During the first two days of its Balanchine Black & White week, New York City Ballet fielded nine masterpieces with such clarity, graceful force, joy, and supreme artistry that it suggested a new zenith in the company's evolution. Everyone is dancing better than ever. Everyone seems to know that his or her purpose on stage is to reveal the brilliance of the choreography and the music rather than an individual star. It has been a magnificent start to the spring season.
Let’s race ahead to talk about last evening’s debut by Adrian Danchig-Waring as Apollo. We have, for the past couple of generations, been the fortunate recipients of a string of Apollos who embodied interpretations of some of the extraordinary Apollos from Balanchine’s lifetime. But one interpretation has always been missing - until last night when Adrian gave us the muscular, wild full-force Apollo from the days of Edward Villella. It’s been a while since we’ve had an Apollo for whom the choreography was not a technical stretch, and Adrian used his nearly unbelievable coordination to create shapes that were so clear that at moments it seemed like we were seeing the choreography for the first time. In his body, Apollo’s story unfolded as if in bold black print on a crisp white page. It just can’t be that we only have three performances of Apollo this spring and it’s not on the schedule for 2015-16.
Apollo's muses, Tiler Peck as Terpsichore, Ashly Isaacs debuting as Polyhymnia, and Lauren Lovette as Calliope, personified their art forms beautifully. The PdD between Apollo and Terpsichore was unusually smooth in those places where one might expect some bumps, such as when Terpsichore alights upon Apollo’s neck and their arms gently swim in opposite directions. The only thing that might improve this performance relates to cosmetics. Apollo's hair and skin makeup appeared to be a single hue under the stage lights where more contrast might have been better.
Tuesday evening marked the return of two of Haglund’s favorite ballerinas, Jennie Somogyi and Ana Sophia Scheller, who have been absent from the stage for way over a year. Ana’s Sanguinic section with Tyler Angle in The Four Temperaments revealed an authority and competence that we haven’t seen since, well, since Jennie Somogyi last performed the role a couple of years ago. Although very different in their approaches to Sangunic – Ana is more brightly classical while Jennie always had that marvelously lowered center that made her movement so fierce-looking – each is equally thrilling. The evening’s Melancholic and Phlegmatic variations were finely danced by Gonzalo Garcia and Ask la Cour. Ashley Bouder’s Choleric had the right touch of pepper and prickle. We really need to see her in more leotard ballets. Lydia Wellington (subbing for Faye Arthurs) with Andrew Scordato, Lauren King with Allen Peiffer, and Emilie Gerrity with Cameron Dieck skillfully danced the ballet’s Theme section.
Episodes, to the music of Anton von Webern, has never been one of Haglund’s favorites, but his appreciation of it hit an all-time high on Tuesday evening. Originally a cooperative effort between Balanchine and Martha Graham, the Balanchine section was extracted long ago and has always been presented by itself as an entire ballet. It can be tough on an audience because the music is so challenging to follow and one often cannot tell which part of the music the dancer is being responsive to or counting.
When Megan LeCrone and Sean Suozzi danced the first section, Haglund got completely lost. Not their fault. His mental dexterity should have been warmed up by the fine performances of the similarly neo-classical Monumentum pro Gesualdo and Movements for Piano and Orchestra which Maria Kowroski and Ask la Cour delivered to start the evening, but the old brain synapses were not synapping like they should have been due to hours and hours of jury duty this week. The second section danced by Savannah Lowery and Jared Angle, an angular PdD of extreme positions and manipulation, showed off these two dancers particularly nicely. Savannah shares many of the qualities and characteristics of Sara Mearns which is why her matchup with Jared was so appealing. At times, the squiring around looked a bit effortful, but overall, it was very enjoyable to watch.
When Jennie Somogyi and Craig Hall appeared for the third section, it was like Episodes had just been wiped with Windex. The clarity of the shapes, the musical continuity, the supreme coordination between the two artists made these few minutes the highlight of the evening. The final section, Ricercata, led by Rebecca Krohn and Adrian Danchig-Waring gave Haglund his own episode of fizzy felicity. Wow, has Rebecca stamped this section with her own gorgeous musicality. Few dancers can exploit the beauty of the lines of the neck and head the way Rebecca does.
Tuesday night also included Concerto Barocco led by Sara Mearns, Teresa Reichlen and Justin Peck. Their performance was far more than just competent but the ladies tended to luxuriate too much when the violins called for a more precise quality of movement with much more precise shapes. What are we missing by not seeing Tiler Peck and Ashley Bouder as the two violins? These two would take this ballet into the stratosphere in terms of precision and artistry. Here’s hoping that we don’t have to wait much longer. The corps de ballet ripped this ballet with energy and precision. They danced it like it was an honor to do so.
Wednesday’s Agon, led by Maria Kowroski, Amar Ramasar, Rebecca Krohn and Andrew Veyette was electric from its first second to its last. Maria and Rebecca each showed a forceful confidence wrapped in subtle allure. Amar’s partnering was spot on, and Andy displayed such great attitude in his crazy solo which ended with him walking to the front of the stage for a bow.
Duo Concertant, short but brilliant, saw a new pairing of Ashley Bouder and Anthony Huxley in his debut. While it’s true that Ashley will make anyone look like a fabulous partner, Anthony really did have his hands in all the right places when the right time came. The speed and precision in the dancers’ solos was breathtaking. Anthony covers space at the speed of light.
Symphony in Three Movements closed Wednesday evening. Sterling Hyltin, in one of her best roles, picked through the piques, turns, and sissonnes at cyclone speed. Her partner Taylor Stanley made a terrific debut, partnering with both strength and finesse. The other lead couples – Savannah Lowery with Andrew Scordato and Erica Pereira with Daniel Ulbricht – along with the incredible 16 ladies in white leotards and five couples in black & white delivered a superb performance. Haglund can’t wait to see it again this week.
When one has so many favorite ballerinas, it can be quite overwhelming when so many of them show up on stage at the same time to dance. The last 48 hours have delivered more astonishingly great dance than some companies deliver in eight weeks. What we are most grateful for this week, however, is having Jennie Somogyi and Ana Sophia Scheller back. They gave inspiring performances and we want them to share the first H.H. Pump Bump Award of the season, a strappy walking boot which was inspired by the artists at DonJoy Orthopedics: