(photos by Paul Kolnick; I couldn’t decide on the two, so I chose both)
So sad! So, yesterday was Nikolaj Hubbe‘s final performance with the New York City Ballet. He will now return to Denmark to head the Royal Danish Ballet. I am really going to miss him. There are lots of great dancers, but he was a true artist, bringing every step he did to a higher level.
A wide range of dances were on yesterday’s bill, showing his extreme versatility. The afternoon began with Balanchine’s poetic 1928 “Apollo,” the story of a boy / god who matures into a man, with the help of course of three other-worldly muses, or as Tobi Tobias defines it, “the saga of a soul … finding its identity.”
We then saw “Flower Festival in Genzano,” a short piece choreographed by August Bournonville, fitting since he founded the Royal Danish and Nikolaj excelled in his ballets there early in his career. Here, Nikolaj did not perform himself but two young dancers whom he’s trained in the School of American Ballet — the marvelous and charismatic Kathryn Morgan, whom I’d seen as Juliet in Martins’ Romeo + Juliet, and a young corps member, David Prottas, whom I’ve noticed before but only in the corps, and who blew me away yesterday. He has lovely long legs that make a breathtaking line and, as I’ve noticed before, he does every little step with such clarity and precision. He stands out. I’m serious about noticing his curly headed, long-legged excellence in the corps before — in ballets like “Square Dance;” I just never said anything because I was once told by a critic friend that it’s bad luck for an up and coming dancer to laud them too much early on — like it jinxes them or something, and perhaps because I just didn’t have the confidence to say what I thought of someone no one else had mentioned. I’m so glad Nikolaj used him in this all-important piece on his farewell program. It makes me feel like I’m not a total idiot and can spot talent and artistry too 🙂
Then came “Zakouski,” a Peter Martins ballet. To be honest, I’ve never been all that in love with Martins’s choreography (apart from the recent “Grazioso”) but once Nikolaj stepped out on that stage I felt completely different. It’s a cute story of the different facets of one couple, actually performed by two different pairs. Nikolaj danced one of the pairs with his longtime partner, Yvonne Borree, and the other partnership was danced by one of my new favorites Andrew Veyette, and sweet Megan Fairchild. Nikolaj and Yvonne had the more mature roles, their dance infused with sexy tango-like movements, which he performed perfectly sharply, sexily, manly. I love him! He also brought out the magic in Yvonne — so, he brought out the magic in both Peter and Yvonne.
When they took their curtain call for this one, it was so sad. Yvonne was crying uncontrollably; his shirt was wet all down one side with her tears. It almost made me cry. Below is a Paul Kolnick picture of them together, not in this dance but another.
The last section was “Cool” from Jerome Robbins’s “West Side Story Suite,” in which Nikolaj actually sang a little! And the program ended with Balanchine’s cowboy and saloon-girl-inhabited tribute to the American West, “Western Symphony.” I guess it’s good that I got Nilas Martins confused with Nikolaj a couple of times in this final ballet. There will still be a Nikolaj-reminder for me in the company.
Here’s a nice little write-up on Nikolaj’s career in Playbill.
As always with hugely important performances like this, the whole day is just one big event, in which everyone in the ballet world, and often beyond, partakes. I no more than got seated when I heard a man and woman fighting behind me. Apparently, she had said too loudly, “Look, there’s Baryshnikov!” thereby embarrassing him. I looked and looked but could not find him. This is likely because I’d just seen my love, hairy-faced and sporting big black chunky glasses, make his besuited entrance. He sat in the first row right smack in the center and chatted with lady next to him. During each intermission I caught him with dancers in his usual hang-out place — on the right side of the theater either on the promenade or the ground floor. Anyway, after I got myself seated for the second intermission, I tucked my legs under me to let passersby get to their seats, and right as his leg brushed mine, I looked up and saw Misha’s face. He was just sitting a few seats down from me and I didn’t even notice him! In the row behind me was Alexei Ratmansky, the director of the Bolshoi who may take over as artistic director of NYCBallet. During second intermission, I saw Philip and Wei and Philip asked me to ask him what his decision was on that (apparently he had to decide by the day before or something). I said no way, I’m way too shy! I also ran into Sarah, and Monica. Others wrote accounts of the day by the way: here is Philip’s and here is Sarah’s.
Of course the final curtain call was horrendously sad. It went on for maybe twenty minutes. There was confetti, bizillions of flowers, everyone in the company past and present went up onstage to hug and kiss him. Here are some pics I took:
Nikolaj and Damian Woetzel embracing.
Nikolaj will give his final dance performance in April with the Royal Danish. During intermission Monica said under her breath, “Hmmm, I wonder if I have any reason to go to Copenhagen in April?…” I was thinking exactly the same thing. Do we need more of a reason though?!