New York City Ballet: Tradition and Innovation

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Isn’t this photo of Sara Mearns in Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 gorgeous! (Both this photo and the one below by Paul Kolnik.)

On Friday, Judy and I went to see New York City Ballet’s “Tradition and Innovation” program. I know, I really should just move into Lincoln Center…

On the bill were Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco, Mauro Bigonzetti’s Oltremare, and Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 (I’m using their spelling of Tschaikovsky, with the first “s”; I often see it spelled without).

Concerto Barocco is one of Balanchine’s leotard ballets that makes music visual (the two ballerinas — here Wendy Whelan and Rachel Rutherford — almost become the double violins of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D Minor) and, according to Terry Teachout, is one of Balanchine’s most definitive. It’s funny. I’ve seen it before and really liked it then, but I think in contrast to the similar Stravinsky Violin Concerto, that I saw on Wednesday, it didn’t fascinate me as much. There didn’t seem to be as many interesting little flourishes. I still enjoyed it though — especially where the groups of women all hop repeatedly on pointe — it’s so sweet — and the way the dancers nearly become the violins is always fascinating.

Oltremare is one of my favorites this season. I’ve written about it before. It’s an expressionistic piece with some brilliant lifts, some high-charged jumps, at times the mood rather haunting, about immigrants coming to the New World, dejected about all they are leaving behind and fearful of what may lie ahead. My favorite part is always Andrew Veyette’s bravura turn. See a great video here of him talking about that role and the ballet in general, along with scenes from the ballet. (you may have to scroll down for it; I don’t know if the link will go directly to that video — but do scroll down, it’s worth watching!)

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And my favorite of the night was Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3. It’s divided really into two parts, and I’ve seen the second — Theme and Variations (pictured above, Sterling Hyltin and Benjamin Millepied in the leads) — before a few times. (I wrote about a small bit about it here when ABT did it). I hadn’t realized though until now that there even was a first part.

Well, the first section is really beautiful (pictured at top), and kind of reminded me of La Valse. The ballet begins behind a black netted scrim, and takes place in a kind of Romantic dreamscape. A man, Ask La Cour, searches for his beloved, his ideal, represented by the poetic Sara Mearns, who kind of gets lost in all the women, all dressed in long, floating lavender gowns. Interestingly, no one was on pointe; everyone was barefoot, which would seem to undermine the women’s ethereal quality. And yet it gave the whole a kind of softness and lightness. They were almost like ghosts floating through the air.

The next part of this section was a soft, melancholic waltz performed by a duo — Rebecca Krohn and Jared Angle, which was juxtaposed with a fast, sprightly “Scherzo” by a really impressively quick-footed Tiler Peck (don’t think I’ve ever seen her like that before!) and the always high-jumping Daniel Ulbricht.

And then the curtain went down and when it lifted again, we were in a courtly ballroom in imperial Russia, no scrim in sight, the chandeliers shining brightly. Beautiful as the first Romantic, part with Sara Mearns, was, I still love this courtly celebration the best with the Tchaikovsky music swelling to a climax, the floor flooded with dancers, all performing the extremely fast combinations, the big huge twisty jumps for the men — my favorite. I first saw my favorite dancer dance this part, so it’s hard for me to judge fairly anyone else, but Benjamin Millepied did very well with that first set of continuous jumping turns that seem wondrously to go on and on and on, and then, in the end, when the music starts to go at the speed of light, because he is so much smaller than Marcelo, he seemed to keep up with it a little more. Marcelo is still more leading-manly though :) And Sterling Hyltin was the perfect princess. Funny, but when I see ABT perform, I tend to miss the women because the men so stand out to me. Not so with NYCB; they’re more equal. I kind of feel like I saw Sterling’s part for the first time.

3 Comments

  1. Hi Tonya,

    I saw this program last night and guess who I saw in the audiance? Neil Haskell – I immediately thought of you because I know how much you like SUTUCD. I was told that Danny was there, too ,but I didn't see him.

    I loved Barocco & Tschai #3 but have never been a big fan of Oltremare. Still, Sheller danced the role that T Peck usually does with Ramasar & they made it very compelling. Peck was wonderful in the ballerina role in T&V with DeLuz.

  2. Hi Susan — good to hear from you again! How funny that you saw Neil! Thanks for telling me — I'm glad to know he goes to ballet performances. I guess it makes sense Danny would, but still nice that they go out to support their fellow dancers even after becoming “TV stars” and all.

    I wish I could have seen Peck and DeLuz in Theme and Variations — I can image they must have been fabulous.

  3. Hi Susan — good to hear from you again! How funny that you saw Neil! Thanks for telling me — I'm glad to know he goes to ballet performances. I guess it makes sense Danny would, but still nice that they go out to support their fellow dancers even after becoming “TV stars” and all.

    I wish I could have seen Peck and DeLuz in Theme and Variations — I can image they must have been fabulous.

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