Originally the Episodes of George and Martha, the section choreographed by Martha Graham and Balanchine's solo for Graham dancer Paul Taylor were excised after 1960. What we're left with is something that looks like it might have been one of those legendary choreographed-in-thirty-minutes pieces by Balanchine that relies on a lot of passe pointe tendues, piques, and what would have been in the 1950s extreme flexibility and extensions. But today, we are oh so over that, right? Right.
The intellectualizing gobbledygook of the Playbill Repertory Notes – "succinctness of the score's musical speech," "gestural secrets," and "micro-structures of the music are paralleled by an analysis of classic dance motion" – try to drug the viewer into thinking that he is about to have a religious experience. Open your mind, breathe, accept all who are before you. Haglund spent most of the time planning his escape out of the coffin of the 2nd Ring where many of the former 4th Ring Society members had been housed. The bright light of the Blessed 4th Ring beckoned, and thankfully, there were many open seats from which to choose.
A pre-curtain announcement that Rebecca Krohn would replace Sara Mearns in the final section drew an equal mix of oh-no and oh-yeah. The only section of Episodes that Haglund enjoyed last year was danced by Mearns who can take any steps tossed her way and pummel them into something entertaining, usually. Where Mearns is the power-generating gush of Niagara Falls, Krohn is the serene, crystalline beauty of an unspoiled stream. So her "take" on the final section, which was also her debut in the role, was indeed different but probably more in keeping with the temperament of the piece and the other performers who included Abi Stafford & Tyler Angle, Teresa Reichlen & Ask La Cour, and Wendy Whelan & Craig Hall. Krohn's partner, Jonathan Stafford, was so good that he nearly disappeared behind his ballerina as he smoothly rotated her from position to position. His elegance simply and beautifully highlighted his partner's.
Robert Fairchild had an exceptional NY debut as Apollo. As expected, he was much more theatrical than Apollos of recent years. His responses to the music were bold and intense. His responses to his three muses – Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck, Ana Sophia Scheller – were honest and generous. Fairchild with his dark hair, handsome features, and sculpted torso and limbs looked god-like in white tights. The awkwardness in a couple of pirouettes seemed to stem from a hesitation in getting fully to releve. In the end, Fairchild made you care about Apollo and feel his anxiety in trying to learn so much from the muses before leading them off on the journey to that incredible final pose of arabesques that fan out from Apollo's base. Haglund will be buying a ticket to see this cast again soon.
The Four Temperaments saw a number of standout performances including Gonzalo Garcia's Melancholic and Ashley Bouder's debut in Choleric. Garcia was riveting. His backbends had an almost Graham-like intensity to them. His was a melancholy that no Paxil could contain. While watching Bouder's Choleric, Haglund kept wondering why we've had to wait so many years to see it. As a compact explosive driven, high voltage, pulse propelled Choleric, Bouder managed to make this role as fascinating as ever. Her anger came through her movement not her face - fantastic.
Amar Ramasar's Phlegmatic seemed to be a little mixed with Melancholic, but it was very well danced. Savannah Lowery and Jared Angle in the Sanguinic section were a little plodding, perhaps only in comparison to the interpretation by Jennie Somogyi and Tyler Angle who are tough to match in terms of precision and authority.
The Theme section was, as expected, superbly danced by Lydia Wellington & Christian Tworzyanski, Lauren King & Allen Peiffer, and Ashley Laracey & Adrian Danchig-Waring. The corps was sharp as could be, and the formations from the 4th Ring vantage point were picture perfect.
All in all, a terrific opening night for the rep, and it seemed like everyone was happy, if not relieved, to be dancing the real stuff – as we say in academic dance bloggerland. The first H.H. Pump Bump Award of the fall season, a black & white zebra number from Alexander McQueen for a cool $805, must be shared by Gonzalo Garcia and Ashley Bouder for their socks-knocking performances in The Four Temperaments.