The Brooklyn-based urban artist collective, FAILE (pronouced like fail), is NYCB's selection for the inaugural NYCB Art Series for which ballet-inspired original art will be commissioned. FAILE's exhibit is installed on the promenade level at the Koch Theater and will be on display until February 24.
The skyscraper-like pillar, with appropriate setbacks which were probably demanded by the local community board's land-use committee, is constructed of stacked wooden blocks of different sizes on which images – many from the middle of the 20th century – have been stenciled and painted. The images are of a design like that used in comic books in the 1950s and '60s. Richard Nixon's image stares proudly from one side of the pillar. His pal, Chairman Mao Zedong, is around the corner. Prince Charles and Tanaquil Le Clercq are depicted along with anonymous faces and a few drawings of ballerinas. Printed slogans, random phrases or words, and designs – many recognizable from the 20th century – are stenciled on the wooden blocks, some with a modern twist.
Haglund's favorite: SAVE YOUR STILETTO
The installation is fairly fun to wander around and read during intermission. It's better than staring adoringly at the little plastic bowls of gummies and M&Ms that you know you shouldn't have. But it's not art that beckons you to return to it time and time again – unlike the glistening art that filled the stage last night.
The Winter Season got off to a terrific start with a program of all Balanchine/all Tschaikovsky. The highlights of the evening were Ashley Bouder and Jonathan Stafford in Tschaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 2. Prior to getting to the good stuff, however, Ashley spread herself across the stage floor like broken egg yolks in the supermarket aisle. Before anyone could yell "Clean-up in Dairy," she was back on her feet and on her way.
Because Ashley's repertory at NYCB tends to be more jumping than anything else, one often hears words like blazing, brilliant, buoyant, and bold to describe her performances. Rarely does one hear the words sublime or luminous to describe her dancing. But those are exactly the words that came to mind last night as she and Jonathan Stafford caressed their PdD. These dancers were perfectly and tenderly in tune with one another. The smooth as silk partnering looked like a loving conversation that perhaps was too private for us to be watching. Once separated, they glanced over their shoulders toward but not at one another. Their eyes searched for and sensed the presence of the other dancer.
Stafford is such a gallant partner who reads his ballerinas well and responds perfectly. Not blessed with great turnout of the legs, he nevertheless uses what he has to maximum effect and doesn't cheat or try to compensate by forcing something in bad taste – as we might observe happening elsewhere in the ballet world. His series of entrechat six were crisp and clean, and complimented by an easy, relaxed upper torso.
Some of the lingering images from Ashley's dancing included an exit of delicate temps de fleche to the back while looking upward, breathing balances in arabesque, allegro jumps that were grand by definition but were also light and airy.
Savannah Lowery as the soloist would not have been Haglund's choice for the role although maybe it was simply the wrong cast for her. There were no mishaps to speak of, but the quality of her dancing was effortful as though that should make up for the sometimes missing qualities of shape, elegance, and control. Savannah would probably fare better in tonight's cast that includes the statuesque Teresa Reichlen.
Among the demi-soloists, Ashley Laracey didn't miss an opportunity to fill each note of music luxuriously. She also shone brightly as a demi-soloist in Serenade along with Lauren King, Alina Dronova, and Georgina Pazcoguin. Ashley and Lauren have two of the most elegant profiles of the company with their long straight necks and lovely defined jawlines that help set them apart along with their gorgeous dancing. Add Ms. Dronova to the list as well.
Serenade looked a little curious last night with the addition of Sebastien Marcovici to the cast. The rounding of the top of his back always catches the light which makes his movement appear like that of a much older dancer. In movement that requires him to face front, his dancing is very appealing, but Serenade doesn't have a lot of that type of choreography. His partnering of Janie Taylor should have been more on the money.
Janie's waltz girl was beautiful with great flowing hair, as always. Her series of arabesques that fell forward as the back leg surrendered to attitude were lovely.
Megan Fairchild and Rebecca Krohn as the Russian girl and the dark angel were resplendent. Megan's saute fouettes neatly sliced from left to right sending the tulle flying like a blue mist. Rebecca's generous bends of the torso and gentle pirouette finishes were gorgeous as was her arabesque line when rotated on pointe by Ask la Cour.
The middle of the program included some of the evening's most captivating dancing by Maria Kowroski in Mozartiana. Still in the sweet spot of a career now into its 18th year, Maria's artistry continues to flourish. She is surely one of the most genetically gifted dancers of our time. Following the retirement of her longtime and frequent partner, Charles Askegard, there was some fleeting concern about the path of her career. But Tyler Angle has injected new spirit into her dancing. They look wonderful together and have great rapport on stage. Their performance last night was enhanced by Arturo Delmoni's sweet and magical violin.
Although last night was Tyler's debut in Mozartiana, he and Maria were assured, vibrant, and harmonious in the PdD. His turns left and right were authoritative and accurate although he got a little caught up on the final series of rapid-fire single tours en l'air.
Daniel Ulbricht's energetic and engaging Gigue looked a little Tarantella-ish, but Haglund cannot put his finger on exactly why.
The corps de ballet was tidy most of the evening and danced with a high level of energy and joy.
The first H.H. Pump Bump Award of the season, a Prada art-shoe styled after cars of the 1950s, is bestowed upon Ashley Bouder for taking her dancing to yet another new level of artistry in Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.