Spring Season Diaries, part one: shiny Jewelry

The incomparable Tall Girl of Teresa Reichlen, photo @Andrea Mohin

Spring Season is so hectic that it's easier simply to keep shorter diaries of things you saw. So the first two weeks of spring season I saw three ballets at NYCB. Here are my brief thoughts:

April 19, 2016 - New York City Ballet's Spring Season kicked off on April 19 with a performance of Jewels that was packed to the rafters even in the fourth ring (unusual on a weeknight). It was not the best NYCB could offer as Jewels.

Emeralds was the biggest mess -- Amar Ramasar is completely miscast in the lead cavalier role and this ballet brings out the least in Tiler Peck. She's good, but you can always see her working too hard to achieve a resemblance of a dreamy reverie. Rebecca Krohn in the second solo part gave one of her usual low impact, bland performances. Rubies was much better. Megan Fairchild and Gonzalo Garcia didn't have the spiky edge that this ballet calls for but they did have the flirtatiousness and playfulness down pat. Teresa Reichlen reprised her unparalleled Tall Girl portrayal in Rubies. The cool, remote authority she exudes (as well as the mile-long legs and nonchalance) make this a modern day classic portrayal. She has so much strength -- she did all those unsupported developées and penchées without any strain. When she exited the stage with one last unsupported arabesque penchée the audience clapped loudly. Then Diamonds. I've now seen Sara Mearns in Diamonds several times and she looks more miscast each time. At this point in her career she's simply not classical enough to pull this off. Her arms get sloppier every day. She has a habit of pushing through the music and punching out the steps that takes away from the reverie of the pas de deux. In the Scherzo section she failed to play with the music, but again muscled gracelessly through the steps. Tyler Angle was her attentive partner.

Famous diagonal in Symphony in Three Movements, photo @ Paul Kolnik
April 22, 2016 - Order was restored three nights later in a rather eclectic mixed repertory bill. Bournonville Divertissements is still a work in progress for City Ballet dancers. But the wonderful thing is watching certain dancers "get it" this time. For instance, Indiana Woodward stood out in the Napoli pas de six as someone who just gets the style. She's sweet, unaffected, with a buoyant jump and soft landings. Anthony Huxley (the soloist in the pas de six) is another dancer who looks at home in Bournonville. He gets the deep plies, the direction changing jumps, the modest arms. The two of them were also wonderful in La Sylphide this winter. I have high hopes that Woodward will be able to one day carry the more romantic, classical portion of NYCB's repertoire.

Moves is Jerome Robbins' ballet that's set to no music. Instead, we're supposed to concentrate on the sound generated by the dancers moving through space. To achieve the maximum sound Robbins' choreography is rather cold and angry -- lots of foot stomping, thigh slapping. I suspect the ballet was gimmicky when it premiered in 1959, and it's gimmicky now. The two central pas de deux despite their complicated contortions don't have much sensuality and instead come across as sexually aggressive. Despite the scowls and predatory positions the ballet feels shallow -- in fact a sort of City Ballet beauty pageant, as the tallest and most model-like members of the company (many still in the corps) paraded around onstage in attractive workout clothes. Adrian Danchig-Waring and Emilie Gerrity in the central pas de deux (the one where he carries her offstage in the shooting duck position) looked like an underwear model ad.

After intermission the meat and potatoes of the program came out. First, Tiler Peck absolutely blazed through the Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. This is an overdone gala piece but actual City Ballet performances are surprisingly rare. Anyway, back to Peck. She flew around the stage for 9 minutes with her trademark accelerated chaine turns and bouncy fast footwork. Andrew Veyette partnered her very well (great fishdives, complete with the downward head dip). A few caveats: Peck went for a series of straight fouettes instead of the alternating step sequence between fouettes. Veyette still has very hard landings on his cabrioles, to the point where he lands with a large audible thud. Ouch. Despite these reservations the overall performance had an infectious energy that had the audience cheering and demanding multiple curtain calls.

