Don’t forget to save time to wander around the Dustin Yellin exhibit on the Promenade Level at New York City Ballet. The artistry in each glass cabinet is developed a little bit like the artistry of a dancer – by the slow, careful layering of the details of the art, slide upon slide, to build a sculpture of rich composition. Yellin layered 28 individual slides of glass for each cabinet, gradually deepening the color and adding more beautiful detail to each sculpture. Coincidentally, 28 is the age around which many ballerinas reach a point when their artistry becomes saturated with color, layer by layer, and a full picture of their gifts becomes clear.
Last night on the 111th birthday of George Balanchine, NYCB celebrated with a program of works that represented a few slides of perspective from the less abstract side of its co-founder.
The number 111 is said to have special significance – according to the card & palm reader who works from a table on the sidewalk outside the nail salon on upper 9th Avenue. She said that observing 111 could be a sign of great golden opportunity about to come your way. She wasn't kidding. The evening turned out to be golden in many ways.
Donizetti Variations, from 1960, received a joyous, impish performance from its foremost interpreters of the 21st century. As is her custom, Ashley Bouder challenged her partner to keep up with her blazing technique of fiery allegro and smoking hot turning ability. Joaquin De Luz, whose golf-like “handicap" when dancing with Bouder is a meaningful 8 years, is always up for game. He never gives less than 110% in any performance, and his benchmark is often much higher. And so, we were treated to a spectacular display of multiple turn sequences, flying pas de chats, huge coupe jetes, and other marvelous strokes of genius in the “take over the stage and house” performance of the night. At one point, De Luz made the audience chuckle when his uninhibited determination yielded a loud grunt as punctuation to a final double tour of a big variation.
The corps de ballet – Sara Adams, Alina Dronova, Emilie Gerrity, Megan Johnson, Claire Kretzschmar, Kristen Segin, Devin Alberda, Daniel Applebaum, and Troy Schumacher – seemed inspired by the spirit that Bouder and De Luz brought to the performance.
Sterling Hyltin debuted in La Valse (1951) opposite Jared Angle and gave a terrific first performance in a role that requires layering of nuance and drama over time. What came across most clearly was her pathological attraction to the decadence of the time and her complete inability to resist it. Her dancing, of course, was incredible. She let loose just as Janie Taylor, the most recent inhabiter of the role, would have done.
Ashley Laracey and Zachary Catazaro in the Fourth Waltz were a whole story unto themselves. Wow, does she wear an intoxicating perfume in this ballet. Catazaro looked very good, very dramatic; let’s hope that this dancer who has been plagued with injuries since his promotion to soloist stays on stage for the whole season. Lauren King was marvelous along with Antonio Carmena, too. She is another natural for this ballet with her unique sense of drama.
Overall, this was a wow-wow-wow performance of La Valse. All the ladies were swishing their tulle and pony tails with French ooolala and the men were as elegant as could be. Watching this from the rings was such a good reminder of the utter brilliance of the choreographer to convey the madness of the time through whirling patterns that looked completely out of control but which were in fact extremely tightly controlled. We’re so happy to see this ballet back this year.
Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle delivered a dazzling performance of Chaconne. This piece to Gluck’s ballet music from the opera Orfeo ed Euridice showed that in 1976, Balanchine was still master-engineering innovative combinations and testing his ballerina’s mettle. Supported finger pirouettes en dehors, en dedans, en dehors, en dedans are an insane request to make of a ballerina, but last night, Kowroski and Angle made the sequence look ridiculously simple. The whole PdD was an example of masterly coordination of supremely difficult choreography performed as though it were a stroll in the park.
Erica Pereira and Anthony Huxley made a good start with the soloists’ PdD, but then ran into a little bit of trouble with the final promenade. For a few confused moments, it appeared that Erica might have to push herself around in a circle while on pointe with her leg behind her. With a little more notice, she probably could have done it. These two dancers were made for one another. In addition to being a physically attractive pair, the temperament that each reveals in his/her dancing is wonderfully compatible with the other one’s.
The corps de ballet in Chaconne shone brightly. Alina Dronova got to step out of line for a few sparkling phrases. She is such an energetic and likable dancer as is Megan Johnson who continues to mature. Both dancers also performed spiritedly in the corps for Donizetti Variations.
This is a tough decision as far as who gets the H.H. Pump Bump Award, because the evening was filled with so much extraordinary dancing from every level in the company. But we think that Maria Kowroski imbued Chaconne with a distinctive artistry that probably rivals the originator of the role. And so, this long, lean stiletto by Michael Antonio that shows off the foot instead of the shoe is bestowed upon her.