"Scherzo a la Russe", "Divertimento from 'Le Baiser de la Fee' ", "Danses Concertantes", "Firebird"
New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
New York, N.Y.
September 27, 2012
by Mary Cargill
copyright © 2012 by Mary Cargill
Billed as "Stravinsky/Balanchine: The Collaboration", the evening could have just as accurately been called "Lots of Rhythm", as the pulsating varieties of the Stravinsky scores urged the dancers on. "Scherzo a la Russe" is a brief, charming exercise in the shifting geometries of folk dancing, here led by two apprentices supported by SAB students. They gave doll-like performances, presentational and sweet, but I missed the underlying sweep of more grown-up dancers; they looked as if the only steppes they knew of were the ones at Lincoln Center.
The grown-ups were back on stage when Tiler Peck and Gonzalo Garcia made their debuts in "Divertimento from 'Le Baiser de la Fee' ". This dark, restless ballet, a distillation of a longer story, is an oblique retelling of the essence of the Andersen fairy-tale of a man, claimed at birth by a supernatural creature, who leaves his bride when the fairy reappears on his wedding day to carry him away. The heroine in "Divertimento" has elements of both the fairy and the abandoned bride; she seems to use her solo to fascinate the man, yet the final scene has her pulled away from him. Peck, an outstandingly clear and musical dancer, brought out the inherent drama of the role, making the surging emotions radiantly clear. It is hard to analyze the effect she has, since she makes the steps seem so inevitable and so natural; she is an astounding technician who can disguise effort, an actress who never acts. Garcia, who as a young dancer, had been coached in the role by its originator, Helgi Tomasson, for the Balanchine video archives, used his upper body very well, creating a soft and weightless feel, as if he had no will of his own.
"There is plenty of will, as well as rhythm, in Balanchine's "Danses Concertantes", the 1972 homage to the old Ballet Russe era, with its Eugene Berman sets and commedia dell'arte costumes. The jazzy feel and bright colors make it look like an earlier version of a vein later mined in "Rubies", but the fizzy choreography is wonderful, especially for the four pas de trois. Ashley Laracey's beautifully articulated upper body stood out in the red group, but everyone looked very-well rehearsed. The pas de deux, danced by Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette, is, unfortunately, not as musically vibrant or as interesting as the dances preceding it, and it does drag a bit towards the end, despite the fine performances. Veyette avoided an overly cute approach, dancing with a slightly dead-pan panache, and Fairchild gave the frisky steps a radiant confidence.
Firebird" is not, for me, one of Balanchine's finest ballets and lacks the magic of its Fokine predecessor, though the music, conducted by Jayce Ogren, shimmered and glowed. Teresa Reichlen was a careful and rather dutiful firebird, though her mime was clear; it made sense that the berceuse was danced after Kastchei's death, so that Ivan and the princess could escape. Ask la Cour, as Ivan, wandered purposefully through the sets, capturing both his wildness and his majesty. Kastchei's monsters, surely the least frightening creatures around, frolicked and capered (harmless though they are, though, I wonder why they were invited to the wedding).
Photos by Paul Kolnik:
Top: "Scherzo a la Russe"
Bottom: Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette in "Danses Concertantes"
Copyright 2012 by Mary Cargill