Review: With Balanchine and Confetti, City Ballet is back

After the final ballet, confetti rains on the stage. The dancers, at least a handful, were crying as they greeted them. The audience w...


After the final ballet, confetti rains on the stage. The dancers, at least a handful, were crying as they greeted them. The audience waved the air with sincere and competitive cheers and applause. But wasn’t all this expected enough? What was more surprising – although oddly fitting – were the puddles on the sidewalk outside. At one point during the performance it had rained. As we stepped out of the theater after 18 long months and a radiant performance of George Balanchine’s “Symphony in C”, the New York City Ballet’s opening night felt like a rainbow.

On Tuesday at the David H. Koch Theater – with no intermission and a vaccinated audience who were asked to remain masked – the City Ballet opened the curtain on its fall with Balanchine’s “Serenade”. It made sense. On Tchaikovsky’s String Serenade, this is a breathtaking ballet for everyone, in which the dancers sweep a moonlit stage of pale blue tulle that floats and settles around their bodies as waves.

Part of Balanchine’s brilliance – and there is a lot to choose from – was her reaction to the moment, her ability to bring real life to ballet. In 1935, he choreographed “Serenade”, the first ballet he created in America, with rough dancers and open-air rehearsals. With the sun shining in their eyes, the dancers raised their hands to block it. He takes note of it, and this is how this magnificent work opens: Dancers, standing in rows, raise an arm to the sky with a bent wrist; gradually, the arms lower until the backs of the hands pass over the eyes.

There was a dancer who fell. And a dancer who found herself late in rehearsal and quickly took her place among the others. Balanchine used everything. “Serenade” is a masterpiece, meant to be watched on any day of any season, but now, because of the pandemic, its lessons are so much in its dance – women enter the kingdom of ballet as they open their feet parallel to the first position – as in its origin story. What does “Serenade” say in 2021? Make the most of what you have. Notice the world around you.

It’s good that “Serenade” is repeated throughout the season: it’s a tool to help dancers get back into their corps de ballet, to gain the stamina needed to be able to fly through with a wispier footwork. than athletic, and bodies that can bend and vanish like slender reeds. This “Serenade” – with Sterling Hyltin, Ashley Bouder, and Megan LeCrone as the female protagonists – improved over time, but at times the dance lagged behind in speed, crispness, and daring. Adrian Danchig-Waring, in his early days, was a bright spot in a performance that was efficient and enthusiastic at best; alive, sure, but never as alive as it could be.

Unfortunately, Balanchine’s other ballet on the program, “Symphonie en C”, will not be rehearsed: it was scheduled as a special opening night event, which – considering the rehearsals that took place there. spent and the endurance it could generate – is a bit confusing. Megan Fairchild, who remarkably, not so long ago, gave birth to twins, conducted in the first movement with a liveliness that Joseph Gordon (and his dazzling pirouettes) seemed to feed off as he embellished his own interpretation with even more verve.

The program was supposed to be shorter than usual due to the pandemic, but with a late start the evening lasted two hours and was further stretched by what was billed as a treat – the City Ballet orchestra performing the “Waltz of Flowers.” Maybe it was a way to buy time before “Symphony in C”, but it looked like a trick to sell “The Nutcracker” tickets.

Christopher Wheeldon’s “After the Rain” pas de deux was also stuck in the middle. With the right dancers, he has a feeling of a full circle – the engravings of a ballet life told through whispered footsteps. Has it been performed too often, by too many dancers? Yes. God, Yes. But this pas de deux, created in honor of Jock sotohis retirement in 2005, has always seemed as much a tribute to him as Wendy whelan, his original partner in the work and a dancer of luminous vulnerability.

On Tuesday it was danced by two school principals who will soon be retiring, Maria Kowroski and Ask the court, who brought the ballet, on Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel”, to its intimate place of origin. Both large, they resemble each other in length. But beyond that, the combination of the court’s unassuming demeanor and Kowroski’s silent movie star gazes puts the choreography, with its slow lifts and dreamy backbends, in hyper focus. Together, they have a way of not only moving through the choreography, but of possessing the serenity of living within it.

In the pas de deux, Kowroski, whose the farewell performance is October 17, wears a simple pink leotard and ballet slippers – a costume that alludes to a ballerina looking back on her career. Without making too much effort, she seemed to root her performance in an awareness of time and place; as she danced, she soaked up her surroundings with eyes that scanned the floor and lingered high in the far corners of the stage that only a dancer can see.

She was bidding her first farewell to a stage she has been dancing on for over 25 years. And just as she was sculpting the air with her incredibly long arms and delicate hands, Kowroski seemed to follow Balanchine’s lead: taking in the details, she noticed everything.

New York Ballet

Until October 17, nycballet.com

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Newsrust - US Top News: Review: With Balanchine and Confetti, City Ballet is back
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