Another Balanchine/Tchaikovsky Triple Bill

January 22 is Mr. B's birthday, and what better way to celebrate Mr. B's birthday than another triple bill of Balanchine/Tchaikovsky works. Last night plenty of NYC balletomanes braved the sub-zero temperatures to see this wonderful performance.

The performance began with Balanchine's abridged, re-arranged, and to be honest, kind of odd one-act version of Swan Lake. The program notes said that he choreographed this in 1951 only so he would have a "crowd-pleaser" and have more freedom to choreograph more things. Balanchine basically took some of his favorite music from Acts II and IV, deleted any sense of narrative, and although much of the dancing for Odette and Siegfried (there is no Odile in Balanchine's SL) is based on the Ivanov choreography, the corps de ballet (all dressed in black, for some strange reason) is re-done. I like some of the formations (like the frantic flock that surrounds Siegfried and Odette in their final moments together) but overall It looks very fussy and frantic compared to the iconic Ivanov choreographic patterns. It's not my favorite Balanchine by any means.

What made the performance worth watching was the Odette of Sara Mearns. I saw Mearns dance the full-length Martins version, and she single-handedly turned it into an unforgettable experience. Mearns gave her Odette a pliant back, liquidy arms, and tragic dimension. Jared Angle partnered her beautifully, although he seemed to have some trouble with the overhead lifts in the pas de deux. It was a compelling performance from the leads, but I don't think Balanchine's Swan Lake allowed Mearns' Odette to make its full emotional impact.

Allegro Brillante, on the other hand, is a short Balanchine jewel. It's sprightly and full of joy, and has some of the best work he ever did with the 8 corps de ballet members, who weave in and out of the lead couple with each pattern more beautiful than the last. Last night the NYCB corps were just perfection in this ballet -- fast, accurate, energetic. Megan Fairchild and Amar Ramasar (subbing for Andrew Veyette, who was sent to sub for Jonathan Stafford in T&V) were bright and perky in their petit allegro footwork, but as usual they both have a tendency to dance the steps without illuminating them. I had heard Tiler Peck was absolutely brilliant in the same role earlier in the week, and I'm sorry I didn't have a chance to see her.

The last ballet on the bill was Tchaikovsky Suite #3. I never care for the first three movements, which honestly always just look like women with long hair and wafty dresses running around the stage. I suppose Rebecca Krohn, Abi Stafford, and Ana Sophia Scheller were fine. They all have nice hair. The last movement, however, is of course the Balanchine masterpiece Theme and Variations. Last night Ashley Bouder again made me run out of superlatives. She is a dancer whose technique seems to get stronger every year. Her balances were of course rock solid, her pirouettes snappy, and she gets in the air easier than a bird, but more than that, she knows the little ways to project to a huge audience. A small smile here, some eye contact there, with a long-held balance ... Her partner Andrew Veyette made it through the punishing double air pirouette variation without dying, which is more than I can say for a few other male dancers at the NYCB who have danced the male role. T&V is of course a huge crowd-pleasing ballet that ended the evening on a high note.


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