Serenade needs work. I was completely unmoved by the ending, which is a first. Almost like the dancers weren't really listening to the music. They were listening to the counts but not to what Tschaikovsky was trying to say through the music.
Sorry to hear that the performance wasn't a particularly good one. I imagine different nights/casts did better than others. I can think of quite a few companies that could do with a little of the "academically correct" though. Balanchine performed without precision can be a fright. I happened to dig up the NYCB's "Bringing Balanchine Back" DVD to catch some glimpses of Serenade and that segment (with Darci Kistler) fairs pretty well, but Symphony in C, Symphony in 3 Movements and Western Symphony look all a muddle due to the Corps lack of precision. Energy and speed are there, but no precision. I laugh every time I hear the comments from the Russian dancers about NYCB: "The legs very good. The arms not so good." "Not so good" is putting it mildly - arms at every angle. And different degrees of curvature/straightness. No one seems to realize how much this blurs the choreography and renders it indistinct. Not so good. ;)
Pherank - While most people would agree with you that the NYCB "lacks precision" and that their arms are "not so good", I would point out that his ballets are danced the way Mr. Balanchine liked them danced. He was very particular about port de bras in class, hands, and - particularly - fingers, but he was not interested in everyone looking the same - having their arms at the same levels and getting into strict lines. He called it "synchronized dancing" - like the Rockettes, whom he admired for what they did so well. But he was not interested in having his ballets approached that way. He wanted each dancer to dance as big as they could and if the lines weren't perfect, so be it. Same with the arms. Most ballet goers don't agree with him. But they also don't agree with many of the changes he made to his own ballets - like eliminating the birth scene from Apollo. To him the birth was old-fashioned and almost vulgar. He much preferred the condensed, more abstract version he did in the 70's. I myself very much like the Paris Opera approach to Diamonds. With all the beautiful feet and legs shown so well in perfect lines. To me it's more clear than how it's presented over there in NY. But I would never argue with Balanchine's right to present those works however he saw fit.