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New York City Ballet: Serenade, American Rhapsody, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Western Symphony
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New York City Ballet: Serenade, American Rhapsody, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Western Symphony

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

American Rhapsody
Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux
Western Symphony

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
Resident Choreographer: Justin Peck
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
October 12, 2016

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Andrew Litton

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 Megan LeCrone, Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, Jared Angle, Justin Peck, and the Company. Set to Tschaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings”, this was Balanchine's first ballet choreographed in America. (NYCB Notes).

Balanchine’s 1948 Serenade is always a sumptuous ballet; it was Balanchine’s first in his new country, America. I have heard Tschaikovsky’s Serenade for strings played in concert halls, for pure listening, usually with a more robust tempo and style, but, tonight, it was mostly lush, lively, and alluring. Andrew Litton, City Ballet’s recently hired Music Director, new in the pit, conducted this work with an unusually pronounced pulse, but the fused strings were spellbinding.

Megan LeCrone, Sara Mearns, and Tiler Peck were in the three 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 slowly carried aloft through the crowded stage. At one point, Ask la Cour is led, blindfolded, at another, Jared Angle joins the drama. Ms. Mearns was the most mesmerizing, with her smooth, velvety motion, an image of surrealness. Tonight, Ms. Mearns imbued her performance with expansive theatrical effect, exuding fluid luminosity. Ms. Peck, a more physically impulsive dancer, seized the stage with energized youthfulness. Ms. LeCrone, a decidedly more restrained performer, was technically astute, turning en pointe, but her facial gaze was inherently remote. In the Corps, I was drawn to Unity Phelan and Alec Knight. Karinska’s blue tulle costumes, although a bit stiffer this year, catching on the dancers’ limbs and hair, still filled the stage with dreamlike imagery. The takeaway is always the synchronized, minimal gestures of arms, head, hands, and feet, from the seventeen-woman ensemble in the opening moments of this balletic masterpiece.

American Rhapsody (2016): Music by George Gershwin, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Scenic Design by Leslie Sardinias, Costumes by Janie Taylor, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano: Elaine Chelton, Performed by Tiler Peck, Robert Fairchild, Unity Phelan, Amar Ramasar, and the Company. There is no music quite like George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and the symphonic version, with generous piano interludes and accompaniment, is used in Wheeldon’s ballet, American Rhapsody. It returned tonight after its recent spring premiere, and with Elaine Chelton maximizing the sumptuous piano solos, this ballet was incomparably magnetic. Not only does City Ballet Orchestra expand this Gershwin masterpiece, but we are also dazzled by Leslie Sardinias’ spellbinding set in light and deep shades of blue, peach, and navy, with images of a full orange moon against the nighttime sky. Janie Taylor’s costumes are also in burnt orange, blue, and teal.

Tiler Peck dances with her offstage partner, Robert Fairchild, who recently starred in Wheeldon’s An American in Paris on Broadway. He and Ms. Peck have a longstanding relationship with Mr. Wheeldon in additional choreographies, such as the 2013 A Place for Us. Tonight, this duo did not disappoint, in the effervescent musicality and energy of their Pas de Deux. In fact, this segment of Wheeldon’s new ballet is worthy of Galas and special events. The second lead couple, Amar Ramasar and Unity Phelan, is in the exact same costumes as Ms. Peck and Mr. Fairchild, featured in teal, only the Ramasar-Phelan duo is featured in blood orange. The choreography, as well, overlaps that of the other lead duo. Mr. Ramasar danced with dynamic, joyful ebullience, and Ms. Phelan, an artist to watch, dazzled with scintillating motion. A sizeable Corps ensemble, eight men and eight women, is infused with the rhythms and jazz of this remarkably brassy, New York music. Each instrumental phrase is expanded in lifts, spins, and geometric shapes.

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

Ashley Bouder and Andrew Veyette make a great team. Ms. Bouder, back recently from a maternity leave, is dancing in peak form. She and Mr. Veyette were imbued with gestural humor and virtuosic feats. Their chemistry and athleticism were boundless. Mr. Veyette loosened up from his recent level of severe mood and understated motion and landed with balance and confidence, poised and purposeful. He still needs to work on dramatic attentiveness in his partnering, eyes fixed on his partner, chivalry at the ready. This Balanchine ballet is uncluttered, buoyant, and joyful. Ms. Bouder’s focused fouettés, spins, and leaps into Mr. Veyette’s arms, in her peach Karinska tutu, were propulsive. Although they were sometimes ahead of the music, sometimes behind, Mr. Litton is still learning all the Balanchine ballet scores and timing from the pit. Mark Stanley’s lighting design added glowing warmth.

Western Symphony (1954):. Music by Hershy Kay, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by John Boyt, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Lauren King, Chase Finlay, Indiana Woodward, Sean Suozzi, Teresa Reichlen, Zachary Catazaro, Laine Habony, Harrison Coll, and the Company. Some of the American folk songs in this ballet are “Red River Valley”, “Good Night Ladies”, and “Rye Whiskey”. (NYCB Notes).

There’s nothing more festive to end a marvelous evening at the ballet than than Balanchine’s homage to Western cowboys and showgirls, his 1954 Western Symphony. Hershy Kay’s orchestrations of “Red River Valley”, “Good Night Ladies”, and a variety of folk dance tunes are rousing and sentimental. Tonight’s “Allegro” leads were Lauren King and Chase Finlay, who wore that large cowboy hat previously seen on Albert Evans, Nilas Martins, and Jonathan Stafford. Mr. Finlay exuded understated humor, poise, and a mastery of twirling spins. Ms. King was scintillating and charming, a lush, lyrical Soloist. The “Adagio” was led by Indiana Woodward and Sean Suozzi, with a fresh, ingénue sense of flair. Ms. King glowed in the stage lights as she danced to and from Mr. Suozzi en pointe, backwards and sideways. It was good to see Mr. Suozzi, who added sophisticated humor to the moment. But, it was the “Rondo” that brought down the house, with Teresa Reichlen and Zachary Catazaro in adorable agility, dizzying fouettés, and Western dance hall fervor. Laine Habony and Harrison Coll were featured with lovely lyricism, and the Corps in Karinska’s black cowboy attire and brightly colored ruffles was exceptional.

New York City Ballet in
Balanchine's "Serenade"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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