Fashion still dictates much of our behavior, though not as much as in the past, regrettably.
At last night's NYCB repertory program, a late-middle aged married couple arrived to sit in the econo-seats. He helped her remove her winter coat; she thanked him. He wore a dark suit, tie, and cufflinks; she, a nice wool outfit, pretty scarf, colorful earrings. They chatted softly without stepping on one another's sentences and admired the inside of the theater. They had dressed up to come out for a night at the theater and their behavior was mindful and respectful of where they were. It didn't matter that they were sitting in the least expensive seats anymore than it would have mattered if they were sitting in the back pew of a church.
The couple seemed genuinely pleased by the fashion tribute Bal de Couture with exquisite silk designs by Valentino. Haglund didn't want to invade their personal space to let them know that two of the fabulous designs were totally missing; but since this is his space, he'll complain about not seeing the gorgeous coral gown that was originally worn by Maria Kowroski or the the uniquely kaleidoscopic tutu that Tiler Peck originally worked her spins through during the Fall Gala when Valentino was honored and these designs made their debuts.
The choreography by Peter Martins was not made to appeal to the dance crowd – which it doesn't – but was designed to reveal the beauty of Valentino's work – which it does. But with the editing out of two major costume designs and the omission of the truly charming film about Valentino that was originally part of the segment, this piece should not have an intermission on either side of it. Cut it further, if need be, but don't make us wait another intermission before we get some real dance. That said, the dresses are heavenly.
Excerpting Diamonds from Balanchine's three-part ballet, Jewels, is a great idea mostly because it's the best part of the entire ballet and can easily stand on its own. Last night's performance was preceded by a "See the Music…" presentation by Conductor Andrews Sill who explained a little about Balanchine's choice of music (Tschaikovsky's Symphony No. 3 in D Major) and why the First Movement of the symphony was not used in the ballet. Apparently Balanchine thought it was not danceable. Then the orchestra played a Cliff's Notes version of the First Movement to give us an idea of what was missing. Finally, after way over an hour of intermissions, fashion show, and music lecture, we got to the dance.
When women adorn themselves in diamonds, it is usually because of a special event that also mandates special clothes, careful makeup and hair, and a special sense of elegance. They don't put on diamonds and then behave like they're at a Yankees game or at the local bar tossing back a beer. They behave differently, more elegantly and refined. It's the diamonds. It's one of those cases when what is worn dictates your behavior.
Last night, the corps de ballet was wearing the glorious Diamonds costumes by Karinska, but it danced like CZ jewelry from Kmart - no disrespect intended to Kmart. There were so many pointy dropped elbows and gross disfigurements of the hands, fingers, and arms that for a moment Haglund thought that he was watching The Cage. The port de bras cheapened everything else that went on. The arms had the elegance of hangers from the drycleaners - no disrespect intended to drycleaners.
Maria Kowroski, while generally lovely, had some of the same issues. But the air of mystery and the sense of story that she wove with those gorgeous and very articulate legs and feet was as clear as it was captivating. Tiler Angle was a strong and attentive partner and had great chemistry going with Maria. He had serious problems with turns a la seconde but got control before they became disastrous.
Also on the program were Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux and Divertimento from "Le Baiser de la Fée". In the Tschai Pas, Abi Stafford and Jared Angle were less flash and more song. It was a refreshing interpretation, especially from Abi, who looked beautiful in the peach costume. Because he is often stuck behind tall women who he continually has to lift, we sometimes forget that Jared can move with some speed. He did really well last night although when he performed the manege of coupe jetes, his front foot almost appeared flexed instead of pointed. Le Baiser was sweetly danced by Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette but it was a little boring. Andy was stiff in the neck and back but otherwise was fine.
Gosh, Haglund has to say that he was a little disappointed with the dancing last night, but the costumes were great. So, the H.H. Pump Bump Award, a Valentino design of flowers and diamonds, is bestowed upon Valentino and Karinska for their unparalleled gifts for making women beautiful.