(all photos by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of New York City Ballet)
Wednesday night was one of the most enjoyable nights I’ve had at New York City Ballet. I’m totally in love with Balanchine’s La Valse. I wrote about it here when Miami City Ballet performed it and it grew on me immensely when I saw it on NYCB. My friend, Judy, fell head over heels for it too — I think she was the first person in the whole theater to begin clapping (when the curtain began going down admist the swirling Viennese waltzing couples, the group of men carrying Janie Taylor’s limp body high above their heads, pall-bearer-like).
It’s such an intoxicating ballet, with the gorgeously bedazzling, mid-calf-length tulle (which fashion industry person Judy tells me is called “tea length” or is it “t-length” or “tee-length”?) — deep maroon for the waltzing women, bride-white for main character Janie. Janie and Sebastien (who played the leads, pictured in top photo) and Tyler Angle all gave the whole thing such a tragic pathos. When Janie was waltzing with the “devil-character” — a frightening Philip Neal (just about the most intensely captivating I’ve ever seen him) and getting swirled and whirled and tossed madly about, she did these gorgeously elaborate back kicks on the fast third step, when he lifted her high into the air, almost tossing her like a rag doll. It added greatly to the crazed momentum.
(photo of Tyler Angle by Paul Kolnik, from NYCB website)
It was really Tyler Angle who blew me away though. (See Times article on him by Claudia La Rocco here). He danced one of the waltzing men, prone to romanticism, who gets swept away by the seductive atmosphere, kind of a foreshadowing of what will happen to Janie’s character. At one point, he falls to the floor, and just sits in the middle of the stage, unable to lift himself of out this dream, but doing this fabulously expansive port de bras, waving his arms all about dreamily all the time kneeling, while the women twirl around him, their skirts flying, and couples whiz by him, through him actually, almost ghost-like as they separate their waltzing bodies from one another just enough pass their connected arms right over his head. Somehow his swan-like arms narrowly manage to miss them. It’s really brilliant.
I was sitting really close to the stage this time (third row!) and picked up on so many things like this that I’d missed before, when I was just taking in the whole spectacle. Such a beautiful ballet.
Also on was Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story Suite, which is always a load of fun and I’m always floored by Andrew Veyette’s booming but melodious voice as the leader of the Jets, and Georgina Pazcoguin as the sexy salsera Anita. I love how Robbins uses dance style to separate the gangs from one another and identify each’s prevailing ethos: the Jets wear white and are Swingers performing crazy aerials, the Sharks wear red and are fast-dancing, hip-swaying Saleros.
Also performed was Balanchine’s Stravinsky Violin Concerto, a story-less leotard ballet. I love how sitting so close up you can see the dancers’ facial expressions, as well Balanchine’s delectably intricate choreography. At one point, while a main couple is dancing, several women line the back of the stage and stand in place, but they don’t stand still; they flex their wrists and splay their fingers and turn their hands back and forth to the beat. It creates a kind of twinkling star-like effect on the main couple. At another point, the men stand to the sides of the main dancers and simply do port de bras. It creates kind of a fluid, beatific effect, like they’re blessing the couple. I feel like a lesser choreographer wouldn’t have done anything with them, would just have had them standing around while the soloists dance. But Balanchine adds these little details that really make the dance.
Wendy Whelan was, again, very intense and striking (and we saw her and her husband, photographer and filmmaker David Michalek, after the performance, at P.J. Clarke’s, which was fun!) And Robert Fairchild: just, all I can say is show-stealer, naughty little show-stealer!!
(photo, Paul Kolnik, NYCB site)
“That’s Romeo,” I said to Judy.