New York City Ballet 1/23 Apollo, Mozartiana, Cortège Hongrois
Maria Kowroski has been New York City Ballet's pure-silver superconductor of Balanchine’s electrlc current for quite some time now. It flows through her limbs, torso, and expression with zero resistance as if it could flow on forever. Without question, her physical instrument is the most perfect conductor for the Balanchine artistry of yesteryear that we have today.
In reality, though, nothing goes on forever – not electric current, not Maria's artistry, and not even Balanchine’s works. However, on the first night of the 2018 winter season, Maria gave us the Balanchine artistry from way back when – artistry so freely charged that it illuminated the choreography of Mozartiana with an incandescence as brilliant as observed in Balanchine’s own time. She danced in the spirit of the great ones who came before her and made us believe that Balanchine could have made Mozartiana for her.
In the Preghiera section, her spine bent backward with the flexibility of a decade ago as she opened her arms as if offering her soul to what was above her. Her filigree footwork throughout the ballet was delicate and pristine. The shapes she made with her feet and legs were grand, larger-than-life geometric perfection. They were what younger dancers, including the four tiny SAB students who framed her on stage, dream about achieving when they look in the studio mirror everyday. (I need to be able to cross and flatten my fifths on pointe like Maria does. I need to draw the leg up the front with a perfectly turned out knee like Maria. I need to get my arabesque up and hold my back like Maria. I need to grow arms like Maria's.) For years Maria has set the highest contemporary standard for dancing works that Balanchine made on Suzanne Farrell. On this night she did it again. Her Pas de Deux with her superb partner Tyler Angle became a long conversation in which he was utterly charmed by her every word. She would punctuate a phrase of complex choreography with a flirtatious turn of the wrist and palm as if to say Just like that… The glances they exchanged reflected their own delight at just how well the piece was going that evening.
In the Gigue, Daniel Ulbricht simply amazed in his ability to get all of the intricate allegro perfectly done and done with ease while making it look like it was his gift to the audience. This morning, kids in the studio are facing the mirrors and wondering what it’s going to take to get it perfect 100% of the time like Ulbricht does. Most will settle for 99% of the time which Ulbricht wouldn’t think of doing. There is no compromise on the road to perfection.
The four corps women in the Menuet (Marika Anderson, Ashley Hod, Emily Kikta, and Isabella LaFreniere) beautifully complemented Maria with their own strength and beautiful limbs. Coming into focus with increasing clarity are the dazzling futures of LaFreniere and Hod.
Also on the program was Apollo which received a correct but mostly flat performance from Chase Finlay. His theatrical interpretation of Apollo has made a bigger impact in the past. Sterling Hyltin held this performance up with her frisky, sparkling Terpsichore who had a thing or two to teach Apollo. Lauren Lovette’s Calliope was charming – at times a little fizzy – and was well-danced. Ashley Bouder’s Polyhymnia had a “just another day at the office” quality to it. The perfunctory level of the performance of this secondary principal role was disappointing. But most objectionable was the sloppy posture and exaggerated sloping forward of the shoulders as she swaggered in line on route to the final sunburst. Lauren’s posture could have been better, too. Where did this idea of sloppy shoulders and swaggering walk in Apollo originate from? Not from the earliest casts, that’s for sure.
Savannah Lowery and Ask la Cour sizzled in the Czardas section of Cortège Hongrois. Their spirited corps dancers were brimming with enthusiasm and dancing like there was no tomorrow. It was hard to miss Emma Von Enck who danced as if positively possessed by Glazounov’s music.
Lauren King and Emilie Gerrity glistened in their difficult variations. We’re rooting for each of them to win big stage-hogging opportunities in the coming seasons. Their beautiful artistry has perhaps developed a little more slowly than others blessed with more facility, but it is nevertheless just as gorgeous to watch. How interesting it would be to see the two of them together in Concerto Barocco.
Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen as the Raymonda-like and Jean de Brienne-like characters cleared the stage with their out-sized dancing. Forcefulness and determination marked Sara’s dancing along with a sub-surface anger that drove her energy. She has every right. Russell advanced the notion that his career’s greatness is going to come through ballets that give him a story to tell. Lucky us. How great to see such clean and strong turns in a la seconde during his variation.
When all was said and done on the first evening of the winter season, it was clear that Maria Kowroski, the most senior dancer in the company, was also its strongest pillar who led the evening with the most brilliant dancing and integrity. Our H.H. Pump Bump Award, a silver Louboutin Bottticella Alta with burning red sole (available at Barney's NY for $895), is bestowed upon her.