NYCB Fall Season Wrap-Up

NYCB dancers in Summerspace, photo @ Erin Baiano
I've been covering the NYCB fall season for bachtrack. I wasn't able to go as often as I'd wanted mainly due to an ankle injury that keeps getting worse. But the three major events were:

1) For the Merce Cunningham Centennial, NYCB revived Summerspace. This enchanting work entered the NYCB repertoire in 1966 and what a treat it was to see it again, even if NYCB dancers will never be idiomatic in Cunningham choreography. Adrian Danchig-Waring acquitted himself admirably in the Cunningham role. My full review is here. A quote:
With that being said the performance was not idiomatic. The dancers kept betraying their ballet origins by turning out at the hips. They also seemed all too aware of each others’ presence instead of giving the feeling that they are a random group of creatures dancing in their own niches in the Summerspace ecosystem. A problem when Cunningham’s whole art was based on the concept of randomness. But what a work! As Cunningham dissolved his own company upon his death revivals by other companies will be his legacy.
Here is a brief snippet of NYCB dancers in Summerspace:

2) The two new works that debuted at the Fall Fashion Gala. One was by Lauren Lovette, the other Edward Liang. I reviewed it here. Long story short -- both new works were pretty bad. A quote:
The Fall Fashion Gala has become a recent tradition at New York City Ballet: high end fashion meets ballet. But with a few exceptions both the high fashion costumes and the ballets end up disappointing. Last night's program of the Fall Fashion Gala's new works was Exhibit A of this phenomenon.

Meghan Fairchild and a furry friend in Union Jack, taken from her IG account
2) The revival of Union Jack, the lovable, cheeky tribute to all things British that was NOT well-received by British critics. Reviews were scathing. Nicholas Dromgoole: "by English standards is pretty detestable. ... Strong men in the audience were uttering cries of disbelief as it happened; others were walking out. ... Outside his chosen area ‐ dancers with expressionless faces and minimal costumes making movements to illuminate classical music Balanchine flounders." Alexander Bland: “Though technically fastidious, he certainly lacks the regulator of good taste, which is one of Britain's hallmarks.... he revels in the vitality of chorus‐line dancers. "Me? I loved it. My review can be found here. A quote:
The final stage tableau is something only Balanchine in his open-hearted ability to embrace different idioms could have done: all the Navy are onstage. Rule Britannia plays in the background, the Navy signals “God Save the Queen” with their semaphore flags, and the British flag lowers as the backdrop. Union Jack isn't a Balanchine masterpiece – it's more of a fun-sterpiece, which is even better.
Meanwhile I also attended some regular repertory shows. A few thoughts on the highlights and lowlights of the season:

Baryshnikov, Garcia, Hyltin, photo @ Daniel Arnold
1) Ballet That Has Gotten a Facelift - Opus19/The Dreamer. Mikhail Baryshnikov came back to coach this and the results were spectacular: this ballet has always been a bit of a snoozer but when I saw it twice with two different casts (Gonzalo Garcia/Sterling Hyltin and Taylor Stanley/Lauren Lovette) it became like going down a rabbit hole. Mysterious, moody, an adventure. Garcia and Hyltin made it a dreamy romance. Stanley and Lovette made it bizarre and surreal. Both interpretations were exquisite.

2) Ballet on Endangered Species List: Raymonda Variations. Saw an absolutely dreadful performance of this. Sara Adams did well with the hops-on-pointe variation but otherwise this charming ballet has become slack and twee, with no Imperial Ballet grandeur AND no Balanchine crispness.

Joseph Gordon in Symphony in C, photo @ Andrea Mohin
3) Ballet that needs a tune-up: Symphony in C. I saw two performances with two different casts. One was neat, tidy, and a bit boring (Symphony in C should never be boring), the other was tense and mistake-ridden. There were some exceptions (Joseph Gordon in the first movement, Teresa Reichlen at her marmoreal best in the adagio, Indiana Woodward and Sebastian Villarini-Velez in the third movement, Devin Alberda in the fourth movement) but overall this ballet was not nearly as exciting as it should be.

Unity Phelan in Emeralds, photo @ Andrea Mohin
4) Soloist having a standout season - Unity Phelan. She finally brought back the perfume and glamor to the Mimi Paul walking role in Emeralds. Her witty turn as the "angel" was just about the only good thing in Lauren Lovette's The Shaded Line. She was beautiful as the Mauve Girl in Dances at a Gathering. She and Emilie Gerrity made a fierce, exciting pair of Amazon warriors in Kammermusik No. 2, so much so that this not-very-popular Balanchine ballet got loud ovations. She and Indiana Woodward are definitely ready for promotion, and I'd say Emilie Gerrity is as well.

Garcia and Hyltin in DAAG, photo @ Paul Kolnik
5) Warhorses in Good Shape - Dances at a Gathering, Jewels, Serenade, Piano Concerto #2. Are they indestructible? Dances at a Gathering in particular received a gorgeous performance with Meghan Fairchild (Apricot) and Roman Mejia (Brick) adorable in the Giggle duet, Sterling Hyltin tender and beautiful as Pink Girl, Adrian Danchig-Waring (Green) and Unity Phelan (Mauve) bringing old school glamor, and Gonzalo Garcia a warm Brown Boy (eta: he announced that these are his last Brown Boys). I was only able to make it to one Jewels but this ballet can tolerate one or two less-than-ideal performances. The Serenade I saw had a wipeout from Megan LeCrone at the start of the ballet but still cast its luminous, haunting spell. Sterling Hyltin's Waltz Girl was enchanting. And Piano Concerto #2 despite the new ugly costumes by Marc Happel received an exciting bang-up performance by Sara Mearns, Russell Janzen and Lauren King.

Now here is Gonzalo Garcia announcing that these are his last Brown Boys. He's always been a wonderful Brown Boy and if he is retiring soon then he will be missed.

Getting ready to dance my last Dances at a Gathering can’t help to think how lucky I have been for so many years dancing this incredible role The Brown boy. I was so blessed to find myself at barely 21 years old in a studio learning this masterpiece from the Great VĂ­ctor Castelli and Susie Hendl!! God they had so much patience with crazy young Gonzo.. at the time I didn’t know how special this piece was, but it didn’t take long for me to realize this will be a role of a lifetime forever. So many beautiful cast from my beginnings at @sfballet to the later and present days @nycballet to so many incredible Pink ladies Joanna Berman , Lucia Lacarra , Julie Diana,Yan Yan Tan, Yvonne Borree, @jeniferringer , @tilerpeck @shyltin and @laurenlovette !!!!!! I’m a lucky man!! The incredible pianist that have given such a life to this incredible music @susanpalmtree Thank you to @jeanpierrefrohlich for all the work in the studio, always pushing me to go farther and keeping the Genius of Mr Robbins a life. Let’s Dance
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