George Balanchine’s great company, which he founded and which was subsequently nurtured by his handpicked successor Peter Martins to become the most extraordinary ballet company in the world, continues on its blazing path under interim leader, Jon Stafford. The company is focused, engaged, and accelerating at a breathless pace.
The first week and a half of NYCB’s fall season was a mammoth display of artistic force – nine performances that left the large audiences overcome by the architectural polish and beauty of Balanchine's King Kong-sized ballets – and Haglund saw every one of them. The dancers lifted themselves above the cacophony of ugly, baseless attacks on the NYCB institution and art form to deliver glorious dancing that was, as the man in the fedora said in the 1933 movie, the “beauty that killed the beast.” By the way, King Kong, the Musical opens in preview performances on Broadway next week. Yep, Haglund will be there, and he will be sitting close enough to the stage to smell Kong’s breath.
Let’s finish up the Jewels performances by talking about our new Emeralds. Lauren King and Daniel Applebaum were ravishing as a new first couple. His legs are so long, thin, and straight that they looked like an architect’s drafting tool as they created perfect lines and angles in response to the French curves that Lauren drew with her own limbs and wonderfully flexible back. Lauren tamped down her nearly irrepressible smile for the first half of Emeralds to create more dynamic. The problem is that once the natural expression is eliminated, the artist must insert something in the void so as to avoid blankness. Lauren will have to go through the same discovery process that Tiler Peck did some years ago when she realized the value of modulating her radiant smile.
Megan LeCrone debuted in the “walking” pas de deux opposite Andrew Scordato. Her Tuesday performance was more fully realized than the debut on Sunday when the solo parallel bourrées walking forward may have suffered from debut tension. Megan’s movement had deep, beautiful sweep and expanse – much like her dancing in Serenade – and she danced breathlessly when she allowed her sense of urgency to take over.
Sarah Villwock enjoyed a sparkling debut in the Pas de Trois with Harrison Ball and Kristen Segin. Sarah was also a member of the snap-perfect corps de ballet in Concerto Barocco each night.
This season Teresa Reichlen, Abi Stafford, and Russell Janzen led all of the Concerto Barocco performances brilliantly. Each performance gained in strength and freedom.
Joaquin de Luz gave his final salute to Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux on Wednesday evening with a tune-up the Friday before. We are really going to miss Joaquin in this one. The company now is in the hole with Tschai Pas. It has to come up with some new men who possess the virtuosity that makes this gem zing. Same with Rubies. Harrison Ball debuted in the role opposite Ashley Bouder on Saturday evening. He delivered mostly squeaky clean technique without much virtuosity. Cabrioles were unimpressive. Other grand allegro diagonals were basic and cleanly danced without being impressive either in size or complexity. Partnering was pretty smooth even though Ashley is probably a little too tall for him.
Stravinsky Violin Concerto enjoyed two magnetic casts. Sterling Hyltin, Ask la cour, Sara Mearns, and Taylor Stanley led two performances while Lauren Lovette, Jared Angle, Maria Kowroski, and Adrian Danchig-Waring led the third performance. We were mesmerized by the Mearns/Stanley rapport. Opposite Taylor, it was impossible for Sara to take on any over-wrought or self-absorbed seriousness that sometimes make her performances seem heavy. The two dancers contrast in so many ways and yet somehow seem perfect together. Lauren Lovette and a debuting Jared Angle were an odd couple. She is perfection in miniature while he tends to recall a late-career Ivan Nagy in his physical form. Maria and Adrian delivered a powerful and stirring pas de deux, but then Adrian didn’t show up again on stage having apparently injured himself. It all became a little awkward but Maria handled it smoothly, but not happily.
Symphony in C was the salve for the soul that it always is. Several dancers made New York debuts after having had role debuts while on tour. Joseph Gordon, in particular, in the First Movement Allegro Vivo is rocketing his way toward indispensability. In addition to razor sharp allegro that eats up space, he possesses fine partnering skills and enough height to be paired with almost any of the ballerinas. He looked especially fetching opposite Tiler Peck and seemed inspired to try to keep up with her. That's exactly what we need. The Second Movement received its incomparable interpretation by Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle on two nights while Jared Angle and Sara Mearns performed it once. Indiana Woodward and Sebastian Villarini-Velez danced the Third Movement like arrows shot from bows. Erica Pereira and Troy Schumacher were much more suited to the technical finesse required of the Fourth Movement rather than their usual assignments in the Third Movement. Erica would stand out more and be more appreciated as a soloist if she would just move her dancing downstage a couple of meters. It would make all the difference in the world.
The H.H. Pump Bump Award, Manolo Blahnik's ode to Emeralds, is bestowed upon Lauren King and Daniel Applebaum. Here's hoping that we see a lot more of them soon.