With impeccable style and a first rate performance, Craig Hall bowed for the last time in front of his New York audience on Sunday. Following the company’s Paris and Saratoga tours, he will become a ballet master which is a natural progression of his 16 years with the company. The last few years have seen his performances curtailed due to injuries - something that tends to happen in ballet. Craig rang out the old and rang in the new with a superb reading of Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain PdD with Tiler Peck. The communication between the two artists was so strong that for ten minutes it seemed we were peering into a private world where perhaps we shouldn’t have been and were listening to a conversation that we weren’t meant to hear. When Craig opened his arms, tilted his head back, and stared upward, he lingered under the light as though he might be offering a grace. How lovely Tiler was in such an unusual role for her where she had no direct engagement with the audience. A solemn Tiler is equally communicative as a smiling Tiler.
The performance of Serenade that began the afternoon was the best, most authentic reading of this ballet that we have seen in a long time. There are artists who dance this ballet to make a personal statement about themselves or their dramatic abilities and then there are those artists whose purpose is to reveal the beauty of the choreography and music in a more selfless manner. At Sunday’s matinee, we had an entire crew of the latter. In only their second performance as the central "waltz girl" and man, Rebecca Krohn and Russell Janzen delved deeply into Balanchine’s poetry, illuminating the beauty of its simple phrases with Romantic sweep and an urgent undercurrent.
Erica Pereira as the “Russian girl” gave her most extraordinary and heartfelt performance to date. It made us feel as though we were witnessing a mammoth step in this artist’s career. Her freedom of movement was boundless and yet never crossed the line to ostentatious. Whenever Erica came down stage to dance where it was a little easier to see her small face and features, she was a powerfully possessing artist.
Teresa Reichlen and Adrian Danchig-Waring as the “dark angel” and second man captivated with their haunting spiritual qualities. Teresa has never looked better in a role and has never looked better as a dancer. Her creamy port de bras and easy full battements along with a speed that someone her size should not have truly made this a bigger than life performance.
Conductor Clotilde Otranto and the NYCB Orchestra outdid themselves on Sunday. The dancers and the music were so beautiful that Haglund wanted to leave right afterward. It was one of those giant performances that nothing should follow.
But he stayed and witnessed further extraordinary dancing in Halelujah Junction by Sterling Hyltin, Amar Ramasar, and Andrew Veyette, and in Duo Concertant with Lauren Lovette and Anthony Huxley. Anthony has a few performances of this in his pocket and now, along with Chase Finlay, is someone who you don’t ever want to miss when his name shows up as cast in this little ballet. Lauren was only in her second performance and showed particular strength in the spotlighted section toward the end. But Megan Fairchild, Sterling Hyltin, and Ashley Bouder in the same role eat up the allegro like there is no tomorrow, and Lauren has a ways to go to be comparable.
Western Symphony got a fine reading by Lauren King & Taylor Stanley (subbing for Chase Finlay), Brittany Pollack & Jared Angle, and Sara Mearns & Zachary Catazaro. Those sassy ladies in green (Emily Kikta, Isabella LaFreniere, Marika Anderson, and Claire Kretzschmar) were strictly dangerous. The Sunday matinee was Lauren’s second time in this principal role and she was much more assured and spontaneous than at her debut earlier in the week with Chase. She and Taylor have a very good chemistry with a slight air of competition. Zachary also proved to be a real delight in the Rondo movement with Sara. There is some authentic cowboy in him, and it was good to see him ripping up the stage with unrestrained allegro. The secondary couple that appears at the end, Laine Habony and Harrison Coll, also shone and sprinted to the end with enormous energy and personality.
The HH Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon Erica Pereira for her authoritative and very lovely performance in Serenade.