“Meow. This represents too much sitting.”
Well, yes, perhaps. But in our defense, we did stand up several times to applaud which, according to the fitness app on the Apple Watch, counts as vigorous exercise. And Mr. Kitty, as the song goes, If lovin' this is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.
Sunday’s final matinee was an exclamation point to the declaration New York City Ballet made over the course of its fall season: It is at its strongest ever in its glory-filled history.
Its net assets/fund balances are 600% of ABT’s ($210 mil to $32 mil). Its total revenues are twice that of ABT's ($105 mil to $48 mil). It even has more than 3X the number of volunteers willing to give their time (250 vs 70). (Info taken from the most currently available Form 990s.)
It sources 100% of its artists from its own school.
It does not rely on guest dancers, freelancers, or imports from lesser companies to augment its ranks.
Its dancers are without question the most talented in its history.
Its bench is so deep with talent and accomplishment that it could serve as two other companies.
The Balanchine, Robbins, and Martins repertories are being danced with as much or more verve, pristine technique, and artistry than ever before. Of course, there are a few adjustments that need to be made – most notably in Jewels which we hope by its 50th anniversary celebration will be wiped clean of the swan-y melodramatics that have crept into Sara Mearns’ Diamonds as well as the Siren influence that Ashley Bouder chose for Rubies. We also hope to see Andrew Veyette regularly performing at the high level that he did on Sunday opposite Ashley Bouder in Stars and Stripes. Somehow he rose above the morosity and uncaring that has burdened his dancing in the past to make us admire him once again.
Sunday’s Glass Pieces was a stunner. Rebecca Krohn and Amar Ramasar in the Facades PdD revealed the beauty of the planes and angles of Robbins’ choreography. The Rubric section spotlight fell on Unity Phelan, Emilie Gerrity, Lydia Wellington, Joseph Gordon, Andrew Scordato, and Cameron Dieck, all corps members functioning as principals in caliber and confidence. Emilie’s arabesque had such length and beautiful curve that it snatched our breath away. Andrew Scordato has continued his artistic growth spurt – his grand allegro stretching more than ever before and his partnering acquiring a new elegance and sensitivity.
In Stars and Stripes, Lauren King gave her baton majorette duties an expert twirl and led her regiment vivaciously. Within her First Campaign, Indiana Woodward and Alexa Maxwell marched brightly. In the Rifle Regiment, Megan LeCrone wasn’t as confident as we’ve seen her before but nonetheless striking in her technical abilities. Her Second Campaign included more Stars of Tomorrow than we could count including Ashley Hod, Claire Kretzschmar, Emily Kikta, Unity Phelan, Miriam Miller, and the gorgeous Isabella LaFreniere who we now look for in everything.
Troy Schumacher as the leader of the Thunder and Gladiator Regiment pulled it off in the near vicinity of Daniel Ulbricht and his recruits were a little sharper than in previous performances. We’re always looking for Harrison Coll, Aaron Sanz, Silas Farley, and Harrison Ball – such a diverse group of artists who all coalesce smoothly.
What can one say about Ashley Bouder’s Liberty Bell? Haglund was sitting close enough to the stage that he thought he heard the members of the Thunder and Gladiator Regiment yell at her something like Take us home, Mama! (It could have come from the orchestra pit where Clotilde Otranto was stoking the Sousa to white hot flames.) Bouder blazed through Liberty Bell with a special eagerness and joy, seizing and exploiting pauses in the music to tint her musicality with a bit of extra color. And as is often the case, she brought out the spirit in her partner, Andrew Veyette, who gave perhaps his best performance of the season and one that seemed truthfully joyous.
Peter Martins Thou Swell has really taken on a life of its own with the current cast of Sterling Hyltin, Rebecca Krohn, Sara Mearns, Teresa Reichlen, Robert Fairchild Amar Ramasar, Jared Angle, and Ask la Cour. When it returns at the end of the Winter Season on a program with Wheeldon’s Carousel and Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, be sure to catch it if this cast holds for the run.
The entire NYCB corps de ballet has danced with gleaming beauty and pride this season. It instills such anticipation for the wonderful things in store for the company’s future. Haglund wants to share that about seven or eight years ago he received an email from a corps dancer’s mother following an NYCB Nutcracker review on H.H. She thanked Haglund for writing about the individual corps dancers and especially her daughter in the review and went on to say “She claims that her father and I are the only ones who ever see her on stage.” [Shaking pointer finger at corps de ballet] Don’t ever think that. Don’t ever think that the audience doesn’t see corps dancers as individuals with unique gifts. And don’t torture your parents with false claims of insignificance because you are dancing in the back of the corps of the New York City Ballet.
Haglund keeps hearing murmurings and guessing about when Martins will step down (or aside) for a successor. This talk never coincides with any complaints about the company or yearnings for a change in direction of its artistry. Admiration for Martins’ accomplishments has never been higher, and it is well-earned. The successor-talk all stems from his age (69 turning 70 next week) and his longevity (30+ years) as director. It seems that those big numbers are automatically a cause for concern for some younger people who have no other basis for concern or older people who have stopped thriving in their golden years. It is ageism, plain and simply. We are at a clear-thinking point in history where we are about to on-board a 69-year-old New Hire as the Leader of the Free World. She has 30+ years of public service, too. So long as Martins’ love for his job and his health hold out, we hope that he’ll stick it out for at least another two terms of office and pave the way for a much smoother succession than he experienced.
In celebration of this past season’s strengths, we bestow the H.H. Pump Bump Award, an Alexander McQueen design that features a collection of paths to form its beauty, on Peter Martins because in addition to his unqualified deserving of it – we just like to be controversial.