Oh, the tulle was flying last night at NYCB's opening performance of its spring season. Blue tulle, pink tulle, layers and layers of it. It was an outstanding night of flying tulle, flying feet and glorious music. But to be truthful - it was really just another night at NYCB. The stage was filled with an astonishing 15 principals - all organically grown, up-through-the-ranks astonishing principals. But to be truthful again, NYCB pretty much practices this trick every night of the season. It's no big deal for them.
Opening with Serenade, the ballet with which Balanchine opened his American choreographic journey in 1935, the cast of Ashley Bouder Rebecca Krohn, Janie Taylor, Ask la Cour and Jonathan Stafford gave a performance characterized by energy and elegance. When Jonathan lifted and lowered Janie into her plie arabesques, her body exhaled its energy into a plie so plush that she could have been stepping on clouds. The same was true with Rebecca who finished pirouettes in such deep fourth positions that air got caught beneath the tulle of her skirt which then floated down in a swirl around her. The deep bends in her back framed by a gorgeous wingspan of port de bras were lovely indeed. Rebecca's arabesque rotated by Ask la Cour in the Russian section was a perfectly neoclassical form supported on a beautifully classically shaped leg and foot. Janie was the dancer who was supposed to fall midway through the piece, but she augmented that with a messy plop on the floor in a downstage corner quite a bit earlier than planned. She seemed fine the remainder of Serenade and danced with full-out joy to its end. When Janie takes a movement right to the edge of no return, she does it so quickly that your realization of her risk doesn't fully form in your mind until after she's already launched into her next movement.
Jonathan brought more than a little gallantry and princeliness to his partnering and solo work. Clean lines, energy without being over-forceful, and elegance marked his movement. He seems these days to be the most classical of NYCB's principal danseurs. The chances of a ballerina having a superior performance are always enhanced when Jonathan is standing behind her.
Ashley Bouder was refreshing as she out-jumped and out-turned everyone on stage without turning it into a competitive Olympic event. Her shapes in the air were lovely. It might be nice one day to see Ashley in the first ballerina role, the one danced last night by Janie Taylor.
The last ballet of the evening was Balanchine's Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet which used a piano quartet by Brahms as orchestrated by Schoenberg. The music was excruciatingly beautiful. The pink tulle costumes by Karinska enhanced the choreography in a way similar to her designs for Serenade. The ladies were loving their tulle last night and didn't let an opportunity to brush the skirt layers with their hands pass by. The opening Allegro PdD by Abi Stafford and Sebastien Marcovici was as dreamy and limpid as it was brisk allegro. Sterling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild stirred the audience into a tizzy each time she spun and fell deeply into his arms. Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette perhaps tried to make the Andante bigger than it should have been. But it was performed expertly and with warmth. Then Maria Kowroski strode on stage with a band of flowers in her hair, colorful streamers all over her being – and those legs. Game over, as Warner Wolf would say. Legz had arrived. She was accompanied by Tyler Angle – no wishy-washy partner or timid soloist – but Legz is who weez all waz lookin' at. The final Rondo took on a life of its own with Maria delivering grand battements like a sword-wielding Samurai.
Sandwiched between Serenade and Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet was Kammermusik No. 2 which had been mothballed for a several years. In Balanchine's first ballet, the 1935 made Serenade, he presented women in such beautiful, elegant, and sophisticated motifs that it was clear he worshipped them. In Kammermusik, among his final few ballets created 40+ years later, he presented the women as young girlish types who liked to drop their chins and glare out at the audience under their eyebrows. You don't put women in high standing, free swinging pony tails unless you are trying to convey immaturity and cuteness, and appeal to those who are attracted to that. The choreography certainly maximized the bounce of the tails and the friskiness of the two lead female dancers (Sara Mearns and Teresa Reichlen) and it overly-depended on jogging around with sudden dives into abstract, contemporary Balanchine moves. Jared Angle and Amar Ramasar knew not to take it all too seriously. There wasn't a step of theirs that was interesting. The corps of eight men, representing a departure from Balanchine's customary use of women as a corps, was assigned gesturing, poses, and forgettable choreography which they all performed expertly. Send this one back to the closet.
On this opening night, the company looked in fine shape – even the dancers who usually aren't, were. Everyone on stage seemed pretty excited to see all of us in the audience, and we were certainly excited to see them. The ballet mating season is on. Bring on Barocco and Symphony in C.
The first Pump Bump Award of the spring season, a sparkly Casadei rhinestone and mesh sandal with peep toe, is bestowed upon the cast of Serenade. This is how every season should start. It's our national ballet anthem.