Sometimes the cheap seats can be the best seats. And so it was last night at the NYCB Fall Gala where perched in his econo-chair on the side, Haglund had a clear view of the glitterati seated in the 1st Ring including Valentino, Iman, Barbara Walters, Sarah Jessica Parker, Angelica Huston, Roberto Bolle, Carolina Herrera, Anne Hathaway, Martha Stewart, and others. It was hard to tell whether the slow slip off the shoulder of Iman's dress which exposed her to all of us who had our binocs trained on her was truly an innocent slip or perhaps a bit more of a calculated faux pas. Thank goodness she was sitting right next to Valentino who helped her re-position the dress -- but not too hurriedly.
It was a glorious gala evening at NYCB –– all organized to honor the legendary Valentino who designed all of the evening's costumes except for those worn in Balanchine's Rubies. In fact, the evening was as much a couture show as a ballet performance.
The program opened with two short pieces which Peter Martins created in 1988: Sophisticated Lady to the music of Duke Ellington and Not My Girl to music by Fred Astaire and Van Phillips with lyrics by Desmond Carter. Charles Askegard returned to dance with Maria Kowroski in the first which also included 16 men from the corps. Valentino could not have found a more beautiful model than Maria for his red gown with delicate ruffles. She looked sensational and worked every curve and angle of the design. The choreography, while not all that compelling, had plenty of sweeps and twirls in it to fully show the beautiful cut of the dress and its details. It wouldn't be so bad to see this little ballet more often if we got a brand new fabulous designer dress each time that it was presented. That would keep the interest alive.
Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck were the dancing hit of the night in Not My Girl -- he in Fred Astaire tapping mode; she in a gorgeous diamond patterned tutu that looked like it could have been inspired by a colorful kaleidoscope. This short piece should rejoin the regular repertory a little more often - especially now that it has such a fabulous costume, not to mention two dancers who glow with all the Broadway glam needed to sell it to the audience.
Christopher Wheeldon contributed a preview excerpt from his ballet Five Movements, Three Repeats. It was a PdD for Wendy Whelan and Tyler Angle to song and music by Max Richter and Dinah Washington from the motion picture Shutter Island. Not the psychological thriller that the movie was, this PdD was from the same mold as much of what we've seen Wheeldon produce, especially when he creates for Whelan. It's always primarily focused on manipulation instead of movement. The pace is always the same. It's always too long. And it never has a climax and resolution. But the Wheeldon clan from Woo-Whoville expressed its approval loudly. Wendy's dress was of a stunning design -- kind of a metal color with a circular panel over the front of her ribs. It was very, very flattering and feminine. This dress will bring Haglund back to this ballet one more time.
Rubies got an interesting and vibrant interpretation by three different sets of dancers. Erica Pereira, Antonio Carmena and Savannah Lowery danced the first movement. Erica reached the age of majority some time ago. She's old enough to do all of the adult things now, but she still looks like an eleven year old on stage. It was a little uncomfortable seeing someone who looks so young execute seductive, sexy moves -- dancing them exceedingly well while wearing a sparkly tiara that was a little too big for her head -- even though the reality was that there was nothing wrong. Haglund is anxious for Peter Martins' to discover Erica's specialty rep because she's just too good not to be on stage more.
The second movement got a very grown up interpretation by Lauren Lovette and Anthony Huxley. They sizzled. Lauren is a phenomenal dancer with great range in the repertory. A combination of gorgeous lines and curves, she is maturing artistically at a rapid pace.
Ashly Isaacs and Daniel Ulbricht with Emily Kikta as the tall girl delivered a dazzling final movement.
The highlight of the evening was Bal de Couture that was preceded by the exact same film that is two posts below. The audience howled when Valentino asked Peter Martins "What you think? With all this tulle, to do the naked bosom, is it possible?"
Most of the company's principals were paired up for this finale with a couple of soloists added. The men in black suits and ties and shiny shoes were as handsome as could be -- man oh man, do those NYCB men clean up good. The ladies were decked out in an array of Valentino's designs from long black and white tulled dresses with bold red or pink underlayers to puffy tutus, and one lovely pink lilac gown worn by Janie Taylor.
The manner in which these dancers presented their dresses could change MB Fashion Week forever. Going forward, what designer is going to be satisfied with having his designs drift down the catwalk on human hangers when he can see them come alive with the help of stunningly beautiful dancers? Couture fashion looks better on dancers – no matter how short they are – any day.
The choreography by Peter Martins was created to make the most of the dresses. Using everyone's favorite excerpts from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and taking inspiration from other big Tchaikovsky ballets in the repertory, Martins did more than a fair job with this big group. Everyone clapped when each dress appeared just like at a couture show. It was totally deserved and we would have felt cheated if each dress had not been presented individually. Haglund's favorites were the black and white ball gowns worn by Teresa Reichlen and Rebecca Krohn. The short puffy tutu designs worn by Ashley Bouder (white), Megan Fairchild (black), and Tiler Peck (red) perhaps were less practical than fashionable, but it was such a pleasure to see them.
At the conclusion, Valentino ran down a ramp from the back of the stage to come forward to receive the ovation from the audience. What a terrific collaboration the evening was. You know, sometimes love comes late in life. Maybe Valentino's first couple of dates with the ballet will lead to a deep romance. He said recently that he'd like to do the costumes and set designs for a big "ornate" ballet for a company like the Bolshoi. Wouldn't that be grand? We know it would be.
The Haute Pump Bump Award of the evening goes to Valentino for bringing such glamour and beauty to the ballet last evening with his enchanting designs: