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New York City Ballet: All Balanchine

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New York City Ballet: All Balanchine
(NYC Ballet Website)

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 Mistress, Garielle Whittle
Orchestra, Music Director, Fayçal Karoui
Honorary Chairmen: Julia and David Koch
Managing Director, Communications, Robert Daniels
Assoc. Director, Communications, Joe Guttridge
Assoc., Communications and Special Projects, Caitlin Gillette
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 10, 2009

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Conductor: Fayçal Karoui

Chaconne (1976): Music by Christoph Willibald von Gluck, Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Karinska, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Maria Kowroski, Sébastien Marcovici, Erica Pereira, Adam Hendrickson, Dena Abergel, Saskia Beskow, Stephanie Zungre, Pauline Golbin, Gwyneth Muller, Daniel Applebaum, Kyle Froman, Ask la Cour, and the Company.

Chaconne refers to dances for court entertainment, but the energy tonight was more than courtly, as I was struck by the youthful exuberance of the corps in this opening work. Von Gluck’s music propelled the dancers into syncopated rhythms, as partnered Principals, Soloists, and Corps, in Pas de Deux, Pas de Trois, Pas de Cinq, and the full Chaconne exemplified silky classicism mixed with regal patterns. Maestro Karoui conducted with the requisite resonance, always with an eye toward the dancers' needs and timing. Maria Kowroski and Sébastien Marcovici led the 1976 work with inventive rhythmic connections, a bit of bounce, and more then a bit of bravura. Among the soloists and corps, Gwyneth Muller, Erica Pereira (both artists to watch), Kathryn Morgan, and Ask la Cour caught my eye. In fact, Mr. la Cour exuded grand nobility and ultra confidence, and I hope to see him often this season.

The Four Temperaments (1946): Music by Paul Hindemith, Choreography by George Balanchine, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano Solo: Nancy McDill, Performed by Faye Arthurs, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Amanda Hankes, Amar Ramasar, Rebecca Krohn, Jason Fowler, Sean Suozzi, Savannah Lowery, Jared Angle, Ask la Cour, Ellen Bar, 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).

Just as I was thinking of Ask la Cour, he returned (as so many resilient City Ballet dancers do in one ballet after another) in Phlegmatic, with understated spirituality, a gorgeous vision. Three partners first performed in Theme, as the opening segment, with the Hindemith score sweeping and ethereal. Among this ensemble was an exquisite opportunity for Amanda Hankes and Amar Ramasar to show their maturity of line and affect, and they were riveting to watch. The Melancholic Variation was led by Sean Suozzi, exuding a rapid rambunctious style. This early Balanchine work is abstract and atonal, with men in black-white leotards, women in simple black leotards, and a grey-blue backdrop. Images include men carrying women in cross-kick fashion, with more staccato kicks and off-center balance punctuating the choreography.

Savannah Lowery and Jared Angle led the Sanguinic Variation with stark strength, and Ellen Bar led the final Choleric Variation with persuasive presence. Hindemith's score was superbly rendered by Nancy McDill and the orchestra’s searing but smooth strings.

Vienna Waltzes (1977): Music by Johann Strauss/Franz Lehár/Richard Strauss, Choreography by George Balanchine, Scenery by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, Costumes by Karinska, Original Lighting by Ronald Bates, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Performed by Sara Mearns, Tyler Angle, Yvonne Borree, Benjamin Millepied, Sterling Hyltin, Arch Higgins, Jenifer Ringer, Nilas Martins, Darci Kistler, Charles Askegard, and the Company. What could exemplify an All Balanchine program more than the full staging of Vienna Waltzes. From the opening sight of Rouben Ter-Arutunian’s deep, green forest, that slowly becomes more iridescent and vivacious, before it morphs into a Viennese ballroom, of mirrors and chandeliers, I cannot take my eye from the shifting stage.

Sara Mearns and Tyler Angle led the first segment to music of Johann Strauss II, and, at this point in the ballet, the dance is refined, romantic, and evocative of young lovers. Both Ms. Mearns and Mr. Angle threw themselves into the mood, dancing with impassioned verve. The second segment was led by Yvonne Borree and Benjamin Millepied, also to Strauss’ music. Their performance was a bit more restrained, less connected, but still exuberant and replete with elevation and lyricism. Sterling Hyltin and Arch Higgins led the Strauss Explosions-Polka, and here’s where the style lightened, as well as Mark Stanley’s growing luminosity. Mr. Higgins donned a wild wig, and their campy, charged motion made them seem like fanciful sprites in the woodsy moonlight. The Franz Lehár Gold und Silber Walzer, led by Jenifer Ringer and Nilas Martins, was warm, ebullient, and charismatic. This duo dances together frequently, and they were quite comfortable in the genre. For the full-mirrored, formal Ball, Darci Kistler and Charles Askegard appeared, and this was now quite late into the evening. They added sparkle and scintillating maturity to the festive scene, and the full corps, in Karinska’s white gowns and black tuxes, shone brilliantly in Balanchine’s inventive masterpiece.

Kudos to George Balanchine, and kudos to Maestro Karoui.

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