NEW YORK CITY BALLET AND BALANCHINE
January 22, 2017
Anticipating the presidential inauguration, artists gathered in front of theaters to raise lights and illuminate the way for unity and action while throngs filled the streets in front of Trump tower in Midtown to raise their voices through song, slogans and pronouncements of future action.
All this activism led up to my splendid evening of dance at NYC Ballet.
Many people attended NYC Ballet the same evening to see Sarah Mearns glide through the role of Odette in Swan Lake. Instead, Mearns replaced Megan Fairchild in Allegro Brillante, and Teresa Reichlen assumed the role of Odette. In both instances, the dancers drew strong performances.
Typically associated with glamorous roles that plumb lyricism and drama, Mearns comes out blazing in the technically challenging Allegro Brillante partnered by the animated Tyler Angle.
Originally created for the powerhouse ballerina Maria Tallchief, Mearns infuses the peppy, intricate steps with her innate musicality adding expansiveness to choreography that drills into a relatively small piece of stage real estate. With chest high, Mearns extends her arms from the middle of her back over non-stop arabesques that stretch beyond infinity.
The consistently compelling Mearns is not always on the best of terms with pirouettes, however this time; she rips off doubles and triples flawlessly floating over Tschaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 3.”
Condensed into one act, George Balanchine’s Swan Lake compresses the action to showcase the dancing rather than the never-ending pantomime. The young, marriageable Prince Siegfried, Russell Janzen encounters the magical frozen lake designed by Alain Vaes. Into the moonlight, swans roam gracefully revealing their leader, Queen Odette, Ms. Reichlen.
Her long, slender arms reach for the edges of the night until her back registers alarm at the sight of Prince Siegfried. Well matched physically, Janzen nevertheless could use a few more partnering hours because his timing proved a bit hazardous to Reichlin’s balances. Fortunately, Reichlen’s strength saves her dancing despite her partners. A remarkably able dancer, Janzen’s form is noble and getting stronger.
Enthused by the strange man, Reichlen glides through the classic choreography, executing crisp footwork and openhearted arches.
One of the many stirring moments arrives near the end when the swan corps, dressed in black and white knee length tulle dresses, zig zag through complicated patterns that circle the perimeter. They form whirlwind, interlocking circles that compound Tschaikovsky’s swirling score until the emotional punch breaks when Odette succumbs to the magnificent, towering, black feathered sorcerer, Von Rothbart (Cameron Dieck.) In this version, the sorcerer overwhelms Odette and Prince Siegfried is abandoned. A satisfying conclusion.
The evening ended on Balanchine’s refreshing The Four Temperaments to music by Paul Hindemith. Again there were a couple of replacements in this spare, black and white ballet. Each section is associated with a different human temperament: Melancholic, Sanguinic, Plegmatic, and Choleric. In an overall strong performance, there were a couple of standouts -- Anthony Huxley in Melancholic and Ashley Bouder in Choleric.
The last time I saw a dancer fully embrace Melancholic was in the 1980’s when Bart Cook held the role. In a similar fashion, Anthony Huxley locates the choreography’s quirkiness but cushions it with a layer of plushness. Arms and legs reach out and contract into the body forming an accordion of limbs.
At the end of his solo, six long-legged women descend en masse, legs extending and crashing to the floor like horses pulling a chariot. Extremely sensual, the choreography inhales the driving music inexorably drawing the women to the single man. At the end, Huxley employs his pliant back to its fullest in a layout over his hips traveling backwards until he disappears in the wings.
Ashley Bouder, famous for her cutting edge technique and vivacity, harnessed those talents to their fullest capacity in Choleric. There were occasions when her feet moved so fast the image blurred. Fiercely precise, somehow Bouder added musical pauses separating sonically speedy steps to make them clearer and more visible than ever before.
In a week of great disquiet, this evening was an oasis of civility and beauty.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis