"Apollo," "Orpheus," "Agon"
New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
New York, N.Y.
September 19, 2012
By Carol Pardo
Copyright ©2012 by Carol Pardo
The Greek Trilogy of "Apollo," "Orpheus" and "Agon," opening this New York City Ballet season. twenty-for hours later repeated the program with, had illness or injury not dictated otherwise, entirely different casts.
Tall, blond, cool, a pure classicist, Chase Finlay’s Apollo follows in the footsteps of Peter Martins and Peter Boal. This youth doesn’t need to grow up to be a god; his divinity is obvious from his first steps. He needs realize that he is one. Finlay’s Terpsichore was Maria Kowroski, a little too harsh this time out. Terpsichore doesn’t need to push. When Apollo cuts her from the trio early on, it’s clear that she outranks her sisters. Teresa Reichlen making her debut as Polyhymnia, was all alabaster limbs and moonlight and Rebecca Krohn, making hers as Calliope, stalked Apollo like a hungry big cat, fangs bared, as she delivered her (rejected) effort to the young god. But overall, this was a reticent pure white performance of "Apollo." Lacking some drive, some variety of attack—Apollo didn’t have to work very hard to tame his all too docile muses—the performance devolved into a series of solos and tableaux, beautiful, worth watching for that beauty, but lacking cumulative power. The stately pace of the music slowed the dancers’ momentum; perhaps the cast also needs the confidence more performances can provide.
"Orpheus" is a tough ballet to bring off, particularly when all three leads are new to their roles. It requires the ability to create and convey a character using plastique, gesture and theatrical concentration, qualities that seem to contradict the NYCB aesthetic. Sébastien Marcovici has the sculptural instincts and the intensity for the Orpheus. Eurydice, desperate and in heat, should fit Janie Taylor’s appetite for risk and febrile intensity. Marcovici was at his best when gesture had to count, plucking his lyre, or bowing to the overlord of the underworld. But surprisingly, he didn’t use weight to define his character. As the curtain went up his stance was almost heroic, all but unbowed by grief. Taylor was unexpectedly cautious, her dancing too small in scale. Like Marcovici, Jonathan Stafford, as the Dark Angel was at his best when gesture had to count, but he also caught some of the menace and ambiguity of the character. Simply standing at the side of the stage, his face masked, Stafford exuded menace and danger. Heading off to Hades in his company was a real risk, doing so an indication of the longing and desperation driving Orpheus forward. The most successful moments belonged to two ensembles that are usually lost, through a lack of projection or understanding. It was clear that the friends of Orpheus were doing their best to console the grieving widower, just as it was obvious that the nature spirits burst forth in response to his music, both setting the stage for the rest of the narrative.
Though his cast included several debuts—one of which did not happen—with "Agon" everyone was back on more familiar ground. The first section pulsed with speed, purpose and clarity, like commuters at Grand Central Station heading for home on a Friday night. Amar Ramasar and Maria Kowroski, in for Wendy Whelan, brought out every courtly reference in the beginning of the pas de deux, the courtliness a contrast and foil for the amazing permutations of classical ballet which followed. Although Ashley Bouder’s debut ‘Bransle Gai’ did not take place, the other debutants, Gretchen Smith and Devin Alberda, took to the complexities of "Agon" as though they had been dancing it for years. Alberda and Daniel Applebaum, though not the same size or physical type, finished their duet, motion just checked, arms linked—the 17th century meeting the 20th and 21st—in perfect harmony, radiating the pleasure of being on stage, in that particular ballet at that particular moment.