Tuesday night, New York City Ballet opened its very first fall season with performances of Balanchine’s Serenade, Peter Martins’s Grazioso, and Jerome Robbins’s The Four Seasons. First, before the performance began, Peter Martins came out and introduced each of the principal dancers, who came out onstage one by one, and said this season would be a celebration of them. Tiler Peck in particular was wearing this really gorgeous silky fuchsia dress. Martins said all principals were there except for Benjamin Millepied, who was doing something movie-related “en France,” he said with a funny faux Euro accent. Everyone laughed and gave the dancers a huge round of applause. The house was packed and it was clear how thrilled the company’s many fans are with there being a fall season this year. Martins made fun of himself for being so into toasts and said that during intermission, we’d all be given be given free champagne to toast the principals. Which we were – very fun!
The part of the performance I was mainly looking forward to was Janie Taylor’s debut in Serenade (above headshot and Serenade photo by Paul Kolnik) as the main ballerina. As usual with her, she completely made the ballet her own. I thought the ballet had a somewhat dark element with her, that I’ve never seen before. When she first ran out onstage, late for class, instead of looking like she was all frantic about being late because she’d been held up by a boy, it looked like she was running from something – from him. That man was Charles Askegard and when he danced the middle waltz part with her, the huge size difference between them added to the sense of foreboding, that she was fragile, he was pushing her around, and she’d eventually be hurt by him. At certain parts, it was literally like he was pulling her along. When he lifted her and she raised her legs in a split, it looked almost like she was trying to get away from him. Sara Mearns was the angel and Ask La Cour was the man who I call “blind justice” who take care of Taylor when she falls, and it was interesting how much the two male leads and two female leads looked alike. I almost got Taylor and Mearns mixed up at parts, thinking they were taking on the other’s role. And the end when the men raise Taylor up like pallbearers and she is carried off by them, arching her back, arms outstretched – so hauntingly beautiful. It reminded me a bit of Balanchine’s La Valse.
I was also looking forward to Martins’s Grazioso, in which three handsome men – Gonzalo Garcia, Andrew Veyette and Daniel Ulbrich – vie for Ashley Bouder’s attention with their bravura moves. I don’t think this ballet has been performed since it premiered a few seasons ago. And I loved it all over again. I love how each guy has his own personality – Garcia is the romantic, Veyette is the manly man one, and Ulbrich is the one with all the high jumping tricks. And Bouder really played the tart, looking at each of them up and down at points kind of lasciviously, really trying to choose. The guy next to me was really giggly over it.
And the evening ended with Robbins’ The Four Seasons, which itself ends with a lovely tribute to fall.
This whole season the Koch theater will open an hour early. The promenade overlooking Lincoln Center Plaza will be open for cocktails, the gift shop will be open, and, for the rest of this opening week, there will also be live jazz performed by the NYCB Orchestra one hour before performance time. They have the promenade and mezzanine area done up nicely, with big plush chairs. Also taking place the rest of this week will be a “meet the artists” session whereby, beginning at 6:45 p.m. in the first ring of the auditorium, the principals dancers will be available to chat with ticket holders. There’s also a photo exhibition of the dancers by photographer HenryLeutwyler on display in the theater throughout the season.
Tomorrow night will be the first of seven “See the Music” performances which will provide a look inside NYCB’s 62-piece orchestra. At the beginning of each performance, Peter Martins and musical director Faycal Karoui will briefly discuss the program’s music, followed by the orchestra performing an excerpt of one of the ballet scores. The subject of tomorrow night’s discussion will be Eduoard Lalo’s score for Ratmansky’s Namouna: A Grand Divertissement, which premiered last season. Additional “See the Music” programs are Sept. 26 matinee, January 20, Feb. 1, Feb. 19 matinee, May 25 and June 11.