Thanks for your review, DeborahB. I'd been really looking forward to reading reactions here. Unfortunately Gia Kourlas in the Times didn't think any better of the program the night before. I'm sad for Wheeldon's sake and sad for the art form's sake.
Don't feel too sad for Wheeldon (let alone the whole art form) - the house was packed for the first 2 nights with the orchestra, gt, mid mezz and rear mezz full both nights, gallery open on opening night. This was the fullest house I've seen at City Center in a couple of years (excluding Fall for Dance & Gala programs, including ABT, Taylor, Ailey, MCB etc). And the audience was very appreciative of all the works on both programs. Individual reactions may vary but I found it really interesting that the reaction of the critics has been pretty uniformly negative while the audience reaction has been mostly positive.
I loved the first program, and really liked the second one. Program A (Commedia, Leaving Songs, Softly and Bolero) was accompanied by the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, led by the beautiful & charismatic young conductor Alondra de la Parra. I'm no music critic but to me they sounded wonderful, the Stravinsky in particular sounding very fresh and light. It was whimsical in some places and romantic in others. The second program was all set to piano scores, with Cameron Grant & Susan Walters sharing the musical duties. I'm not sure how great an idea it was to program an entire night of piano pieces (with the exception of Softly, which is performed to recorded music) but it may have been due to budgetary requirements. Anyway, kudos to Wheeldon for finding a way to afford first rate live music on a tight budget.
I loved Commedia last season, and loved it even more this time around. Danielle Rowe was absolutely beautiful in the Leanne Benjamin role - she is a beautiful dancer with a winning combination of steely technique, lyricism & emotional expressiveness. Matthew Prescott partnered her - I remember liking him with the Farrell Ballet and it was good to see him again here. Carrie Lee Riggins was also a standout in this.
Didn't love the Tim Harbour ballet but the critics had prepared me to hate it and I definitely didn't hate it. I found it interesting and am looking forward to seeing it again.
I saw "Softly as I leave You" for the 3rd time last night and I absolutely love it. Since it was roundly dissed by just about all the critics (and a couple of my good friends), let me add that it received huge audience ovations each time I've seen it. I think I can understand why many critics and die hard ballet fans dislike it - I generally dislike that type of choreography myself. I think of as it as a European hybrid of modern dance & ballet - no point shoes, angst ridden, overly dramatic. But in the hands of Jacoby & Pronk I thought it was a masterful examination of the dissolution of a "can't live without him, can't live with him" relationship and I thought the box that Jacoby fought to get out of (and Pronk wound up trapped in) was an appropriate visual metaphor.
I enjoyed Ratmansky's Bolero a great deal. It was very amusing, uptempo with an interesting dynamic of individual competitiveness played against group unison.
I didn't think that the second program (Continuum, Softly, Rhapsody Fantaisie) was as strong as the first. Continuum was new to me and I loved it, but I love Ligeti and love Wheeldon's "Balanchine mode". There were lots of references to Agon and the 4T's themes but of course with Wheeldon's personal spin and choreographic outlook. I was disappointed in the new Wheeldon piece, I guess I expected it to be more upbeat than it turned out to be. I think it was a bit too long and not really cohesive. I also found the men's costumes distracting. However those were my first impressions and it may grow on me after I see it again.