Neither torrential downpours nor canyon-like winds in Manhattan kept the crowd away from the opening night of NYCB's Fall Season. Last night's offerings drew upon the rich Stravinsky/Balanchine collaboration that produced so much of the famed repertory at NYCB.
The program opened with a strong performance of Apollo by Robert Fairchild, Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck, and Ana Sophia Scheller. Fairchild danced Apollo wonderfully weighted into the floor and with a compelling theatrical depth. NYCB's Apollos have recently been noted for their cool intensities. Fairchild's natural smolder and expressiveness are pleasant additions to a role which can accommodate a variety of interpretations. The PdD as danced by Fairchild and Hyltin nicely captured the slightly flirtatious aspects of Terpsichore and Apollo's fascination and attraction.
The muses didn't have their best-ever ensemble effort last night but their individual variations were first rate with only minor issues about which to complain. Haglund made the mistake of sitting on the right side of the house again where he couldn't avoid seeing that Sterling's developpes to arabesque were more to second position than behind her. But other than that little gripe, her performance was fresh and musically interesting.
Tiler Peck as Polyhmnia and Ana Sophia Scheller as Calliope were superb in their variations. Tiler attacked the pesky pique turns that finish in arabesque with confidence, but it seems that we might be missing something by not seeing her as Terpsichore. Hopefully, that's somewhere in Peter Martins' grand plan. Ana Sophia, one of NYCB's two newest principals, was riveting. With a theatrical reach that goes to the back of the theater and a fearless/fault defying technique, she is a dancer not to be missed in any classical or Balanchine role.
The middle of the program was Balanchine's Orpheus from 1948. Everything that Balanchine choreographed was not a masterpiece, as Orpheus reminds us. The costumes, sets, and lighting effects overwhelm what little choreography there is in this piece, but do not save it. There were a few interesting aspects to it - mostly delivered by Wendy Whelan's Eurydice in her PdD with Ask la Cour's Orpheus. Other than in the PdD, there was a sense that maybe Balanchine choreographed Orpheus by asking himself, "What would Martha do?" Haglund may hang out at the lobby's bar tonight while this one is on.
The evening concluded with an Olympic sized performance of Agon. Maria Kowroski, Rebecca Krohn, Sebastien Marcovici, and Andrew Veyette led with their best competitive spirits. Rebecca, NYCB's other new principal, showed more than a little of the Kowroski spark and sultry confidence. It was really a pleasure seeing the two of them share the stage. Rebecca's balances during the PdT with Adrian Danchig-Waring and Craig Hall wowed the audience with their ease and serenity without being showy.
Let's talk about Adrian Danchig-Waring and Megan LeCrone, who along with Ashley Laracey completed the principal cast. Wow, are these two dancers coming along nicely! Adrian, particularly while dancing with the other men, stood out for taking each movement to its maximum and shaping every step and combination with acute clarity. Megan, finally relaxing a bit after all these years, carved out the choreography masterfully with such beautiful and articulate legs and feet -- and even smiled occasionally!
So on a night when so many of Haglund's favorite dancers were on stage, it's tough to choose who should get the coveted Pump Bump Award. The cast of Agon brought 110% out on the stage, and that's how you win medals. It was a superb performance from all. But for the sheer surprise and delight of their outstanding efforts, the first Pump Bump Award of the season – of course it's Valentino – goes to Megan LeCrone and Adrian Danchig-Waring: