New York City Ballet’s fall season opened with Balanchine's Jewels which was masterfully led by the company’s long respected senior veterans. Their calm and focus never wavered throughout the evening. Only during a few moments of Faure’s Pavane and Tschaikovsky’s Finale when the music let the movement rest did the composure of some seem uncertain. Their shoulders may be sore this morning from the massive weight they carried last evening, but the dancers certainly must still feel the generous and genuine support of the large audience.
A strong debut in the Emeralds Pas de Trois by corpsman Spartak Hoxha, who was substituting for principal Anthony Huxley, confirmed once again – as if there are still any doubters – that the depth of talent in this company is unparalleled. We were amazed at his double tours – so fast that the revolutions seemed completed before he got to the peak of his jump. His strong and ever-confident partnering of Erica Periera and Indiana Woodward – two very different dancers – revealed his instant adaptability. Both Erica and Indiana danced sublimely. However, Indiana seemed in her own universe musically. We’ve seen many different pairings of ballerinas in this section of Emeralds over the years. Regardless of their differences, they've always seemed to understand that they were a pair rather than individuals hoping to stand out.
Ashley Laracey and Ask la Cour in the “walking” Pas de Deux sustained the quiet beauty of this section – she with a slightly mysterious parfum, he with nobility and tenderness.
Abi Stafford and Jared Angle, between them they have nearly 40 years with NYCB, danced their main PdD and variations with the exact qualities that one wants to see in Emeralds. Abi's warm and engaging demeanor and Jared’s intense interest in her created a hint of story that left the viewer wanting more. But unfortunately what was wanting was flexibility in Abi’s back and anything close to a 90 degree arabesque. Ditto with Jared. Once the arabesque goes, so to speak, the dancer should relinquish roles where it is expected.
The Emeralds corps de ballet had some skittish newcomers nervously trying to find their spots on the stage which made the confident beauty of Christina Clark’s dancing stand out even more.
Rubies was curiously formal. Both Joaquin de Luz and Ashley Bouder threw off the mandated technique easily, but there wasn’t much charisma and the rapport seemed standardized. Emily Kikta, on the other hand, was a sensational Tall Girl. Those legs were flexible whips that the male quartet was begging for, and Emily came fully prepared to deliver.
The Diamonds Pas de Deux might be the most brilliant that Balanchine ever created. And in the fifty years since its creation, no interpreter has brought more beauty and articulation to the ballerina role than Maria Kowroski. The song has found its perfect voice, and the voice has found its perfect song. It was nearly difficult to believe the level to which Maria and Tyler Angle rose last evening. They weren’t dancing choreography; they were delivering scripture, singing praises, and humbly grateful for the opportunity. We could not have asked for a more uplifting performance where the dancers simply gave everything in their souls and soles to put beauty on the stage. Maria’s arabesque was as stunningly beautiful as it was twenty years ago but now it holds more authority. Did we notice that she had to curb her own force to avoid a third revolution in a pirouette that might have seemed too showy — yes, we did. Tyler seems to have found a new dedication to grand allegro. His was splendid last evening, particularly in his manège of coupé-jeté en tournant.
At the end of Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds, the danseurs escorted their ballerinas to the front of the stage and then stepped back several feet deferring to the women and allowing them to bask in the applause. It is one small courtesy long embedded in ballet’s tradition which acknowledges the prime importance of the woman in the classical art form. Truthfully, much more often than not, she is the reason we buy tickets.
Probably not too far down the road will be some political operator’s demand that everyone in classical ballet stand side by side on the stage at bows with no differences. The zealot-driven frenzy and desire to eliminate courtesy and differences is based on the simple ignorance that all courtesy and differences among men and women are bad and always denote inequality. (Actually we can even see some has-been dance magazine putting up an online petition about "democratizing ballet bows for the good of the collective" in order to convince themselves that they are relevant in the world of ballet, and then claiming it was their original idea.) The Let’s-Make-A-Stink-To-Get-Some-Attention has become SOP.
ISS (It’s so sad.)
Our HH Pump Bump Awards are bestowed upon Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle for the elegance and authority with which they danced Diamonds.