A Gala Opening, with Brilliant Dancing
The news is that the audience left this gala drunk on the performance of George Balanchine’s Symphony in C, which, for the first time in memories going back at least a decade, fielded four principal couples who were more than adequate to their roles, a flock of demi-soloists who danced with finesse and close attention to detail, and a superbly rehearsed corps de ballet. Symphony in C—presented (with Concerto Barocco and Orpheus) at the inaugural performance of the New York City Ballet on October 11th, 1948—is debatably the cornerstone of the New York City Ballet repertory: both a condensation and a summation of Balanchine’s gifts and a monumental index to the full company’s depth and range. A Karinska tutu ballet that, in this production, begins with a squadron of 12 dancers at attention in fifth position and concludes with a battalion of 50, photographically arrested at the crest of a rousing, almost jazzily swinging march toward Georges Bizet’s top note, the work stakes a powerful claim to just about every aspect of the classical lexicon—adagio, allegro, jumps large and small, corkscrew turns and smooth tours, transition steps and lifts—and, the ultimate program closer, it wages what is debatably the most persuasive campaign on behalf of classical dancing in the past 100 years. Even in uneven or indifferent performances of it, the ballet advances toward a sense of triumph; it is dancer-proof in that its individuals become subsumed in a larger whirlwind of energy and choreographic design.