Hyltin and Stanley, photo @ Paul Kolnik
Brief pause, and the army of 16 white leotarded girls in that famous Symphony in Three Movements diagonal upped the energy level of the performance even more. All of the soloists were stellar -- Ana Sophia Scheller surprised me by going head to head with Daniel Ulbricht in the famous leapfrog jumping sequence in the first movement. Sterling Hyltin and Taylor Stanley were wonderful at conveying the the contrasts in Balanchine's steps -- being turned in and then turned out, arms and feet stretched and then flexed, arms rippling and then aggressively clawing. Hyltin herself completed a blindingly fast, expansive ménage of pique turns and from where I was sitting I saw that she had so much momentum she crashed into the wings face first when she went offstage. Megan LeCrone and Joseph Gordon completed the sextet and both were wonderful. LeCrone used her lanky, jelly-like torso to great effect and nailed every single pirouette in that lengthy sequence towards the end of the first movement. The corps were amazing -- this ballet demands total energy and concentration from them and they didn't disappoint. They really were an army of soldiers.

Reichlen and Janzen in Diamonds, photo @ Paul Kolnik

April 28, 2016 - Another performance of Jewels. Several reasons to be happy. For one, novelty factor. Jewels casting tends to be very repetitive so until tonight I'd never seen this particular Emeralds combo, Hyltin/Veyette in Rubies or Reichlen/Janzen in Diamonds. In Emeralds, Abi Stafford gave the liveliest performance I've ever seen her give, Jared Angle continues to prove his worth as the senior danseur partner, Sara Mearns was actually restrained and elegant in the Mimi Paul role, she and Adrian Danchig-Waring walked up a storm in their walking duet, and finally, Taylor Stanley/Sara Adams/Meagan Mann might be the new winning trio ticket. Rubies: Savannah Lowery as the Tall Girl in Rubies was simply not as strong and iconic as Tess on opening night. Hyltin/Veyette were not quite as cute as Fairchild/Garcia (who looked like puppies) but they had more humor and edge. Veyette looks way more like Eddie Villela's self-described "leader of the pack in Queens." Hyltin has more flexibility and extension than Fairchild, and could really hold those sudden lunge poses. And as I said, she's less "cute" than Fairchild, but she has more sass.

Reichlen in Diamonds were maybe the best Diamonds goddess I've ever seen? (Point of reference: I've seen Wendy Whelan, Maria Kowroski, and Sara Mearns do it). Wendy had the musicality but lacked something in glamour. Kowroski had the glamour but not the technique. Mearns has the technique but not the elegance. Reichlen had it all -- the beauty, the elegance, the statuesque strength and technique. Even her remote introversion worked here. Janzen looked cute and disappeared behind Reichlen, which is the point of this very goddess-centric work. It's exciting to see the rows of newish corps members and apprentices in Diamonds -- they're all beautiful, tall, and you can imagine them dancing the leads one day. It's an exciting time to be a fan at NYCB. Three performances down, at least seven (???) to go?

In other news, Angel Corella has fired 40% of the PABallet roster. I was shocked at the dismissal of Evelyn Kocak, who I remember dancing very well in the PA Ballet's trip to the Joyce. Made me more grateful to follow the NYCB where, for the most part, the roster stays constant, and you can follow dancers as they develop and grow from season to season.

Comments

  1. Oh, but Ivy, how could you not recognize the fact that "Mr. Ramasar, even just walking and standing, gives off three-dimensional light"? Or that "Ms. Mearns was at her most mysterious, authoritative and compelling...Her dancing is invariably momentous"?

    In other words, those of us out here in the provinces much appreciate your straightforward, no-nonsense approach to the performances you cover. This is one of the few sites I can look at to find out what actually went down in New York, as opposed to reading Macaulay's pompous, self-indulgent, slobberingly adjective-laden prose, or Tommasini's non-reviews (his review of Elektra literally told the story of the opera from start to finish; thanks, dude).

    In short, it's entirely refreshing to get the straight shit instead of the bullshit. Thanks for calling a spade a spade, and a diamond a diamond.

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