It’s hard to believe that we’ve begun the final week of New York City Ballet’s fall season. The company is dancing with such strength and so vividly that it’s a shame we have to interrupt the rep season with a string of Nutcrackers, although undoubtedly we’ll see some new novae burst onto the stage with emboldened brightness as we always do during Nutcracker season.
Rebecca Krohn, Ashly Isaacs, and Zachary Catazaro gave new life and new importance to Peter Martins’ Morgen last week. Rebecca’s luxuriant musicality in the upper body, particularly in the use of her neck and head, gave the choreography a drama that it never had before. Zachary was right in there with her as far as depth of performance, and he supplied terrific partnering support as well.
Zachary and Gretchen Smith debuted impressively in Liam Scarlett’s new Funérailles on Saturday night. Gretchen has a natural tension in the shoulders and upper body that worked so well in this piece and in Spectral Evidence, and her throw away arms work very well in Ratmansky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Her legs, feet, and general facility are wondrous, but the upper body in some of the more classic staples – oy. Seeing her mangle the port de bras earlier in the season as a demi-soloist in Theme and Variations and in other corps work made Haglund cry. Every time the arms went above the shoulders, she had no clue where they were or what shapes she was making with those tension-filled hands. When the head pitched forward of the shoulders, the shadows created by the stage lighting made her look like a turtle with no neck from the upper ring. Can’t we please fix this?
Just a few words about the effects of lighting on the performer when viewed from the higher rings above the orchestra in this theater – none of which apply to Gretchen Smith, just to be clear. A dancer who doesn’t get up and over the box of her pointe shoe allowing the shank to conform to the arch suddenly looks like she has stiff, shapeless feet when viewed from above in the ring levels of the theater. A dancer who has a few cellulite dimples under the cheeks of a white leotard suddenly has shadowy craters that jiggle under the stage lighting when viewed from above. A pair of too large false eyelashes and excess liner and dark shadow suddenly spreads black smears from corner to corner of the eyes when viewed under the lights from the ring levels.
When viewed from above, small faults and miscalculations are strongly illuminated, and when things go awry, it is often far more noticeable than when viewed from the orchestra section.
That was more than a few words, wasn’t it?
Last week included a sensational performance of Agon by Maria Kowroski and Amar Ramasar on Sunday with out-of-this-world debuts in secondary roles by Anthony Huxley, Ashly Isaacs, Harrison Coll, and Joseph Gordon. Lauren King, also superb in this cast, had her own debut in Agon during the first week of this season. She, along with Huxley and Ashley Laracey, ripped that trio section with splendid authority and precision.
Last night in her soloist debut with Anthony Huxley in Chaconne, Lauren revealed new ballerina qualities and a brand new sturdiness in her technique. She, like most of the new soloists, has gotten less stage time since her promotion, but it’s apparent that all of them have been making very good use of their preparation time. Lauren’s pirouettes had a spirited whip to them and could have easily cruised past two rotations, but like a pro, she quashed the temptation and closed her turns precisely and solidly on the prescribed musical count. She looked fantastic when paired with Huxley, and they had a fabulous energy together. When has he ever smiled that much on stage? He’s got a great grill; if it takes Lauren to get him to show it to us, then let’s see more of them together.
Haglund hopes that we can get past the Nutcracker season in record speed, because over the finish line is a program of Serenade, Agon, and Symphony in C waiting for us in January. It seems, though, in the past couple of years of block programing, that we have gotten fewer blocks and fewer alternative casts. NYCB is the cocktail at the end of a tiring day for many of us who attend nearly every night. A little more variety of ingredients mixed in with the smooth vermouth would enliven our spirits.
The H.H. Pump Bump Award, a progressive classic from Oscar de la Renta, is bestowed upon Lauren King, Ashley Laracey, and Anthony Huxley who are building marvelous careers one dynamic step after the other, and making us more than eager to schlep up 9th Avenue to Lincoln Center night after night.