We wish it were called Symphony in Six Movements and would go on twice as long. And when the New York City Ballet dancers get inside the Stravinsky music as they did on Saturday evening, stoking it with attitude and fanning the sparks into white-hot flames, we wish it would never end.
Capping the finish to a double-duty Saturday in which he appears to have danced in six ballets, Aaron Sanz performed the lead opposite Sterling Hyltin with polish and confidence that belied his inexperience in the role in which he debuted only a few days earlier. We’ve written about his natural geometry, his Superman good looks, his focused efforts in the back of the corps. Saturday night brought his unexpected rapport with Sterling – a back’n forth exchange so genuine and comfortable that they could have been longtime partners. Together they had the striking aesthetics and sharpness of Nesmuk Damascus Chef’s knives. (Who really pays $3000 for a kitchen knife, anyway?) The entire cast, including Ashley Hod whose own blades sliced through the choreography with precision, was phenomenal.
The evening's Stravinsky Violin Concerto seemed lethargic in places. When Lauren Lovette, new to this ballet, jumped into those sudden second positions on pointe, her arms were very slow to get to their V position high above the shoulders rather than getting there instantly with a strong statement. It was like what we’d expect from ABT if they ever danced this again. Sara Mearns, also new to Stravinsky Violin Concerto, hasn’t found her force in this ballet yet but surely will. However, both dancers had the right energies and attitudes when dancing in front of the corps — steps that they’d done many times before becoming principals. The overall output in this ballet on Saturday simply didn’t look Balanchine Bright enough. Still, even a subpar performance of this masterpiece can leave the audience more than satisfied.
Last Tuesday evening and Sunday afternoon, performances of Glass Pieces, Thou Swell, and Stars and Stripes made for a balanced program all of which was highly enjoyable. Yes, that’s what Haglund said, Thou Swell was good. In the hands of Robert Fairchild, Sterling Hyltin, Amar Ramasar, Rebecca Krohn, Sara Mearns, Jared Angle, Teresa Reichlen and Ask la Cour, this Martins tribute to the music of Richard Rodgers has Broadway pizzazz and enough glitter and feathers to rival the West Village Halloween Parade.
Jerome Robbins' Glass Pieces rocked with outstanding corps work in the Akhnaten excerpt and a confident Rubric solo from Ashley Hod.
Stars and Stripes belonged to Megan Fairchild’s Liberty Bell at both performances, although Daniel Ulbricht in the Third Campaign was "the very model of a modern major general" whose Gilbert & Sullivan recruits were having trouble keeping up with him. Every time he danced with the corps it was crystal clear that he was right and they were late and slightly dull on the edges.
Megan engaged in a little parade trick-riding that Betty Boop could only dream about. Whether preening her head feather or saluting the crowd, she sizzled as the true leader of the night’s band while fluttering her eyes and smiling sweetly.
Saturday night appears to have been the last Symphony in Three Movements that we’ll see from NYCB through the 2016-2017 season including Kennedy Center and Saratoga dates. That qualifies as torture. Torture, we say! Maybe someone could re-think all of those La Sonnambulas and one-act "Swan Lakes” coming up in 2017 to make room for one or two more performances of this bona fide masterpiece.
The HH Pump Award, another black and white masterstroke of genius by Louboutin, is bestowed upon Sterling Hyltin and Aaron Sanz for their unforgettable performance in Symphony in Three Movements.