjoining space. Rebecca Krohn, like Ms. Reichlen, has mastered the challenging choreography with seeming effortlessness. This Balanchine work’s scissors splits showcase drama during the dissonant strings, while atonal, symmetrical moments merge for gripping imagery. Robert Fairchild partnered Ms. Krohn, and their masterful, mature approach to Balanchine’s oeuvre was impressive.

The remaining two partnered couples, Lauren King with Devin Alberda and Ashley Laracey with Daniel Applebaum, were all compelling. Agon, with its surreal, atonal intensity, is a perfect work to showcase talent in rising Corps. 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 danced to soft, dissonant strings. The score was occasionally reminiscent of Bernstein or Gershwin. The syncopated rhythms generated amazing choreography, ending with a daring leap into waiting arms. Agon thankfully appears regularly in seasonal repertory.

The Four Temperaments (1946): Music by Paul Hindemith, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrews Sill, Piano solo: Nancy McDill, Performed by Megan Johnson, Andrew Scordato, Brittany Pollack, Aaron Sanz, Emilie Gerrity, Cameron Dieck, Anthony Huxley, Tiler Peck, Tyler Angle, Ask la Cour, Ashly Isaacs, 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).

This 1940 Hindemith score that Balanchine originally commissioned was a splendid musical finale to the season. Nancy McDill, on piano solos, made today’s final ballet especially spectacular. The opening Theme was danced by Corps, with the exception of Soloist, Brittany Pollack. The “Melancholic” Variation was led by the youthful virtuoso, Anthony Huxley, who exudes elegance, balance, poise, and innate charm. In his accompanying ensemble, Georgina Pazcoguin was particularly intriguing. The “Sanguinic” Variation was led by Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle, always well matched in spirit and physicality, buoyant and athletic.

The “Phlegmatic” Variation was led by Ask la Cour, with exceptional presence and focus. As a closer, Ashly Isaacs led the “Choleric” Variation. The male ensemble brought out her flashes of intensity and daring, all the while creating a propulsive group finale. Kudos to Balanchine and Hindemith.

Kudos to all.

Adrian Danchig-Waring in George Balanchine's "Agon"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

The David H. Koch Theater
Photo Taken the Night of the 9/15 Lunar Eclipse
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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