New York City Ballet officially opened its 2009-10 winter season last night, with a performance and black tie gala dinner. The performance included Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH (above photo of that ballet — dancers are Ana Sophia Scheller, Gonzalo Garcia, and Joaquin De Luz — by Paul Kolnik, taken from NYTimes), stars of the Paris Opera Ballet Aurelie Dupont and Mathias Heymann dancing the central pas de deux from Balanchine’s “Rubies,”
(photo taken from Kulturkompasset; Dupont is center, Heymann is holding the hand of another dancer).
And then the evening finished off with the world premiere of artistic director Peter Martins’ Naive and Sentimental Music, set to John Adams’ (brilliant) score of the same name (I’ll post photos when I receive them).
But first, there was a short film of the reconstruction of the inside of the Koch Theater (still can’t help but think of it as the State Theater…) while the orchestra played Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty overture (as it turned out, the perfect music to highlight the comically sped-up but ultimately awe-inducingly huge renovation process). Highlights of the renovated theater are — most importantly and coolly — the orchestra pit with a floor that can rise to stage-level (! — and this is how the orchestra played the overture), and two aisles now carved into the orchestra seating section. (Before, orchestra section had no aisles — so, though this is how Balanchine wanted it, apart from being extremely hard getting to a middle seat, it was a fire hazard).
Anyway, after the mandatory thank-you speeches by Peter Martins and David Koch (who funded the renovation), came the Ratmansky. The fun frolicking threesome in blue (top photo) were danced by Joaquin De Luz, Gonzalo Garcia and Ashley Bouder (all three brilliantly on, Bouder thankfully back from an injury), and the adagio couple in green were Benjamin Millepied and Wendy Whelan (photo below). I think this was danced better than I’ve ever seen it done before — it could have been because I was so excited to see Bouder return, or because the dancers are all beginning-of-season fresh… but this is by far Ratmansky’s best, imo — it’s got the most complex structure and original movement.
(photo by Paul Kolnik, taken from Danza Ballet)
Next were the POB couple, who danced “Rubies” brilliantly — not only with precision and clarity but with great exuberance as well. One thing I meant to say earlier about La Danse (the Wiseman film about the POB) and forgot, was that the POB dancers are all so trained to make meaning out of every little thing they do — every step, every gesture, no matter how small. You have to have some kind of thought in your mind whatever you do. (This is not what Balanchine taught his dancers; he taught them simply to do his steps and those would contain everything the audience needed to know.) I feel that this allows POB dancers to bring a certain passion and humanity to all of the works they do — I noticed that from performance footage from that film as well as from last night.
And third came the highlight — for me anyway — of the night: the new Peter Martins’ ballet. The John Adams music was absolutely gorgeous — rich, many-layered, complex, intense, varied and structured into many sections — some lighter, many heavier, evocative, etc. etc. Beautiful! Oftentimes music like that overpowers the dancing, but not here.
In a short film shown before the dance (methinks Martins is taking after Wheeldon here with these little introductory films), Adams says the title refers to the difference between musicians whose music was fresh and original (the “naive” composers — like Mozart, he says) and those whose music was meant to speak to the past, to convey a sense of history, music that kind of carried the weight of the world on its shoulders so to speak (the “sentimental” — which he considers Beethoven). You could really see that in the music — some of it lighter, much of it weightier. Martins said in the film he tried to evoke that visually through dance, and I think he did so successfully — there’s a lighter, adagio section with dancers dressed in pristine white, another light but fast section with dancers in red, and then the more intense, almost severe sections with dancers in blues and deep greens and black.
Though most sections are danced in ensemble, Martins created the ballet for the principals only. This created an interesting dynamic, because, except for the middle section with the three pairs of dancers in white, almost all roles had equal weight — and yet practically all of the dancers stood out. It was an overload of star power!
And, though some sections seemed a slight bit underrehearsed (or maybe it was just that the footwork was so difficult and fast), everyone shone since Martins highlighted each dancer’s strengths: Maria Kowroski and Sara Mearns as lyrical women in white, Sterling Hyltin and Teresa Reichlin as kind of sharp-edged, sassy women in fiery red, Andrew Veyette and Daniel Ulbrich at the high-jumping bravura guys in black, there were some jazzy moves for Amar Ramasar, etc. etc.
Oh and I just love Tyler Angle He partnered Yvonne Borree and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so at ease and so fluid! She looked really beautiful. Nice also to see Stephen Hanna back from Billy Elliot! He partnered Darci Kistler in the white section.
It’s a rather long ballet but I was thoroughly engrossed and can’t wait to see it again. I hope they keep it in the rep.